I love Google Photos but I still need help organising my photos

My three-part photo organising problem and how I might have it all figured out

Taken in Yangshuo, China, Oct 2015 on a bamboo raft down Yulong river. A photo that I’ve never revisited again, until now.

As a self-professed Type A personality type who suffers from a physical reaction (ie: stress) to clutter, I have a problem — a 30,000 photo problem to be exact. The source of this problem? I love taking photos on my iPhone but only do anything with them when I absolutely have to. For example, when I am about to go on vacation and afraid that I’ll run out of space.

All photos on my phone are then accordingly transferred in bulk to an uneventfully named folder called “iPhone photos backup — Dec 21 2015” on my hard drive. By the end of the year, if I’m lucky I’ll have just about four or five of these folders floating between my hard drive, Macbook and cloud storage.

And while I have the best of intentions to figure out how to organise them later, I’ll be honest, I rarely do. Thus, the cloud of guilt that lies buried within the photos that never see the light of day, is driving me nuts.

The iPhone backup photos folder averaging 5,000 photos in each is starting to pile up before and after every major vacation.

The three-part photo organising problem

Now most of you must be thinking: “Easy! Just connect to Google Photos and you’ll have your photos backed up automatically.” While I appreciate not having to think about my photos being backed up or stored — it solves only one aspect of my photo mess. The rest of the photo problem herein lies in three parts:

#1. “I don’t need half of these photos to last forever”

As a trigger-happy vacation-goer and adamant life-documenter, I have developed an addiction to taking photos (I need therapy, I know). So much so, that the smartphone camera has also become almost my secondary memory/note taker/reminder list for moments I want to remember.

For example, when I am at a local designer market and fall in love with a table that I can’t afford now, but definitely don’t want to forget for later, I will take a photo of the table with the name of the style and the designer. Or when I know I am going to lose the coat check ticket while out at a bar, I snap a photo as proof that my coat indeed belongs to me. In both situations, I need the photo at some point later, but not forever. So backing them all up, seems like such a waste of storage space and an even bigger mess to “deal with later”.

My actual camera roll is filled with photos like this. (Left) A picture of a coat check ticket from a venue in Malmo, Sweden, just in case I would lose it. (Right) This beautiful Oak dining table find from FindersKeepers, that I would love to remember for whenever I furnish my future home.

#2. “Searching through my photos is difficult and time-consuming”

This relates to issue number one. It seems like Google Photos and every other photo app thinks that all of my photos make sense when they’re neatly organised by location, date or time. Remember that coat check ticket or the image of the future dinner table that has nothing to do with a particular time, date or location that I would be able to remember easily when I needed them? Surprise! They end up cluttering everything.

The fact is, those photos represent at least 50% of my photos on my phone and we all know I am not always on vacation. In my daily life, my phone has become my ally in making all things (ie: paper, whiteboards, sketches etc) digitalised.

My actual camera roll from top left: Weekend ski trip in Vallåsen, Sweden; pictures of my take home Danish pop quiz, (teacher didn’t have enough copies); beautiful tarts from Leckerbaer, Copenhagen; photos of notes from our product meeting; dinner at product meeting; receipt of team dinner; screenshot of app; snowboard boots I want to sell; fitness class booking (to send to a friend so she could sign up for the same one); a chair in my living room; a sunny day in Copenhagen; an old photo with my brother from Christmas last year that was downloaded automatically from Viber; brunch last Sunday. You get the point: all kinds of photos for all kinds of reasons.

“Let’s face it, being on (insert any app) is more fun than spending hours organising my photos.”

And the truth is, like many other ‘always-on-the-go’ millennials, I have “no time”. I have no time because I have a million other apps that require my attention, that are just … more fun than sitting and organising my photos. The few times that I have actually sat and organised my photos (ie: in folders according to date, time, event) was because I was ridiculed by a family member for not sending photos from a previous trip 6 years ago (sorry aunty).

Therefore, while creating a Google Photos album that can be easily shared with a link is not rocket science (it’s actually kind of awesome), it simply takes too much time after the fact, to have to put photos into relevant collections: creating albums, scrolling, deleting, scrolling, picking, scrolling and then not remembering which you already uploaded. Rinse and repeat.

And yes, before you jump the gun: “But hello dummy, Google Photos scans your image so you can find stuff easily.” I get it, you can teach Google Photos’ machine learning algorithm to recognise and tag faces, things and places. I think it’s fairly useful for wanting to see a set of a specific “thing”, like when I need to pull up a picture of the “Petronas Towers” in Malaysia for a #throwbackthursday post on Instagram. But that leads into my next point …

#3. “I wish I could organise my photos my way”

These days, my smartphone camera functions as more than just a camera — it’s a scanner, a reminder list, a note taker, a secondary memory and more. I could be in Austin for SXSW, and I stumble upon a new vintage shop that I just know my sister-in-law back home would love and want to send it to her when I get a chance. In my mind this is filed under: “Send to Marie”. And in my ideal world, this photo shouldn’t even end up on my “SXSW 2015” photo collection, because it’s not really relevant to the event itself.

“I often don’t recall what was in the photo that I took, but why I took that photo.”

Or when I take photos of the meals that I cook at home (I admit it), because I am proud of how it turned up and maybe, just maybe I’ll turn it into a cookbook one day. Filed in my mind under: “My food”. But in my current photo roll, a quick scroll for food related shots gives me a mixed array of results including food from restaurants. I can’t expect my phone or Google Photos to distinguish between food I made, food others made, food from TV or food from a restaurant. Needless to say, I am missing just that easy way to file and find my photos, my way.

A quick scroll through my current camera roll for “food”. Can you guess which one is obviously not my own recipe?

Do you have the same problem? I think I might be able to help.

So at the end of the day, there is really nothing wrong with Google Photos. It’s a simple and easy backup storage solution that helps you avoid panic attacks when you lose your phone and all your beloved memories like I did early last year. But my problem is bigger than that. My problem is with the proliferation of photos that is caused by the increasingly spec’d out camera in my pocket, my own lack of self control and need for more control to organise the photos that are supposed to represent the best moments of my life.

That is why we built Bento Cam.

Photo organisation woes? I hear ya.

If you have been nodding your head up and down throughout this post in agreement, we’d love for you to take part in our private beta and be one of the first to give it a whirl!

If not, feel free to drop me a line or comment below if you have similar issues or have any photo organising tips to share? Would love to hear your thoughts :)