Saturday, March 16, 2013

Digital Photo Organizing Tips

Oh boy.  There’s a lot of ways to do this.  Many of my “middle aged” friends have asked me for help on this subject.  So put your big girl pants on.  It’s really not that complicated.  I am going to share with you how I do it, and maybe it will help you feel more in control of your digital photo collection!
I have four kids age eight and under, so we use our camera sporadically--holidays, birthdays, sports events, activities, and then a few random photos of family time, outside play, etc.  I also have an iphone which I use to take photos almost daily of the spur of the moment things like when my 2 year old empties the pantry onto the kitchen floor.
melissa's iphone pics 1-24-13 503
My iphone pics are usually not super great quality because we find ourselves in motion in places that are not well lit frequently.  But I like to look back on the day to day stuff that makes up so much of my life.  Even if it is blurry or poorly lit.
So here’s how I do things:
I keep a 4G memory card in my digital SLR camera.  When I take a bunch of photos (like for my daughter’s birthday here) I will take the memory card out, plug it into my computer, and dump the photos into my “family 2013” folder.  I do this every few months each time I have a pretty good collection of photos going.
When I am ready (late at night when the kids are all in bed), I will open up the family 2013 photo folder and view it by month (this is an automatic feature for windows based folders, also I’m sure this would work on a mac in iphoto as well).  So for instance, here’s what my February 2013 looks like:
Once I am in month view, I can also organize by day.  This is super helpful when you are organizing photos of a vacation or multi-day event.
I try to quickly go through the photos I have uploaded and delete the really bad ones, blurry, bad lighting, etc.  DON’T BE AFRAID TO DELETE BAD PHOTOS, or duplicates either.  I upload all my “preserve for posterity” photos in an account at  I highly recommend this particular photo storage site.  This is a really easy process—I just open my photo folder for February 2013, then open a browser window with my smugmug account and use their uploader tool to drag and drop the “best” photos of the month to my February 2013 album on smugmug.  It does not compress the photos at all (some online sites do), so they are perfectly original and you can share them anywhere you like, order prints, etc. straight from the site. 
THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART—once I upload them to smugmug, I tag them.  You can do this in most photo software applications.  Here’s an example of how I would tag this photo:
Stuart; Grace; outside; front yard; snow;
The idea is that when I am trying to find some pictures of Stuart and Grace together, or snow pictures, or whatever the parameter, I can enter what I want within my smugmug site search tool and it will automatically give me all pictures with those tags.
Here I searched for Stuart Grace snow:
See where I’m going with this?  It takes a little bit of time to do initially, but there are so many reasons why it is a good idea.  You know the drill—your kids come home with an assignment from school to put together a photo collage of all the birthday’s they’ve had since birth.  Or your sister calls and asks if you have any photos of your mom and any of the grandkids for an album she’s doing for mother’s day.  Or your child is earning their Eagle Scout award and you need photos of scout-like activities for a slide show.  Or it’s 6th grade graduation and you need photos of school friends from the past 7 years of school.  And on and on.  Search tool: birthday, search tool: grandma, search tool; scouts, search tool; child + friend’s name.
One last thing—I keep 2-3 years worth of photos on my computer hard drive, then I also have an external photo drive where I store anything prior to that.  We’ve been digital since 2001, so we actually have 2 external drives. BUT even if both of those crashed, all of my favorite, keep-for-posterity photos are saved on smugmug.
To Review:
  1. Upload your photos off the memory card from your camera to your computer hard drive
  2. Keep them in photos folders at least by year, or if you want, subfolders by month and within the month by event name, etc.
  3. Delete the bad pics and duplicates you don’t need to keep .
  4. Upload the ones you never ever want to lose (and then some), to an online photo service—good for printing, sharing, etc.
  5. TAG THEM!!!
  6. Back up the photos on your hard drive by copying or moving them to an external drive.
Now, if you have all that done already, or have a great system that works for you, here’s the next step:
Don’t let your digital photos stay trapped on your computer (or worse, on your memory cards/flash drives!!) As Stacy Julian says, do something with some  of your photos.  You don’t need to scrap/print/keep EVERY SINGLE PHOTO you take.  I use a software called My Digital Studio 2 (MDS2) to make quick and easy pages, albums, and more.  Start with something recent and easy—a Christmas album from a few months ago, a vacation from last year, or get something ready for Mother’s Day for Grandma. You can print at home, order single sheets, or get an album!
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