Near and Far: An Inside Look at How We Help Our Out-of-State Clients

Near and Far: An Inside Look at How We Help Our Out-of-State Clients

At Picture This Organized, we make our home in Colorado. But some of our clients, like Sheila Monkarsh, do not!

Several years ago, while packing to move from Colorado to California, Sheila was staring at thousands of printed photographs stored in plastic bins. She knew she couldn’t move all of them, because their new home would have less storage space and no basement.

The professional organizer working with Sheila suggested she contact Picture This Organized to digitize her photos before the move.

But our relationship with Sheila didn’t end when she left Colorado!

This is the story of how technology allowed us to continue working on Sheila’s photo collection in Colorado, while she got settled in on the west coast. (more…)

How to Take Charge of Your Family History Research

How to Take Charge of Your Family History Research

Deep down, all of us long to know where we came from. We want to understand our roots, see our ancestors’ faces in photos, learn their names and stories.

Along the way, we even uncover funny details that make our families unique. Erma Bombeck once wrote, “I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.”

You can’t lose a detail like that! We want to make sure we relish and archive as much of our history as possible.

Perhaps you’re a budding genealogist, just beginning your research – or maybe you’ve been looking into your family history for some time, and you find yourself with a growing, unorganized, genealogy collection.

Either way, we’ve got some tips in this post that will help you sort through the confusion growing inside the tangled branches of your family tree. (more…)

How to Organize Your Vacation Photos (While You're Still on Vacation)

How to Organize Your Vacation Photos (While You’re Still on Vacation)

You’ve just returned home from your vacation to Mexico. You’ve shaken the sand out of your shoes, unpacked all your travel clothes, and you’re just starting to think about going back to work tomorrow.

Before you head back to your office, you sit down at your computer to share some of your trip images with your sister  – and that’s when you realize that your vacation photos are a bit of a mess.

How to Organize Your Vacation Photos (While You're Still on Vacation)

Some of the photos are in your phone, and some in your kids’ phones. The rest are in your digital SLR camera – and you’re not even sure where that camera is. You’re looking for one specific photo from your snorkeling expedition, and you can’t find it anywhere.

So you push the whole thing out of your mind, and decide you’ll deal with your vacation photos another day.

Months later, your lovely vacation memories and images are still in a big, messy virtual pile. Your photos are scattered across several devices, and when you sit down to try to organize things to put everything into a vacation album or a slideshow, you can’t remember:

  • The name of the place where you went snorkeling (and you still haven’t found those photos to share with your sister)
  • Why everyone is laughing in the photo you took at the Mexican restaurant
  • Why this vacation was so incredible. You know it was special, but your memories of specific moments are already fading.

And because your memories are fading and your photos are disorganized, you throw in the towel and decide not to create the album at all.

Next time you take a vacation with your friends and family, this cycle repeats itself, until you’ve got cameras and smartphones full of photos of moments you can’t remember, (can’t find the ones you want), and those images will never see the light of day.

I’ve got good news, though – if preserving your vacation photos (and stories that go with them) is important to you, there are things you can do to prevent this from happening again.

You can actually take a few simple steps to protect and organize your vacation photos and preserve those memories while you’re still traveling.

And the best part is – this method doesn’t have to take a lot of time, and it can actually be fun.

Step One: Do Your Homework Before You Leave the House

The first step in this process involves finding a system to back up your vacation photos during your trip. This actually happens before you even start packing your bags. You need to do a little bit of homework about the technology you will be using, so you are comfortable with uploading and backing up your photos while you’re on the road.

Many of us take vacation photos with our smartphones, but a digital SLR camera often takes better photos – so we bring both. So you want to find the best way to backup your travel photos from your camera by uploading them to a secure location like your computer, tablet or online storage site.

The steps of this process will vary depending on your mobile device, your laptop setup, and your chosen online storage/sharing site, so my recommendations will focus more on the best practices and key features to consider for making your decision.  

What’s most important is that you get the photos copied from your camera or phone, so the images are all in one central location and you have a backup copy of the photos should your phone or camera gets lost or stolen.

The bare minimum you need to know how to do is upload your photos to your laptop or tablet. In most cases you can use your charging cord and connect your camera directly to the device. I suggest making a vacation folder/album (ex. 2016-Mexico) and uploading them to that location on your device. This will keep them organized so you can easily find them for the next step.

If you want to go one step further to secure your photos (or you don’t plan to bring your laptop or tablet with you), you can upload the images to a reputable online photo storage service. There are a lot of choices for this – my recommendation would depend upon the devices you have. What’s most important is that you pick a reputable tool that has been around for a while, not a new service that just hit the market yesterday.

Here are some potential choices for online photo storage and backup:

If you’re using an online service like one of the tools listed above, you will need to:

  • Download any necessary applications to your smartphone well before you pack your bags.
  • Practice uploading some files so that you aren’t trying to learn while on your trip.
  • Know whether the app runs in the background or requires you to open it for your photos to upload.
  • Know whether you need wifi to run the application (most do). If you need wifi, look at your trip itinerary and figure out where (and when) you’ll have access to a network.

Again – let me stress that there are many variations of this process (smartphone or digital SLR camera, Mac or PC, laptop upload vs. online storage).

It doesn’t really matter what your process is, as long as you know it works and you understand how to upload your photos easily and save them to one specific location. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a hotel room pulling your hair out over technological frustrations when you should be relaxing and enjoying your vacation.

The photo upload process should be really fast and stress-free, so I can’t stress enough how important it is to practice doing it at home until you can implement it quickly and easily.

The other super-quick thing you want to do before you leave home is take a quick moment and put a large (gallon size) Ziploc bag into your suitcase. This will come in handy later.

Step Two: Uploading and/or backing up your photos while you’re on your trip

While you’re on your trip, upload your photos using the process you figured out ahead of time. Make sure you upload to a vacation album/folder. You should do this every couple of days, at a minimum — if you go too long between uploading sessions, the process can get time consuming because you’ll need to upload a lot of files at one time.

Review the photos quickly as you go through the uploading process, and delete the ones you know you don’t want to keep (like duplicates or blurry shots). Your photos should be listed in date order which should help as a reminder – at least of the photos you took each day. This can also help to remind you of photos you still want to take – such as the hotel where you’re staying or other things you can capture while you’re still on vacation!

Again, this process shouldn’t take a long time – about 10 to 15 minutes every couple of days should do it.

Step Three: Preserving the stories and memories from the trip

Gather the physical reminders. While you’re on the trip, throw all your memorabilia – all your ticket stubs, programs, maps, scraps of paper, brochures, paper menus, stories or quotes written on napkins, funny sayings or jokes from the trip, etc. – into your gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Anything that will trigger a memory later should go into the bag.

These mementos will help you remember all the details of your vacation later, when you’re putting together photos to display.

Jot down the memories and stories. The other thing you should do while you’re on the trip is take a few minutes each evening to write down what you did that day.  Then write down the basic itinerary of the day (whether you went to a museum, the beach, a relative’s house, or some other attraction) and jot down any quick memories or stories from the day.

If your kids are traveling with you, enlist them to help you with this process. Ask them to help remember the funny or interesting things that happened that day, and write it all down. This can fun for all of you!

This doesn’t need to be a long or complicated process, and you don’t need to sit along in a room writing out long and eloquent journal entries. You can make your list on a napkin or the back of a placemat at dinner. Make a fast and efficient list, put the date on the top, and throw that list in your memory bag, too.

Step Four: Double check your photos when you get home

Within a day or two after you return from your trip, take a couple of minutes to make sure you’ve uploaded and/or backed up all the photos, and that you’ve got your memory bag in a safe place.

When you’re ready, you can display your photos by putting them in albums, frames, videos, or slideshows. You’ll have a lot more fun with this process (and it will take far less time) because of the work you did to protect and organize your photos ahead of time.

Use the items in your memory bag (like ticket stubs, quotes, and itinerary notes) to piece together meaningful collections full of wonderful stories and memories. You can even scan some of those items and include those images in your albums, frames, or videos.

For more information on designing themed albums around your trips or other adventures, check this blog post: 9 Steps to Designing a Themed Album.

Headache-Free and (Easy-to-Share) Vacation Photo Collections

Imagine being able to come back from your vacation, unpack your suitcase, and put your feet up, knowing your great trip memories are safe and secure.

Your photos are protected, your stories are preserved, and the memories of this trip will now last a lifetime.

Feels good, right?

And it only takes a few steps to make this vision a reality. Follow this process, and you’ll go from having messy, disorganized vacation photos to creating organized vacation albums full of heartwarming images, funny stories, and wonderful memories.

Do you need help with organizing and displaying your vacation photos from previous trips (or developing a plan to protect and organize your future trip photos)? That’s our specialty here at Picture This Organized! Get in touch with us to discuss your project.

Writing the Holiday Card Letter

So you’ve decided the write a letter to include with your holiday card. Every year you’ve read the letters from your friends and thought to yourself “I’ll do that next year.” Well this is it!

If you’re like me, you have a favorite style that you look forward to reading. And it’s likely not the 3-page version that chronicles each and every event that occurred in the family’s past 12 months! In the final part of this series, I’ll share some pitfalls to holiday letter writing and some suggestions for sharing the best of your year!

Guidelines for Writing a Holiday Letter (that everyone will read)!

  1. Sharing accomplishments can be tricky. If you only include the highlights without sprinkling some real life challenges along the way, it can be off-putting. 
  2. Don’t use a tiny or script-type font that’s barely distinguishable. If the average reader needs a magnifying lens to read your letter – it’s too small.
  3. Share milestone events without too much elaboration. I’d venture to guess that most mailing lists include a mix of close friends, family and those we only communicate with during the holidays. I’m going out on a limb here, but in my opinion, most readers aren’t interested in the elaborate details.  
  4. Medical updates are another tricky area. Our loved ones care about our health but unlikely to be interested in the gory stuff. So if you’re thinking about how to include the x-rays from your latest operation, guess again! Just sayin!
  5. Poems can be fun to write and nauseating to read. They can be cute or downright cheesy. Is that what you’re going for? Just my opinion.
  6. Be careful how you share your travels because frankly, it can sound braggadocious. “We took a trip to Italy” sounds better than “Our luxury trip to Italy started with a private guide through Florence.” Even if the second version is true, why are you sharing this?
  7. Who really cares about your letter? If you’ve keep it brief and newsy, it might work to share it with the whole list. However, do your work acquaintances care about your children’s achievements? Might want to spare them the trouble.  
  8. Do you have something to share? Some years have more news/updates than others. The photos can be the update. Wouldn’t you agree that a photo of your daughter’s wedding tells the story?
  9. Include a hand-written note. Even if you’ve included a letter, you could at least sign your name or include a short phrase such as “Always look forward to hearing from you”. 

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Writing a holiday letter doesn’t have to be difficult. You can involve your family and let each person write their own year’s summary. If you would like some help with this process, contact us. We can help you share your year’s story.

Choosing the Right Photos for your Holiday Card

This is the year. You’re determined to send a holiday card and you want to include photos. If this is our first time down this road, there are a three considerations: timeline, people, and style.

What’s your Timeline?

Do you want this to arrive before the holidays? Or are you content with having it arrive sometime before the New Year chimes in? The timing can affect whether you can involve a professional photographer. You need to allow enough time for scheduling the photo shoot, ordering the card, processing (1-2 weeks) and then sending it. Some card companies offer a mail option which does all the work for you. However, that’s an extra cost to factor in.

Who’s in the Photo?

Portraits-2000 Family

The people to include in your card is a pretty important decision. If you want a family group photo, then there are more pieces to the puzzle.  But don’t despair, you might already have a photo that you can use. It doesn’t have to be taken within the past month. Something from the current year is best.   

What’s Your Style?

If you want something done professionally, then you’ll need to get this scheduled pronto. Some photographers have Thanksgiving or holiday specials so if your family will be together at that time, you might just hit the timing perfectly. Select a photographer with experience so that your financial investment pays off. Portraits-1989-10 FamilyWe learned the hard way, that the local discount store deal isn’t always a sound investment. It does get the job done but not always a timeless decision. I’m thinking this faux fall background doesn’t exactly say “Classy” does it?  

Using a professional photographer is a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone – to replace that out-dated photo on your mantle and to share on your holiday card!

If you go with some candid shots, these don’t have to be posed or even coordinated. Just look through photos you already have. Find moments that tell the story of a family event or milestone. Look for those photos that draw you in or capture rare events. Xmas Card 2012 Custom - Page 002You don’t have to use just one but be careful not to use too many. Keep in mind, the more photos, the smaller each one will be making it difficult to truly see the moment shared. Lesson learned….

You can easily take your own photo using your smartphone to get a pretty good picture. Just make sure you’re in good lighting. Coordinate the clothing so individuals don’t stand out. One person in a white t-shirt next to the rest of the gang in dark colors – you get the picture! A familiar environment such as your backyard can work nicely. Just pay attention to what’s in the background. Remember this is an opportunity to share an update on your family – it doesn’t need to be perfect.

For a themed photo, be mindful of your subjects. 1990-12_09One year we thought it would be cute to feature our son and the dog as “Santa and his Reindeer” theme. 1990-12_10Instead of Cute we ended up with Confused! Paying attention to the background would have been smart – notice the basket of tulips on the hearth!  

Making the Card

Selecting the photos is the hardest part. The next step is to select the card style and publisher. Over the years I’ve used Costco, Walgreens and Tiny Prints. Look for a style that matches your preferences and pricing to match your budget. Just upload the photos, add a personal message, your signature and place the order.

If you’d like some help with the mechanics of choosing photos and creating the card, let us know.  We’ve been down this road before and can help you get this done!  Just contact us and set up a phone call to learn more about how this works.

Next Step – Writing the Holiday Letter!

How to Create a Personal Holiday Card and Letter

It’s the holiday season – that time of year when holiday cards and letters arrive – in the mail!  This tradition can be a rare opportunity to reconnect with loved ones from our lives.  The card we choose, the photos we use and the message we send are telling indicators of our relationships and the things we value the most.  

We live in an age when we share more about our ideal selves and less about our true selves. Between trying to measure up to that standard and thinking about sending a holiday card, the whole process could feel absolutely overwhelming. In this 3-part series, I’ll share tips for easily creating a personal holiday card and letter. And you’ll see some real examples of the lessons my family has learned from our attempts at holiday cards through the years!

What’s the message you want to share?

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Our family enjoys opening cards with photos of our loved ones enjoying everyday moments and milestones together. Our holiday card is all about Christmas. We try to select photos that provide a visual update.  The past year’s blessings & challenges are shared in a short letter with plenty of humility and self-deprecating humor sprinkled in!  

So as you think about your holiday card, give some thought to the message you want to send this year. Next step, Choosing the Photos. If you like these ideas but want some help making it happen, contact us. We can help you!



Finding the Treasures

“This must seem mundane to you” said a client at the end of a recent session. The statement caught me off-guard because I would have described that past two and a half hours much differently!


During her photo organizing session, we were sorting through her print collection; identifying the best and organizing them in preparation for digitizing. This phase in the process is a combination of a fact-finding mission and a treasure hunt. One of the treasures we uncovered was a newspaper clipping of her husband as a young adult during his days as a Golden Glove boxer! She was delighted to find it and couldn’t wait to share it with him. It was such a fun reminder that her retired seventy-something husband had once been a fierce competitor! And we knew he’d enjoy sharing this moment of his past with their grandchildren!

Photo organizing is so much more than the task at hand because it’s about understanding family relationships and the stories revealed through their photos. I’m the cheerleader for their stories.  I’m the person they count on to share the heart of the matter. And I’m not just searching for milestone events, celebrations and accomplishments. I also look for the everyday moments that connect the pieces of their life puzzle together.

Sitting side-by-side as we sorted her pictures was actually fun, rewarding and a reminder of the importance of cherishing those mementos (like a newspaper clipping) to tell the story.  If this story resonates with you and you would like some help sharing your photos and mementos, contact us. We make the process fun and easy.