Project Cleanse | 5 Tips for Organizing Family Photos


Photos are stressful – total basic white girl problem, I know. With 24/7 access to at the very least an iPhone camera, documenting life has never been so easy, so standard. I think about how my childhood is documented by 35mm snapshots neatly placed in photo albums that live on a shelf at my parent’s house and how fun it is to glance through them every once in a while. I think about how William already has more photos in his year and a half of life than many have of their entire childhood. It’s mind boggling to think about how many pictures he’ll have by time he’s 18.

Documenting memories isn’t as easy. It’s no longer as easy as buy film, take pictures, develop film, put in album. There are clouds and editing options and uploads and photo books and apps – it can get overwhelming. Most people take pictures to their little paparazzi hearts content, put them in a folder and then never touch them again purely because of the sheer quantity. It’s hard to dig through 100 selfies to get to the good stuff like a vacation.

In a former life, I was a huge scrapbook fanatic. I spent an insane amount of money and time creating perfect little life albums. Recently though, I have found myself more in the “put them in a folder and never look at them again” camp. Now that we have Willy and this little family, my February cleanse goal was short and sweet: figure out a system to document life that doesn’t take up too much time/cost and de-clutters my devices. Here are five tips I learned in the process.

1. Delete, Delete Delete: Let’s do an experiment – Go through the pictures on your phone that you’ve taken in the last week; how many random pictures are there? If you’re anything like me, your camera roll is full of crap. I’ll snap a picture of something cool I saw in the craft store to remind myself to try and recreate it. I’ll snap a picture of a funny licence plate to send to Mr. A. I take about a million pictures of Willy in efforts to get one good one. Our cameras have turned into a reminder and entertainment tool just as much as they are a documentation tool. However, chances are, you don’t need to keep all those random pictures. Even the multiple pictures you took at one event, chances are you don’t need them all. Over time they waste a lot of space on your device. If you don’t want to look at something in 6 months, delete it.

2. Storage Solutions: Figure out where your photos are going to live. Don’t put some in folders, some on the cloud, and some on a flash drive. Get them all in one spot. I firstly import everything into iPhoto and organize. Then, I upload to Google Photos and to my external hard drive. Google Photos is great because I’m familiar with the interface, it supports a number of files, storage options are flexible and it’s easy to organize. I also love it because it has an automatic sync and back up feature which you can turn on and off. This feature is important as many times I’ll turn it on during vacation, but normally like to have control over organization and when I upload my pics (as again, my paparazzi instinct takes SO many random snap shots).

3. Develop a Back Up System: Figure out how often you’re going to back up your photos. Once a month? Every week? I found that once a month is a good for me. I usually take just enough photos to justify the time the process takes and can clean off my devices and camera card before they get too full for the dreaded “iCloud is full and your iPhone hasn’t been backed up in three weeks” message.

On a yearly basis, I use my favorite photos and make them into a yearly family photo album. I also only store two years of photos on my actual hard drive computer. If I do want to look at photos from 3+ years ago, I’ll first go to the album and then to my back up options (Google Photo and my external hard drive).

4. Display and Use your Favorites: What good are photos if they just live on your computer? My scrapbooks have evolved into more of a yearly family album where I just upload photos and am delivered a beautiful book by mail where I can tuck small mementos in between the pages. I like the idea of having the same size and style of book with each passing year. I do also make a book for bigger vacations (like 2 weeks in Europe- not a long weekend in Chicago).

I use Artifact Uprising. It’s a little on the spendy side, but the paper quality is superb and over all coloring and look of the book so much more appealing. It feels like those lifestyle books with the soft covers and creamy, thick paper- you just inhale each page and each layout is better than the last. They have tons of customization options too.  A few others that have that higher end feel, I’m familiar with, but haven’t tried are: Blurb and Mixbook. If you’re a design nut or paper lover, these are for you.

Chatbooks and GrooveBook are also fun options for a mini book. Parabo Press is a great option for all you individual print lovers!

5. Keep Things Tidy: I do my back up process once a month. Again, that means, I delete all the photos from my camera roll and camera’s memory card that I don’t want or need and save and organize them in iPhoto. I then back them up onto my Google Photos account and to an external hard drive (because I’m super crazy). I grab my favorite ones and store them in a folder on my desktop where I’ll go at the end of the year to do a final review and build my yearly photo album. Once I’ve double checked they’re all backed up on all three platforms, I delete them off of my device AND my iCloud. Learn how to do that here.


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