7 steps to get your family's digital photos and videos under control
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Do you have thousands of photos of your kids filling up your computer photo program? Or perhaps you haven’t imported the images from your digital camera or smart phone for months because you weren’t sure what to do with them.
Organizing – and storing – your family’s photos and videos isn’t hard, but it does take some time and a system that works for you. These simple steps can help you get started on keeping your treasured images safe and searchable.
- Choose a photo program that meets your needs. Your computer should have an application that automatically imports digital images when you download them. But Devon Lee, author of two ebooks on preserving family memories, including Create a Family History Scrapbook Digitally in 12 Simple Steps (Amazon Digital Services, 2012), says you don’t have to settle for that default. You can download a different one or use an online photo library. Play around with your computer photo application and compare it with programs online to see which one you like best. Then stick with it!
- Download your images into your photo application. “After every event or thing that happens when I’m taking pictures, I make sure to download the memory card from my camera,” explains California-based professional photographer Kristin Eldridge. The same system should apply for smart phones. By downloading right away, you’re less likely to accidentally erase or lose images.
- Delete unwanted photos after you import them. Eldridge, a mother of three, goes through the images and trashes duplicates and any that she doesn’t like. “If I took a whole bunch of the same image or I’ve got just a bad picture, I get rid of them so I’m not taking up any extra storage space.”
- Place your images into folders. There are several ways you can organize your images within your photo program. Lee, who’s always snapping shots of her five children, places images in folders according to the month. “My mind works chronologically, so that works well for me,” Lee says. For example, when she imports the photos from her child’s birthday party into her computer, she places them into the folder marked “March 2013.” Always include both the month and the year in file names. You may even want to place the year first for easy scanning – 2013 March versus March 2013. Eldridge follows a similar system: When she imports photos, she creates a folder with the name of the event and places all of the images into that folder. Then she places that folder into a monthly folder, which she keeps on her desktop. At the end of each month she files the monthly folder into an annual folder in her computer hard drive. She creates a folder for the new month on her desktop – and the process starts all over again.
- Tag your images. Lee uses her photo program’s tagging function to add details to images that make them easy to search through later. For example, say her son has a birthday in March. She clicks on the image, which brings up a pop-up box where she can add tagging, searchable words like “Max’s birthday” or “family bike ride.” If you’re not sure how to use your photo program’s tagging functions, Lee recommends searching in your browser for the name of your program and the term ‘tagging.’ “There are plenty of tutorials available online that will walk you through how to tag,” assures Lee.
- Archive your images. Laptops can be lost or broken, so it’s important not to rely on just your computer to house all of your family photos and videos. The type of system you use to store your images depends on your preferences. Lee likes to download all of her photos onto DVDs. Once a year she burns all of her accumulated images onto DVDs; she keeps one copy of these DVDs in her home safe and she mails duplicates to her mother-in-law. “I know that technology is constantly changing and there are other systems out there, but right now this system works for me,” Lee says. “When DVDs become an old technology that’s not good anymore, I won’t wait until the last minute to transfer them.” Eldridge uses an external computer hard drive to back up all of her images. Both Lee and Eldridge say that cloud-based services work, too.
- Make a habit of organizing your images. To avoid the sinking feeling of needing to sort through and tag hundreds of images all at once, go slowly. Lee suggests that you start now and work backwards. As you import recent photos, start filing and tagging them. When you get some extra time, go back and file and tag previous images. Take a month or six months at a time to sort through. “You don’t have to get it all done this weekend,” encourages Lee, who recently took a weekend to do just that. “I took a weekend to corral everything and burn all the images onto DVDs. I did it as a birthday present for myself. I’d rather have memories than things.”
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