Ground Zero Chronological Photo Organization with Hazel and Synology

I love photography. I love the Mac. I love to tinker. These collided into a gargantuan mess.

So I realized that my love of photos + shiny new software + automation + my wife taking photos on her phone resulted in photos all over the dang place. Files and folders, My, her, Lightroom Classic, Lightroom Cloud, SmugMug, WordPress, aah!!

I have a problem. This I know. So I started over.

I bought a Synology last year (love it love it) and so I basically copied every photo from my phone and my wife’s phone to the Synology (using the DS Photo Backup feature), Once it arrived into a single folder, I had Hazel rename the photo with the date and time it was taken and Sort it into a chronological folder structure by year, then month, then day.

Then I took all photos from everywhere else and copied (not moved, copied) them to this folder. Hazel churned 80k in photos non-stop for over a week, but what resulted was a massive chronological copy of every photo in my life.

Now this is only GTD step 1, Collect. I can’t actually use this mess. But for the first time in years I have every photo in my life in one cohesive system.

The keys to this process were the “Date Taken” parameter, hidden deep in Hazel’s options, as well as the “Sort into Subfolder” setup. Once you have these right, you can rule the world.

If anyone has any questions, I am glad to share more settings, but dang, Hazel is a beast!

P.S. I tried this with video, but my results were more hit or miss. There is not date shot video equivalent to the photo’s date taken so many videos were way off, but most of the time using the date created worked ok.


Very interesting. Why not move them? Temporary backup whilst you renamed the copies?

What’s the intention now?

I import all photos to a large external drive and I don’t use iCloud Photos. Camera pics go into Photos app for convenience sake but ‘real’ camera photos go into Lightroom Classic (where they’re renamed to date/time upon import), are put in folders by month (or quarter if I haven’t been shooting much) and are quickly tagged and organized. From Lightroom I’ll edit and send off to Flickr, Instagram, friends or wherever, but the main images live locally.

For the years before Lightroom integrated renaming upon import I’d copy images from card to a folder on the desktop and rename to that same date/time format with A Better Finder Rename.

No Hazel, no sorting, not GTD, just Lightroom import and rating/tag, whereupon I can use Smart Collections and saved searches to sort/search by keyword, date, rating, etc. A single catalog can hold images on several drives, even if the drives are disconnected, and the size of the catalog itself has no impact on performance, so it’s a reasonable way to manage a catalog even with 100,000 images.

1 Like

You are so right about this!! “Date taken” is a game-changer for exactly this problem. You can take photos from different cameras, with different file name formats, in different folders – many of them named as duplicates even though they were taken years apart – and put them in a coherent order.

The big help is that it doesn’t matter when the file was created. Oftentimes, photos from old computers appear to be dated on the date I imported them into my new computer. Or the date I saved them into a Dropbox folder or exported them out of iPhoto in 2011. The result is that a photo taken on my phone and a photo taken by my wife on her old digital camera at the same youth baseball game might show up miles apart on my list of files.

Couple that with the fact that I have five different photos with the name IMG_0031.jpg, and it has always seemed an impossible problem to solve. But Hazel’s “date taken” ignores all that and actually finds the date a photo was TAKEN. You can get them into a chronological order and work with them from there, and that is a very, very important difference.

Hazel would be worth it for me for this single feature.