I’ve always known that in a fire, after rescuing the family, I’d be torn between my art or my photos – and the photos would probably win! Like many born in the 60’s I have my fair share of tatty albums demonstrating my difficulty composing a pic without a thumb over the lens – not to mention my rather poor fashion sense! I have been waiting for the downtime needed to get started on photo organising – turns out I was actually just waiting for a global pandemic to occur 🙁
Counting up my old photo albums I assessed the challenge – this is the ‘hunting and gathering stage’. I had 28 albums BEFORE I even got to my children being born! 15 family albums later I finally went digital – which resulted in a grand total of 43. It was going to be a big project…
The Photo Managers
In 2016 Cathi Nelson founder of The Photo Managers came to the APDO conference and talked to us about photo-organising. (She is the author of the book Photo Organizing Made Easy, and I frequently use her ABC’S system of sorting pics with clients.) Cathi talked at conference about how digital pics have magnified the challenges of photo-organising. This spurred me on to start organising my digital photos.
Digital photo organising
Since that talk in 2016 I upload pics from my phone to my computer at the end of each year, decluttering the hundreds of near duplicates. I store them chronologically (with significant holidays/ weddings etc in subfolders) on Dropbox. I’ve even managed to set up my phone so that when connected to my laptop the pics are automatically uploaded to my Dropbox folder – so even if I lost my phone, my pics would be in the iCloud AND Dropbox.
With a big project like this I had to break it down, aiming to digitise 2-3 albums a week. I’m now fifteen albums into the process so I have a smooth workflow going on. Here’s how I do it:
Step 1: preparing and decluttering
- I pick an album and remove all the photos, keeping them in order.
- I use Cathi’s ABC’S system to sort through the pics:
- A list pics – well composed or striking images- worth displaying.
- B list pics – worth keeping because they are part of a bigger story.
- C list pics – ‘c’hucked’ – I don’t need yet another pic of a giraffe, wonky Eiffel Tower or blurred sunset! (See 8 below for editing options)
S- this is how I will arrange my photos later to form stories. I’m thinking of creating a combo of photo-books and online albums.
Step 2: scanning
- I scan the selected pics: I did a bit of research and decided to use my flatbed scanner. Using the Auto selection (‘detect separate items’) I can scan 4-5 photos at a time.
- I start with an overview scan to check all the pics are ‘selected’. My scanner also allows me to correct wonky horizons by adding a ‘rotation angle’.
- I set the scanner to 600dpi and save all images as TIFFs (considered best practice for photos).
- When saving, I name each image by adding the year and the event. I aim to be able to find any image with a quick search- either because it’s in the appropriate folder, or has the appropriate name.
- Once I’ve selected all the pics, I scan them and save them to my MacBook Air – in the Pictures folder.
Step 3: editing & storing
- I then ‘open’ each picture and (using ‘tools’) crop it if necessary and occasionally adjust the colour. This rescues quite a few pics with poor composition etc. Every set of four takes me around 5 minutes total.
- Once an album is scanned, I then move the pics into an album on Dropbox (see below).
- I then dispose of almost all of the physical photos – keeping just a few favourites to hand.
- Copies of the photos are stored on my laptop, in the cloud (Dropbox) and in an external hard drive.
NB Most photo organisers recommend keeping at least three copies, in at least two types of storage (e.g. actual photos/ laptop/ hard drive) keeping at least one of these copies off-site i.e. in a cloud-based service. This is in case a platform should fail.
This is a screenshot showing my folder structure. I’m still adding content, but the basic structure is in place. If I couldn’t work out when pictures were taken, I just added them to a year range (see below: 1995-00 Hurley Cres), based on where we were living at the time. Or I added them to a folder called weddings under each couples name. Once the job is complete and I’ve shared them with friends, I’ll add more accurate details.
NB The above process has worked really well for me. I hope I’ve inspired you to start your own photo organising project. I recommend you do some research before deciding if the above method is sufficient for you. Do tell me how you get on, or if you need any help. I’ve decided I don’t want to specialise in this fast-growing industry- but if you want to invest in outsourcing this project to fully trained and insured professionals, do look into using The Photo Managers.