Five Simple Tips to Organize, Print and Enjoy Your Photos!

Although I am no professional, I have really grown a passion for photography.  Not only do I enjoy the creative aspect of photography, I love capturing moments in time that can be cherished and passed on for years to come.  I love taking photos of the little things that I never want to forget.  Photos of our friends, family, pets and home.  Vacation photos and important milestones in our children's day to day lives.  As much as I love taking photos, I am incredibly guilty of not following through with them after the fact.  They sit on my camera card, then on my computer and then on my external hard drive.  I was just saying to my husband last night that I haven't updated the photos on our walls in YEARS!  But at the same time, I find so much joy in walking down our hallway and looking at the photos we do have displayed.

This year my goal was to be better about balancing my time between my blog life and home life.  And that doesn't just mean my time, it also means capturing those important moments and picking up my camera more for my hobby and family.  More importantly, it means getting those photos off of my camera and computer and doing something with them.  Filling the walls of our home with them and even putting them into albums so they can continue to be appreciated.

I know I am not alone in this.  I hear so frequently that organizing and printing photos can become an overwhelming process.  That is why I asked my beautiful friend, Jennifer Chaney, to stop by and share her tips with all of us today.  Jennifer is an amazing professional photographer, and has put together some really simple tips for us to take control of our digital photos.

Jennifer Chaney is a San Francisco Bay Area family photographer, mom blogger and small business consultant.  When she is not dancing i the kitchen with her crazy kids, she is blogging about photography and family life, or working on her first parenting book.  Life is never dull and she could use a third arm.

On a professional note, Jennifer has had her photography on CBS Good Morning America,, as well as published internationally on several occasions.  Recently her work was featured in the Wall Street Journal along with an interview regarding family photography and the holidays.  Some of her photos are also slated to run in O Magazine later this year.  Jennifer's photography tips have been featured in Parade magazine, USA Today, Washington Post, The LA Times, San Jose Mercury News, The Sacramento Bee and more. 

Organize, Print and Enjoy!  Get Those Photos Off Of Your Computer! 

As a professional photographer, it is beyond embarrassing to admit that I don't have my personal family photos under control.  But, thankfully, I am not alone.  Because without fail, when I mention my dilemma to other parents, they nod their heads in agreement (or hang them in shame, either one.  I do both.)

So badly I want to blame the advances in digital photography and my smartphone, but really it is just me and my lack of prioritization for my personal photos.

With this in mind I set off a major task of not only getting my own photos off of my computer into albums, but I wanted to help as many other lost photo souls as I could.  After a six week online photo organization class, I finally got my photo ducks in a row and felt like a gigantic guilty-mommy-weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.  (You know that weight, don't you?  The bone crushing guilt that increases just a little each time you transfer more pictures off of your camera and on to your increasingly slow computer?  Yeah, that feeling doesn't belong with you.  It's time to let it go.)

I'm here to help you.  There are several things I learned when I went through the process of organizing my pictures and I'm sharing my top 5 organizational tips here!  With a bit of effort, time and minimal tears, you'll shed that extra guilt and enjoy your newly found freedom.

One: Give yourself plenty of time

As with any large project, you need to give 100% to it until it’s done.  If you’re not honest with the time commitment it needs, then you’ll likely get discouraged and wind up calling it quits long before you’re done.  And I think we can all agree that unfinished projects only add to our guilt.  Who needs more of that?

I found that this project could generally be done in about 6 weeks with a commitment of 1 hour a night.  Some nights you’ll need more time and others less.   But if you mentally prepare for 1 hour, you’ll get it done much faster. 

Also, one hour is such a doable time period.  I don’t think the people who took the online class would have had the same success rate had they committed to a greater time period.  Many said they actually finished the assignments sooner because they got so involved in the photos that two hours had passed before they knew it.  

Two: Backup your photos – before and after 

If you’re not already backing up your family pictures (and documents!), it’s time to start.  And certainly don’t take on a massive photo project without being sure you’re backed up to either the cloud or an external hard drive.

Accidentally deleted photos can be quickly recovered from cloud based backup companies like Crashplan, or if you prefer an external hard drive, Seagate Backup Plus got good reviews on and CNET. 

I cannot stress enough how important it is to back up your photos.  Even though we’re positive we won’t mistakenly delete or overwrite a file, it happens to the best of us.

I lost our family photos of our first trip to Disneyland (I know! Can you imagine?).   I got a little overzealous when moving things around that I inadvertently deleted our entire trip!  Luckily I was able to recover them from Crashplan with minimal effort.

And I’m not the only one who experienced a “photo snafu”.  Around week four of my class I was coming out of Apple and ran into one of the gals taking the organization class… she was taking in her mac to get help recovering overwritten files.  At some point during the class she wrote over several years worth of pictures.  Fortunately Apple’s Genius Bar was able to help her out.

Backing up your pictures before you start is critical.  When you’re done, it’s a good idea to keep that online backup going.  

Three: What to do with your incoming photos

If you’re like me, you take a ridiculous amount of pictures with your phone.  For many of us wanting to stay organized this can be the kiss of death.   But if you have a system in place, you’re less likely to get swallowed up by your massive mountain of family pictures again.

I’ve found that the key to good picture organization is easy to read names for both the pictures and the folders they will live in on your computer.  This will allow you to quickly sort and identify your pictures.

For each photo file, I suggest naming it by using the year, month and brief description:  “2012 07 lake Tahoe – swim lessons- pony ride”  This is best when done when importing from your phone or camera.  

Once you have them renamed, you need to file them away in folders.

Folders on your computer are like shoe cubbies in your closet.  They keep everything in neat and easy to access.

In the class I focused on an easy to follow system.  When you upload the photos from your phone or camera, put them in a master family photo folder.  Within that folder you have sub-folders by year.  Each year contains the photos from that year with the same naming convention for easy sorting. 

If you train yourself to name and file your pictures each time you upload them, you’ll avoid the guilt surrounding unmanaged photos.  And printing albums and prints will be a snap since you’ve named them all chronologically.

Four: Get comfortable with the “delete” key

When I mentioned that I lost our Disneyland photos I’m sure many of you bristled at the thought.  “What?!  You lost photos from your first trip to Disneyland?  You deleted the pictures of your kid’s wide-eyed stares and awe of their first encounter with Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage?

Next you probably felt a little pity.  I did too.  I’m not going to lie and say that I wasn’t near tears when I opened the Disney folder and found that it was empty.  I was practically shaking.  But after about an hour of frantically searching for the missing pictures it started to sink in… that the pictures were gone and I lost the only memories of my kid’s first trip to Disneyland.

And then it hit me.  Wait a minute?  Wasn’t I there?  Don’t I remember what their faces looked like?  What about their laughter?  Don’t I remember hearing the squeals of joy as we hopped in the teacups for what seemed like the 40th time?  Yes.  I remember it all vividly.   I don’t need the pictures to help me remember.

As it turns out I was able to recover the vast majority of the photos.  The missing ones are gone for good, but I’m totally okay with that.  In fact I support “deleting” photos on a regular basis.  As you’re taking the pictures and when they’re on your computer.  

In the photo above, I have about 6 versions of this crazy kid.  I picked this one and deleted the rest.  It’s important to keep only the photos that really matter.  If we save every last photo we take, we are only setting ourselves up for failure.

Remember the more photos you have, the more you have to organize and print up later.  

Don’t stress. It’s more important to be in the moment with our kids rather than dancing around like a maniac determined to photograph every single moment of an event.  

Much like decorating a room, decide what you need first, and then move forward.  Otherwise you’ll go on a spending spree and stuff your living room full of unnecessary (and often unwanted) baubles and bits.

Five: Stop taking so many pictures 

If you really want to stay organized, you need to learn how to survive with fewer pictures.  Don’t worry, it’s easier than you think.

In many respects I consider myself the anti-photograph photographer.   Not only do I suggest that we stop putting quite so much stock in the pictures we have (as mentioned above), but I also suggest we all take fewer photos.   

When sifting through over 10,000 pictures from just three years it will dawn on you that it’s possible that you take too many photos.  Well I’m here to tell you that it’s not only possible, but it’s true.  You are taking too many pictures.  We all are.  We’ve gotten to the point where we are taking multiple pictures every single day.   It’s time to ask ourselves if it’s really necessary?  The answer is no.  It’s not necessary, but I do have a solution for our trigger-happy fingers – slow down.
If we stop jumping up to snap a picture every time our child does something cute, and rather wait for the right moment, we will a) take fewer pictures, and b) take pictures that really matter.
Before you take the pictures, ask yourself a couple of questions: What will I do with this photo?  What does it say?

Over a year ago I started implementing this trick, and based on the number of photos I have from the previous 3 years, I wish I had thought of it sooner.  So many of the pictures I took were unnecessary.  How many photos of my daughter eating her first ice cream cone do I really need?  Probably just one.  Unless it fell into her lap… that would definitely warrant a second photo. ;)

Another photo trick is to try to get more into one picture. Above I have one photo with just my boy and the next shot his sister is running into the frame.  This is great because now I can keep just one picture from our day at the park.

In the end the best way to be organized is to reduce clutter.  And this goes for pictures, too.   

Organizing my photos not only helped me get the digital pictures off of my computer, but it also taught me a few life lessons.  You can read all about my other photo discoveries on my blog… bad haircuts included!  

The photo organization class was a big success and to spread the organization goodness, I’ve compiled all of the lessons into an easy to follow ebook.  Everyone who signs up for my photo news, tips and tricks monthly email will receive a complimentary copy:  Take Control of Your Digital Pictures.

I love this so much!  And she is so right.  We go to the park so often in the summer, do I really need to take 100 pictures every time?  Probably not.  Maybe one to remember the day, but not 100.  Goes to show that less is more, even with photography.

A huge Thank YOU goes out to the sweet Jennifer for stopping by to share these inspiring and helpful tips!  I know I am excited to start deleting and filing away my favorites so I can move forward with printing and album making.

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