Facing An Empty Wall in Your House?

Facing an Empty Wall in Your House? Here’s How to Create a Gallery with Your Own Photos

Maybe you have one in your hallway, stairwell, or basement.

It could even be in your living room.

It’s the cold, blank wall in your home you see out of the corner of your eye every day.

Decorators may suggest you fill that space with beautiful framed pieces of art, but you can also warm up an empty wall with the charm of your own photos. My home feels much more inviting when I look around and see reminders of treasured family memories in every room.

Do you have a blank wall in your home that you would like to fill with family photos or your own photography?

Keep reading for tips to spark your creativity and guide you through the fun process of creating your own photo gallery.
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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.

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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…)

7 Ways Photo Organizers Can Help Seniors

7 Ways Photo Organizers Can Help Seniors

I love working with seniors in my professional photo organizing business.

I enjoy helping seniors preserve the family legacies that are captured in their photos, while being mindful of managing a photo collection that they would like to pass onto their children and grandchildren.

I define “seniors” as anyone in their 50s and older with grown children and grandchildren. Seniors are especially important to me – maybe because I’m technically a senior citizen, too!

I enjoy the chance to help my own tribe of people who share my passion for families and their stories.

In this post, I’ll be talking about how I help seniors manage their photo collections and get their collections ready to pass on to the next generation.

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How a Professional Photo Organizer Cleaned Up Her Own Photo Mess

How a Professional Photo Organizer Cleaned Up Her Own Photo Mess

Yes, I’m a photo organizer…and up until very recently, my own photo collection was a mess.

My family includes baby boomer parents and millennial children, and I think our photo collection was pretty typical of most families like ours. We had:

  • Print photos from the 1950’s through approximately 2004, including some heritage images inherited from both sides of our family.
  • Print photos and corresponding CDs of the images, starting around 2003.
  • Digital images from our SLR camera, from about 2008.
  • Recent smartphone images, from the last few years.
  • Finished photo albums and unfinished photo projects. Any photos used for completed projects were either glued in scrapbook albums, in magnetic albums, or loosely placed in heritage albums. We also had collections of images in photo boxes, or scrapbook albums with prints ready to be used but that were pulled out of context from their events.
  • Scrapbook projects that weren’t necessarily my best work. Many of these had hideously cropped photos (remember when we thought it was creative to cut around people to make silhouettes of them on the page)? There was also lots of stickers that seemed cute when they were in style, but they now seem dated and distracting.
  • Reprint copies and negatives galore.

To make things even worse, our digital photos were in multiple places, devices, and platforms. My husband uses a PC for his main computer, I’m loyal to my Mac, so we have multiple devices in our home, on different operating systems. Like many of our clients, we each had copies of a lot of the same photos on our computers, because we didn’t have an efficient and easy way to share them with each other.

Our backup system was confusing, and we often ended up creating duplicate backups of the same pictures. Plus, it was difficult for me to view the most recent backup of our photos at any given time, which didn’t exactly inspire confidence in our system!

Does all this sound familiar?

Each time I tried to wade into my photo collection to try to make progress on organizing everything, I felt overwhelmed. Whew! I realized this must be how my clients feel, and I gained a newfound appreciation for their angst over their photo collections.

My Very Own “Motivating Event”

Since I’m a photo organizer, most people would assume that I could keep my OWN photo collection organized. However, with a busy family and a growing business, I didn’t have any spare time to get my own photos organized, searchable, and properly backed up.

Over time, as we added more photos, the problem kept getting worse and worse, until the whole thing was so overwhelming that I just keep avoiding it – much like my clients do with their photo organization problems!

For many of my clients, there’s typically a “motivating event” that inspires them to reach out and get help. This can include things like birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, and weddings.

I had the same kind of motivating event! My daughter Molly got engaged in August 2016, I knew right away that I wanted to create a slideshow for Molly and Michael’s rehearsal dinner. To create this slideshow, I was going to need to find photos of Molly from childhood to present day.

The way my image collection looked at that time, I knew this task was going to be really difficult…so that’s when I decided to enlist some help in dealing with my photo mess.

How We Corralled My Photo Mess

Luckily for me, help was within easy reach! I decided to use my own team to help me create a system to organize and maintain my photo collection.

My team and I essentially followed the same process I use for my clients:

  • Gather all the photos (both print and digital) in one place.
  • Review the photos using what we already know about family members.
  • Create a family timeline of key events.
  • Eliminate duplicates and blurry photos.
  • Get everything centralized and organized onto a family drive.

Organizing My Print Photos

For my prints, we grouped all the photos from events together, and put them in order. Fortunately, the heritage photos from our families had already been organized and digitized, and filed by family and person.

We put negatives back into their original photo lab envelopes, and filed them according to the date they were taken.

I’m thankful that information about when events happened (and when photos were taken) was mostly documented. Occasionally, we had to make a judgement call in certain situations, but our timeline helped us make an educated guess about where photos belonged.

We pulled photos out of magnetic albums and scanned the scrapbook pages. For the silhouette or odd-shaped prints, we tried to find an original version to scan instead. We discarded all the extra reprint copies. If we found prints that were also in digital format (on CD’s), we compared the images to make sure the prints didn’t need to be scanned.

Sometimes we decided to scan these because the photo lab put the files in reverse chronological order on the CD. Since the file name is the date the photo was processed, we would’ve needed to go back and edit all that information anyway, so in some cases it was faster to just rescan some of the images in the proper order and adjust the metadata later. Because we scan in 600 dpi, this re-scanning also ensured the photos were captured in a high resolution file format.

Once the prints were all organized and identified, we scanned them all and stored them in archive-quality boxes, then filed the boxes in chronological order, by year.

Then we edited the digital files of all the scanned images. Using Photo Mechanic, we changed the file date, then we added the “who, what, where, and when” to the file name. We saved all those changes to the file’s metadata.

Note: Look for an upcoming post from us for more information on changing the metadata of your photos!

After we edited the digital files, we stored all the images onto a family external hard drive.

Organizing My Digital Photos

The family drive we used for our scanned print images is also where we consolidated the existing digital photos that we gathered from the computers, CD’s, hard drives, and SD cards.

Even though we knew it was likely we’d have duplicates (especially from the multiple backup copies), all the digital files were copied from each device and copied onto the family drive. This ensured we got every single image at the start of the process.

Then we ran a duplicate program called PhotoSweeper, which checked the entire drive for duplicate photos. I use this program with my clients to pare down digital photo collections and make sure we’re keeping only one copy of each photo. It took several passes with PhotoSweeper to eliminate all our duplicates.

After the duplicates were eliminated, we went through all the final images, added the correct dates, adjusted the file names to include the date taken and the event, and added keywords to make sure all the information in the files was easily searchable.

Then we filed all the images on the family drive by Years and Month. We also have Theme folders for Vacations, People and Places.

The entire family drive is backed up using Backblaze, which stores a copy in the cloud for safekeeping.

Here’s a little preview of what my file system looks like, on my Mac:

How a Photo Organizer Cleaned Up Her Own Photo Mess

Maintaining Our Organizational System

I wanted to create a plan for maintaining our photos and making sure everything stays up to date and organized. I’m just like my busy clients, and it’s easy for other things to take priority, and I wanted to avoid letting things get out of control and overwhelming again.

I created a simple, easy to follow system for maintaining my photos, so it’s not overwhelming to keep up.

Since we don’t often need to view photos that are more than a couple of years old, keeping all the images in one place works well for our family. If we need images for a project (like Molly’s slideshow), we create a project folder with a copy of the images we’ll use, so the originals are always kept safe.

Here how we deal with new photos coming into our system:

  • New prints: When new photos come in that need to be filed and labeled properly (like the heritage photos of my father’s relatives that we just inherited), we just scan them, name according to date taken and event, then archive them following the system I’ve created.
  • New digital photos: When we take new pictures with our SLR camera and smartphones, those periodically copied onto the family drive. When we move them, we rename the images, adding date taken and event name, so the information is always searchable. 
  • If I want to view the SLR images on my Apple devices, I’ll import them into my Photos library.  Since our family all have Apple phones and devices, we can easily share photos in Shared Albums. This gives us the chance to see each other’s photos having to make new copies of the images on our own individual devices.
  • Photos shared by family and friends: When relatives or friends send us images by text or email, we save them to our phones, so those images get included when we periodically copy images over to our family drive. As the images are added to the family drive, we also check for duplicates.

I also have a lot of random screenshots, photos of future purchases, and photos of my grocery list on my phone. These “temporary” but useful images are either saved in albums the Photos app, or are periodically deleted. I also review my photo collection regularly, which helps me avoid keeping images I no longer need.

Using This System to Tame Your Own Photo Mess

So….I’ve confessed! My photo collection used to be a mess, too. Now you know my secret!

The good news is that I was able to get my photo mess under control….and you can, too!

If you’d like to tackle your photo collection on your own, you can follow the steps we describe in this post – or we can always assist you with this process! Get in touch with us today for a free consultation if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Photo Organizer?

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Photo Organizer?

Hiring a photo organizer is like enlisting a professional trainer to help get you in shape – it’s a process that happens over time. You wouldn’t hire a trainer for one ten-minute weight-training session – and you don’t hire a photo organizer for one 15-minute block of time, either.

Hiring a photo organizer is a way to find a healthier approach to managing your photos. It will take time and effort to reach your goals, and you’ll want to hire the best possible people to help you along the way.

A lot of people want to know, “How much does it cost to hire a photo organizer?” and the answer to that question is always, “It depends.”

Let’s take a look at why photo organizing fees vary from client to client, what you should consider when you’re trying to decide if you should hire a photo organizer, and how we (at Picture This Organized) typically charge for our services.

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How to (Finally) Tame Your Photo Mess

We’re headed toward February, and hopefully by now you’re hard at work fulfilling some of your New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps you feel motivated to take care of some of the clutter in your life this year – including household, calendar, and photo clutter!

After a busy holiday season, you’ve probably got a lot of disorganized photos on a bunch of different devices. There are tons of opportunities to take great photos during the holiday season, including photos of presents you want to buy, holiday decor you’re considering putting up in your house, holiday meals you ate, and fun gatherings with friends and family. The holiday season is a great time to take photos – but it’s also a time when photo clutter stacks up.

If getting control of household or calendar clutter is your goal, I highly recommend you enlist the help of a qualified expert from the National Association of Professional Organizers. You can run a search for an organizer in your area by checking out their “Find an Organizer” page, which lets you run searches filtered by specialty and zip code. 

But if getting your photo clutter under control is your goal, I can help with that! In this post, I’m going to walk you through my simple step-by-step process for gathering, organizing, backing up, and sharing treasured images.

Let’s get started!

Step One: Take a deep breath.

Now that the post-holiday dust has cleared, you have a little time to take a close look at the images you’ve captured. Sometimes, this may lead to a feeling of overwhelm, as you reminisce about holiday memories from previous years and feel embarrassed or frustrated that you couldn’t locate those photos when you wanted to display or share them.

You may also be wondering, “What in the heck happened to my filing system?” or think, “How did this photo of my 1998 Christmas tree end up in my ‘Medical Records’ folder?”

It’s okay to feel frustrated, but I urge you to take a deep breath and say to yourself, “One step at a time.” Tackling your photo mess might feel a little overwhelming right now, but if you take it one baby step at a time (and I’ll walk you through each of those steps in this article) you will be able to corral your photos and come up with an ongoing photo organizing system that works for you.

So, take a deep breath, then dig into your next step.

Step Two: Gather and organize your photos.

The next step in your photo organization process is gathering all your photos into one place.

Gathering Digital Photos: (Note: If you’re using iCloud, and you’ve got it set up so it syncs your photos across all your devices, you may be able to skip this step.)

When you gather all your images in one place, it is easier to see what photos you have, get rid of duplicates, and organize your photos so you can easily access them later.

Get all your devices in one place (every device you have used to take a photo) and upload all the photos from each device into a folder labeled by device (i.e. Julie’s iPhone, Nikon Camera, Tom’s iPhone).

Gathering Print Photos: You also want to gather up all your print photos during this step, and make sure all of them are in one place.

Step Three: Check for duplicates. 

You can do this visually by viewing the files. Just to be safe, create a folder called Duplicates and move any you find there. Then if you’ve accidentally moved a file to the wrong place, it’s easy to move back. You can also run a duplicate checking program. For Mac, my favorite is PhotoSweeper. For PC, Awesome Duplicate Finder is a good product.

A note about print and digital duplicates: We all have that overlapping time period when we switched from print-only versions of our photos to print PLUS digital. That was the time period when we could develop our film and get a CD of the photos. So before you spend time scanning prints you already have on your computer, check for any overlap there between your digital and print photos.

Step Four: Select the best photos to keep

Your next step is to do a review to select your best photos. You can check out this post for more details on deciding which photos to keep using a simple A/B/C system. In general, first you want to get rid of anything that is blurry, black, or poor-quality, and also purge any screenshots of things you no longer need. Once you’ve gotten rid of the “C” quality images, then it’s time to be more discerning and select only the best shots of a moment.

Step Five: Rename and organize your photos.

Your next step is to do a little photo organizing, so you can easily find the images you need later.

Organizing Digital Photos: I recommend setting up a folder system by Year and Month. Rename your photos according to date taken and event –  but it’s a good idea to keep the original file name at the end of the end of the new file name. (i.e. 2016-12-25-Christmas day-IMG 2051). With file names, you want to be succinct and consistent. Then if you want to search by filename, it makes logical sense. For example, Christmas and Xmas are different names for the same holiday.

You can also include the device name (i.e. Tom’s iPhone) so you have a visual reminder of where the photo came from originally. To get the date the photo was taken, you can look at the information on the file following the name. Then move your files from the device folders into those corresponding Year-Month folders.

If you’re working on a Mac, you can rename your images in Finder, or on a PC you can get an app called Winsome File Renamer.

Organizing Print Photos: Grab a couple of photo boxes, and organize your print photos by event or category. Make sure you’ve got a large workspace for this project, and give yourself enough time to complete it without having to rush. For more information on organizing photo prints, check out our three-part series on print photo organization: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Step Six: Back up and/or secure your photos.

Now you’ve purged the duplicate or poor-quality photos, and you’ve got everything organized into categories. The next step is protecting your photos by backing them up. It’s vitally important that you protect your photos with proper backup, in case something catastrophic happens to your device, laptop, or print photos.

For print photos, it’s a good idea to scan them (or have someone scan them for you). You can check out this post for more information on that process.  After you scan your photos, it’s still a good idea to keep your original prints – those give you another additional back-up copy, in case something happens to your digital copies. 

I always recommend having two different kinds of back-ups for your digital photos: external hard drive, and cloud back-up.

You can buy an inexpensive hard drive at office supply stores, BestBuy or  Amazon.com, and you should buy a drive that has plenty of space. Drives that are at least 1 TB are good – but larger is fine, too!

For digital cloud backups, I recommend full backups of ALL your photos and documents with Carbonite or Backblaze. You can set up these backups so they run automatically, so you don’t have to remember to back up your computer, and you don’t have to do anything manually!

When you sign up for one of these digital cloud backup services, they should walk you through the process of setting up regular backups of your photos.

Step Seven: Share your photos.

Want to share your photos with your friends and family members? Now that your photos are organized, and you know where all your favorite photos are, it’s the perfect time to share them with friends and family members.

Here are some ideas for sharing photos:

  • Creating slideshows and publishing them on YouTube.
  • Posting photo collections or collages on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.
  • Create Shared Albums in iCloud, or share your photos via Dropbox or Google Photos.  

You can also discover ideas for displaying photos (and giving photo gifts) here

Step Eight: Maintain your system.

Now here’s the most important part: In order to avoid having the photo mess creep up on you again, it’s critical that you maintain your photo organizing system.

As you take new photos and upload them to your computer, purge poor-quality photos and organize them into folders as you go. Plan to do a photo-organizing session once a month (or more often, if you take lot of photos) so you don’t end up back where you started!

If keeping vacation photos under control are a problem, read this post on organizing your vacation photos while you’re still traveling

It’s your turn

Now I’m turning it over to you – it’s time for you to get rid of your photo mess, once and for all.

Use these simple steps to corral, purge, and organize your photos this month, and you can look forward to a photo-clutter-free 2017!

Need assistance with this process? Contact us to talk about how we can help.