In the digital age, it’s really easy to take photos. They don’t cost anything and we can now take them with our phone, not just our camera! They don’t seem to take up space because they are all digitally stored. But oh…they do take up space:
- In our mind – as we worry about losing the memory card or the hard drive
- In our hearts – as we stress about the fact that we haven’t yet made that scrapbook since his 2nd year (and now he’s 13)
- In our gut – as we get that sinking feeling that we forgot where we stored those CDs of the wedding photos
Yep, these things still take up space – even if they aren’t physically printed and laying there in boxes.
What can we do to deal with these digital photos? There are lots of ways to store them. This lists some ways to store digital files and my thoughts on each.
Photo CD’s and DVD’s
These can store a lot of photos and video. However, they do not last forever; depending upon the quality. These can last from as little as 5 to 10 years to…we don’t know yet! These disks are susceptible to damage just like anything else, so store them properly and check them regularly.
Your Computer Hard Drive (or portable hard drive, networked drive, USB sticks, SD cards)
These are inexpensive and available everywhere. However, I’m sure all of us know someone who has washed or lost a USB stick, wiped a SD memory card by accident, or…the worst…had a total computer hard drive failure. Of course, we all have photos on all of these. These range in sizes as well, able to hold more and more of our precious memories…and thus more at risk of losing them all!
These are available anywhere you have an Internet connection. Some are free; some allow you to pay a low subscription fee to get more space. All of them are “out there”; on the web, so you may have some concerns about where YOUR data is sitting. Some of these tools:
- Facebook – we can store and share various albums on Facebook. These are not generally of a large size (makes it difficult to print quality photos later) and if you lose access to your account, you lose access to your photos
- Picasa – http://picasa.google.com/ – this is Google’s photo storage and sharing space. You can store larger files, create albums, etc. This synchronizes with the tool that you install on your computer
- Microsoft SkyDrive – www.skydrive.com – I have used this in the past, it allows photo, video and document sharing and storage
- Dropbox – http://www.dropbox.com/ – This tool is online and has a download for your computer. Use it for any kinds of files. I use this all the time because it synchronizes to the various computers that I use it on. You start with some space for free, but that can go up when you invite others to share with you
- 4Shared – http://www.4shared.com/ – this site gives you 15 GB of free storage space for all kinds of files. I have used this one for some things. The people you share with have to have an account
- Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/ – I haven’t used this tool much, it allows 100 MB of photos uploaded per month from what I can find. I don’t think it has any other limits – many people use this for public portfolios etc
- CrashPlan – http://www.crashplan.com/ and Carbonite – http://www.carbonite.ca/ – these two are some subscription based tools that allow complete backups of your computer system, not just your photos.
None of these are solutions by themselves. I recommend that you use a combination of several of these. Don’t rely on any one tool to keep all of your important photos. I like to have a combination of my local hard drives plus various online tools to keep a backup of my photos. This requires some organizing and constant maintenance.
What do I do?
I’m like you actually – I have photos everywhere too. It’s inevitable. These are the rules I try to follow:
- I have CDs & DVD’s of the kids photos from when they were little. These are in a box all together. It’s actually time for me to take these out and verify them
- Recent photos are on our main computer (with some scattered on others – compiling them this holiday season) and I have a task at the end of the year to upload them to an online backup and put a copy on my external hard drive as well
- Shared photos are online in Dropbox – our biz photos are nicely organized by the amazing Krystal Worth online for both of us to use
- I always, ALWAYS get rid of junk photos on the camera and the iPhone as I go. I don’t like these hanging around. I also upload these to the computer (from the SD Card) and to DropBox (from the phone)
- My goal for 2014 – have MONTHLY “project” time with my photos – I have started making videos more for telling the story of our lives. These make the photos more fun. My goal then is to do this often and organize/cleanup the photos after I’ve used them in the project. If you don’t make time for it regularly, it will get out of hand.
- Step out from behind the camera/phone and get in the picture – more and more I find that I take fewer pictures and get in there and participate. The memories will be there even if the photos are not. Enjoy life in FRONT of the camera!
SLC Gal tips for organizing your photos:
- Keep backups of your photos, videos and other important documents. Preferably, have a backup online that you can access from any computer. Computers fail – often
- Regularly download the photos from your camera/phone onto your computer and your online storage. Verify that these work before clearing the card
- As you take photos, use “downtime” (eg. riding the tour bus somewhere) to clear the garbage photos off before you waste time downloading them onto your computer. Only keep the good ones! You’ll never get to it if you don’t keep after it
- Don’t go crazy creating too many folders – keep them as simple as possible. Put all the Christmas photos in one folder, in sub photos by year. Use meaningful names for the folders. Don’t worry too much about naming all of the pictures; you can see what they are when you scroll through them. Add captions later when you use them in a slide show
- Keep all of your passwords either in a notebook or a password storage tool. Be sure someone knows where this is and how to get into it. There are more cases of people who have passed on and accesses to their online “life” is impossible without this information
A word about “online security”:
People often ask me about the security of putting personal data online. My answer is that it’s already there, so it’s time to get over it. That seems a little harsh, I know, but if someone really wants to find out about you and your family, they can pretty easily these days. The best you can do is to protect your passwords, be aware of all of your accounts, and if it’s something you think your grandmother wouldn’t want to see, then don’t put it online at all! My house was robbed when we lived in Calgary 15 years ago as well as we’we’ve had our credit card information stolen.
I’m not bitter about it – it just happens. It’s not a matter of “if”; it’s “when” – there’s no such thing as perfectly secure. Online or offline, it’s just a matter of time before you or someone close to you will be affected by this kind of problem. Unless you want to live like a hermit, it will happen. Just be aware and constantly vigilant. Teach your kids as well (and be VERY aware of what they do online). Don’t let fear hold you back either; there is so much great stuff out there!
Take some time and “play” with some of these online tools. Feel free to use our Ask the Organizer service to get our professional answers to your toughest organizing questions.
If you have other ways that you have stored your photos, please share in the comments below. If you found this post useful, share it on social media!