I recently heard a podcast about digital photo organizing. It made me think about what a huge undertaking photo archiving is these days - particularly because we all walk around with a great camera in our pocket. Now more than ever we have the ability to capture literally everything - this is of course great for remembering special moments, but the sheer volume of photographs we each have can quickly become overwhelming.
Knowing what to do with all these pictures, how best to store them, where to find them when you need them, and how to carve out the time to get it all done is a big task, but one that the Room to Breathe team has a good handle on.
Below are some of the best tips we've discovered through years of personal work and professional organizing experience. The point of photographs to be able to look book and enjoy our memories, so lets take the overwhelm out of the equation and create a system that works, commit to keeping up with it, and most importantly be able to easily enjoy our photographs as the years go by.
JUST GET STARTED!
If you wait until you have the time, chances are you will never get started. Like most things, we have to consciously make time and prioritize doing the work, otherwise life has a way of taking over. Carving out a few hours to get started is the best way to get the ball rolling and begin your forward moving momentum.
FOLLOW THE SPACE METHOD
S - SORT
Start by loading all your photos from all your various devices onto a single computer or external hard drive. Begin with a macro sort - going through your photos and creating folders based on broad categories or whatever can easily be identify from them. For example - make a folder for a specific trip or special event. Including a date in the folder name is an easy way to streamline the process even further (either just the year or more specifically the month). Some naming examples: "03-2020 - Palm Springs" "Summer 2020 - Family Photoshoot" "09-2020 - Kootenay River". If there are random one-off photos that don't belong in any of the more specific folders you've created, they can be relegated to a generic year folder, or break it down even further and create folders to sort by season 'Winter 2020', 'Spring 2020' etc...
P - PURGE
Move on to the micro sort - go through each folder and discard pictures you don't need. If there are 10 from the same event, pick the best one or two. Keep in mind that if there are too many photos, or multiples of the same thing, it becomes redundant and less enjoyable to go through and view them as the years go on. Honour those special moments by making sure only the best and brightest photos are kept to be enjoyed.
A - ASSIGN A HOME
This has been done a bit already as we began our sort, but at this point, make sure to refine your folders. Do the folder categories flow and make sense? Are they all in the same format?
Also now is a great time to back up! Either to a cloud storage program like Dropbox of Google, or to a secondary hard drive. If you want to be really safe, consider backing up annually to a separate hard drive that you store in a safety deposit box or a family members home. Be sure to do this step regularly (monthly or semi-monthly is ideal) - If anything ever goes wrong you'll be so truly thankful you did.
C - CONTAINERIZE and E - EQUALIZE
When it comes to photos, all that's left is to enjoy them! Photo books, slideshows, movies, digital picture frames, calendars... There are so many fun options to create something special with your photos - they don't just need to stay filed away on your computer. And now that your photos are sorted and organized, its super easy to do these meaningful extras.
ONGOING MAINTENANCE IS KEY
Once you've established your filing system, upkeep and maintenance will really help streamline and speed up the process going forward. Here are a few ways we keep on top of photo filing systems:
THE FIVE MINUTE SORT
A few times per month, when you find yourself with a couple spare moments, go through your phone and delete photos that you don't need - duplicates, mistakes, screen grabs, photos with eyes closed, or anything not worthy of keeping. Spending a few minutes doing this regularly will significantly lessen your purging load down the line.
Try to stick to a schedule where you import/download from all your devices on a monthly basis rather than all at once at the end of the year. Breaking this process down into smaller, bite sized chunks helps to keep you motivated and focused, and makes the entire process far less daunting.
If you've been able to keep up with your monthly sorts, at the end of the calendar year, you should have a fairly well edited and organized archive of the years photos. Now is a great time to go through all your folders and do one final round of purging. It's also a lovely time to look back and reflect on all the fun adventures and good memories that you had during the last 12 months.
CELEBRATE YOUR HARD WORK!
Once you have your system established, creating things like annual photo books, slideshows, or printing photos for gifts becomes such a lovely and easy way to enjoy and share your beautiful memories. Creating some way to document the highlights of your year is an amazing gift for years to come. Give it a try.
WHAT TO DO WITH PRINTS OR NEGATIVES?
Most of us have a collection of older printed photographs and negatives. If you are wanting to digitize some of these for archiving, start at the beginning of the SPACE method - sorting and purging so you are only digitizing the best of the best and not wasting time or money scanning unnecessary images. Out-sourcing your scanning or purchasing a home photo scanner are both great options if high quality photo resolution is important (most photo labs offer scanning services - prices vary based on volume and resolution needed.) If you are ok with smaller file sizes, there are several awesome (and free!) photo scanning apps on the market (Google Photo Scan is super user friendly and provides great, quick results.)
Lastly, if you need a helping hand, give us a call. We love a good filing project and can create a master filing system for you quickly and effortlessly.