I used to be really good about my online and photo storage, but you know. Life. I’ve been really behind for six months or so. Six months of writing and photo memories that I would be devastated to lose in the event of theft or a computer breakdown.
So I’m forcing myself to catch up. Not all in one day, I’ll have to space out this task over several sessions. And I use the same steps whether I’m backing up my pictures or my important documents. But it’s the photos that take the longest.
Here’s my plan of action to catch up on all my photo organization and storage:
In some ways this is the most annoying part. I’m the type who takes a lot of shots on my phone, and I’m not great about deleting the bad ones as I go or dumping them off onto the computer. Also, people email me darling photos I want to keep but sometimes they just sit in my inbox. So, the first step to any kind of organization is to get it all in one place.
For me, this is my laptop. The task is to get all of my photos into iPhoto, my preferred spot for organizing. To get all the images from my phone, I use the USB cord to connect and dump. Any other way confuses me or takes too much time or the photos lose resolution. So, connect and download all your phone photos. (I like to keep certain images on my phone even after backup, like my Instagrams. Those live in a folder on my phone AFTER I’ve made sure they’re downloaded and backed up on the computer.) Also take the photo cards out of your fancy cameras. I know this scares people. This is not scary.
I also do a pass through my email and text messages looking for any photo stragglers I might have missed. Don’t obsess over this. Just get as many as you can all in the same place.
Now, there are many ways to organize your photos. Some do it by date, some do it by family member, some do it by event. I do a combination of date and event. I sort by year, and events within that year. This is how my brain works. You should organize how your brain works. So if you want to sort your photos by kid, do that. If you want to sort them by school year or hair color, do that. When I’ve run into trouble with any sort of system is when I try to do it the way someone tells me to, instead of the way my brain works.
Organize all of it. Don’t leave anything just floating out there. If there are random pictures that don’t seem to fit into any of your categories, make a miscellaneous folder. I have one for every year that always has about twenty random un-categorizable photos in it. But they’re not floating around driving me crazy, either.
IMPORTANT (seriously, this is important): delete duplicates and fuzzies. Unless they have extreme sentimental value to you, there is no reason to keep an out-of-focus or ugly or duplicate photo. You will not need it later. Delete it. Not only does it take up space on your computer, it takes up space in your mind. Clutter sometimes defeats us mentally before we even start something. Dozens of bad pictures are visual clutter. Delete them.
Once you have it all organized and pretty, now is the easiest (but most time consuming) step. I backup my stuff in three different ways: external hard drive, cloud, photo sharing website.
External hard drives are so small and cheap now. Get one. I have this one. I keep the same system of organizing (by event within a year) on my external hard drive that I do on the computer. So it’s really easy just to make folders and drag and drop.
Now backup your most important stuff into a cloud somewhere. You can use iCloud or Google or Dropbox or whatever fits your fancy. I also use carbonite that automatically backs up your computer wirelessly, but online backup is not the same as online storage. For online backup, if you delete something off your computer, it also deletes out of your backup. IT IS ONLY BACKING UP WHAT IS ON YOUR COMPUTER AT THAT MOMENT. So it’s not forever storage.
Note: I do know that there are automatic ways to backup the photos from your phone, such as Photostream and Dropbox. I've tried both of them and it was way too jumbled to me because it saved everything, taking up tons of space and looking like a mess. This is why I stick to my manual way, which is much cleaner for me as long as I stay on top of it. If you have a better auto way, I'd love to hear it!
Backup to a photo sharing website. This step isn’t necessary, but I like it and so does my family. I upload all of my photos to the photo sharing website smugmug. After an event (such as my family trip to Colorado), I can send out the password-protected album to my family and they can download the photos that they want or even add their own. Since I’m the biggest photographer in my family, this has worked great. And it sort of forces me to stay (mostly) on top of it, because people are eagerly awaiting the photos.
Ideally, backing up your photos and documents should be done regularly, once a month or so. But let’s be honest, that just isn’t always realistic. However, think how sad you’d be if something happened to these memories. Also, if you’re years behind, don’t get so overwhelmed that you don’t do it at all. Start Where You Are and just do the last few months. Then the last few months before that. And so on and so forth.
I’m talkin’ to me as much as I’m talkin’ to you.