“My photos are so organized!”… yeaaa, I have not heard that once from a single client, friend or family member.
Organizing digital photos can seem like an extremely daunting task in this ever-evolving digital age that we live in. We have palm-size cameras at our fingertips that allow us to take photos of anything, anywhere. There are multiple sources of photos: our phones and our point and shoots and/or DSLRs in which we need to combine photos from. There are new and improved applications that can edit and share our photos coming out all the time. There are back-up concerns and an ever-expanding market of cloud back-up methods. Oh, and then there is the fundamental decision of how to print or store the photos. There are so many options for everything and it really can seem confounding, but I’m here to tell you…
You can do it. I’m going to walk you through 6 simple steps I take to ensure that my photos are safely organized and used for their most basic intended purpose… enjoyment! Note: I use Apple products but my hope is that non-Apple users will gain some valuable tips as well.
Pictures mean different things to different folks, but for me photos capture memories and they help me remember those memories. Photos also capture the beauty in life that I could so easily overlook.Seeding Simplicity
Step #1: Take Lots of Photos. One of my organizing mantras is “less is more”, however, in the case of digital photos I just don’t always stick to that. I just love photos too much. We only live each unique experience once in our life and I support taking lots of photos. Unlike all other things in our life, digital photos can be deleted at the swipe of a button.
However, there is a fine line between capturing the moments and staying present in the moment to actually enjoy them. I have become increasingly more aware over the years of how snap-happy our culture has become: from camera phones lighting up concerts to our kids’ every moves being documented. It really is pretty silly.
There is no simple answer of how many photos are too much, however, one simple tip I have is to slow down and take a mental picture before you take the picture… this not only allows you to better remember the moment, but it will prevent you from taking too many photos, photos without meaning. Consider asking a friend or family member to take photos at a child’s birthday party or event where that’s hard to do. While they might not capture the same feelings you had at the event at least it is documented and allows you to be more present.
Tip: At this step, ensure that your camera’s date is set correctly so your photos can be later auto-sorted!
Step #2: Purge. I highly recommend deleting photos before they even leave your phone or memory card. I try to delete really blurry photos immediately after taking them on my phone or DSLR as well as duplicates that I know that I will not want to keep. On the plane or in the car on your way home from a family vacation is a great time to comb through your photos to get your photos down to a manageable quantity. However, it is hard to get a feel for the quality of a picture until you see it on a large screen so don’t feel like you need to be too selective at this point.
Step #3: Combine Photos Onto Computer. Yes, this means downloading all memory cards and combining those with photos from your phone or other devices. In general, when downloading your photos to your computer you have 3 choices: 1. simply copy files to a folder on your computer, 2. use the operating system’s photo importing features, or 3. use third-party software’s import feature. I use (and recommend) Apple’s iPhoto software that comes standard on Mac computers for uploading photos.
I use both a Nikon DSLR and an iPhone to take all my photos. I upload my camera photos typically after each major event. iPhoto auto-slits pictures into Events, which you can title. I don’t spend much time labeling Events at this point but use these quick labels for organizing in the next step. After importing all photos, I select “Delete Photos”. While “Keep Photos” is the default, it is imperative that once you have transferred photos over from your camera that you don’t create duplicate copies during a future upload (especially if you aren’t working in a photo management software); there’s no need to clutter up and waste space on your memory card as well.
My iPhone photos automatically upload to my computer via the cloud’s Photostream. When I take a photo on my iPhone it automatically appears in My Photo Stream, a rolling collection of my last 1,000 photos; and each month a folder labeled with the month (i.e. October Photostream) is sent to my desktop iPhoto without me having to do a thing. If you are lagging in the cloud and photostream set-up knowledge check out this Apple iCloud set-up info.
Step #4: Organize Photos Chronologically. After my photos are uploaded, I chronologically organize all photos (combining DSLR and iPhone pictures) into Event groupings. For example I may label my Events “Summer 2013” or “July-August 2012” but with vacations and other major events in separate events, i.e. “Paris: June 2012”. Since iPhoto is such a visual application it’s nice to not have to be rigid with the naming convention. I set a “key photo” for the cover of my event and it is both easy and fun to scroll through the years’ events.
iPhoto users… Think of Events as something that “happens” and that they are your image archive of your uploaded photos. Albums, on the other hand, can be “created” if you want to refine your Event(s) into sub-groups or if you want a temporary holding place for pictures you may print or use in a slideshow, for example.
At this point, I separate videos from photos since they are used differently. And my business, profile and eBay/craigslist photos go into separate Events as well so they are easily found.
If you are working outside of a photo management software, I recommend organizing photos into yearly folders and then monthly folders with the following naming convention in order for the folders to be easily sorted automatically – i.e. 2013-01, 2013-02. You could further separate out major events in sub-folders within monthly folders.
Step #5: Purge More. Now that my photos are organized I find time then and throughout the year to further go through my events and delete photos. I find that as time passes I’m able to distance myself from the photos and get rid of more than I did right after the event. I don’t have a rigid process or timeline for reducing photos but do so with the knowledge that there are many more photos to come so if I don’t love the photo or it doesn’t tell a piece of the event’s story it might need to go. Digital clutter is still clutter.
Step #6: Back-Up. There are so many ways to back-up your digital photos. Some options are external hard drives, CDs, cloud storage and printing. I highly recommend you picking at least 2 of these back-up methods to ensure that your cherished photo memories are safe from destruction.
You may want to do this before you begin Step #1 depending on your situation. One of the worst feelings is accidentally deleting all your photos. Yes, I’ve had that tearful call from a friend.
I personally have all our photos backed up in 2 ways. My husband bought a NAS this year, which is essentially a networked external hard-drive, so our photos are automatically backed up there. I also print photo books annually so that is another form of “back-up”.
I highly recommend printing photobooks through an online provider. In 2010 I moved from making traditional albums to creating an annual family yearbook with MyPublisher and my whole family absolutely loves them. I don’t work on our photobook until the beginning of the next year so I have a complete set of pictures to work with. Stay tuned for a future blog post with tips on how to create an awesome photobook of your own!
I can actually say that “My photos are organized!” and you can too. It takes time and patience, but the sooner you start the better! Please leave me a comment if you have any questions or comments. I love learning from my readers.
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