After celebrating Lucy’s first birthday, the real work began; I had more than 2,000 photos from that first year in a ‘Lucy’ file that needed culled, edited and turned into a book. Ha! While I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to document year one as much as possible, from the first hours of her life, to the quiet moments, to the milestones, to that time that Jack rested his head on her chest. (Yeah, I most definitely cried that day.) I’m happiest when I’m documenting – holding my camera and squaring up a shot brings me so much joy! I love how photography can capture so much in a single second. Or, more accurately, 1/100th of a second. I’m a firm believer in the importance of catching a memory, holding it tight to my heart and gifting myself the ability to look back on it. Cry with it. Laugh with it. Share it with loved ones.
Of course, the realist in me is also very aware that being click happy can lead to insurmountable hurdles – like, what do we do with all those photos?! Whether you’re using a point-and-shoot, a DSLR or your smartphone, in today’s social world, haven’t we all felt overwhelmed with the excess? How many of you have tried to find a photo in your phone’s camera roll – maybe from as little as 2 days ago! – only to get exasperated and say, forget it? I’m guilty of this at times, but when I asked if anyone would be interested in a post on how I organize, print and display digital photos, many of you said, yes, please! I hear you. I feel you.
So today, I’m sharing the methods that have worked for our family, because we shouldn’t keep these memories locked up behind a phone screen or getting dusty on our hard drive. Truthfully? The way I organize my digital photo files is relatively simple – mean it. I’m hoping that you may see a method that resonates with you, helping to cut down on your own visual clutter and chaos, too! Let’s get those photos out of the archives and out in the open.
Psst! See also: a fun, easy + stress-free way to document weekly baby photos.
If I take a photo I love on my phone, I add it to my ‘favorites’ and delete the excess immediately.
I think it’s pretty rare to take only one photo these days. Right? We seem to take multiple photos of everything, even those kind strangers who take a photo for you! So as soon as I’m done with a photo burst, I choose the top 2 or 3, and I delete the rest immediately. (I promise, you won’t miss them!) Truth be told, even a ‘favorites’ folder can become quite stuffed (I’m nearing 600, ouch!). If that also sounds like you, consider creating albums of different themes, such as Family, Pets or Travel.
(At least) once a month, I dump digital photos onto an external hard drive.
At least once a month, I’ll dump my iPhone favorites and any DSLR photos onto my external hard drive and into corresponding folders (I talk about the folders in the next step). At this point, I’m not weeding anything out – I just dump. Every now and then I’ll even scan an instant photo I’ve taken! Consistency is key to prevent the dreaded backlog.
I set up a file folder for each month.
It’s helpful to have a application to view your photos easily. I use Adobe Bridge, but it could also be iPhoto, Google Photos or a cloud-based system – just pick one and stick with it! For the purpose of this post, I’ll be referencing Bridge, but the same basic functions will apply to most photo viewing apps. My next few steps look like this:
- Open Bridge and find my external hard drive (this one has been serving me well!) where I store the majority of our photos and videos. On it, I have a folder titled ‘Lucy Sun.’
- Within that folder, I have another folder for each month of the year, like this: 2019-july. I then add my photos to the corresponding folder.
- At this point, I quickly cull through the photos, deleting any that I don’t love to the moon and back! Let’s say I dump 75-100 photos from July into the ‘july’ folder. (And yes, this is after I’ve already deleted most of the excess!) The chances of me loving each and every one is unlikely, and my goal is to cut that number in half. My biggest tip? Don’t overthink it!
Tip: If you’re looking to keep your digital photos organized but don’t have quite as many as I tend to (ha!), you could consider creating folders by year and sorting your photos by date.
If I see a photo I can’t live without, I create a digital copy and add it to a ‘print me’ folder.
While I’m adding my photos to the appropriate folder(s), I’ll make note of the ones that really stand out! At this time, I like to give them a ‘rating’ so that I can easily refer to them at a later date. Within Bridge, I like to give my favorites a 2-star rating, so that I can easily sort by the 2-star photos when it’s time to make an album. As I pick and choose those 2-star photos, I’ll drag a copy of the photo file onto my desktop. Here, I have a ‘print me’ folder, and that’s where I store them for the time being.
Tip: By giving my favorite photos 2-stars, I can demote them to 1-star at a later date, when I really start to hone in the superstar images that’ll make it to print.
2-3 times a year, I place an order for paper prints.
My ultimate goal for these photos (aside from rotating them in and out as my iPhone lock screen wallpaper!) is to get them OUT of the computer and UP where I can see them! 2-3 times a year, I dig through that ‘print me’ folder and place an online order for prints. Real, live, tangible prints! My favorite place to order photos is Artifact Uprising, because I love the thick matte cardstock and white border. Other times, I may upload my photo to Framebridge and have them create the print and frame!
Tip: If I create a new print for a frame that already has a photo, I always keep the old photo in the frame (I just layer it behind the new) in case I ever want to switch it back.
Once a year, I make a photo book.
This is more of a new tradition, but one I plan to continue doing! Pre-Lucy, I would create a photo book for our yearly anniversary travels (the California coast and road tripping Route 66 are among our favorites). Most recently, I completed a photo book of Lucy’s first year, and moving forward, it will be a family album by year. There are endless online options to create your own book, each with their own unique upload and layout editors, and most of the ones I’ve seen are fairly intuitive! I made Lucy’s first book through Artifact Uprising, and I chose their hardcover book with blush cloth. Although a little pricier than other (still great) budget options, I chose Artifact because I was sold on their beautiful cloth bound covers and silky book jackets. I can’t wait to continue the series and choose a new color, same size (I did the 8.5″ x 11″) for every year moving forward.
I keep extra prints in a memory box.
If I have photos that made the cut for a print but I haven’t yet used them for display, I stash them in a memory box. I have 1 (and only 1!) memory box, which encourages me to think twice about what I save. When choosing a box, I made sure it could hold a print up to 11″ x 14″, and I recycle prints I don’t absolutely love. (Are you sensing a theme by now?) I often refer back to this box if I want to swap out a photo on the fridge or a current frame! This is the box I use, and I lined the bottom with stiff cardboard. I actually picked up several of these a while ago, and each bin holds different loose items, such as fabric scraps, craft bits-n-bobs and miscellaneous camera gear.
Getting started is always the hardest part, but from the feedback I heard from you and your enthusiastic response, I guarantee it will feel so rewarding. Start small: Instead of 30 minutes of Instagram this evening, consider creating your smartphone favorites (or various albums), and delete as much visual ‘noise’ as possible!
Are there any other questions I can answer? What other helpful tips would you provide? Photography is truly one of my favorite subjects, and it’s an art form that has the ability to inject so much joy into your every day. So let’s get all that digital media organized – together.