Order is Heaven’s first law, wrote the poet Alexander Pope. Maybe that is why we innately feel better when our life is buttoned up. What about our life’s memories? When it comes to getting our photographs in order, many of us feel a pang of guilt closer to purgatory than to Heaven.
It is estimated that 86% of digital photos never leave their memory card. Many more photographs are held captive in bins, boxes and drawers throughout our homes. If this sounds like you, don’t worry, you are not alone. The good news is, if you are willing to put in a little work, you can free your photos and create a system that will allow your family to enjoy them for years to come.
• Download your photos from your camera or phone to your computer once a month. This is probably the most difficult thing for me to do! It is so easy to forget. I suggest doing it the same time each month, like the first Saturday. Always put it on your calendar and honor the commitment. It is very important as you don’t want your photos and videos trapped on a camera that could be lost, stolen or damaged.
• Transfer the photos in your computer onto a photo organizing system such as Picasa, a free download from Google, iPhoto or Windows live photo gallery.
• Once they are downloaded and transferred edit and delete any repetitive or poor quality photos. Let’s face it, a bad picture is just clutter and will distract you from the good ones.
• Once you have edited your photos, organize them into files. I like to put the year then the month in digits, then title so my pictures line up chronologically, example: 2012 02 Ski Trip. I don’t like subfolders in my paper files or in my digital files so this method works well for me as I can see everything at a glance. If you like subfolders you can organize just by the year with subfolders for each month and then subfolders for each event within the month. I also like to make a folder each year for certain types of random photos. For instance, 2012 Family and Friends or 2012 Client spaces. The important thing is that your folders make sense to you so that when you want to retrieve a photo you can find it.
• Once you have your photos in folders you can go in and rename each photo replacing the string of digital numbers your camera assigns it with something meaningful to you.
Remember the important thing is to get them off your camera and on to your computer and back them up. I have my computer backed up continuously by Carbonite back up service www.carbonite.com . Other methods of backing up photos include:
• External hard drive, 500GB holds about 200,000 photos
• Online services, check out www.sugarsynce.com or www.sugarsync.com
• Prints, yes prints! In this high tech world there is still something special about sitting next to someone and reminiscing over a photo album.
Where to begin? This is the question that can keep us paralyzed and our printed photos trapped in drawers, boxes and bins. Whenever, I feel overwhelmed I remind myself that the best starting point is always a plan. First, ask yourself what you want as an end result. Do you want all your photos on your computer or would you like to have albums-maybe a combination.
• Choose the area in your home where your albums will live. This will help you decide how big your albums can be. Choose a bookcase, shelf or piece of furniture that will accommodate the albums you will be making now and any future albums you will be making. It’s great to keep them in the family room so they are accessible and easy to enjoy.
• Choose an album that fits your budget and aesthetic then buy more than you need to you always have a place to easily organize future photos. I like albums that have room to write a caption next to each photo. Choose archival albums if possible. Check out www.exposuresonline.com for a great selection.
Now that you have your albums it’s time to load them up!
• Find a space in your home that you can set up as a photo organizing center-on a spare bed or a buffet table in a spare room. You will also need shoe boxes and post it notes. You can buy inexpensive plastic shoe boxes at a dollar store.
• Sort the photos by year into the shoe boxes labeled with the post its. Don’t worry if your memory is fuzzy. Do the best you can-you can always tweak it later. This is the time to toss any repetitive and bad photos. Just say no to photo clutter!
• Identify events within each year and group those photos together. I think random photos are an event as well. In each year’s album consider having a few pages of random photos of family and friends.
• Load the albums with your sorted picture. Depending on how many photos you have, you may have one album for each year or combine several years in each album.
If albums are not your thing and yourprefer to enjoy your images digitally just follow the steps above but instead of loading up the albums choose a scanning service like www.scandigital.com or www.scancafe.com. For about 25 to 50 cents a photo you’ll receive a disc that you can upload to your computer and organize digitally.
Whichever method you choose you will be creating a visual legacy for your family that will be treasured for years to come.