Hi everyone! Glad to see everyone eagerly waiting to watch what happens as I dig into my 2017 organizing challenge – getting my family photos taken care of. By “taken care of” I mean consolidated, sorted and purged, structured and easily searchable, backed up, usable, compacted, and printed!
Sounds like a lot of work, right?
Well, it is – but really the hardest part is getting committed to get it done, and then coming up with a plan. That is truly STEP ONE! It really can be broken down into smaller, more easily managed tasks. It can also be adjusted to your personal level of comfort. I know that I am personally going to be a lot less strict as far as setting up an “ideal system”. Mine will work FOR ME, but not necessarily someone who is a much more structured and detailed person. That’s OK; everyone can decide what works best for them. This is a record of what I did (and am still doing, because this process is still going on) to get my mess under control. My hope is that everyone can learn from my successes and also my mistakes as we go.
To come up with a plan, I first took stock of what I had on hand. Luckily, since we had moved twice in 18 months about 8 years ago, I had everything sort of stuffed in one large cabinet. That allowed me to take stock of what I had, and from there I could try to categorize things generally and then more specifically.
I have two main sources of family photos that need to be organized: prints and digital files.
Some of these overlap. For example, everything before 1999 is prints. From 1999 to about 2006 I began using a digital camera but I still printed my photos, so I have BOTH prints and digitals from that period of time. Around 2004 I started my pro photography business, so then I started dividing my family image categories into “snapshots” and “portraits” (digital capture, but sporadically printing). Eventually my categories evolved into the current state: iphone pics and portraits taken with my DSLR.
I decided that I needed to start with digital first. My prints are currently in albums, boxes, etc and unsorted or organized, but they are all in one place and safe for now. I wanted to deal with the digitals so that I could be sure they were backed up and safe as well. Also, my husband is 100% illiterate when it comes to digital files, so I wanted to be the one who got the job done.
Once I split the work into two jobs (digital files first, then prints) I realized that I still needed to decide what my ultimate goal was.
I didn’t want to do the work to organize the prints and digitals into some sort of standardized order and stop there. If I did that, my cabinet would be a lot neater but remain just as full. I needed to do the job with an eye toward posterity. I wanted a collection that was easy to bring out and share, that was of decent quality, and that told the story of our family memories in a compact way. I also didn’t want our digital files to languish on a hard drive somewhere, all but forgotten and subject to loss as technology changes. I knew that my archival photo albums were safe, but bulky. My photo boxes were much more compact, but difficult to look through.
I decided that my goal would be to sort/purge all of my images into a timeline, and print them in photo books. I have experience with that and have used a few different companies. I want to see a nice row of uniform books on my shelves when I am all finished! I will be spending a bit of time researching which book I will use, and let you know what I find in the coming week.
The next part of the plan is gathering all of your sources of prints together in one place: Albums, boxes, scrapbooks, etc. Put them in a box or cabinet for now. Then think about gathering all of your digital files in one place: cds, dvds, phones, computer, laptops, tablets, cloud,etc. Put them all in one “My Family Photos” file on your computer for now. I recommend getting an external hard drive (1 T is about $50) and dragging them onto it as well. You can see mine in the photo at the beginning of this article; I got it at Amazon, but Target and Walmart sell them too. You don’t have to worry about sorting or discarding them at this point. In fact, I recommend against it because it’s too easy to get derailed by looking at pictures. Just copy and paste into one large folder! We’ll sort and purge later!
One tip as you are gathering digital files: it’s helpful to use a broad system structure at this point that will start the organizing process. My suggestion is to create subfolders under “My Family Photos” for each year (“2001” “2002” etc). Then, if you KNOW the year that the images that you are gathering, you can see the bigger picture. If you DON’T KNOW the year, that’s fine too. Just drop them in the “My Family Photos” folder. It’s pretty easy to automatically sort them later by using some common photo tools, so no worries!
Gathering all of your digital photos into one file can take some time. You can work on it in stages, a little at a time. Perhaps work on them by device – first everything on your computer, then your tablet if there are any that aren’t already on your computer, then old dvds, etc. Remember, don’t look at them or you will stall hard!!! 🙂
So let’s recap what you need to do as Step One – committing to the job (I think you may already have done that if you are reading this), planning what your ultimate goal will be (mine is to have all of my images, both prints and digital organized by year and printed in books), and developing a plan to do that. I will be sharing my plan as we go. The first part is to gather all of your images together, prints as well as digitals. The time to do this will vary, but prepare yourself for the long haul. Your kids will thank you!
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Update February 2018: For your convenience, links to follow up posts/progress!