Last we checked, our staff's phones averaged about 13,484 photos. Sound familiar? Here are a few tips for organizing your smartphone photos and gaining control-ish over the chaos.

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photo prints
Credit: Marty Baldwin

1. Clear the Clutter

Commit to deleting images regularly, setting aside a few minutes a day—or downtime on an airplane!—to clean your digital house. Six virtually identical sunsets? Pick one, erase the rest, move on. Be a little ruthless: Years from now, the shots you'll cherish most are of friends and family.

2. Use a Remote Service to Back Up Digital Photos

Set your phone to back up photos to a remote service, such as Apple's iCloud or Google Photos. (It may already be happening without you realizing it.) You can still see all your pics on your phone, but they live somewhere else—so if your phone meets its fate, your memories won't. You can also upload older photos (or new shots from a real camera, if you still use one) to your cloud-based account from a computer, so everything is in one accessible place. 

3. Organize with Digital Albums

Yes, digital photos sort themselves by date, but cloud services allow you to create albums for further organizing. For example, you can corral all—or just the best of—Ski Trip 2019 in one easy-to-find spot. This can be especially helpful if old shots you've uploaded to the cloud are showing up out of chronological order. 

4. Enlist a Portable Hard Drive

Experts recommend backing up to hard drives as well. (Pro photographers often do it twice.) If that sounds daunting, ask yourself what risk you'll tolerate. Odds are, Apple or Google won't lose all your shots. But for maximum assurance—and convenience, if you ever change cloud services—periodically save favorite photos to a portable hard drive. Or do it the old-fashioned way: Print. After all, says Brian Rodgers, a photographer in South Bend, Indiana, "There's nothing better than the tactile experience of holding a photo to make the story more real."

5. Create a Keepsake Album or Display

Want something more tangible? Our staff recommends three ways to savor cherished photos, screen-free.

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