February 28, 2017

Managing Your Photographs

Ask a retiree about hobbies and photography is quite likely to be on that list. Especially with the quality of cameras now part of all phones made within the past four or five years, it is very easy to point and shoot. Type "photography blogs" in Google and thousands pop up. Try the same thing on Amazon and find almost 7,000 books about the hobby.

Unlike some other activities, photography lends itself to specializing in different areas. Focusing (pun intended) on nature, family, wildlife (birding, for example), flowers and landscapes, travel, food preparation and presentation, home decorating, even classic cars or train engines....anything that piques someone's interest can become the subject matter.

And, therein lies a problem: storage and viewing. All those photos have to be put somewhere when you download them from the phone's memory. If you are even semi-seriously involved with photography as a way of capturing memories and expressing yourself. you are likely to want to edit those photos, too.

A reader asked me to weigh in on this subject because she knows my wife, Betty, takes lots and lots of pictures. An entire clothes closet in her office contains photo albums, holding probably 17,000 pre-digital pictures. Since she shifted to digital over a decade ago, the numbers of images have exploded. On vacations, she will take a Nikon digital camera for more serious work, and the 14 megapixel camera on her smart phone.



First available to consumers in 2007, a Terabyte is a massive amount of data: 1,000 Gigabytes, or 1 trillion bytes of data. One trillion! Betty has a 2 Terabyte external drive that holds over 300,000 photos and is about 60% full. Because she is afraid of losing any pictures, we have another 1 terabyte external backup drive, plus the nearly 1 terabyte of memory on her computer's C: drive.

If that isn't enough, she has another 500GB (1/2 a Terabyte) external drive for some of the earlier photos that will no longer fit on the C: drive. Plus, she has started to store photos she takes with her phone on Google's Photo cloud storage. Google now allows unlimited, free storage of high quality photos and videos. An older version restricted free storage to 15GB, but now, the sky is the limit.

The advantage of cloud storage is the photos are available from any Internet-connected device. She is not restricted to looking at the pictures only when she is in her office. Also, it is at least as safe as external drives which tend to fail after 4 or 5 years of her heavy use.

She has used Shutterfly to product photo books as mementos for us and gifts for the family. The quality has always been excellent. I can recommend them.


For photo editing she is a committed fan of an older version of Corel's PaintShop Pro software. Even though it occasionally freezes up the computer, she resists upgrading to newer versions because she is comfortable with its possibilities and options. Like most software, newer or "improved" versions often contain bells and whistles that are not needed, or makes changes to familiar icons and layouts. Betty will put up with the crashes rather than have to re-learn a new system.

To keep her photos organized on these various storage devices she uses a simple system of labeling an album of photos by date (year, then month, then day) and then a brief description. Google photos will group pictures by faces or locations. Google even produces videos from photos of the same event, again all for free. Rather amazing.

This is a subject that can bring out the creativity in all of us. So, how do you handle taking, storing, and organizing your precious memories? Whether you are the shoebox-in-the-closet type, a proponent of multiple cameras and backup systems, or somewhere in between, let us know.


24 comments:

  1. This post is a great reminder that I need to sort and consolidate photo files from the past year. I have a slightly different approach to saving photos. My best friend is DELETE, so if I shoot 200 photos in an outing, likely 25 to 30 will survive the cut. After that, I edit in Photo Elements and save about 15 to 20 to a folder there. I also save them to a folder on my hard drive for easy access. I upload most of the final edit photos to Shutterfly, where they will eventually be published in my Annual Book. Of course, they are only as safe as the company.

    I publish on average about 3000 photos per year, between the annual book, single shots and miscellaneous trip books or gift books.

    At the end of the year, I consolidate my photo files by subject (birds, beaches, road trips, flowers, family photos, holidays) and delete even more. Sentimental photos, even the bad ones are hard to delete, so I tend to keep too many of those. The point being, I have two dedicated back-up systems for my cherished photos (the recommendation is three by the way), and I still have many of them on the original SD card. I only wipe those when I am pretty sure I will not need the original.

    The key for me is to be patient, get a few good shots rather that several hundred bad ones, cut processing time and limit what I need to store.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Betty is not as ruthless with Delete. She believes in taking tons of pictures and then culling them abit. With us taking fewer long RV trips in the future and the grandkids getting older, I imagine the number of photos taken and stored will decrease.

      Delete
  2. My photos are a pitiful mess. I have some on my phone, some on google drive,some on my desktop in folders till I figure out what to do with them.NOTHING is organized1! Many good tips here.My favorite is that google drive is now unlimited.This helps a lot.My son has agreed to help me this summer.. when it's too hot to go outside I am going to organize,delete, and enjoy. I don't do any editing. But it will be great to get some photos into some semblance of order that I can enjoy!! Betty's talents are admirable in this area! I have other friends who also have two external backups, as all kinds of mechanical devices can break! I need to get at least one of those!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Google Drive gives you a choice to store photos in their original size or as high quality photos. The original size option still has a limit of 15GB, but there is no reason to make that choice. The high quality storage is excellent and fine for use, including printing enlargements up to 11 x 14. The photos are slightly compressed, but it is impossible to tell.

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  3. I used to be diligent about printing photos and putting them chronologically in photo albums with date and content printed as well. Negatives were stored as well in case copies were needed. There's a box of those negatives in a closet that hasn't been looked at in how many years? Then I got into scrapbooking and stopped the cataloging in anticipation of scrapbook creations. Then came digital photography with the ability to view photos without developing them and now digital storage is an issue. I take fewer photos than I used to. Scrapbooking taught me to edit photography both in quantity and subject. I was showing off some scrapbooking to an old aunt who commented that no one would be interested in them when I was dead and gone! Initially, I was offended then came to realize the truth in her statement. My son might know 10-20% of the subjects in those photos and I'm convinced that the majority will end up in the trash. I continue to scrapbook because I like it but don't hold any hope in them staying around forever. There are photos that haven't seen the light of day for decades.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Your point about what the next generation will do with old photos, especially analog prints that are in photo albums, is both correct and hard to accept.

      Betty realizes 90% of the huge photo albums in her closet will go into the dumpster when we are gone, but she is having a very hard time keeping just the ones that have real meaning. Someone suggested this task is easier with vacation pictures. Pick just a handful that serve as a reminder of the trip, and toss the rest.

      Delete
  4. Like others, I have photo albums and boxes of sorted photos. My mom has given me a ton of pics from our youth as well as her ancestors. I have them all identified, but I'm sure when I'm gone no one will want them. Everything is digital now, and I'm collecting photos at the same rate as everyone else. I organized them in iPhoto by album for a long time, but one of the latest updates changed the format so much, I gave up. I did sort them by facial recognition (which took hours) this winter but overall, I have given up on my normal organization standard. Ha!

    --Hope

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    1. At some point the joy of the photos is lost in the work to maintain them in some logical order! We haven't tried facial recognition, though Google Photos does it automatically, is is correct more often than not.

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    2. Yes, I was surprised how well Photos did on facial recognition, but being a bit obsessed, I wanted my older photos when kids were young, people were fuzzy in old photos, etc., all sorted into that person's 'album'. There were SO many onesies and twosies that it took forever. And I'm not sure what I gained really unless it helps when creating a milestone BD album for someone.
      Hope

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  5. I used to be diligent about sorting and saving photos. Now with my Samsung 6, which has a better camera than my digital camera, I haven't been so diligent about sorting. I was just asked to cover the Philadelphia Flower Show next month for FTD and I think I'll be spending a lot of time clearing out my phone before that event. I guess I need to use Google more but, google and Windows 10 are enemies that drive me crazy with their petty "Me me me" and then screw up half of my work. Technology, love it or....
    b

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Hey, congrats on the Flower Show gig. I love your morning flower pictures on Facebook. Obviously, others do too!

      Betty has so many backups because of the technology ineptitude and constant "changing for your convenience." Right.

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  6. A couple of years ago I took it upon myself to archive a large number of family photos (digitizing many old prints), cataloging and indexing for storing and passing on to family members. To my surprise I found that subsequent generations in my family are less and less interested in family history and pictures. Other friends have told me of similar experiences and attitudes. My grand-nephew seems to be more interested in his pictures of a pizza he purchased last week than a photo of his great-great grandfather. This has made me to begin to question the value of my efforts. I am beginning to think that most of the photos/storage media will end up in the landfill in years to come. It is a little discouraging.

    Does anyone know of young people with an interest in such things?

    Rick in Oregon

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    1. That is a good question, Rick. I know my two daughters do not, beyond enough pictures to trigger memories of memorable family vacations and times together.

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  7. Excellent post Bob - this all is so familiar to me! Like many others here, I fear for the lack of interest future generations have in these family photographs. I have over 100 years (dating to the late 1800s) of family photographs numbering easily in the thousands. These are all precious to me but I'm not sure if future generations will feel the same way about them.

    My goal for this year is to get all the non-digital photographs scanned, labeled and organized. I am finding that sorting and physically labeling the actual photos is taking me longer than the scanning process. Of course if they had been properly labeled along the way it would be easier! This has been a major job I saved for retirement and I still find it difficult to keep up with. I purchased some special photo containers that have smaller containers inside and I'm sorting the photos by the year. However I have not yet started on the antique photos that will require a different type of storage due to the many different sizes of such photographs. The digital copies I am saving on two external hard drives like you mentioned, on my computer for working with them and on the Amazon Cloud. Amazon Cloud storage also has unlimited free storage for photos if you are a Prime member. I still don't completely trust cloud storage so it is important to me to have them on at least the two external hard drives.

    I have a brother that, like Betty, had a closet full of photo albums and scrap books he accumulated over his 70+ years of life. His method of dealing with these was to scan each page of each book in order to save them all digitally. He was downsizing dramatically and moving out of the country. In addition to that he has had several books published using services like Shutterfly chronicling his life with the information and photos from those scrap books and albums.

    Organizing and storing all these memories is certainly a massive job but I look forward to being able to easily enjoy them in future years and just maybe some of my future family will as well.

    I enjoy reading everyone else's comments on this subject!


    ReplyDelete
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    1. I am glad this post has hit a chord with many. Like you, I am interested to read of shared experiences and how others deal with the storage and organizational chores.

      There is a new photo scanner that operates like a copy machine: stack multiple photos in the tray and each is scanned in just a few seconds. It costs quite a bit of money (almost $600) but appears to really simplify the procedure.

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    2. Bob,

      I have a full duplex document scanner that I use to digitize documents in my home office. It costs around 400 bucks. It does a reasonable job on photos as well and is very fast.

      Delete
  8. Most of my photos are taken daily of my two bloodhounds and one basset hound. I have a couple of blogs I load some of those photos in. I don't have 300,000 photos like your wife but the last count I had was over 60,000. Not all of the hounds but my other interests. I use my Nikon D3200 the most, then the camera on the iPhone 6S.

    I had this same question you blog about a few months ago. I think I found a solution and so far it's working out even though there may be some overkill in my backup methods.

    I use the Apple Photo program that is on my iMac as my main library. I have various folders on my desktop to transfer photos from that program when I want to either upload to a blog or to Google Photos or to Flickr. I use Google Photos and Flickr as my backups, uploading every photo I take. I have found that Google Photos compresses the image thus making them just a little less sharp as the same photos in Flickr.

    I also backup my photo library to an external hard drive on a monthly basis. I upload my photos daily to Google Photos and Flickr. Is that overkill or what ? LOL

    ReplyDelete
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    1. One correction I must make. It seemed to me hard to believe that Betty had 300,000 photos on various hard drives. It turns out there are doubles of many of the pictures in the various storage devices. So, I would guess the total is closer to 150,000..still pretty impressive but a believable total knowing how many she snaps.

      Because she has lost pictures I urge Betty to back up as soon as she uploads photos. It doesn't always happen that way but I think she does perform that duty more often than once a month, to the external drives and Google Photo.

      Delete
  9. I like to take photos, but she's way ahead of me. I find the hardest part is editing out the bad ones (I hate to admit I take bad ones, but I do!), deleting the duplicates and just keeping everything down to a manageable collection.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I totally agree. Deleting photos, even the bad ones, isn't as easy as hitting the trash can icon. Maybe that is part of our human makeup, but getting rid of something we will never see again in exactly that way is tough.

      Delete
  10. When my parents were downsizing about 20 years ago and my mother was sorting through boxes of printed photos, she made each of her five children a photo album with photos that documented our lives from babyhood to adulthood. We treasure them.
    I take garden photos, some of which get published on my garden blog. But once a year, I sort through my garden photos, choose the best of the best, and create gift calendars for family and friends. The first year, I was unsure how these would go over as gifts, but they turned out to be a hit. -Jean

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    1. That is a great idea and a creative twist to the problem of storage for what?

      Thanks, Jean.

      Delete
  11. My desire to sort all my photos into chronological order, edit them, and label them both by date and topic is frustrated by the multiple sources of the photos: digital camera, iPhone, iPad, and photoshares from my kids via social media. It is compounded by a backlog of years of photos as well as by my difficulty deleting poorer quality photos.

    Your point of "storage for what" is a sobering one. However, one could extend this observation to just about anything: Work for what? Exercise for what? Live for what? I think for me, one of the tasks of getting older is to reach peace with the idea that I cannot predict or control what happens to the residue of my life after I am gone. Instead, I need to embrace the life I have now and live it in a caring and meaningful way. With photos, it means finding a middle ground between the "Snapchat" immediate sharing of photos in the moment, and the management of photos as a historical repository.

    Jude

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    1. Each of us must find our own balance in every area, right? Photo storage doesn't rise to the level of importance of exercise or working toward a goal for me, but I get your point. What happens to our "stuff" after we are gone is out of our control.

      That said, I would like to make it as easy as possible on my family while still enjoying what is important to me.

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