How to Corral Your Photos So You Can Share and Secure Them

This is Part One of a series on gathering all your photos into a Digital Photo Hub.
Read Part Two (The 3-Step Process for Finding and Eliminating Your Duplicate Photos) here.
Read Part Three (Simple Strategies for Organizing and Maintaining Your Photo Collection) here.

If you’ve got photos stored in many different locations, it can feel overwhelming and chaotic.

Most of us have photos stored:

  • On multiple devices (like your phone, tablet, computer, or social media accounts).
  • In “the cloud” (a backup system run on the Internet).
  • In Dropbox or Google Photos.
  • On social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram.

It’s easy to lose track of the images in your collection. You’re not sure what you have, and you’re reluctant to add more photos to online storage sites. Some call this “cloud fatigue.”

There is a system that can help! In the same way we gather our financial information to make it easier to file our taxes, we can consolidate our photos into one place, so we know what we have and keep our images safe. Having our photos gathered in one location also makes it easier to find and share images when we need them. (more…)

Your Photos, Your Privacy: Tips for Safe Online Sharing

Before the age of digital cameras and smartphones, we shared our photos with family and friends by purchasing extra prints and mailing them via snail mail. Today’s technology allows us to share photos and memories across the miles, with the click of a mouse or a tap on a screen.

Unfortunately, this technology can make those photos and their data vulnerable.

The privacy of your photos is important, and there are ways to protect the images you share.

While we covered information specific to sharing photos in this previous blog post, here we shift our focus toward helping you understand concerns and safeguards related to the privacy of your photos once you upload them to an online site. (more…)

How to Take Better Photos & Videos With Your iPhone

How to Take Better Photos and Videos with Your iPhone

Think you need an expensive DSLR camera to take great photos? Think again.

Most of us have our mobile phones with us at all times – which is a great thing when it comes to snapping a great photo! A professional photographer once told me, “The best camera is one you have with you all the time.”

Even expert photographers believe that iPhones may not be technically superior to fancy DSLR cameras – but they can still take fantastic photos!

In this post, I’d like to give you some quick tips for taking better photos and videos with your iPhone. (more…)

Dealing with Difficult Photos

A Photo Organizer’s Best Tips for Dealing with Difficult Photos

Most of us have a few photos in our collection that are difficult to look at.

They could be photos of a former spouse or partner, a friend you’ve drifted away from, or even a house that held painful memories for you.

Photos are a vital part of your life story – your entire life story, even the difficult parts.

Your photos may include faces, spaces, or events you don’t want to view – yet those same images tell your story, at that particular a moment in time. That includes your hairstyle, the size and shape of glasses, your beloved dog, or how you wore your shirt tucked into jeans that sat way, way above your waistline.

But inevitably, you’ll come across photos in a frame, on your computer, or on your phone that are no longer relevant or are just too painful to keep.

What do you do with those pictures? Here are a few crucial guidelines for those times when you’re trying to decide what to do with difficult photos.


How to Meet Your Photo Organization Goals in the New Year

How to Meet Your Photo Organization Goals in the New Year

It’s the time of year to look back on the previous 12 months, and look ahead to all the new possibilities to come.

We may even write down a list of New Year’s Resolutions to help give life a sense of balance and renewal after the busy holiday season.

Is getting your photos organized on your list of 2018 resolutions?

Or do you want to create a photo album, get all your home movies digitized, or “rescue” the album of one of your older relatives?

The best way to make sure you actually stick with your resolutions is to make sure you set small, specific, measurable goals.

Let’s talk about some simple ways you can include photo organization in your plans for 2018.  (more…)

Make Your Life Easier with Julie's Best Smartphone Tips

Make Your Life Easier with Julie’s Best Smartphone Tips

Smartphones are everywhere these days, and at this point, most of us own one.

Sometimes we love them, sometimes we hate them….but either way, they’re part of our lives, and they’re here to stay.

Because I’m a photo organizer, you might think I use my phone strictly for taking photos and organizing images – but I actually use my iPhone for lots of other things. I use my phone so much that I get really uneasy if my iPhone isn’t within arm’s length at any given moment!

I know many of my clients love their smartphones, too, so today I thought I’d share all the different ways I use my iPhone, and give you some of the best tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years.

Please note: Most of these tips are applicable to iPhone and Android devices, but when I give specific instructions, those directions are only for iPhones. The instructions will be different for Android phones.

Let’s dig in!

Customizing Your Smartphone Settings

Changing your phone settings can be a little daunting, because there is a lot of information in the settings area. Customizing some of these settings can make your phone easier (and more fun) to use, though, so I wanted to start with my best tips and tricks for understanding and adapting your settings to your individual needs.

1. Customize your passcode. On most phones, we set up a numeric passcode that we use to unlock the device. If you want to set up a passcode that is harder to hack, go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Change Passcode. Then enter your old passcode, tap Passcode Options > Custom Alphanumeric Code and create your new one.

2. Understand your phone’s location services. Location services on your phone allow apps like Maps to help you with directions, so they can be really handy – but it’s important to understand this feature so you can take steps to protect your privacy. On my phone, I keep my Location Services turned on, but then I turn this feature off in certain situations,  or limit it on individual apps. You can read more about location services here.

3. Use the “Do Not Disturb” feature. You can put your phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode if you don’t want to be interrupted by phone calls, texts, or other notifications. This is a great feature to use after business hours, at night when you’re sleeping, when you’re driving, or when you’re trying to do focused work during the day. Want to make sure your immediate family or best friends can always reach you? You can set up your favorite contacts in your settings, so they’ll be able to override the “Do Not Disturb” mode for emergencies.

4. Customize your display and brightness settings. Here are some things you can do to adjust these settings to suit your individual needs:

  • Turn up (or turn down) the brightness of your screen. You can also set the screen to dim during nighttime hours (tap on Night Shift to set the start and end times of this dimming action).
  • Enlarge text size. This is a great feature for my middle-aged eyes!
  • Use display zoom. When you activate this setting, your phone will change things like your home screen, texts and emails from “Standard” view to “Zoomed” view. This helps you see things better, but be aware that you won’t be able to see as much content on your screen when you’re in zoom view.
  • Use LED Alerts. You can get alerts on your phone without having to hear a distracting sound or vibration! Turn on the “LED Flash” mode by changing the Alert settings. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility. Under the “Hearing” section, open the “LED Flash for Alerts”  menu. There are two toggles: one to turn on the feature, and one to use LED Flash for Alerts when the ringer switch is set to silent.

5. Be smart about managing your storage settings. You can manage your storage by going to Settings > General > iPhone Storage to see what apps are taking up the most space on your phone. Checking this periodically and deleting items from certain apps can help you manage storage on your phone and keep you from getting those dreaded “Out of Storage” messages on your phone.

6. Set up AirDrop for a quick and easy way to share files and photos. Sharing photos this way is quicker and easier than texting an image, so it’s a great way to share your best shots. You can share photos with anyone who has an iPhone, so if you’re in a group, only one person needs to take pictures!

To set up AirDrop on your phone, go to Settings > General > AirDrop. From there, you can turn AirDrop off completely, allow access to everyone, or limit it only to specific contacts. Not familiar with AirDrop, and what it can do for you? Check out this post for more details.

7. Make your keyboard easier (and faster) to use. You can set up customize keyboard settings (like double tapping at the end of a sentence to add a period to a text, note, or email).

Customize your keyboard (or add new keyboards) by going to General > Keyboards settings. You can even add foreign language keyboards! Be careful when adding third-party keyboards, though – the third party can access anything you type!

Saving Your Phone’s Battery Life

I don’t know about you, but I typically don’t like to let my phone get lower than a 20% charge, and I always keep a charger close at hand (in the car, carry on, purse, etc.).

You can preserve battery life by fetching your email (in the Mail app) manually, rather than setting your phone to check mail automatically. For quicker charging, you can also put your phone in Airplane mode.

I also make sure Background App Refresh is OFF to save battery life. To change this setting, go to Settings, then tap on General > Background App Refresh > Off.

Keeping Your Apps Organized and Running Smoothly

When you add a lot of apps to your phone, your screen gets cluttered really quickly!

You can keep your apps organized by putting them into folders. To set up a folder, tap and hold an app, or press lightly on your home screen until all your apps start to “jiggle” on the screen. Drag one app on top of another, and a folder will appear with those two apps inside. My folders include Business, Contacts, Communication, Entertainment, Games, Google, Health, Library, Navigation/Travel, News and Info, Photography, Social, and Utilities.

To keep your phone running smoothly (and keep your storage from continually filling up), review your phone apps monthly, and remove any app you’re no longer using.

Many of us also keep a bunch of browser tabs open at one time on our phones…this can really slow down the performance of your phone. In Safari, you can close all your open tabs at once by pushing down on the tabs button in the bottom right corner of your screen. Tap on the “Close X Tabs” option to close all your tabs with one quick click.

Having Fun with Emojis on Your Phone

I love using emojis when I’m talking with my friends and family members! I think they make texting more fun.

As you type certain words (like “orange”), a corresponding emoji will appear. If you’d like to replace the written word with that emoji, you just tap on the word. There’s no need to change your keyboard – your phone will do this automatically.

Predictive text or emojis work the same way. As you type, suggested text or emojis appear in the windows. Just tap on a word or emoji if you’d like to use it.

You can also create your own Emoji Shortcuts! Go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement and tap on the “+” icon in the top right corner of your screen.. Enter the text and the corresponding emoji. Every time you tap the text you’ve assigned to an emoji, your chosen emoji will appear in a window for you to choose.

Managing Your Text Conversations

Texting is really convenient, but you need to make sure text conversations don’t take up all the space on your phone, and that you’re following proper texting etiquette with your loved ones, coworkers, and clients.

You can free up storage space on your phone by deleting text conversations you no longer need.

Delete individual messages by pressing and holding your finger on the text until you see the “reactions” bubble at the top of your screen. The words “Copy” or “More” will appear under the “reactions” bubble.

When you see the “More…” option appear, tap on it, and you will see a blue checkmark appear next to that text message.

You can then tap the trash can in the lower left corner to delete any individual text messages that are checked.

Have you ever needed to scroll through a huge conversation, just to find a particular photo that someone sent you? There’s an easy shortcut you can use to find photos in texts easily. Tap the Information icon (an “i” inside a circle) in the top right corner of a text conversation. When the person’s information appears, scroll down to see (and click on) all the photos sent to you by that person.

If you need to have a conversation with a group of people, you can create a text group (find out how by clicking here). Just make sure you don’t use a text group to communicate with only one member of the group, or share information that isn’t relevant to everyone in the group. Create a subgroup if your conversation only applies to some of the group members.

Using Your Phone’s Clock and Timer

Every morning, my phone wakes up by playing a song from my playlist. It’s a great start to my day! To set this up on your phone, tap “Sound” when you’re setting your alarm time, then under the  “Songs” section, tap “Pick a Song.”

If you’d like to set music to play for a certain length of time (and then shut off), tap on Clock > Timer. Then tap on “When Timer Ends,” scroll down, then check “Stop Playing.”

Quick Shortcuts and Tips for Using Your Phone’s Camera

You can snap a still photo while you’re filming a video by taking the round white button that appears in the corner of the screen while you film. Each time you tap that button, your phone will snap a still image.

If you like playing with panoramic photos, try taking photos from right to left (instead of left to right). You can switch directions by tapping on the photo box while in Panoramic mode.

Once you take pictures, you can edit them in the Photos app. Read more about that in our recent blog post about editing tools.

What Are Your Favorite Smartphone Tips, Tricks, and Apps?

Want to know my last smartphone secret? I use the Starbucks app to order my latte with my phone, and it’s ready as soon I walk in the door! 😉

I’d love to know your favorite ways of using your phone (or those little tricks you’ve discovered that make your life easier). Share your ideas and favorites in the comments below.

The 3 Keys to Enjoying Your Holiday Traditions

The 3 Keys to Enjoying Your Holiday Traditions

Holiday traditions are one of the best things about the upcoming festive season. We only get to enjoy most our holiday traditions once a year, which must be why we look forward to them so eagerly!

During the holiday season, I love watching my favorite Christmas movies with my family. I particularly love Elf, Christmas Vacation, and A Christmas Story!

I also love listening to Christmas carols while we bake cookies, and driving around my local neighborhoods on Christmas Eve, looking for over-the-top lights and decorations – the gaudier, the better!

In one of our previous posts, The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions, we talked about how we lean on (and lean into) family traditions, especially around the holidays. Family traditions offer us comfort and safety, help us form our identities, give us long-lasting memories, and strengthen our family connections.

Family traditions are often fun and exciting! In this post, we’re going to give you some of our top tips for honoring and documenting your traditions this holiday season.

Including Food in Your Holiday Traditions

One tradition that has serious staying power is cooking and sharing food with family and friends. More often than not, gathering around the table (for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or late-night snacks) is included in most families’ holiday tradition list.

Sometime we get to dig into dishes and desserts that we only get to enjoy once a year (like the special green bean casserole your aunt makes every Christmas, or the incredible pumpkin pie your mom includes in the Thanksgiving meal every year).

The tradition of “holiday food” is important, because those recipes often represent our connections to our national heritage. For example, every year, Tom’s aunts send us cookies made with marzipan, which is a favorite of his German relatives.

Some dishes are family recipes passed down from generation to generation, and as recreate these dishes, it helps us honor our the relatives and say  “Thank you” to those who have come before us.

For many families, baking holiday cookies are an important part of their food-related traditions at this time of year.

In my family, we typically bake two or three varieties of cookies every December. When I was growing up, my mother honored this tradition, but didn’t really enjoy the process. Perhaps she didn’t enjoy it because she always chose to make gingerbread cookies, and as the dough got sticky, she’d add more flour. Because the dough got too tough to use, we never rolled-out cookies or made gingerbread houses!

Just like my mom, I never developed the patience for rolling out dough and decorating individual cookies, but we did buy pre-made dough so Tom and the kids could decorate cookies together.

Some of my friends gather every year for a full day holiday cookie bake-fest. They literally bake hundreds of cookies. I’m happy just to get a few dozen cookies made!

This holiday season, think about the ways that food fits into your family traditions, and make sure to document the cooking (and eating!) process.

Honoring Spiritual Beliefs During the Holidays

For some families, honoring spiritual traditions is an important part of their holiday celebrations.

In my family, our Christian faith is important to us, so celebrating Christmas wouldn’t be complete without attending church. Even if we are away from home and spending Christmas Day with one of our relatives, we always find a local church to attend.

What do your holiday spiritual traditions look like? Do you honor your faith during the holiday season, if you are religious?

Other spiritual traditions might include:

  • Advent celebrations with readings, candles, and chocolate calendars.
  • Lighting the menorah during Hanukkah.
  • Holding a Yule Log ceremony to celebrate the winter solstice.
  • Enjoying holiday music and movies that remind us of the significance of the season.
  • The simple acts of giving and serving.

Keeping the Traditions of Those We’ve Lost

Sometimes, we want to continue to honor holiday traditions that help us remember family members or friends who have passed away.

Here are some ideas to help honor and remember people we’ve lost:

  • Continue a tradition going that was near and dear to your loved one. Have a family member who loved caroling? Organize a group to carol in your neighborhood and sing some of that person’s favorite holiday songs.
  • Prepare your loved one’s favorite recipe, and share stories about that person while you’re eating the dish.
  • Display a loved one’s keepsake ornament, or holiday decor that has been handed down to you by that person.
  • Write a letter to your loved one during every holiday season, and keep the letters to hand down to the next generations. This practice might include putting these letters in an album.

Adding New Traditions to Your Holiday Routine

As our families grow and change, we may want to retire older traditions that are no longer practical or possible, and start some new ones. That’s completely okay! There’s no need to hang on to old traditions if they are no longer working.

Talk to your family about old traditions, and ask whether they’d like to add new traditions to the holiday festivities menu (both literally, and figuratively!)

We may not even realize we are creating a tradition until we repeat something a few times and everyone agrees, “Yes, let’s keep doing that!”

You can get ideas and suggestions for new holiday traditions, from Southern Living, SignUpGenius, and MyWedding (the last article is aimed at newlyweds, but there are great ideas on their list!)

When you’ve got a blended family, or your family includes in-laws and/or married children’s spouses, be aware that you’ll need to blend your family traditions to accommodate everyone’s needs and interests. You don’t need to look at this as a bad thing – these slightly more complex relationships can help us try new things and create different and special traditions!

The 3 Keys to Enjoying Successful Family Traditions

1. Be flexible. In our family, we try to keeping our focus on the most important part of our holiday tradition, which is being together, no matter where we are.

As our kids have grown up, moved away, and found significant others, we simply requested that we could be with at least one of the kids on the holidays, so we don’t have to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas without some immediate family around us. In many cases, this means Tom and I need to travel around the holidays, but that’s okay!

You may need to be flexible with your gift-giving, too, if that’s typically a part of your holiday traditions. As families grow into extended families and budgets are tight, consider different ways to exchange gifts: drawing names, buying personalized but inexpensive gifts, or giving charitable organizations in honor of a loved one.

2. Plan in advance. Anticipate where there may be problems or friction, and try to make plans to minimize or eliminate problems. For example, if you have a family member who wants to join in on a holiday tradition but can’t be present in person, plan to connect using technology (like Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom) so they can actually see and be part of the action! Planning in advance for this kind of tech-enabled connection can help you minimize frustration and delays on the day of your tradition.

3. Above all, communicate with your loved ones. Practically anything can work if you talk it out! Stay in touch, keep lines of communication open, and don’t bottle things up if something is bugging you.

Emotions are often close to the surface at the holidays, and juggling all the planning, shopping, planning can be stressful. If things are kept bottled up, it will likely add to the stress. When you you communicate what’s on your mind, it’s a great opportunity to work things out and grow closer with your family and friends.

Remember to Document Your Holiday Customs

Whatever you do to celebrate the holidays each year, remember to document your traditions, so you can look back on your treasured holiday time and remember the details!

One thing that helps many families is to designate a holiday photographer. Sometimes you’re too busy (or too “in the moment”) to capture the events of a holiday in photos or video, but having a designated photographer or videographer can help you make sure the moments can be captured, no matter what.

Your holiday photographer can simply be a member of the family who his or her their way around a camera or smartphone.

You can get ideas for chronicling your traditions from our previous post about documenting family reunions.

Savoring Your Traditions This Holiday Season

Hopefully these tips will help you plan and enjoy your holiday traditions this year.

We’d love to hear about your favorite holiday traditions. Let us know your favorites in the comments below.