Do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of family photos you have sitting on your hard drive, unorganised and unloved? Do you worry that one day you’ll lose them all and your children will have no photos of their childhood? Do you love the thought of having family albums but don’t know where to start?
In the digital world that we live in it’s so easy to get our photos out of control. We go on holiday and rather than coming home with 36 photos on a roll of film you then take to get developed, you come home with hundreds of photos (with dozens of the same thing!) that you keep on your hard drive and never do anything with. Perhaps you share some on Facebook or print a few out and frame. But the rest just sit there unloved.
If you follow my simple 6 step plan you can take control of your photos forever. And if you have years (or decades!) worth of unorganised photos, don’t worry. Just start from now and you can gradually go back and sort through your old photos. Just make sure you take control of it now!
Step 1: Back up!
I know it’s not the most exciting of subjects, but it is SO important that you back up your photos.
Every week I hear about someone whose hard drive has crashed and they have lost all of their family photos. Don’t let that happen to you!
You should back up in at least three places. That might seem like overkill but it’s really not. You should keep your photos on one hard drive whether it’s your computer or an external hard drive. Then back that up with a 2nd hard drive (you’d be amazed how often hard drives fail!) Then ensure all of your photos are backed up in the cloud so if anything horrible such as a fire or burglary happened, at least you have your photos backed up outside of your house. I use Backblaze for my cloud storage.
Step 2: Get organised
Make sure that you have a system for your photos. Some people have all of their photos saved into one folder with no system at all. That’s a quick way to get overwhelmed!
Instead make sure that you have an organised system so that you know exactly where to find your photos. There are lots of different ways to do this, but the way I do it is save my photos by year, then by quarter, then unedited and edited images in different folders. If there has been a big event in one of the quarters such as a holiday or birthday then I will save a separate folder for this as well. So it would look something like this: 2015/Apr-Jun/Sam’s birthday/edited photos
Step 3: Cull your photos
At least once a month schedule some time to go through your photos and cull them. This is always the most challenging part!
With digital cameras it’s easy to shoot literally hundreds of photos in one trip to the park, and storage is inexpensive now so why wouldn’t you keep them all?
Well think about your grandchildren in 50 years time. They get your old hard drives down from the loft (that’s if they are still usable, but more about that later!). Do you really think they want to go through thousands upon thousands of photos including the blinks and the blurry photos? Unlikely! Most of us just have a few select photos in an album from our childhood which is so lovely to have, so as you’re culling your images think about it as a wonderful gift that you’re leaving to future generations.
Go through your images and delete any that don’t make you feel happy or that aren’t a great memory of that moment. Get rid of any blinks, out of focus shots or any that are too similar to each other. Rather than going through your photos and choosing the ones to delete, go through and choose your favourites then you can delete the ones that aren’t. That makes it a much more pleasant job as you’re not sat there agonising over whether to delete a photo or not!
It’s best to do this using photo software such as Google’s Picasa (which is free) or Lightroom. Then you can use their star system and can quickly go through and star your favourites.
Step 4: Edit your photos
This step isn’t a necessity. I’m a big believer in getting things right in camera so you don’t have to spend hours in front of your computer afterwards…that’s precious time you could be spending doing something else!
But if you want to print and display some of your photos, spending a few minutes editing them can make a big difference. If you are completely new to editing, Picmonkey is a great editing tool which is very easy to use.
Step 5: Create a digital family album
I’m very passionate about getting our photos off our hard drives, into albums and out on display. I worry that we are raising a generation who will have their childhood memories destroyed on hard drives. And who even knows what memory storage they will be using in 50 years time (remember floppy discs?!) so the only way to ensure your photos are passed through the generations is to create albums. And there is nothing better than actually holding your photos in your hands.
I also think this is one of the best ways to help you take control of your photos. If you’re creating an album each year then it gives you a reason to take time out to organise your photos, select your favourites and design your album.
If you’ve got years and years of photos, don’t worry, just start with the last full year and gradually work your way back if you get time. Even if you just have an album a year from now on, that’s better than nothing! And if creating an album for a whole year just seems like to much work, why not just do one for a holiday each year? Then your children will have all of these lovely holiday albums to look back on.
There are lots of great digital album companies out there. I personally use Blurb as I find their software intuitive and their printing the most reliable.
All of my albums are 30x30cm square so that they look good next to each other on the shelf. I get 2 printed, one that the boys can flick through without me getting anxious about them ruining it, and one to keep hidden away!
I take a lot of photos with my iPhone, but rather than overwhelm myself by trying to put them all chronologically with my ‘proper’ photos, I put all of my iPhone photos at the back of the album in chronological order which makes life so much easier!
Also I save all of the photos from the album onto a CD and stick it to the last page of the album. Then in the future, my children will easily be able to find a photo they want in the album, then print it off without having to search through 10 different hard drives!
Step 6: Enjoy your album
This is the very best part….the feeling of satisfaction when you receive your family album in the post. We all look through it as a family and reminisce about all of the fun things we got up to the year before. My boys often get the albums out and sit there looking through them and giggling with each other. It makes all of the hard work doing the first 5 steps so worth it!
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I hope this post has inspired you to get your photos organised and printed! I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Which of these steps have you not done in the past? Do you print many of your photos or are they all stuck on your hard drive?