There is nothing worse than walking into a client’s home and finding decades of pictures crammed in boxes and storage containers. Why? In this day and age, no one is going to take the time to go through all of those pictures! There is a potential that no one will ever look through those pictures again! Plus, when stored touching like that, the pictures have the potential to get damaged and stick together. If you have pictures stored somewhere, make sure they are at least in airtight containers protected from the elements. Staring at that box of pictures and wondering how to organize them can be a daunting task, let’s talk first about how to prevent this!
I take a ton of pictures, over 5,000 pictures in 2012 alone. How do I stop this from becoming overwhelming? The first step is that I don’t print everything! In this electronic age, here are the steps I follow to keep track of my pictures and easily share them with the ones I love.
When you take a set of pictures, download it immediately. Whenever I do something fun such as go to the zoo, have a bbq, or go on vacation, I immediately download the pictures from my camera onto my computer. The reason this is so important is because it prevents you from scrolling through hundreds of images later to try and divide them up. If you download after every event, you know exactly where to store the files.
Storing images on the computer. I like to divide my pictures up by year. Each year gets its own file. Within that file, when I download the pictures, I immediately save them into a folder labeled with the event name e.g. “4th of July BBQ”. The good news is that these are the only two steps that must be completed immediately.
Decide how you would like to share your events with your family. Since I live in New Orleans and none of my family members live here with me, it is very important to me that they can share in my experiences by viewing my pictures. This is best done online. There are many different websites that allow you to upload and share pictures, I have chosenFacebook®. The benefit to Facebook® is that you can control exactly who can view your pictures and this can be different for each album. For example, if I’m posting pictures of a bbq, I allow everyone on my friend list to see them, but no one else. If it is an album containing pictures of my young family members, only my family members can see the pictures, etc.
Once you have chosen a method to immediately share pictures, set aside some time to do so. I like to set aside time at least once a month to post pictures; if not, I find that I can fall behind and get overwhelmed. Once you sit down to work on a folder of pictures, here’s what to do:
Create a duplicate file than contains all of the pictures you took and add “to share” to the end of the new file name. This is the file that you will work from, while still ensuring that none of your original pictures will be affected.
Go through each picture you have taken in the group. Delete all of the pictures you don’t like, pictures that are duplicates or any other picture you just don’t want to share.
At this point, I order the pictures in the way I want to display them by renaming the pictures with numbers in the correct order. This step can be very time-consuming and is completely optional. If it is skipped, your pictures will just be displayed in the order they were taken and on some sites (including Facebook®) you can re-order them once they are uploaded.
The next step is to upload the pictures you’ve chosen!
I like to add comments to each picture once they are uploaded so that my family knows exactly what is going on! This is also where I rotate any pictures that I took at different angles.
Then, I sit back and watch the comments from friends/family come in!
Okay, the pictures are uploaded and your family and friends love them. Now what? Create a way for you and your family to share these pictures forever. My suggestion is to do what I’ve been doing for the past few years, create a photo book for every year. There are many, many different websites that will help you create photo books. I have chosen to go with Shutterfly® and I have had no problems with them to date! I create a 12-inch by 12-inch book every year. I’ll be honest, the first year, I waited until the end of the year, when I had all of the pictures together, and then created the book. Don’t do this! It is very stressful, took a few weeks and definitely wasn’t as good as it could have been. My suggestion is to keep up with this all of the time, I do it on the same day that I post the pictures online. Once my pictures are up on Facebook, here’s what I do:
Create another sub-folder with a duplicate copy of all of the pictures I posted online and to the end of this file name I add “YYYY Book”.
I am much more selective in this group. Typically, each event I go to or fun thing I do will get a two-page spread dedicated to it. Because of this, I choose anywhere from 8-20 pictures that I think best represent what I did and the fun I had.
I upload those to the website and immediately add the new pages to the back of the existing book I have created. I maintain this book throughout the year and by the end of the year, all I have to do is order it!
The printed books give me a great (and somewhat unique) way to display my entire year to friends/family when they come to visit. It is also really nice to sit down once in a while and see the best pictures from the past. The great benefit of these books over a traditional scrapbook is that if anything were to happen to it, I can simply order another one. Shutterfly® stores all of your pictures and keeps all of your past books, so even though there would be a slight expense to purchasing a replacement, you don’t need to worry about losing all of your pictures! I also really enjoy Shutterfly® because of the customization that is available in each book. They have many different design templates to choose from to make your book flow well or you can choose everything yourself! There are hundreds of backgrounds, layouts, embellishments and frames to choose from. Plus, you can add text and rearrange everything exactly how you like it. I know I sound like an advertisement, but no, they haven’t paid me to say any of this! I spend a lot of time on my books because pictures are a passion of mine. However, if that’s not you, no worries! Shutterfly® also allows you to upload the pictures and the site will arrange them in the book for you.
Printing pictures – I only print pictures for specific reasons. For example, I like to keep pictures in frames throughout the house. If I are going to display them, I print them. If not, the only hard copies I have of the pictures are in the yearly books I create that are easy to access, easy to view and a big hit!
At this point you might be wondering, how do you store all of your pictures to make sure you never lose them? Good question!
Electronically: As I mentioned, I keep all of my pictures on the computer in files by year, but of course this is not the only place! I like to keep two backup hard drives. I save all of my pictures on these drives periodically. I keep one hard drive easily accessible in my house. I store the other at my parent’s house, that way, in case anything were to ever happen to my computer and my house, I would still have the pictures!
Physically: I don’t store pictures physically anymore. I have the books I create for each year and other than that, everything is electronic!
But let’s talk about what to do with all of the pictures you already have collecting dust in the attic. There are many options. The first step, no matter what you choose to do with them, is to get them sorted! You need to do your best to figure out when each picture was taken. You can always look at the picture and judging by the age of family members (and what they are wearing!) you can make generalizations about when the picture was taken. However, never underestimate the power of the back of a photograph.
Recently, a family that lost all of their scrapbooks in Hurricane Katrina brought me three boxes of pictures that they had collected throughout the years that had never made the scrapbooks. They asked me to recreate some scrapbooks for them based on these extra pictures. That is when I learned the power of the other side of the photo. On some pictures, you’ll get really lucky, the picture will say the date it was taken (or printed)! That makes for really easy sorting. But even if the dates aren’t present, the back of the pictures can still be helpful. You can often sort pictures into groups based on the brand name printed on the back of the picture or even the color of the backing. Meaning that sometimes it is actually easier to sort with the picture turned the other way around.
Once they are sorted – this could take you days, weeks or even months depending on the amount of pictures you have – congratulate yourself! It is a big accomplishment to go through all of your pictures! If you started with them already sorted, that’s awesome, time for the next step – the various options for storing your pictures.
The easiest option is to physically store them as they are now, in groups. You can purchase the paper folders than you get when you actually print pictures. These are often sold with lines for you to write on. Put your various groups of photos in these photo holders and store them in photo boxes. Label each box. Then, put the photo boxes into a large, clear plastic bin with a lid. While this is surely the simplest way and doesn’t require much work after the initial sort, it is also the least useful way because people still don’t want to dig through bins to find pictures.
The easiest way to make pictures that are easily viewable (if you have primarily 4×6 photos) is to get a photo binder that allows you to slide pictures into plastic 4×6 slots. There are many different varieties of these and some even have a space for writing in between the pictures. If your pictures are different sizes, you should get a photo album that allows you to open the pages, put the pictures in and lay the clear sheet back down. If you choose this variety, make sure the pages are acid free or you will have damage over time.
If you’d like to make these pictures last forever, you should scan them into your computer and save them with the rest of your pictures. Then all of your pictures will be in one place!
If you want to share your old pictures with loved ones, time to scrapbook! This can be done in one of two ways. You can physically cut/paste the actual pictures OR you can use the images you scanned into your computer to make a photo book. Since I hate clutter and love the idea of a “backup” I prefer electronic scrapbooking, but the choice is up to you!