I get asked about photo organization and storage a lot. I mean, A LOT. And to be honest, the question always makes me cringe a little bit.
The truth is, until now, I have avoided the entire issue in my personal life. Perhaps like you, I’ve been so overwhelmed by the years of digital photos I’ve accumulated, I haven’t known where to start.
But it’s a new year and a fresh start, so I finally bit the bullet and researched some resources to help you AND me get over our picture paralysis already!
To start, focus on photos you’ll take from this day forward. Once you have a system and develop a habit, it’s much easier to tackle the past years’ pics.
1. Develop a Photo Filing System
That’s right, start with an organizing plan! In order to keep up with saving, storing, and locating photos regularly, you need a simple, smart system. For example, the folder filing system on your computer.
You can create and name folders however works best for you, but I recommend organizing at least by year and month with folders for specific, memorable events. Here’s how mine looks as I’m starting to plan for 2015:
2. Save and Edit Regularly
It is important to save all photos you take, from any camera or mobile device, to your computer regularly. When you take photos of a specific event or occasion, download them immediately and erase them from your memory card or phone. For all other miscellaneous photos, try to get in the habit of downloading them weekly.
Once you’ve saved photos to your computer, go through and edit to discard any crummy shots or duplicates. You’re striving for quality over quantity, and you’ll be glad you took the time to edit them later.
3. Create a Backup Plan
It’s always smart to have a back-up plan, and dealing with precious family photos is certainly no exception. An external hard drive is one easy option, but of course that means that if the hard drive is lost, stolen, or damaged, so are your photos.
For that reason, some people prefer one of the many Cloud-based systems that have cropped up in recent years.
Choosing the right Cloud service can feel overwhelming. We got a lot of great information from this article by fellow professional organizer, Lauren Halagarda, of Homeology.co.
Halagarda recommends photo sharing and storage sites like Flickr, Google Plus Photos, Photobucket and SmugMug for a few key reasons:
They offer lots and lots of storage.
It’s super easy to share your photos with friends and family near and far.
You (and whomever else you designate) can download the original photo. Great for printing!
They offer lots of great bonus features such as photo editing, facial recognition, automatic upload/backup, and much much more.
They serve as an off-site backup—just in case.
Halagarda created a comparison chart of the top cloud-based providers that is too good not to share:
Bottom line: Find what works for you, and make photo back-up a regular habit.
4. Print Your Favorites
The point of taking photos is to enjoy them and the memories they capture. So don’t just leave them neatly filed away in the clouds. Print them! Show your loved ones and favorite moments off!
Most photo storage and sharing sites make it pretty easy to order prints, but there is another service that’s caught my attention: Free Prints Now. (Did they say “free?!”). For the cost of shipping, you get up to 1,000 free 4×6 prints every year. You can upload photos from your computer, phone, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, or Picasa accounts and there’s also an app to make the whole process even easier. I also like that you can order larger and odd-sized prints, including 5” x 5”, that are perfect for artsy Instagram photos.
If you’re in need of some new frames for those special photos, January is your lucky month! Aaron Brothers is having its bi-annual One Cent Sale: Buy one frame, get a second frame for a penny!
Now if you’re feeling really fired up, I say you get extra credit for turning favorite photos into artwork, albums, or family yearbooks.
Here are just a few great resources:
Canvas on Demand – Turn photos into a work of art on ready-to-hang stretched canvas.
Minted – Create truly unique custom photo art.
Artifact Uprising – Create super high-quality prints, photo books, calendars and unique items like wood prints.
Chat Books – Purchase $6 mini books one-at-a-time or through a subscription linked to your Instagram account.
Blog2Print - Create a printed version of your family blog as a yearbook.
My Social Book – Print a copy of your Facebook photos and posts for any given period of time.
I know this is a lot of information, but I’m sure feeling more motivated than I was way back in 2014. This IS the year I’m going to get and keep my photos organized. How about you?
Let me know how you’re doing so we can compare notes!
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, try working with a professional. I’ve heard great things about Molly Bullard at Seattle Photo Organizing. She’ll work with you one-on-one and also hosts classes for both Mac and PC users.
The post above is a copy of the article I wrote for the online publication of Seattle’s Child, where I publish bi-weekly articles on home organization. To see a complete list of all past articles, please visit the Reclaim Your Home section on Seattle’s Child. See this article on the Seattle’s Child website here.