Organizing your photos

It’s the off season, and while work is a little on the slow side, I’m taking time to make sure all of our personal photos from 2012 are organized properly. I’ll admit, it can be a tedious task, but it’s so worth it. I took hundreds of photos of Clark this past year, and I value these precious photos so much. I’m documenting and keeping up with Clark’s personal history that I will give to him one day. To lose these photos would be heartbreaking. I thought I would share the process I use for keeping things organized.

Step 1: Take pictures!
Whether you’ve got a Toy camera, a Rebel from last Christmas, or your iPhone, just take pictures. They don’t have to be perfect; they just need to be real life. And do me a favor: don’t delete as you go. Just snap some photos and enjoy the moment rather than scrolling immediately back through to delete. Deleting from your camera can sometimes corrupt your memory card and leave ghost images. In my trusty Toy camera, I use a 4GB SD card, and I typically have plenty of space without having to delete. (By the way, that hairband around my camera is there because I dropped it, and now the battery door won't stay shut....oops)

Step 2: Sort, label, date.
Every so often you’ve got to take the time to sit down at the computer and pull the photos off your camera (or phone). When you do, don’t just throw them all into one large pile…sort them! I make one new folder per event. For example, if on Friday we go to the park to swing, then Tuesday is my sister’s birthday, I make two folders labeled as so: Swinging at Park 5-17-12; Sara’s Birthday 5-21-12. Here is screenshot of my list of folders:
Photo Folrders Screenshot ALWAYS put a date on it. This is a lesson I learned from my Granddaddy, and I’ve been preaching it for years (right, Devon?). If you don’t want to be that specific, you can always make one folder per month.

Step 3: Delete repeats.
You’ve got your photos sorted into folders. Now go through them and toss the repeats. Do you really need 18 photos of that elephant at the zoo? No. Pick your favorites and move on. *If you have editing software, this would be the point in the process where you could make a few edits. Beware of the trendy “vintage” filters, borders, and overlays…they may be cute today, but they might also be very distracting and odd in the future. Just keep it simple.

Step 4: Make a backup copy.
Once you’ve got the photos sorted, labeled, and just like you want them, make a backup copy! Immediately! Do not delete the photos from your camera or phone until you do. Jump drives, cloud storage, external hard drive, discs…whatever your preference, just please make sure you’ve got duplicates. I personally prefer burning my photos to a disc. Once they’re properly backed up, I can now empty my memory card in my camera to make room for new pictures. To empty the card, I format it, which means I erase everything at one time. If you want to be extra careful, don't erase the card, just buy a new one. I've started doing this in addition to my disc, because SD memory cards are cheap enough these days.

Step 5: Label & store the back up.
My discs all get labeled with exactly what’s on them, and then put into an envelope in our fireproof, waterproof, too-heavy-to-be-blown-away-in-a-tornado safe, where they stay in case I need them (like when my computer crashes….). With labels on the outside, I can find everything immediately. For example, Clark's daycare asked us to bring photos of his family for a project they were working on. Even though several of the photos I needed were no longer on my computer, I could go to my discs and retrieve photos immediately. I didn’t even have to scroll through hundreds to find exactly what I was looking for, because everything was listed on the disc sleeve and sorted into folders. By the way, I like to organize my discs by date. I usually have one envelope of discs per year.

Step 6: PRINT
It’s a digital world, and unless we take time to actually print our photos, we’ll be passing down pixels and computer codes to our children. There are so many options out there for photo printing, including awesome personal albums like these from Shutterfly. I print our photos as plain old 4x6s and put them in an album, one album per year. I got a little snap happy with Clark this year, so I may wind up with two albums for 2012. I purchased these albums, which hold 300 4x6 prints and have a space for me to write what’s what. There is even a space in the back for a disc. Handy, huh?

So there you have it, a start to finish way to make sure your photos are backed up and stored for the future. If you take a whole lot of photos, I recommend pulling photos off your camera and backing them up at least once a month…or if you’re a casual snapper, you can get away with it twice a year. Whatever the case, just make sure you have a system in place. The future generations will thank you.

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