How To

Four ways to keep reference photos out of your camera roll in actionable ways

I'm Maria!

As a Certified Photo Manager and Digital Organizer, I ensure my client's files are safe and easy to find. Follow me for tips on how to get your digital life in order.

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What are reference photos?

We take reference photos for inspiration or to remind us to do something. They are more aspirational than sentimental. A majority of reference photos are screenshots, and unlike family photos, they are not meant to be kept long-term. A reference photo could be a screenshot of an outfit you like or something you want to buy. It could be a picture you took of your vaccination card or a picture you want to share with your child’s doctor. Reference photos are of things like food, interiors, gardens, or reminders of things to do or buy.

Why keeping them in your camera roll is problematic & the benefits of keeping them elsewhere.

Keeping reference photos in your camera roll makes them less accessible and more easily forgotten.

It also makes finding pictures of family and friends more difficult.

You want to put reference photos where they are both accessible and actionable. This is why I recommend creating folders for each category of reference photos. Here are some album categories I have created for clients. 

  • Health/ Medical
  • Beauty/ Fashion
  • Meals/ food
  • Interior design
  • Shopping
  • Inspiration
  • Work

Once I have created an album for each category, we sort these photos into the appropriate album. This makes them easier to find and take action on. However, sometimes it’s beneficial to keep reference photos entirely separate from your other photos.

Where to keep them instead.

The notes app on your phone – Inside the notes app on my phone, I have created a medical folder. Inside this folder, I keep notes on my family medical history, a list of medications and vitamins I am taking, and a list of things I want to discuss during my next doctor’s visit. This is also where I keep pictures of things I want to show my doctor. I also have a folder called Home. This is where I keep a picture of the paint can we used to paint our bedroom, pictures of the serial numbers for our major appliances, measurements for the rooms in our house, and the emergency code to open our garage door.

For time-sensitive reminders, used a productivity app like Microsoft To-do or Apple Reminders. Simply add the photo, relevant text and then set the parameters for the reminder. The app will send you an alert for the time you set the reminder for, and some apps will even remind you when you arrive at a location! This is especially handy if you want to remember to get something the next time you go to Target.

For reference photos I find online, I like to use Pinterest. When I’m browsing the web and come across an image I want to save, I use the share button to add the image to the appropriate Pinterest board. I have boards for fashion inspiration, wishlists, travel inspiration, and more. You can even create a secret board that only you can see. I also like to upload inspirational pictures I’ve taken with my own camera!

I find a ton of inspiration in my Instagram feed, and my camera roll was FULL of screenshots before I came up with a new system. When I see a post I want to save, I bookmark it on Instagram. Then When I am at my computer, I pull up my Instagram account, open up my bookmarked posts and save the posts I’m still interested in saving to my Pinterest account. While this is an extra step, it gives me an opportunity to be more selective about the images I am saving. Sometimes the post I’ve saved in the heat of the moment just isn’t worth it long term.

I also like to take pictures of my favorite grocery store items. If I send my husband to pick up my favorite brand of Tazo Iced Tea, I want to make sure he gets the right stuff. Rather than searching through my camera roll and texting him pictures, I’ve added them to our favorite grocery list app, Anylist. When I add an item, it automatically syncs with my husband’s app. I can store pictures and price details within the Anylist app and whenever my husband or I stop by the store, we can check items off the shared list. The Anylist app is hands down the MVP of our household.

Quick clean-up tip 

Most screenshots are reference photos, and as I mentioned earlier, most reference photos have limited relevance. If you want a quick and satisfying clean-up of your camera roll, simply navigate to the screenshot section of your photo app. You’ll find a ton of images that you can quickly and easily delete. It is SO satisfying!

Now that you know what a reference photo is, what kinds of reference photos do you take? Where will you put them so they are actionable and easy to find?

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Maria Mesick

Personal Photo Managment for creative professionals.

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