Preserving Family History With Photography: Part II

Yes, I still have more to say on this topic.  To review, you are your family's historian.  You are telling future generations about who you were and what you did.    The three word version of part one is this:  print your photos. 


But Aubrie, you say, I just don't have time!  I can't deal with the hassle!  Well, let's talk about those digital files, then.  The end result of having the digitals is to get them into a manageable form so that you CAN print them, without all the hassle.  I promise, there is a way to do this that will make it less painful.


Just like you are your family's historian, you are also the curator of your family's museum.  This means it is up to you to pick which pieces of your life are important enough to be featured in your family history: you have to cull your images.  So let me ask: what did you do with the last set of photos you uploaded to your computer?  How many were there?  Did you delete the ones that are not worth keeping? 

framing2 (1 of 1).jpg

In the days of film, when you went on vacation, you had perhaps 24 exposures, maybe 48 if you took two rolls of film with you.  As a result, you chose wisely which moments you wanted to preserve.  You didn't take a photograph of every meal you ate on your vacation or every cute umbrella-clad drink you consumed.  You mostly took shots that mattered to you.  But with digital, we are not so limited.  The issue, however, is that now we take photos that won't matter to us in a few years, or even a few months. 

So think about this:  how many photos do you take on vacation? At holidays? On birthdays? On random outings with the family?  Even a low ball estimate, the total for a year is probably 500.  Multiply that by five years, by ten.  Assuming technology doesn't change or fail you, in ten years, do you really want to go through 5,000 photos on your computer?  Would you be able to find what is really important?  Could you search effectively?  If the mountain of photos is this huge, you won't want the hassle of finding what you want so that you can print.  Instead, you likely will not print them at all.  So, here is how to save yourself some headaches down the road:

1.  Name your photos effectively on import

Depending on how you import your photos, you may be able to give them some name that makes sense.  If you can name them, how about activity plus date?  Think of something that would be helpful if you have to run a search to find those photos in the future. 

2.  Create an organized folder system

I am the queen of disorganization sometimes.  But my photos are fairly organized.  I use folders set up by the age of my son, because he is who I focus on.  There are some that get event plus date as their name, but many are things like "Elliott at 18 months" or "Elliott at 3".  I can't tell you how to do this, but what is important is that it makes sense to you.  Then they all get grouped in folders by calendar year.

3.  Cull, cull, cull that heard!

Once you've downloaded your family photos on to your computer, go through them and delete any useless photos.  Anything that is out of focus, delete.  I am merciless with deleting out of focus photos.  Anything that is a duplicate of something else.  Figure out which of those duplicates is best and just keep one.  Get rid of unflattering faces, unflattering poses, and shots that don't move you in any way.  Move quickly, don't get too attached to them. 

4.  Split them into A team and B team, and find the superstars

Team A are ones that you really like and are somewhat important.  Think of these as ones you could see yourself putting in a photo album or hanging on a wall.  Team B are the ones you want to keep, but don't see yourself ever printing, even if you could print them all.  

Once that is done, go through the A team to find the gems, the real standout beauties.  These are photos that would be hung on the wall, or featured as a big photo in an album.  You don't want more than 5 or so of these per set of pictures.  Make copies of these and put them into a folder with all the other gems.  If you want to get really crazy, you can even include your phone pics in this process. 

5.  Print!

About every six months, print the gems.  And if you want more, dig around in the A team files for a few more.  This won't take too long now, because you are organized!  And even if you don't print, at least you know where your favorites are for future reference. 

6.  Back it up

I can't talk about digital files without talking about backup.  I use a lovely service called Backblaze, and for about $5 per month it mirror's my hard drive.  If I crash, they have everything and they will send me zip files or I can pay for a drive to be mailed to me.  The price of about one venti Starbucks gives me an insane level of piece of mind.  I also back up to a 1T drive, but I'm not as consistent with it.  Also, if my computer gets stolen, Backblaze would help out then too!