Why Preserving Your Family History Matters

I have the best job ever. I spend my day talking to people about their family history. I learn about people, places, events that inspire me every day. I feel so fortunate to be allowed into people’s lives. The stories are amazing.

 

Occasionally, I will meet with someone who is undecided about organizing their photos. They don’t feel like anyone else wants to hear their story. That after they’re gone no one will care about these slips of paper.

I can only say, that’s just not true. You have no idea who your story will touch. Who your story will encourage. Who your story will inspire.

She may not even have been born yet.

 

I was lucky enough to be chosen to write a blog post for the Association of Professional Photo Organizers (APPO) on the topic of “Why Preserving Your Family History Matters” (I’ve included the link below). To sum it up: YOU MATTER. THAT YOU LIVED MATTERS.

I hope that you find a kernel of inspiration in my post that inspires you to organize and preserve your family history. It is a task well worth the effort.

Why Preserving Your Family History Matters

 

Protecting Your Photos From Natural Disasters

This post may contain affiliate or referral links. Read more about this in our Disclosure Statement.

 

In the last few months, so many of our friends and family have been displaced by natural disasters. It’s heartbreaking on every level to see families forced to leave their homes, sometimes at a moments notice. Like many of you, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and wondering how I can help during this difficult time. It’s not much but my contribution is to begin a discussion about your family photos.

How are you protecting your family photos?

 

When I think about all the photos that the last few weather events have destroyed, I could just cry. Those are items that no insurance policy can replace. Once they are subjected to water or smoke they are seriously damaged.

The number one action you can take to protect your family photos is to get them digitized. A quick web search in your area “digitize photos” will give you lots of local options. If you are comfortable with technology, have a photo scanner, and want to do it yourself, that is a great option. If you want the advice of a professional organizer APPO and NAPO  have amazing professionals who live for helping. Lastly, you can use on online service. I’m leery of most of those but I have used Fotobridge in the past and they were wonderful.

Bottom line: To protect your irreplaceable family photos–get them digitized.

 

After your photos are digitized there are a number of ways you can protect them: cloud service, thumb drives, CDs, external hard-drives. It depends on how much you want to spend and how comfortable you are with technology. I’ve put together a list below of products that can help keep your photos safe.

Please take this time to get your photos digitized and preserved. It is well worth the investment to know that your family history is safe.

 

Photo ScannerPicture KeeperFire-Proof SafeExternal Hard-DriveFire-Resistant Bags
$59.90$57.35$198.69$69.99$36.95
Pro: Easy to use, compatible with PCs and Macs, front Screen lets you see imagePro: Easy to use, prevents duplicate images being saved, portable, easily placed in safe for even more protectionPro: Fire & water resistant, large size can fit multiple sizes of photos, AFTER FIRE REPLACEMENT GUARANTEE:
*In the event of a fire SentrySafe will replace your fire-resistant product to help get you back on your feet
Pro: Easy to use, portable, easily placed in safe for even more protectionPro: Easy to use, fire/smoke/water resistant, portable, easy to place in safe for even more protection
Con: Only one photo at a time. Only scans print photos not other media types (slides, negatives)Con: Easy to lose, can be damaged by heat or waterCon: not portable, more expensive than other options listedCon: can be damaged by heat or water, easy to misplaceCon: only one size

Purchase

Purchase

Purchase

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5 Steps To Organize Your Family Photos For Cloud Storage

 

Are your family photos stored in the cloud?

How much space do you have left in the cloud?

Tell me about your backup strategy…do you use an external hard-drive, an online service, a zip file on a thumb drive, or are you strictly cloud-based?

 

These are standard questions that photo organizers like me ask every day and they are overwhelming. It can be SO confusing and disheartening when all you want to do is make sense of your family photos and suddenly you feel like an A-class technical dummy.

We’ve all been there…I’m there whenever anyone asks me about the storage capabilities of my phone…I don’t know…and I don’t care. There I’ve said it.

What the well-meaning person above is asking you is what method do you use to store your photos. It’s the same as asking do you prefer print photos, or digital, or slides. The technology has just developed new words and you should not be intimidated if you haven’t learned them yet. You will. I can help.

Today I want to talk about photo cloud storage. If you’re confused about what that means right now you are not alone.

 

Technically: it’s a way of storing your photos digitally on a server.

Practically: think of it as a giant file cabinet in someone else’s office.

The bottom-line goal of storing your photos in the cloud is that they won’t take up space in your space, photos are space HOGS, and if something happens to your computer, natural or technological disaster, your photos are still safe.

It’s the safest, easiest, most effective way to preserve your family photos. I strongly recommend it to all my clients. However, saving your photos to the cloud also happens to be the method you have the least control over and that can be tough when it comes to something as precious as your family photo history.

I’m going to give you 5 tips for organizing your family photos for digital cloud storage.

 

  1. Sort through your photos and place the photos you want to store in their own folder. 

You don’t have to save every photo onto the cloud. Cloud space is generally limited and there is no reason to have all of your Instagram or Facebook pictures saved. Those platforms are already saving those shots for you.

 

  1. Edit your photos before you upload/send them to the cloud.

While some cloud services let you edit photos after they are uploaded most do not. And even those who do, the editing functions are not great. So, take a moment to make sure all your photos are turned the right way. The lighting is right. The cropping is perfect. The filter is awesome. Bottom line: only send finished pieces to the cloud, not projects.

 

  1. Check your meta-data.

Did I just scare you with another word you have NO idea what it means? Breathe deep…you got this. It’s another term people will throw around to sound techy and is actually just another word for information. So, take a minute and check that the date is right. If there’s location info or facial recognition that it’s right…turns out the Mona Lisa is NOT my friend…whatever.

 

  1. Rename your pictures.

When you take a digital photo it gets a name like this: IMG_2433.jpg

Not a lot of help there. In the future when you visit your pictures in the cloud this is going to mean next to nothing to you.

What you want your photo’s name to look like is this: 2003-09-Honeymoon-Boston-Newport-Nantucket.jpg

I know without even seeing the image that this is a photo from my September 2003 honeymoon trip to Boston, Newport, and Nantucket…very helpful.

 

  1. Tag.

If you read my blog… or talk to me for five minutes you’ve heard about tagging. Those are the little words/phrases that get attached to each photo so that you can do quick searches. I recommend that you tag the heck out of your photos as a HUGE favor to your future self.

 

Let’s say time has gone by…you’ve just returned from a fantastic ski vacation with your friends and want to send a cute photo book as a thank you. An easy way to take a cute gift and make it an amazing gift is to add older photos. Now, if you tagged those old photos all you have to do is go to your cloud service type in “ski trip” and Bam!! all your old photos of ski trips pop up…how easy is that?! You can make an awesome gift with little work. If you haven’t…ugh…settle in for a long search…

 

I hope this post has not only given you some insight into preparing your family photos for cloud storage but has reduced some of the anxiety I know many have about cloud storage. It’s not anything to be intimidated by. It’s just a different way to store your photos.

 

What are some of the questions or concerns you have about cloud storage?

The Right Way To Organize Photos

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What is the right way to organize photos?

 

I know many people who move through life with ease get stuck on what to do with their family photos. It’s like there is a well-believed myth that there is a “right” way to organize photos and if you didn’t learn it, or instinctively know it, you’re somehow a lesser human.

Your mom, sister, best friend, mother-in-law tried to teach you, tell you, show you the right way to do it but you could just never get it right.

You hired someone to organize your photos and she told you how you “should” do it but alas you could never keep up with the system.

It all feels like a huge mess that you’ll just never get the gist of.

 

For the record: I’m a life-long organizer, a Certified Photo Organizer, and Queen of the bossy pants. Let me set you straight…ahem….THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY!!!

And anyone who tells you how you “should” do it is full of malarkey and you have my permission to say so.

Here’s the truth. There are many, many ways you could organize your photos. Some of the ways are easier, some more complicated but none of them is the way you SHOULD do it. If it doesn’t work with your photos, your life, your circumstance, the way you think, or the way you live it will NEVER work for you. It just won’t. Accept that and move on to what does work for you.

When I tell you how to organize your photos what I’m giving you is a framework, based on what we know now, about the best way to sort and protect your photos. These are industry norms. They work for most people and their photo organizing needs. A consistent system, a central location, and a reliable/flexible platform are really the basis of all photo organizing.

Does that mean it will work for you? No. I’d say it’s a good place to start.

 

All that being said, don’t be afraid to listen to advice. My goal main goal is to protect your photos for generations. I will always tell my clients to digitize their photos and store them in a cloud service. There are a lot of people who do not want to do that. They want to touch their photos, hold their photo albums, and think the cloud is a data mining conspiracy theory. Who is right?

All good organization starts with your organizing needs and incorporates your individual circumstances. Never be afraid to say what won’t work for you. There is no right way but there are better/easier ways. In the end, the right organizing system is the one you feel most comfortable with and only you can know that.

 

Organizing Family Photos

Are you overwhelmed by the idea of organizing your family photos?

I have photos…you have photos…we all have photos!

So. Many. Photos. By several experts opinions, we are reaching the point of 1 trillion photos taken annually worldwide. ONE TRILLION!! And that number only includes new photos were taken, not the boxes and boxes of physical photos that we have inherited from beloved family members. To say that we have a photo storage problem is an understatement. We are drowning in photographs. What to do with all those treasured family photos?

I know that sounds overwhelming. I know your busy doing your best for your family. I know that “getting organized” is one of the top New Year’s resolutions every year. I know that you love your family memories and have real concerns about how to store and save and share these precious mementos.

That’s why I’m here. I’m here to give you a real plan on how to save these beauties, how to share them with your friends and family, and how to set up a system that will let you access every single one of your photos and is an easy way to organize your future photos.

Can you do that? You ask…Heck ya!

 

“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has—or ever will have—something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.” Mr. Rogers

If you’ve stumbled on this blog, I’m guessing you have because you believe that family photos are valuable. Let me tell you, you’re not alone.

We’ve all had the heart-wrenching experience of believing a treasured photo lost only to feel the relief when we find it tucked away safe. Many of us have also had the profound joy of finding a photo; perhaps of us with someone passed, that we didn’t know existed.

This is me with my grandpa, you’ll hear a lot about him on this blog, the last time I saw him before he passed away. He was giving me a hug goodbye. We loved each other; I think you can tell that by the photo. The thing is…I didn’t know this photo existed. A few months after he passed my Mom mentioned in passing that she found a photo on her phone that she thought I’d like to have. When I saw it…I cried. I’m crying now. That’s the power of a little piece of paper. It gives us back people we’ve lost, places we won’t return to, events that cannot be recreated.

I’m excited to help you reconnect with yourself and your family.

How To Make A Vacation Photo Album

Vacation Goal: Make an amazing vacation photo album.

As we move from spring into summer many of us are dreaming of vacations. We are planning, organizing, and prioritizing where we will spend our few precious vacation days.

I have one more item to add to your pre-vacation to-do list…plan your vacation photo album.

 

I know many of you wait until your home to make your vacation album. That’s too late! You’re tired, you’ve spent your extra cash, and you’re scrambling to make up for the time off. I mean…laundry alone…we’ve all been there.

My advice is to take a few minutes to plan a photo shoot list. All top photographers make these types of lists before they go to a shoot. They know from experience that its easy get caught up in the moment and forget great shots. I’m not suggesting you don’t take lots of spontaneous shots….take lots. I am suggesting that before you go you make a photo plan.

Let’s say you are going to the Grand Canyon, a trip I highly recommend, and you want to capture the natural beauty and a spirit of adventure. A photo shoot list might include:

o   Pictures of the canyon
o   Group picture of the family hiking
o   Silly pictures of each family member
o   Pictures of your cabin, campsite, or cool hotel

I’d also add to make sure you have lots of “filler” photos for your book. I like to add pictures of animals, wildflowers, waterfalls, interesting rocks, great meals, and endless roads. Those sorts of pictures trigger memories of the trip…those waffles!

When you get home give yourself a few days to process the trip before you jump into making your album. The REAL memorable events might not be what you expect. Only when you’re well rested can you review the trip with a little distance and pick out which memories/photos really depict the trip.

Your next step is to upload all of your photos into ONE folder. Get all your family members to either upload to your vacation folder or email their photos to you so that you can collect them all in one place. You don’t want to create a gorgeous album only to realize your daughter had some once in a lifetime shots on her phone.

After you’ve gathered your photos, go through and delete the not great ones, the duplicates, the images that didn’t turn out like you intended. I would expect this part to delete at least a third of your photos. Now, double-check that photo list and make sure you have at least one of every shot you planned for. If you have duplicate shots, pick the best one and delete the rest. You are looking for quality rather than quantity. 

This next step is THE MOST OVERLOOKED and is one of the most important. After you’ve sorted for winners take a moment to double-check your meta-data. Hold on!!! I know that’s a confusing word…stick with me. It just means the photos information, not scary and VERY important. Most digital photos are now packed with great information: date, location, and even facial recognition. This is the perfect time to make sure that info is accurate. Every once in while my phone goes crazy and lists my photo’s location as China. That’s cool but not true. So, just double-check. Is the date right? Is the location right? Is the Mona Lisa a friend of yours?

This is also the perfect time to add those tags: summer vacation, hiking, national park, modern family. Which tags you use are up to you…just keep it consistent.

Your last step is to upload your photos to a photo service to make the album. There are many online companies that make photo books. The one you use should be the one you are most comfortable with both in quality and price. Also, consider whether you want to just print a photo book or if you want to share digital albums with friends and family. When you create the album online don’t forget to add those filler photos. It really upgrades your album.

I hope your summer vacation takes you someplace amazing and that your trip is filled both with happy adventures and amazing photographs.

Where are you planning on going this summer and what photos are you hoping to take?

My Mylio True Story

I’m SO excited to have one of my photos/stories chosen for Mylio True Story series. The concept is to choose a photo and explain what the photo means to you emotionally. How interesting!

 

Our photos are so powerful. They are so precious. They tell the story of our families, our lives. They are our memory keepers.

 

I know many people hesitate to get their family photos digitized because they feel like digital photos are “cold.” They feel disconnected from the photos. A paper photo has a feel, a smell, a tactile quality that isn’t present when the photos are on a digital screen. I get it…I do.

The reality though is that your paper photos are not safe. They are slowly disintegrating. They are vulnerable to moisture, sunlight, and temperature.

 

Using a service like Mylio is a great comprimise. Mylio makes it possible to share and enjoy your photos in ways not possible with physical photos. It enables you to share collages and slide shows with all your friends and family. It also keeps your photos safe. The amazing photo of you as a flower girl at your favorite aunt’s wedding will never fade, will never get damaged. It will be safe.

The below picture of me with my grandfather is one of my prized possessions. I NEVER want to be without it. I use this photo to remind me of not only this day but everyday I ever shared with him. It is the keystone to a relationship that continues even after his passing.

Do you have photos like this? Images of loved ones passed? Pictures of weddings, anniversaries, birthday parties? Events that have long ended except in our hearts?

 

I know I say it a LOT but please invest in your family photos. They are tickets to the greatest show on earth…your story. And please click on the link below to hear the story behind this photo.

Mylio True Stories

5 Tips For Organizing Digital Photos

I’ve always organized photos. Well, I’ve always organized everything but photos are my favorite. I love the idea that each photo tells a little story. A moment frozen in time. A small window into another’s life or even your own from another perspective. It’s art and life and memories all rolled into one. When it comes to organizing digital photos we have the capability of recording every moment not just the occasional.

This year is the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. Can you believe it? Only ten years…and boy has the world changed. Not only are we all technically connected at all times…we take more photos in a year that had been taken in the 100 previous years.

It’s no wonder so many of us feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of digital photos in our lives. We are inundated. Here are a quick five things you can do today to help slow the flood of digital pictures into your life.

1.DELETE: Go to your photo library on your phone and delete all the “bad” photos. What I mean is fuzzy, weird, why did I take that photo on your phone. Also, unless you love the original photo, delete the originals you cropped, filtered, or otherwise improved. There’s no reason to keep a badly lit, poorly framed original when you’ve already improved it for publishing on social media.

  1. DUPLICATES: Run photo duplicate removal software through your photo library. Duplicates are a huge pain and it’s super fun to get rid of them. I LOVE easy duplicate finder. It works for either mac or pcs…which is handy if you have both. AND it is really easy to use.
  2. ORGANIZE: Now it gets personal. How do you want to access your photos? To make it easy..I recommend using a yearly system. Then sorted by themes/events (2017: ski trips). The most important thing is to go from the largest theme to the smallest.
  3. TAG: This part is so important, maybe the most important. You MUST tag your photos. If you want to do anything with your photos (gifts, albums, photo montage, sharing) you must be able to search easily. If you just dump all your photos into a 2017 folder, you will be creating a lot of work for your future self. Just slow down take a minute and tag the dang things. I recommend tagging the heck out of them (people, places, event, year). You want to be able to search for as much as possible. It makes life much easier later.
  4. BACK UP: You must have a backup plan. I say this a lot. It’s one of my foundational beliefs about life, not just photos. So, what’s your plan b? Computers crash, photos get deleted, natural disasters happen…what’s your plan for your irreplaceable photos? You have a lot of options depending on: how much you want to spend, how much time you want to spend, how you share your photos, and how comfortable you are with technology. I use Forever because it’s easy, safe, and easy to share. It is a cloud service and there was a fee involved. I have clients who prefer to use an external hard drive, I recommend picture keeper. And others just use a “free” cloud service.

It really is up to you and what you feel comfortable with.

One thing I will say about those “free” cloud services like Dropbox, google photo or Amazon’s cloud service…read your terms of service (TOS). They change often and your “free” use of a 3rd party service may mean you’ve signed away your digital copyright.

That may not mean anything to you now but it should. I’ll cover more on digital data mining and digital copyright in a future post. It’s an important topic and getting more important as we upload our lives into the cloud.

As you can see, organizing your digital photos is a little different than organizing print photos. Technology has made taking photos easier than ever. I think that’s a wonderful thing. However, it does mean that we need to be a little more vigilant about organizing before our once in a lifetime photos get lost in bad selfies, pocket photos, and pictures we forgot why we took.

The Hodgepodge Girl: Five Tips For Overcoming Photo Organizing Stress

 

Let’s talk about the emotional side of photo organizing. I know…sounds scary but I’ve got some ideas to help avoid the feelings of dread and resentment that many of you have mentioned as your top feelings associated with organizing your family’s photos.

 

First, I want to make clear that organizing your photos is NOT like organizing your spice drawer.

I’ve never met anyone brought to tears by an old can of baking soda but a photo of you and grandma in her kitchen with flour on your cheeks…waterworks. Wait…I’m not the only one…right?

Photos are packed with emotion. That’s the point. That’s what makes them wonderful. I would argue that organizing your family photos is good for your mental health. That sorting through those emotions and memories is as liberating as years of therapy. Keep in mind I’m not a psychologist…But I have seen people experience profound joy by rediscovering forgotten memories and self-acceptance by embracing the goofy little child they once were…

When I talk to people about organizing their photos the most common emotion I run across are a combination of obligation and resentment. We feel obligated to do something with these slips of memories and deeply resentful that the task has landed on our plate. Why us? Why not cousin Emily? Because she’s a flake who doesn’t deserve the family photos…she can’t even…

Sound familiar? I’ve heard it. Families are complicated. We all have black sheep, flakes, nincompoops, and knuckleheads.

 

Here are five tips to help you embrace the experience of organizing your photos and also create an atmosphere of self-care:

 

  1. The set-up is everything.
    • Block out 4 hours of personal time. Be unavailable to everyone. This is your time.
    • Gather all the albums, shoeboxes, and random envelopes that you want to organize.
    • Get a BIG glass of water, treats, and a box of tissues.
    • Make sure you have acid-free boxes and photo albums for your organized photos.
  2. You are going to make a mess.
    • The biggest mistake that I see people make when they try to organize photos is they try to keep everything tidy through the whole process. That’s very hard. Allow yourself to make a huge mess. It’s easier and way more fun.
  3. You don’t have to save everything.
    • If you don’t like a photo of yourself…ditch it.
    • If you don’t know who is in a photo…ditch it.
    • If the photo is damaged, unflattering, or a subject you could care less about…ditch it. If you think someone else in the family would appreciate the picture…send it to them in a card “thought you’d like this!”  Boom…you’re a hero and the dang thing is OUT of your life.
  4. There is NO right way to organize photos.
    • A lot of people get stuck at this part. They want to do it “right” but don’t know what that means…so they get overwhelmed and don’t do anything.
    • How you organize your photos is your business. You can organize them by color if that makes you happy. You can organize them by emotion. You can organize them by location. You can alphabetize them if you’d like. They just need to make sense to you.
    • I like to organize by year and then season. I know boring.  It’s just easier for me. If you organize your photos by color will you send me a picture…cuz that sounds awesome!
  5. Keep them safe.
    • Now that you’ve sorted, tossed, and reviewed your photos…you know how special they are. Please make a plan to keep them safe.
    • My top tip…always…is to get them digitized. You can do it yourself if you have a scanner and a lot of patience/time or you can have them done professionally. I recommend having them done professionally. It’s relatively inexpensive and a HUGE time saver.
    • Once they are digitized back them up on your cloud or use a service like Forever. Avoid using photo printing services like shutter fly or snap fish as your back up. One, you lose your digital copyrights to the photos and two you cannot be sure how long they will be around.

Organizing your photos is an emotional process. I know.

 

When I organized my own family’s photos I had multiple “good” cries. It’s part of the process and it’s healing. Rather than run from the emotion, embrace it. The fact that you care is a great sign. It means the family picked the right person to be responsible; you were the hero they were waiting for…

Preserving Your Love Story

Sit back a let me tell you a real love story.

This story has it all: an interesting heroine, a dashing complicated hero, heartbreak, betrayal, redemption. It’s the love story of my great-grandparents, Edwin and Leonore, know as Ed & Leo. I never had a chance to meet them, they died long before I was born. Yet, I know their love story today better than many of my closet friends. I was lucky to discover an old photo album. I am here because of this love story. I know them because of old photographs and an even older scrapbook.

   The story begins with a dashing, witty young man who comes home from WWI a hero. That he lived when the survival rate of his unit was only 20% is a miracle in itself. A fellow soldier had a sister, Leonore, who he introduced to his friend.

  Leonore was dashing and witty herself. She worked during the war at a spark plug plant in Michigan and in her free-time was an outstanding photographer and poet…keep in mind this is 1918. She was quite the bohemian.

   They fell in love.

They had three beautiful children.        

They were not meant to last.

The hero was too damaged by the war to make a good husband. They divorced.Leonore died young of a broken heart. Ed died alone. His children never knowing him. Their love story was lost to the past.

Then one day, their great-granddaughter started organizing the family photo albums….and they were rediscovered.

They were reintroduced to a family who had lost them. They were loved and accepted, despite flaws and errors in judgment. A family wound was healed.

Your photos, your story matters. The only reason this story has an ending of redemption is that I was lucky enough to organize my family photos. I was lucky that I had a chance to know my past. These photos, these stories are my family’s legacy. I CHERISH them.

 

When you organize and preserve your photos you are creating a priceless gift for your family. This story cannot be told by anyone else. It must be told by you. Your old print pictures hiding in your attic, closet, shoeboxes are the foundation of your family. They tell amazing tales.They tell stories of heroes, heartbreaks, and amazing bohemian women.

For your family, please take the time to create your own love story book. Gather all of your photos that tell the unique and wonderful story of your romance. Then share those stories with your children and grandchildren. That love story is the beginning of your family. Do not let your unique history disappear among old takeout menus and junk mail. Take the time today to preserve your family’s legacy. Future generations will thank you for investing in their heritage.

I want to end with a poem that was written in the back of my great grandmother’s family photo album. I don’t know if she was thinking of Ed when she penned the words. I hope so. He listed himself as married long after they divorced and even after Leonore passed away. Their love story was dashing and complicated just like they were.

Save your photos, preserve your memories. A young girl in the distant future may come to cherish you and your story.

Preserve Your Love Story