#SaveYourPhotos Month Week 2

8smDay 8: Start with Digital

Experts recommend that you tackle your digital photos first. If they aren’t backed up and you lose your phone or your camera’s SD card becomes corrupt, those photos are gone forever. No one wants that to happen.

The Association of Personal Photo Organizers asked Certified Photo Organizer Caroline Guntur, The Swedish Organizer, why she recommends starting with your digital images and she gave 4 GREAT reasons.

Tech Failure Rates vs. Natural Disaster

Consider this fact: Statistically, you are more likely to lose your digital photos in a tech crash than your analog memories in a house fire or other natural disaster.

It’s no secret that hard drives fail. Lots of phones are stolen every day. Computers shut down, never to be powered on again. In other words, your device is the most likely culprit when it comes to lost memories, not a natural disaster. Is it always accurate? Of course not. No disaster or accident should be treated casually, so you’ll have to consider the dangers that your photos face and make a good judgment call. Every project needs a plan of action, and if you’re statistically more likely to lose your digital photos, why not start by keeping those safe?

Most of Your Photos are Digital

If you lose your digital collection, you’ll probably end up losing more photos, maybe even most of them. I mean, aren’t the majority of your photos digital? I’d bet my last quarter on the fact that most of your photos are digital, even if you have lots of prints. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably taken more pictures in the last few years of smartphone-clicking than in the past few decades combined (unless your polaroid cam was working overtime!).

Intangible Memories are Easier to Lose

Digital photos are easier to lose because they’re not tangible. Printed photos are usually stuck in a box somewhere and are relatively safe if you store the box well. You’re not that likely to forget about it. Digital photos, on the other hand, are usually scattered on different devices and across different platforms, and they don’t come together as quickly. You just haven’t looked at them enough to remember all of them, so they’re easier to forget. You’ve never held them in your hand, and that makes a big difference. Many studies show we relate better to things we touch, so I have to believe that tangibility matters. It’s much easier to forget about a few photos on an individual device than about a box of prints that you can physically see.

A Digital System Makes Maintenance Easier

It’s not uncommon for the photo organizing process to take a few weeks, and sometimes clients take hundreds of new photos while we’re in the organizing mode. Without a system in place to deal with all the new digital photos, the to-do list keeps growing, and the project never ends. I like to think of it as a conveyor belt. The photos are just going to keep coming, so it’s easier to quickly set up the conveyor belt to go in the right direction rather than having to deal with an amassing pile of files. Why add more to the mess? With a digital system in place, it’s easier to maintain order, and when your older printed photos are ultimately scanned, it’ll be much less work to add them to your collection.

See here for more info and ideas: http://thephotoorganizers.com/digital-clutter-find-what-matters/

9smDay 9: Create Your Digital Photo Hub

When you create a digital photo hub, you give all of your digital photos a home…one single place for all of the pictures to live…one place to backup from. That’s so much better than having pictures on your phone, 3 computers and your iPad, not to mention your partner’s phone and your DSLR.

Your Digital Photo Hub = Your Digital Home

You’re going to create a digital photo hub to store every photo (and video) you take including your soon-to-be-digitized prints and home movies. Your ‘hub’ will be the ‘home location’ for your entire memory collection and can be a master folder on your computer hard drive, an external hard drive or in some cases a cloud-based location. When you have a designated hub, you will find it easy to backup your memory collection and you will simplify your workflow significantly.

Things to Think About

– Does your hub have the capacity to expand?
Chances are, you’ll continue to take photos and videos. If you locate your hub on an external hard drive or your computer, you need to ensure you have ample storage space for your existing images and your future ones. High-resolution images and videos require a lot of space, so choose wisely.

– Is your hub accessible and within your complete control at all times?
You should have access to your photos whenever you need to which means your hub needs to be stored locally, and not online. The only exception to that rule is if you are living an entirely mobile life where you aren’t tethered to a home computer.

Cloud Questions

Mobile devices don’t have the capacity to store your entire collection, making a cloud-based solution your only option. If you need to choose an online service, pick a reputable established provider and read the fine print. Ask about privacy (protecting your image info), photo ownership, data stripping (removing your metadata or compressing your images) data mining (sharing your personal info for advertising purposes) and how you retrieve your images if you decide to ‘break up’ with your provider. Some online services make you pay to download your own pictures. Buyer beware!

What’s In a Name?

Finally, give your hub a name that makes it easy to locate. Smith Family Memories is a good example. My Pictures or Pictures is a little too vague.

Where will you locate your digital photo hub?

10smDay 10: Create a Folder Structure

If you just have one giant Photos folder on your computer, you will still struggle to find your favorite pictures. Create a folder structure that you can work with, that is scalable, that is easy to understand, and that will keep you organized in the process.

For example, a dated folder structure is predictable and easy to maintain because today’s digital images have dates embedded. Themed folders with no ‘dated’ structure work better for old scanned photos that are hard to date. Use a numerical file name for your folders which allows your computer to sort your folders in date order.

11smDay 11: Back up the Mess

It might seem counter-intuitive but backup your chaotic mess of photos before you start organizing them. If anything weird happens while you are working with your pictures, you can always go back to “the mess” and start over.

12smDay 12: 3-2-1 Backup

The 3-2-1 backup method is highly recommended for your digital photos. That means 3 copies of your photos in 2 different formats with 1 copy located somewhere other than your house. If you do nothing else this month, please backup your digital photos.

Here is your ideal backup strategy:

  1. Your digital photo hub: the home location for your entire memory collection, usually a master folder on your computer hard drive
  2. An external hard drive (EHD): a drive attached to your computer that backs up your memory collection. Here is a great article about choosing your EHD: https://www.organizingphotos.net/7-steps-to-picking-the-perfect-external-hard-drive-for-your-photo-needs-a-free-checklist/
  3. A cloud-based backup: ideally a service that backs up automatically (so you don’t have to think about it!) such as Backblaze (https://www.backblaze.com/)

13smDay 13: Eliminate Duplicates

You probably have tons of duplicates in your digital photo hub as the result of inconsistent downloading, importing of multiple backups and many other reasons. Now is the time to get rid of those extras that are cluttering up your photo library.

There are two kinds of duplicates; exact duplicates created when you brought the same image in from a few different locations. And then there are ‘near duplicates’ which are images so similar they could be the same but were taken seconds apart. We can thank ‘burst mode’ for these treasures.

We recommend duplicate finders such as
– Duplicate Cleaner for PC (http://www.duplicatecleaner.com/)
– PhotoSweeper for Mac (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/photosweeper/id463362050…)
These affordable options have settings that allow you to look for exact matches or near matches.

Once you find your duplicates, you can delete them entirely or move them into a folder called ‘to be deleted’ if you’re commitment-shy.

14smDay 14: Adding Metadata

Your digital images contain information called metadata that helps identify valuable information about your photo. This information is digitally attached to your image and stays with your photo. Your digital camera or smartphone is already embedding information such as dates and location data.

Adding additional metadata to your images is the equivalent of writing information on the back of your printed photos (with a photo-safe pencil, of course). The more information the image contains, the richer the story.

When would you need to add or change the metadata? Remember when you got your first digital camera, and you didn’t know how to set the date? All those images were created with the wrong date and will need correcting. If you have scanned photos, you’ll need to add exact dates and additional information.

More importantly, you may want to add keywords or tags to make it easy to search for photos, or you might find it helpful to add ratings to identify your favorite images.

Some of these tasks can be performed with native tools on your operating system, but they lack the efficiency of photo organizing software.

Here are two helpful articles about metadata:

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#SaveYourPhotos Month Week 1

Did you know that September is Save Your Photos Month? Join us for a month-long quest to protect and preserve your family’s lifetime of photos, film, and memorabilia. #SaveYourPhotos

1smDay 1: Scan Your Photos

Scanning your printed photos and slides extends the lifetime of your pictures, creates a backup, and increases your ability to share and enjoy your memories.

Why Scan Your Pictures?

Scanning extends the lifetime of your photo. Your printed photos are decaying and deteriorating even under optimum storage conditions. When you make a digital copy, you have the ability to enhance the image, restore it to its original color and fix any damage. Digital photos can be migrated into new forms as technology changes, extending the life of your image beyond the original print.

Scanning creates a backup of your printed images. Right now, you have one copy of those prints with no back up unless you were particular about saving and cataloging your negatives. Your digital copy will be stored in your digital photo hub with the rest of your digital images and will get backed up during your normal workflow.

Scanning increases your ability to share and enjoy your photos. Families with printed photos face similar dilemmas. How will I divide my printed photos between my kids? Who gets what? What if they have storage space issues? I created scrapbook albums, and everyone in my family wants one! When you have digital copies of your photos (and your albums), your problems are solved. In their digital form, your printed photos can be shared via social media and online photo archives or put into slideshows and photos books.

How To Scan Your Pictures

Begin by reviewing your printed photos and slides and determine the quantity now that you have purged during the organizing process. Consider how you want to use these digital images so you can determine the minimum DPI that you need your images scanned. We recommend a minimum of 600 DPI depending on the original size of your image, and what you intend to use it for. For example, a 2×3 photo that you want to display on your wall as a canvas print may need scanning at a much higher DPI. If you are scanning slides, your DPI will be considerably higher and will be determined based on the end goal for your digitized copy. Work with your scanning service provider to help determine your needs.

Will you scan at home or use a service?

Local and online scanning services are an excellent choice for time-starved individuals and can be an affordable solution if you don’t have a quality scanner at home. Look for service providers that offer image enhancement and white glove service. Some big box stores ship your photos out of the country for processing. Do your homework!

If you scan your pictures at home, take extra care when handling your photos. Wipe your printed photos with a clean cloth and keep the scanner glass clean and dust free. Scanners will pick up dust, scratches, and smudges and magnify them in your image.

Do you have thousands of photos to scan? Consider buying a high-speed scanner or better yet, rent one. A high-quality, high-speed scanner can process your scans at an average of 50 prints per minute depending on the scanner. That’s roughly 2,000 – 3,000 photos per hour. Choosing a high-speed scanner for large jobs saves you time and money. Google ‘rent a scanner’ to find a scanner that suits your needs and budget.

2smDay 2: We Are Overwhelmed

The statistics are staggering. In 2015 people took 1 trillion digital photos and that number grew to 1.7 trillion by the end of 2017. There are currently an estimated 4.7 trillion photos stored on computers and devices and growing! It’s also estimated that there are over 1.7 trillion paper photos stored in albums, attics & shoeboxes, waiting to be digitized and backed up.

What about your old home movies? Videotapes, like VHS, were very popular, and some 6 billion tapes were sold in the US with an average length of 2 hours each. That’s 12 billion hours of footage of new babies, first steps, weddings, barbecues, and graduations. But videotapes were never meant to be a permanent medium, and deterioration strikes them in as little as 20 years, even when stored under optimal conditions. Less than 1% of these memories have been transferred to digital, a much more durable and lossless format. Also, the ability to view these 6 billion tapes is not an option any longer since most devices have become obsolete.

Is it any wonder people are overwhelmed with their memory collections?

Being overwhelmed by your photos is normal but fixable! Stay tuned here all month for tips and strategies!

Day 3: Set A Goal

The first step to getting your photo life organized is picturing the end result. In other words, set a goal for yourself and your photos, videos, and memorabilia. Just like any goal, you need to have a concrete vision with a timeline for completion. Think ahead to when you have your entire photo and video collection organized and accessible.

3sm• How would you like to share and enjoy these pictures?
• Do you want a family yearbook with highlights?
• Do you want a photo gallery on your wall with milestone events?
• Do you want online photo albums that other members of your family can access?
• What about a video slideshow to enjoy with some popcorn?

Choose a few fun ways you plan to celebrate and share your photos – this is the fun part!

Next, think about who you plan to share your photos with and let them in on your plans. You are more likely to achieve your goal when you tell someone who can hold you accountable. You can do it!

4smDay 4: Set Up for Success

Having a proper space in which to work can help set you up for success. Not only can you see everything you are working on, but you can also visually see your progress.

Find a Work Space

Let’s get down to business. Remember the saying “out of sight, out of mind”? Depending on the size of your photo collection, you may be working on this for a while. (And you probably have a lot of photos because remember we are all overwhelmed!) If everything is tucked away or hidden in closets and on computers, it will be easy to forget. You’ve made a commitment to organize your photos, so let’s get them into an area where you can work on them.

Designate a temporary workspace in your home that is visible and allows you to spread out. A large table in the corner of a room or a separate room is ideal and causes the least amount of disruption. When your project is visible, you’re more likely to remain focused on completion. If you set yourself up on your dining room table, then you may have to pack it up again when you want to sit the family for dinner! If space is an issue, take a photo of the locations where your photos are stored so you can create a vision board of what you are dealing with.

Hunt and Gather

Next, gather your memory collection into your workspace. Locate all photo albums, loose printed photos, memorabilia, kids artwork, negatives, slides, undeveloped film, memory cards, family artifacts, home movies (ex. VCR tapes, miniDVs, film, etc.). Determine the devices where you have photos stored, such as your smartphone, computers, and tablets. Resist the temptation to start sorting yet or reminiscing! There will be time for that later.

Ready, set, GO!

Day 5: Take a Photo Inventory

How many photos do you have in your digital collection? What about your print collection? What about film, video and other memorabilia? You need to know how many photos you have so you can plan the scope of your project and the time involved.

5smDigital Photo Inventory – Taking a count of your digital photos can be done in a few clicks. Be sure to look for various formats for digital photos such as JPEG, TIFF, PNG, GIF, and Raw.

Print Photo Inventory – Printed photos are a little less exact. Professional photo organizers measure photos or weigh them when estimating. A one-inch stack of photos is approximately 100 pictures. This number may be less if you are working with older photos which may have a thicker backing. If you weigh boxes of photos, 6-7 pounds is the equivalent of 1000-1200 photos.

Don’t forget your slides – A circular slide carousel holds either 80 or 140 slides. If you are unsure about the slides you have, you can check out this rare slide guide.

Home Movie Inventory – When counting your home movie collection, you will find it helpful to count the various film and video formats. Not sure how to determine the formats? These two links will take you to The National Archives for information on how to identify them.
– Film Formats – https://www.archives.gov/…/motion-picture-film-identify-for…
– Video Formats – https://www.archives.gov/…/form…/video-identify-formats.html

And don’t forget to count your memorabilia!

What are your final numbers?

6smDay 6: Create a Photo Timeline

Most of our lives can be mapped into important milestones on a timeline, even though we may not know specific dates. Once a timeline is created, you will use this as a roadmap for indexing your photos during the sorting process. Trust us; you’ll be glad you took the time to complete this step!

Click here for more information: http://thephotoorganizers.com/organize-photo-life-family-timeline/

7smDay 7: Collect Your Supplies

Having the proper tools will make your photo organizing project easier. We’ve asked members of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers what are their go-to tools:

– Cotton gloves: Fingertips contain an oily residue that will further deteriorate your delicate photos.
– Face Mask: If your heritage photos smell musty, or they were stored in an attic or basement, they may contain mold spores that you could find irritating during the sorting process.
– Soft-lead blue or black art pencil: As you sort photos you may want to include a date, year or name on the back of a photo until you can capture the details digitally once scanned. This pencil is not permanent and will not indent or harm your photo. Never use a pen to mark the back of your photo.
– Archival quality photo safe storage box: Choosing a good quality photo box will keep your photos safe, and aid in the sorting process. Contact a photo organizer in your area for recommendations for a safe photo box. A photo organizer will have sourced out a local supplier or may be able to provide you with one.
– Dental floss and hair dryer: If you have peel and stick (or magnetic) albums, some of your photos may be difficult to remove.
– Smartphone camera: If you have old albums with details on the page, you can take a snapshot of the page to keep the details with the photos.
– Sticky notes or index cards: These come in handy for creating a timeline during the sorting process.

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#EnjoyYourPhotos: Word Mat Panoramic Wall Art

A more contained way to celebrate a place or theme with photos is to create a custom word mat that you have printed as wall art. Here are two themed pieces I have done for two of the places where my family has lived, and keep reading for step-by-step instructions on how to create your own!


Initial Preparation: there are lots of sizes and vendors you can use for creating wall art, but for my Word Mat pieces, I have used Shutterfly’s 12” x 36” mounted wall art (https://www.shutterfly.com/home-decor/wall+art+12×36–mounted-wall-art) that allows you to upload a single finished photo. If you plan to do the same, start with creating a new custom file in a program like Photoshop that is 36” wide and 12” tall and 300 dpi.


Choose a Word (Theme): in order to fit your word to the 12” x 36” size, the word should (probably) be no longer than eight letters, and you should use a nice thick font that allows your photos to show through. Some ideas for words/themes include: family (I MOM, I DAD, GRANDMA, etc); holidays (CHRISTMAS, BIRTHDAY, etc); sports (SKIING, SOCCER, FOOTBALL, etc); or places to which you have traveled or in which you have lived. For my example, I will use COLORADO with the font Futura Extra Black.


Prepare Your Word for Photos: In order to make your word fit correctly in the 12” x 36” space, you will likely need to manipulate the height and width of the letters. In Photoshop under “Character”, you can change those dimensions. In my example, I had to make the font height 225% and the font width 94%. You may also want to tweak the spacing between letters to make that look correct (I adjusted between each word individually). Once you have your word finalized, make a copy of your type layer, hide your type layer, then rasterize your copied layer (Layer-Rasterize-Type in Photoshop). Now you’re ready to cut out each letter individually: start with C, put a selection box around it, choose Edit-Cut, then Edit-Paste Special-Paste in Place. Rename the new layer with the letter, and you’re ready for your first photo! Drag your photo in, place it on the layer above your letter, then right-click and select “Create Clipping Mask”. Move your photo in place (you may have to change the size as well), and you’ve got your first letter! Continue the process for each letter.


Add Photos and Finish: Choosing the photos is the most fun (and often the hardest) part! You may find photos you like but don’t fit in your letters, and you may end up switching out photos for others as you go along (which is what I ended up doing). But eventually you will come up with a final product that you like! At that point, flatten your image and save it as a JPEG (in as large a size as you can, since it will be blown up to 12” x 36”). Then go to your printing company, upload your final photo, and you’re ready to order – congratulations!