observed by Diane » photo journal for those who enjoy vignettes of an ordinary life

How to get started sorting through years of digital photos

mini photo books as gifts

“In order to remember, we have to access and interact with the photos, rather than just amass them.” —Linda Henkel, Point-and-Shoot Memories, Psychological Science (2013)

We’re taking photos.  Obviously they’re important to us.  But then what?

In my previous post, I urged you to get your photos printed — at least your favourites. You don’t need to get every single image printed.

In this digital age, I can fully understand that many people have images they’ve taken and they’re all over the place: on a smart phone or tablet, Instagram, Flickr, Facebook, and so on. So I thought I’d try to ease your anxiety about how and where to begin. The key thing is simply to take baby steps — one thing at a time.

“little black book” photo book by ZNO

Baby steps. Please don’t think it’s necessary (or even possible) to organize your entire photo collection in one fell swoop. This step is to identify where you have all those digital photos: Facebook, Instagram, your phone/tablet, maybe some on memory cards, flash drives, or on CDs.

The second baby step. Next step is to gather all your photos together from the various sources, then simply put them in one tidy folder on your computer/tablet. After you’ve sorted through some of the photos you may wish to create extra folders to better organize your photos say, by year. But initially, simply worry about getting started with that one folder.

And now how to start. Set aside say 15 minutes each day, or whatever amount of time is reasonable for you (or give up one TV show each day — or on Tuesdays and Thursdays for example — and use that time for this step.) Now go through those photos and save only your favourites or those with special meaning. Say you have half a dozen or a dozen shots of the same moment, you don’t need all of those — Pick the one (or two) you want to save from that group and dump the rest. Yes, really.

Create two backup files and … I got this idea on the Internet. Put your archived photos on an external hard drive plus a flash drive. Then store the backup files in separate places. Give one copy to a friend/family member or put it in a safety deposit box. Having the two separate back ups is a safety net in the event of technology failure, power failure, fire, robbery or natural disaster. It may be necessary to create updated backup files frequently if you’re working through an enormous amount of photos. I have a great photo program, Lightroom, which saves all my photos in a very organized manner so that is my organizational tool. But all you need, as I mentioned above, is simply a folder(s) on your computer/tablet.

Maintain your digital archives. Even if you finally get through those photos and have all the important ones printed (whether as photographs or in photo books), this step is still a good idea. Continue to keep your digital archives backed up. These, of course, are simply precautions if you’re wanting to preserve your digital copies should you wish to create a digital project such as a photo book, greeting cards, canvas photos, enlargements, etc in the future. It’s the physical photographs and/or photo books that are the treasure.

A tip.  If wondering where to begin selecting images for printing (or photo books), I recommend starting with this year.  Begin with the current year and then go back and slowly catch up.  If you try to go back through all the years you haven’t printed, you’ll feel like you’re continually playing catch up and may likely give up.  Start current, then work your way back.

“little black book” by ZNO

All along I seem to be talking about printing everything — you don’t need to do a whole years worth of photos right off the bat. Pick one thing and print that: whether you decide to begin by printing off this year’s vacation, or maybe times spent with the kids/grandkids, or maybe the photos you took at the family reunion. After those are printed, pick the next thing, and the next. You don’t have to print them all at once. If you tackle them this way, you’ll get the most meaningful ones done or all the ones that give you joy.

Once you’ve printed a bunch of photos (even if they go in a photo box) or created photo books, it’s much easier to keep on top of it, especially if you have a plan. Even if you fall off that plan, don’t worry. Simply get back at it again. Heck I’m still on a roller coaster of select-and-print; nothing, nothing, nothing; select-and-print; nothing, nothing; and back again. There’s no photo-organizing police. Every photo you get printed, is a memory preserved for generations. Feel great about what you have accomplished.

There is an online article I’m going to direct you to if you are serious about getting your photos sorted and printed. The article by Dawn Oosterhoff also has more detailed information for sorting through photos, but I want to direct you to her point 4. Cull the Photos where she refers to a system of culling photos developed by Cathi Nelson, the founder of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO). You may find her method works for you or gives you inspiration to begin.

Good luck and have fun!

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sherri - November 28, 2017 - 7:07 am

good advice

love the format of how you’ve done yours

Lisa Gordon - November 28, 2017 - 1:24 pm

Thank you SO much, Diane.
You have made what seem like a monumental task, doable.
Such really helpful information here.

Dianne - December 4, 2017 - 7:22 pm

I needed to nudge (or maybe a kick in the pants) to get me started. This post and the previous one are full of good practical information. Thank you.

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