Hey it’s Lindsay from Lindsay Ross Blog here. I get asked a LOT of questions that are photography related. But many of the questions that tend to come up over and over (and over again) are about the backend of photography. How do I backup my photos? How should I organize them? Where should I print my pictures? What should I do with all my digital photos?
Although digital photos have made it possible for anyone, anywhere to document their life stories through photos (which is amazing), it has also created a problem where we have SO many photos and no idea how to manage them or display them in a meaningful way.
Here’s what I think of when we don’t do anything with our photos after we take them and dump them on our computer (or leave them on our phone until we run out of space and then have to start selecting which ones to delete–who’s with me on this one?). I don’t like to cook, but let’s pretend for a second that I did. Suppose I made a big, delicious meal that people would actually be excited to eat. I spent a bunch of time preparing the food, cooking the food, and getting everything ready to serve. And then I took it all and threw it in the garbage before anyone could eat it.
That’s kind of what it’s like when we don’t do anything with our photos. We’re taking photos. They’re obviously important to us. But then what? They sit. On a computer, on a phone. No one sees them. No one enjoys them. No one really benefits from them. The cooking analogy isn’t perfect, but what’s the point in the first place? I’m not saying this to make you feel guilty. I’m just thinking there has to be a better way. I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t value photographs.
I initiated a Picture Display Movement (because sometimes I give myself authority to start my own movements) hoping to inspire others to do something with their photos. And I wanted to take some of the ideas from there to give you a quick-and-dirty guide on what to do and where to start with all your photos after you take them. I present to you, what to do with all your digital photos:
First and foremost, MAKE SURE you’re backing up your photos. It’s not IF your hard drive will crash, it’s WHEN. Get your photos off your phones and your SD cards and get them all loaded in ONE place on your computer. Each time you load photos, make sure they get backed up as well. I back up my photos on an external hard-drive from Costco (you can get 1TB for less than $100) and I also back up my photos online (so everything is backed up twice) using Backblaze. I did a lot of research on online storage and decided on Backblaze because they’re reliable, I know someone personally who has had to recover photos using them, they back up external hard drives as well, it’s unlimited storage, and it’s only $5 a month. I’m not affiliated with Backblaze in any way. I just appreciate their service. There are several reliable companies online that offer backup storage. Pick one.
Second, get your photos organized. Once you get them loaded, don’t leave them as a hot mess. If we can’t FIND the photo, it’s just like we didn’t take the photo (well, sort of–you get the point). I was overwhelmed with this, but when I finally sat down to do it one day, I organized 5 years worth of photos in less than an hour. Find a system that is SIMPLE and where you can find photos easily.
Third, when it comes to printing your photos by year, I recommend starting where you are. If you decide to display your photos in albums year-by-year, start with the current year and then if/when you can, go back and slowly catch up. If you try to go back through all the years you haven’t printed, you’ll always feel like you’re playing catch up and probably give up. Start current, then work your way back.
Fourth, pick ONE thing and print that. For me, I decided to start with printing our vacations. For you, it may be printing your child’s first year, or holidays, or the photos from one full year. This is simply a personal decision. I wanted to start with something that brings me joy–vacations. You may choose to start with something else. The point is to just start. If you start to think about all the photos you haven’t printed and “how can I possibly go back and print them in a way that makes sense” it gets overwhelming really quick. Just start with ONE thing. Then go back and pick the next thing. And the next thing. One thing at a time. And remember, you don’t have to print EVERYthing. But we should definitely make an effort to be printing some things.
Fifth, pick a SYSTEM you will use for documenting. Will it be online photo albums, traditional scrapbooking, a regular photo album? There are so many choices it’s hard to know which is the best one. Just pick one and try it. Once you do it, if you like it and it worked for you, use it for the next printing project. If it didn’t, pick something else. I personally use Project Life and the Project Life App (you can get the whole thing DONE just using your phone) to document our family story and put them in albums. It’s like scrapbooking without having to scrapbook. It’s simple, fast, and EASY. Simple means I’ll actually get it done!
It wasn’t until I started printing my photos that I started to see our family story come together through photos. Going through this process helps us see what parts of our story we’re forgetting to photograph. The every day moments we haven’t captured. It also helps to see what parts of our story are missing all together. We didn’t forget to photograph them, we just haven’t made them part of our story. When I went through my files to print our vacation photos, I realized we don’t go on vacation enough. Traveling is a priority for me and until I started to print those pictures, I didn’t realize how little we did it. So much to our bank accounts chagrin, we’ve made traveling a bigger priority in our family.
The hardest part is to START. It was surprising how much relief I felt once my photos were organized in a simple way so I could find what I needed. And printing our photos is a crucial step in ensuring we’re documenting our family stories in a way that’s meaningful and lasting. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes effort. But it’s time and effort well spent and your family will be grateful for the memories you’re keeping alive for them. As my friend Chris Jones said, “Photography fuels memory. And memory fuels the heart and soul.”
Want more great photography related posts? Or how about more ideas for displaying and organizing photos? Head to the following spots on OSSS:
How to Easily Hang a Gallery Wall
The Easiest Way to Display Photos Anywhere
Photographing Kids – 10 Tips for Successful for Taking Successful Blog Photos
Courtney @ I Watch Them Grow says
These are really great tips Lindsay! I like your cooking analogy and I love the quote at the end, so perfect!
I have my photos organized and backed up, but I do get behind on the printing. I generally do annual photobooks, so it takes a while to get it all ready but I don’t have to work on it throughout the whole year. Plus it forces me to really pick the best photos to represent the year due to space limitations, as well as gives me some space in time to choose the most special of the bunch. Like if I take a picture that isn’t technically perfect, maybe not the best lighting, I probably wouldn’t print it in the short term. But later on, I notice there’s something special in that photo that reflects a moment in time that no longer exists, and I realize I want to print it to preserve that memory, despite the lighting or whatever. Does that make sense? It seems to work for me anyways.
How often do you print, and how much time do you wait between taking photos and printing them? I always like to know what works for other people 🙂
What an amazing article! You totally hit the nail on the head with this. I find myself currently with about 4 years worth of digital pictures and I’ve been trying to figure out what to print and what not to print and so forth. I think you truly broke it down in a very concise and efficient way to start and work from there . I’ve been googling and out of all the articles I’ve come across, this is the best one yet. Great job! Keep it up! Thanks for posting this !