In Thursday's blog post, I talked about the importance of having a photo organization system and how the best software to use is Aperture or Lightroom.

In Saturday's blog post, I talked about what Aperture and Lightroom can do, whether they are the right choice for you, and how to choose between them.

Today I'm going to complete this three part series and talk about:

The three most important elements of your photo organization system

There are many ways that you can organize your photos, but I've created a system that has worked well for me for several years, and I've also helped hundreds of parents implement the same system successfully. Here are the most important elements to this system.

If they sound simple and you're already using them - great! But many of the parents I work with are missing one, two, or all three components so if you're not currently doing all these three things, I recommend that you do!

1) Hierarchical file and folder structure

Many of you probably let your photo software default to doing your organizing for you, which probably means that when you import your photos, a folder or album (in iPhoto they are called "events") is created for each date that you took photos, with the photos from that date automatically placed inside.

On the face of it, that doesn't sound too bad, and certainly, it's better than nothing.

But what happens is that very quickly you end up with a whole string of folders or albums that you have to scroll through to find the one that you want. Use this "system" for more than a few months and you will quickly get a sinking feeling in your stomach just opening up your photo software.

Instead, what you want to do is create a hierarchical file and folder structure by year and month. By that I mean that first, create a folder for the year, then within it, folders for each month. Then you can put your folders or albums for each date or event into the folder for the month and it becomes much easier to drill down to where you want to be.

This is because you will only ever be looking at maybe ten or twelve and no more than thirty one folders of photos at once. Much better than trying to scroll through literally hundreds of them!

It sounds simple but this alone will create much needed order out of chaos!

2) Include both the date and some descriptive words when naming your albums

As I said, if you let your photo software do your organizing for you, it will most likely create folders or albums named by date. But, unless it was someone's birthday, how many of you remember the date of that barbecue last summer that your mother-in-law is still asking for photos of?!

Naming your albums by date is not enough, but I also see a lot of people naming their albums with descriptive words and no date, which is really no better and is possibly worse.

The fact is, we remember things chronologically.

So what you want to do is name your albums by date AND some descriptive words. Then you can organize your albums chronologically within their monthly folder, with descriptive words to give you a hint as to what the photos in each album are of.

For example, when you're looking for the photos from that barbecue last summer, you might start by looking under July. As you see the descriptions for the events in July, you remember that the barbecue happened before your vacation in Maine, so you turn to June and quickly find "June 6 BBQ" and you're done!

I have used this system for years and it has never failed me.

3) Use a star rating system to quickly narrow down your selection of photos

If you are reading this, most likely you take tons of photos of your kids. It's partly because they are adorable and you can't stop clicking, partly because you don't want to miss the moment, and partly because you know that with active kids, it's going to take a few shots to get a good one.

But then, do you really need 5 variations of the same photo? Or 10? Including the three where your child's eyes are closed?!

No, you want to quickly choose the best one and move on.

That sounds good in theory, but in practice, the task of going through your photos and deleting all the bad ones is daunting and anxiety inducing. How do you pick? What if you delete a photo and regret it later? How can you even delete a photo of your beautiful child, no matter how bad it is? (I am this way, by the way!)

The answer is to use a star rating system, and to star your favorite photos.

For starters, the psychological shift to choosing your best photos rather than your worst will make the task so much more enjoyable.

It also makes it easy to go back and review and adjust your selections.

Then you can decide if you want to delete the photos you didn't star, or, if you have deletion anxiety, simply filter them out so you are no longer looking at them but they're there if you ever need them.

This one is a biggie. If you try and get into the habit of doing this quickly when you import, then when you need to go back and find a few photos to share, or when you're trying to put together an album for the year, or a set of photos for your child's school project, you've already narrowed down the selection and it's a much more manageable task.

For more on the star rating system, check out my free video lesson with my top 5 tips on taking better photos - this is one of the tips.

Want help applying these and other strategies to your photo organization system in Aperture or Lightroom?

These strategies are not limited to Aperture or Lightroom, but are so much easier to implement within these software programs. And I covered even more of the features and benefits in my last blog post.

To help you get started or get better acquainted with Aperture or Lightroom, I've designed a quick and easy workshop that will take you through everything that you, a busy parent, needs to know, about either software program.

I'll talk you through exactly how to sort through the terminology of folders, albums, projects, events, collections etc. and create a simple organization system that will save you time and make the process of organizing and editing your photos so much easier and more enjoyable.

Today is the last day to get early bird pricing!

Read more about the workshop here.

I look forward to having you join me to get 2013 started on the right foot. Happy New Year!