Day 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.
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/
Day 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.
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?
Day 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.
Day 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.
Day 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:
- Your digital photo hub: the home location for your entire memory collection, usually a master folder on your computer hard drive
- 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/
- 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/)
Day 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.
Day 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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