I’ve always done a pretty good job of documenting the major activities of my life with photos. In high school I did some traveling and made an album for each trip. With the addition of children into our lives, I found it challenging to continue to be so vigilant with my photo organization. I don’t take a ton of photos, but I do try to take photos at events, milestones such as age (1 month, 2 months, etc. until a year old and then yearly) and just when we’re being silly around the house. It took until about a year after my first daughter was born, but I finally got a system down that works for me. Every time I take photos off the camera, I go through the first three steps below: labeling photos, printing prep and filing photos. It might sound like a lot of work, but it’s usually pretty quick and I’ve gotten into a nice routine with it. I will preface this by saying that I have two children under four years old. This system works for me now, but only time will tell if it’s feasible in the long term or if it will need to be modified as the kids get older.
Choosing and Labeling Photos:
About once or twice a month, depending on how many milestones we’ve had, I take all of the photos off of my camera and phone. Here’s the part that it took me a year to perfect – I label the photos with the date in this format Month – Day – Year and a brief description. So, for example, 10-31-14 M Monkey, to indicate that this photo was taken on Halloween is my daughter M in her monkey costume. I look through all the photos before labeling, trashing the ones that are blurry or duplicates. The beauty of digital is you can take a bunch of photos to get just the right one. But then you have a ton of photos! Please, don’t feel bad deleting photos of your children. Just pick the best ones and go with those. If you need help, take it two at a time. Compare two, trash the one that’s not as good and then move onto the next until you’ve narrowed it down. Once my photos are chosen and labeled correctly I prep them for printing.
I print my photos through Walgreens.com. I keep a folder in my account called TO PRINT. Every time I take photos off of the camera, I also upload them here. I don’t print photos on a regular basis, but when the urge hits me, I have them already saved in one place and can just place an order for prints. I don’t have to figure out when I last printed photos and what photos have been printed and what needs to be printed. I print photos about once a quarter or so.
Filing and Backing Up Photos:
I have a folder setup on my computer called Pictures and then under that a folder for each child. My current dilemma is where do I file photos that contain both children now that I have two?! So, I’m moving towards just having a folder for family photos and another for each child’s milestone photos – such as S at 8 months old, M at 3 years old, etc. Since the photos are labeled starting with the date, they are always ordered chronologically. You could organize additionally by adding folders with the year – either calendar year or by year of their life, such as Year One. Every couple of times I take photos off of the camera and file on my computer, I also backup our photos. I use a 1TB USB External Hard Drive like these. Between the external hard drive and the upload to Walgreens, I’ve got myself covered in case of a computer crash. There are also so many other options out there now! Once photos are filed on my computer and uploaded to Walgreens.com I deleted them from my camera so I remember which ones I’ve already dealt with. I make sure I have enough time at a sitting to do all the steps above (minus the backup) which usually means I’m doing this at night when the kids are asleep.
Printing and Storing Photos:
As I said before, I print photos once a quarter or so from the TO PRINT folder I’ve created on Walgreens.com. When I print that group of photos, I will change the name of the folder to PRINTER 1/1/13 (or whatever date I print them) and then will start a new TO PRINT folder on my next upload. Right now, I print all photos and file them in photo albums like these which are available at Target.com for under $15 and hold 200 photos.
With the addition of my second daughter I wondered if I’d keep these books for each child, but I think I’ve decided to keep these albums for our family. I do think about what my kids will take with them when they move out, how they’ll bring their photo memories with them to college, or to share with their family one day. So, I print a book each year (so far!) for each child. I organize these by their age, not by the calendar year. So M has a book for her first, second and third year so far. Because I organize my photos in a folder by date, it’s pretty easy to click through photos and add them in order. I created the books on shutterfly.com. In order to do this, you’ll need to create an account. This will allow you to start the book and save the changes so you can work on it for as long as it takes. The first time I create a book, it took a while. I had to choose a layout, colors, etc. but each year I just start with the same template so the books follow the same style and this saves a lot of time. Shutterfly has a million different ways to customize your photobook! Find some time and explore this for yourself! I usually compile and print these each year after I have the photos from their birthdays labeled. And then I wait until I can get a coupon code for a free 8×8 20 page photobook. I’ve found one every year for three years so far. You just pay for any additional pages and for shipping.
All of this work might seem time consuming and I often wonder if my husband appreciates all the time I spend organizing the memories of our lives. The truth is, he doesn’t even realize I work so hard on this, but I know it’s such an important part of documenting our family and my children will be so happy to have these when they are older. I have such fond memories of looking through our photo albums as a child that I just don’t want to deny my family that pleasure even though we’re in such a digital age. It’s what works for us at this point in our family’s young life – what works for you to document memories?
* Use coupon code SummerBook on shutterfly.com TODAY to get a 20-Page 8″x8″ soft cover or hard cover Photo Book (regularly priced $19.99-$29.99) FREE, or use the code to get a $29.99 credit on a larger size book. Expires on 09/11/2013