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Organize Your Digital Photos Before It's Too Late!

When I think of the boxes of pictures in my parents' closet, that sat glued together, some in albums, but most in a huge heap, I think how lucky I am to be of the digital camera generation; there are no piles and piles of photos, but instead there are mounds and mounds of megabytes. Then I realize that my digital pictures are virtually stuck together -- that is, stuck in the mysterious innards of my laptop, digital camera, cellphone, or tablet. I have them somewhere, I know, but exactly where, I couldn't really say.


That's where the “O” word comes in. Yes, Organization. Even when pictures are digitized, we, unfortunately, can't avoid this most daunting problem. If you don't, you'll be sorry when you go looking for that great shot of the lion and her cubs crossing the road in Kenya, or a child’s first steps, and sadly, all you can find is the memory card that once held it. Below are several tips to help organize your digital photos.


1. Gather your photos in one place

If your photos are scattered across multiple devices i.e. Computers, phones, tablets, memory cards, DVDs; you’ll  want to merge them all onto a computer or a laptop that will make it easier to manipulate and organize your many photos.


2. Digital housekeeping - don't save every photo

Now that your photos are all in one place you will want to discard all the unwanted images. Resist the urge to hold onto bad photos or duplicates. (How many photos of the London Bridge do you really need?) By filtering now you greatly simplify the rest of the organization effort keeping your digital photo collection free of unwanted photos and oddball shots. The goal is to save the photos that are most important and belong in an Album; that will tell your life story.  In your enthusiasm to save disc space, don't skimp on picture size. If you have multiple photos of the same subject, and they all have the same image quality, keep the image that has the largest file size. That’s because if you ever want to enlarge or print that image, the larger file size will usually turn out better.


3. Name wisely

Don't rely on the random file numbering that the camera automatically names a photo. (Who can remember whether “Img-1176.jpg" shows your dog Ray snoring or your cat meowing at you?). Make sure the file names you selected have some relevance that will mean something to you in the near and distant future. You may find that dating your photos is useful when trying to remember in what sequence the pictures were taken. But for a quick-to-find, organized system, it's best to be as descriptive as possible -- with the year, date, venue, subjects, and location. (i.e., 2016-04-08-Birthday-David-Miami)


4. Store and backup your photos continuously

The safest approach for preserving your memories is through redundant storage. A single copy may get damaged, lost, or destroyed. What a shame it would be to lose all those irreplaceable memories - after all that work. There are several redundant storage options you should consider:


a. Utilize photo websites and the cloud
But don't trust just any old site. Before you upload, make sure you know the terms -- will they delete the pictures if you don't buy within a certain period? And be sure to use a reputable site like Google Plus, Microsoft’s OneDrive, or, since you never know when the smaller ones might go under. (Another reason for redundant storage.) Sites such as, and are simple ways to share and organize your photos via the web. Create online albums and folders, then add notes and tags (and even let your family and friends add tags) to help identify and group each photo. The tags make photos easier to locate. (See Captured Moments July 2016 Newsletter- Have your Photos Been Tagged)  No matter what you choose, know that you absolutely need more than just a website as your backup.


b. Get yourself some hardware

An external hard drive is great for extra storage and will allow you to have those images for years to come. Many available external hard drive models have “push button" backup features and can hold 1 to 5TB (terabytes) of photos, video, data, and music. That's a lot of data, and as technology gets better, that amount or storage will continue to grow and get cheaper to buy.  It makes spending a couple of hundred dollars to protect those pictures you call priceless more than a fair trade. Keep in mind though that the number of photos that you can store on an external drive, depends on the file size of the photos. Additionally, many external drives come with great features for backups and viewing slideshows -- perfect for showing off your photos to visiting family and friends. Some well-known brands are Western Digital and Seagate and are found at Amazon, Costco, Target, Staples, Best Buy, etc.


e. Transfer to a DVD

Save your digital pics onto a high-quality archival grade DVDs, which are designed to maximize disc lifetime. If you are going to use DVDs, why not make multiple copies of your photos. Keep one with you and the other in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box. Proper labeling of the disc applies here as well. So that you won't forget what's on each disc, use a similar labeling process you used when storing the images on your computer. Even quality DVDs are subject to damage and degradation. Make a new copy regularly, usually starting after one year. This would be a good time to add any new photos too.


f. Hard copy/printed photos (remember those?)

Of course the beauty of digital cameras, phones and tablets are that you don't have to waste the time or money printing an entire roll of film. But if you want, you can also print your most prized photos as part of your backup plan, or for long-term storage. Make sure the inks and paper are archival quality. Creating photo books is another a great way to back up your images and provides you with a ‘traditional’ way to share and enjoy your memories. Some reputable photo book companies are Shutterfly, Mixbook, Bay Photo Lab and Montage, etc.  Home photo printers have come a long way, but when it comes to pictures that you want to last, your best bet will be to let a Professional Photo Organizer handle the print job.


d.  Find yourself a Professional Photo Organizer.

After a long vacation, celebration, family reunion, or any major event - when do you have time to organize and sort through your memories? Even just organizing your day-to-day photos can quickly get out of hand. As a Professional Photo Organizer, I can help weed through your mounds of photos, edit/restoring the “must have photos” and help you with ideas for sharing, such as photo books, cloud-based software, photo-oriented gifts, etc.   Whether near or far, I even offer remote organizing.  


Check out my Photo Organizing Workshops and Photo Book classes.   Join our Photo Organizing Group now and get a head start on preserving your Memories.     




























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