#SaveYourPhotos Month Week 3

15smDay 15: Take Advantage of Free Trials

Most photo organizing and photo storage software offers free trials. Use a small selection of your photos and play around with the software and see if it may work for you, your comfort level and your lifestyle.

Have you ever tried to google ‘photo organizing software’? The results can be overwhelming and at the very least, confusing. In addition to that, product changes continue to occur at such a rapid pace; it makes it that much harder for you to make decisions.

Here is some information that will help you make the right choice for you and your memory collection, and ease some of the fears you may feel about moving forward.

Desktop Photo Organizing Software

A desktop photo organizer is an app or software that you download and install on your computer.

  • Some programs work directly with your folder structure (on the hub you created) and apply changes directly to the photos in your folders.

  • Some programs work together with your folder structure and their internal database while applying changes to your photos.

  • Some programs are proprietary and work with their internal database or catalog.

Your workflow will be easier if you choose a program that works with your folder structure. If you select a proprietary program, you would have the added step of importing your photos from your hub into the program. There is no right or wrong; it’s really about personal preference.

Here are some essential features you should expect from a desktop photo organizer:

  • Is the program user-friendly and does the company provide training tutorials and good customer service?

  • Does the program use non-destructive editing (does it retain your original image)?

  • Does the program adhere to IPTC standards for applying metadata to your images? Yes, there are industry standards that you can learn more about here.

  • Does the program have key features such as keywording, a rating system, simple or advanced editing, captioning or storytelling options, smart albums, etc.?

  • Does the program offer a pleasant viewing experience or slideshow options?

  • Will your program organize video formats?

  • Is it easy for you to export and share images from the program?

  • Is your metadata intact once you export your image(s)?

Online Photo Organizing Software

An online photo organizer resides in the cloud, and you upload some or all of your photos from your hub.

In this scenario, you are sending a copy of your photos to your online provider and keeping your original images in your hub, which is stored locally on your computer or EHD. The distinct advantage of this option is you naturally, create a 2nd backup of your photo collection that is stored offsite (in a different location than your home computer or EHD).

In addition to some of the features we outline above, here are some features you should look for in an online photo organizer. Remember, when choosing an online provider to store and organize your precious photos, you are entrusting their safety to a company. Please do your research!

  • Do you maintain ownership over your image? Read the fine print!

  • Do you have complete control over your image privacy settings and are they easy to understand?

  • Does your provider protect your privacy regarding your personal info? FREE services mine your data for advertising purposes and share your information with third party services.

  • Does your provider keep your image metadata intact and in its original size? Some services compress your image and strip your metadata upon upload.

  • Does your provider have any space limitations? Some services have a cap on how much space you have.

  • Does your provider make it easy for you to retrieve or download your photos if you choose to discontinue the service? Some services charge you a fee or have download restrictions.

  • Does the service offer keywording, ratings and a folder or album organizing feature and how is this information captured in the metadata? Some providers have very limited organizing options and don’t embed metadata in the image file upon download.

  • Does your online provider have backup redundancies in place and high-level security?

  • Does your provider offer a succession plan for your photos? If you pass away, will your family be able to access your account?

16smDay 16: What About Your Videos?

Don’t forget about your home movies whether they are on film or on your phone. They need to be culled, organized, digitized, backed up and stored safely just like your photos.

Your old home movies are filled with special moments. From the laughter of a child, to footage of wedding vows, to someone’s first steps or first words captured on tape or film, videos can be just as special as old family photos or school portraits, and they merit just as much emphasis when it comes to preserving and sharing with loved ones.

Old videos are much harder to share than photos because they require additional equipment. VCRs break down and are getting harder to find. Camcorders require charging clunky batteries and hardly anyone has a film reel projector anymore. The best option for sharing home movies is to preserve them in a digital format that can be easily shared with friends and family.

Both videotapes and film reels can be digitized into files whose quality is equivalent to the original formats. Once digital, there are many cloud platforms that make it easy to share almost instantly once your videos are digital: Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, iCloud and YouTube are just some of the many options available.

17smDay 17: Prints, Home Movies and Keepsakes

In addition to your digital photos, your family’s collection will include print photos, photo albums, scrapbooks, slides, family artifacts, kids’ artwork, documents, memorabilia, home movies and and any tangible item that contributes to your family story. It’s important to get rid of the clutter, organize what remains, identify the most important items, digitize them and create a backup. We suggest you approach part of your collection with four goals in mind.

Reduce the Clutter: Your boxes may be bulging with memories, but we know from experience that your collection is filled with stuff that can be tossed. Duplicate prints, memorabilia that has lost its significance, broken trophies, and more can be tossed. Let’s see if we can lose a few pounds in the sorting process!

Organize and Identify: Your memory collection will be easier to access, digitize, and share when you create order and identify your most important photos, movies, and memorabilia.

Digitize and Backup: Your printed photos, home movies, treasures, and memorabilia are just as vulnerable as your digital images that haven’t been backed up. Until you digitize your physical collection, these memories could be lost through fire, flood, natural disasters, human carelessness, natural decay, and any unexpected tragedy.

Create a Safe Archive: Once you’ve identified the keepers in the collection and created digital copies, you’ll want to ensure that your originals are archived and stored in a photo-safe environment.

Here’s some additional hints on how to slim down your collection of keepsakes: http://thephotoorganizers.com/let-go-of-sentimental-items-7-easy-steps/

18smDay 18: Themes of Chronological?

Are you going to sort your pictures chronologically or in themes? Is there any structure to your collection that you can build on? If you survey your photo collection, you likely took most of your photos in themes. You probably have birthdays, vacations, weddings, graduations, babies, sports and so on.

Organizing by theme has many advantages:

  • Themes make it easier to pull together a photo album. Put an entire theme into one album like a vacation album, or take a handful of photos from each theme for a family yearbook.
  • Themes are easier to identify than dates. You may not be sure which year a Christmas photo was taken, but you’ll know it’s Christmas!
  • Themes translate into tags and keywords. Once digitized, themes make it easier to determine keywords or tags when you move them into your digital photo hub.

If your photos are a mess of disorganized prints with no structure, then we recommend a theme-based approach.

If you already have some chronological organization in place then keep this intact and look for ways to build on that structure. You can still identify themes, and group photos based on your end goal.

With your structure in place, set up some index cards in sorting boxes or on a table and use these to group your photos as you sort. Jot down details on the index cards so they can be scanned in with your prints.

19smDay 19: The “2 Second Rule”

We all love to visit memory lane but when sorting your photos resist that urge. Use the 2 second rule to help make quick, gut-level decisions. You can also…

Set a timer: This can be tiring work, so set a timer for 1-3 hours maximum and give yourself time between sorting sessions.

20smDay 20: The Chemical Sandwich

As you organize and sort your photos, you may come across photos in old scrapbooks, pocket page albums and old magnetic albums that were popular about 25 – 30 years ago. Unfortunately, many of these albums may be accelerating the deterioration of your photos and you need to take steps to remove your pictures now.

The biggest offender is the magnetic or sticky album. The glue on the page surface, the acidic cardboard page, and the plastic overlay create a ‘chemical sandwich’ that is rapidly destroying your photos.

If you have these albums in your collection, removing the photos is a priority! Some may be easy to remove, and some may be troublesome.

How to Remove Troublesome Photos

Here are a few tips as you approach this next step.

  1. Find a photo in the album that is a ‘throw away’ and try to remove it first by gently lifting a corner. If it comes up easily without having to pull or curl the photo, then proceed.

  2. If the picture is stuck, take a thin metal spatula and gently work under the photo, or slide a piece of unwaxed dental floss under the corner and gently saw back and forth to work through the adhesive.

  3. Try heating the back of the photo slightly with a blow dryer then attempt the dental floss again. Or heat the metal spatula and use this to soften the glue as you work behind the photo.

  4. Try using a product like Un-du which is an adhesive remover used by scrapbookers and safe to use on the backs of photos.

  5. If all this fails, leave your photos in the albums and make digital copies with a flatbed or mobile scanner.

Here are some more hints on how to remove those stuck-on photos: http://goodlifephotosolutions.com/magnetic-photo-albums/

21smDay 21: Be a Detective

Memorabilia like documents, certificates, and letters can help you learn more about your collection. Take care of them the same way you take care of your photos.

Review for dates and details

Documents, report cards, certificates, awards, trophies, newspaper articles, invitations, letters, and other similar items contain dates and information that may contribute to your family timeline. Transfer dates to your timeline.

Do any of these items correspond with a photo in your digital or printed collection? Make a note (sticky note) with the image name that this memorabilia corresponds with so you can add this to the file name when scanning or digitizing.


Once you start reviewing your memorabilia, toss out anything that has lost its meaning or level of importance. Kids artwork is a challenge for most parents, and these beautiful treasures can clutter a collection very quickly.

Get into the habit of taking a photo of your child displaying their artwork as it comes into the house. Showcase their art for a period then scan and toss with the reassurance that you have digitized and cataloged accordingly. If you have a budding Picasso, then keep and store the very best pieces.

Digitize and backup

Divide your memorabilia into two categories for digitizing. Documents, report cards certificates, etc. can be scanned but bulky items will need to be photographed. Once you have a digital file, rename your files and add metadata using the same procedure as your photos, then store in your digital photo hub.

Organize and store

Store documents flat, in archive envelopes or boxes designed specifically for document storage. Label envelopes and boxes with as much detail as possible in case your envelopes or boxes become separated from your photo collection. Or add a few duplicate images that correspond with your memorabilia (not your original prints), so you keep your timeline and photos connected.

Finally, store all protected media in a safe place away from light, humidity, and extreme temperatures.

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#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!