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Things I Believe About Photo Organizing

Things I strongly believe:

  1. Everyone should have full control over their photos.

  2. All your photos should live in one place.

  3. Organizing work you do should not vanish if you leave a software program.

  4. Pics need to be backed up off-site in a place that's easy to recover, if needed.

  5. Photos should be easy to hand over to the next generation.

  6. Less photos for the win. This means taking less or deleting more.

  7. Pictures and memories should be fun!

Everyone should have full control over their photos.

There are so many programs out there, which all have amazing features, and we should take advantage of whatever ones we want......BUT.....First, I believe you should have a copy of all your photos outside of any proprietary software so you don't have to worry if that program decides to change how their system works or goes out of business. I have a love-hate relationship with Apple and Google. I love the features of Apple Photos and Google and I love how simple they are to navigate. I don't like how little control we have over our photos when they are in these ecosystems. I have no control if they change the way their system works. People are still trying to recover from when Apple changed from iPhoto to the current Photos App. It's a problem. Any time you use a system that's not yours, you are not in control, you have to keep up with the updates and you have to go with the flow. I'm sorry, I'm not a "go with the flow" sort of people when you're talking about my photos.

All your photos should live in one place.

I don't want my pictures all over the place! I hear it every day from my clients. "My photos are everywhere!" I don't want some in Google and some in Apple and some in Dropbox and some in Shutterfly. My goal is to have them all in ONE place. I'm going to talk to you about the system I have been using for as long as I can remember and this concept applies to all photos and it's the same system I used when I had a flip phone and a PC. My system is VERY simple. No matter what camera you are using to take your photos; a DSLR, a point and shoot, a phone, those photos should all live together in ONE PLACE where you can have full access, like you computer or an external hard drive. From there, you need to back those photos up to a cloud of your choice, but if that cloud decides to change your system and you don't care for it, you have an easy pass to walk away and not feel stressed because all your original photos live ON YOUR COMPUTER OR EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE. That's it. That's my system. I have 100% freedom to walk away from any program at any moment. My iPhone is just another camera to me and those photos live with the rest of my collection.

I encourage everyone I work with to keep a main copy of all their photos in a non-software reliant system, like in folders on your hard drive by year or theme. This is a screenshot of our personal hard drive of photos from the time I had kids until now. Sure they live in other places if I'm sharing them, but every month I copy everything into the appropriate file folder in this main spot first!

Organizing work you do should not vanish if you leave a software program.

I'm worried about the people who spend hours and hours making albums and tagging inside Google and then they go to take their photos out of Google and it's a hot mess with none of that information stuck to their photos. They lose all that tagging work, they lose any folder structure they created. I don't get it! I can't get on board with a system that only allows the work you do to stay inside their ecosystem. They used to have a work around where photos would also live in Google Drive but they took that away. If I do work, I don't like any work to be wasted. Google recently announced they won't offer free photo storage anymore starting later in the year. Now, all these people have been backing up their photos and unless they want to pay going forward to store their new data, they will need to rethink their plan. Do they start fresh elsewhere and leave what's already there in Google? I would hate to have to remember that the years 2013-2020 are in Google (but left there so you don't lose your work) and the rest is somewhere else. And I know right now Cloud storage is cheap, but what happens if all of a sudden Apple decides they cannot afford to charge so little? Well, they kind of have you stuck? I know there are some promising new ways to get photos out of Apple while retaining your folders but I wish Apple had a clear-cut path to get you out instead of forcing other developers to come up with solutions to their shortcomings. News flash, they don't want you to be free to leave. They don't want you to delete your photos because then it gets even messier and it becomes that much more overwhelming to leave so you just choose to stay and "deal with it later." When does later come? Exactly. So yes, I love Apple Photos and Google Photos. I also find it to be really frustrating for a variety of reasons, mostly related to my lack of freedom around breaking up with them. I start to feel like I'm in a bad relationship where I have no choice but to stay. There has to be a better way.

Pics need to be backed up off-site in a place that's easy to recover, if needed.

There are as many back-up options as there are lunch choices. Dropbox, Google, Amazon, iCloud (which is really a sync), Flickr, OneDrive, the list goes on. I only like back-up options that allow me to extract my photos very easily if I ever need to. I want the file structure to stay in place, I want all organizing work to move along with the photo. I don't want a bunch of sidecar files that can only be used in that specific program I'm pulling from. Isn't the point of a back-up to make photos easy to get to, if needed? I don't like programs that make it hard for me to access MY photos.

Photos should be easy to hand over to the next generation.

I work with a lot of people who come to me with the boxes of photos they have inherited from their parents. They are overwhelmed with 2 boxes of printed pictures. Those pictures can be put on the table and looked at and put back in the box. It's fairly straightforward. We don't need any special software, we just use our eyes. I want digital photos to be the same but it's not just 2 small boxes of photos in concealed bins anymore. We have photos everywhere, on password protected sites, in flash drives and hard drives, CDs and more. Instead, I want to store photos in a system that's easy to copy, easy to view on Mac or PC, easy to navigate for the tech challenged and easy to enjoy at any moment-now or in the future. This shouldn't be so complicated.

Less photos for the win. This means taking less or deleting more.

I post every 1st of the month with a reminder to clean up your photos from the month prior. Just like you need to change the oil in your car and clean out your gutters, you need to take the time to maintain your photo collection or it will fall into disrepair. Not only do I recommend people take the time monthly to clean out, I advise people to do it daily. Take the 10 seconds to delete that photo you took at the grocery store to ask if that was the right brand of bread. Delete the 12 burst mode photos you took of your dog jumping and pick the best one NOW. Don't put it off until the end of the month if you can quickly do it today. I also recommend people mark their favorites so it's easier to pull those together, in the event you want to make an album or simply find your favorites. If you're going through your photos anyway, why not mark your favorites? And better question, why are you keeping photos that aren't your favorites, anyway?

Pictures and memories should be fun!

Too many people are stressed out about their picture collection. People ask me all the time how to finish their project so they don't have to be organizing photos FOREVER. Well, stop taking photos! That's the thing, we have to embrace that we are going to keep living life and having good times and it's fun to look back and enjoy our memories. It shouldn't be a source of frustration. Somewhere along the way, we got lost.

So think about your current photo system and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you feel like you have full control over your photos?

  2. Are your photos living in one place?

  3. Are you spending time doing work in a program that will be lost if you decide to leave?

  4. Are these photos backed-up in a place that would be easy to recover if you had an issue with your main copy?

  5. How are you going to turn all your photos over to the next generation?

  6. How many photos are a reasonable amount for us to tell the story of our life and our children's life? Delete anything you don't need!

  7. Are you having fun with your photos or are they stressing you out. If they are stressing you out, something needs to change.

I'm going to be talking more about all of this stuff and answering these questions soon! I'm not saying anyone should leave a system they have in place. I'm saying you need to know more about your system to make sure it's working for YOU now and in the future! Stay tuned! I have lots of thoughts, as you can imagine.

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Blue Pencil is based in Greenwich, Connecticut. Locally servicing Fairfield and Westchester Counties. Remote consultation available.

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