A Non-Photographer’s Guide to Organizing Digital Photos

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Have you noticed that the hip mama accessory these days is a big fancy (I think they call them SLR?) camera? Photography is a natural creative outlet for moms of young kids because – duh! – the perfect subjects are underfoot 24/7! It seems like every mom I know has a gorgeous camera and knows how to use it.

I am not one of these moms. I’m always far behind the trends and I don’t have a fancy camera. I take exceedingly mediocre pictures of my kids with a good quality point-and-shoot that lives in my purse at all times, and with my iPhone 3GS, (aka my BFF in the whole wide world).

{SIDE NOTE: If you have an iPhone and you don’t have the Instagram app, stop reading right now and go get it. You can thank me later.}

So anyway, me and my best friend iPhone and dinky little camera still manage to take hundreds of photos of The Kids Being Cute. And then what? Over the last few years I’ve developed some good systems around organizing, sharing and getting creative with my digital photos. So while I’m in no position to give you photography tips (those you can get at the SMB Momma Photography Workshop July 14!), I do have some ideas on what to do with your images once you capture them:

Pick a Program
It’s important to pick a program for organizing your photos, learn its features and stick with it (at least until you determine it’s not serving your needs). I highly recommend Google’s Picasa, which can be downloaded for free. I recently got a Mac and now use iPhoto for organizing my photos but I still use Picasa’s web albums for sharing (more on that in a bit). Both Picasa and iPhoto have advanced ways to organize your photos using tags, keywords, stars, face recognition, etc., and the more you learn and utilize these features the easier it gets to find photos fast when you need to. Almost all programs also have basic editing features to remove redeye, convert images to black-and-white, etc., and familiarizing yourself with how to make basic edits is a good idea.

From Camera to Computer
Don’t get to the point where your camera has 783 photos on it from the last six months and it crashes your whole system just to transfer them over (if you can even find the cord by that point)! Connect your camera to your computer and transfer pics at least once a month, and right away after a big photo-taking event like a birthday party or vacation. The more often you do it, the less overwhelming the task (hmmm…I feel like I should take this advice when it comes to laundry).

And don’t forget your smartphone! I take more pics with my iPhone than with my regular camera and the quality is often just as good so I make sure to transfer these over periodically too.

Organizing & Labeling
When you transfer photos, put them into folders/albums/events (depending on your program) right away. Find a system for grouping your photos that works for you and be consistent. I group photos by month normally, and if we have a special occasion or event where I take a ton of pics over just a day or two, I create a separate group of just those images. It’s also important to name your folders/albums/events in a way that will let you find them easily later. I start with the date in a year-month-day format followed by a brief description. This way you can sort a list of albums quickly by date (i.e. an album labeled 2011 05 08 Mother’s Day will follow 2011 04 29 Birthday Party naturally in an alphabetical list, whereas Mother’s Day 2011 might end up next to Mom’s 60th 2008).

Editing & Sharing
If you do nothing more than the suggestions above you’ll have a great structure set up on your computer that will allow you to print, share and save your digital photos in an organized way and when your now-newborn is “Person of the Week” in kindergarten you won’t have to stay up all night long looking for photos to put up on the class bulletin board! 🙂

But for me the fun all happens after this point. We have faraway family and friends who love to get pictures of the kids as often as I can get it together to send them, so my work isn’t done until the albums are shared. When I share photos, I pick just the best of the best and take care of basic edits like rotating sideways pics and taking care of redeye before they go out. It’s fun to add captions too if you feel like you have the time.

As I mentioned earlier, I use Picasa Web Albums to share photos, and iPhoto can export directly to Picasa, which makes it easy. The nice thing about creating albums to share is that it forces you to go through your photos, select the best, edit and caption them; once this is done, you can order prints and make gifts with the click of a mouse!

Fun & Fancy
I LOVE creating photo collages, books, calendars, etc. with the images I take (and don’t get me started on slideshows to music…I’m, like, addicted). If you stay up to date and organized it’s so fun and so easy to get creative (here’s a thank you card I made after my daughter’s birthday party). Costco has amazing prices on prints and their photo books and calendars are really nice quality for a fraction of the cost (they don’t let you customize quite as much so if you really like to take creative control another option is probably better). I also love Picnik.com, which lets you upload and edit as well as make collages, add text and otherwise fancy up your photos. I splurged on the upgraded membership but their basic offering is free!

So that’s it, Mamas! Go forth and organize!

If you haven’t signed up for the SMB Momma Photography Workshop on July 14, now’s your chance! Click here for more details.

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Sarah Powers is a writer and Scottsdale mom of two. She came to the valley from Southern California by way of Chicago and would take Arizona summers over Midwest winters any day. A perfect day for Sarah starts with coffee, ends with chardonnay and includes lots of baby giggles and sticky-fingered kid kisses in between. She loves high ponytails, showtunes and using her kids as an excuse to stay in and go to bed early, which she would do anyway. Sarah tweets early and often about the messy, tender, fun, funny and irreverent moments of parenthood at www.twitter.com/powersofmine.

1 COMMENT

  1. I like Picasa too but for the first step ‘From Camera to Computer’ I would strongly recommend picManager (www.CustomDWorks.com/picManager.aspx) It is simple (after you set the Defaults it is just one click and you are done), it skips the photos already on your hard drive, creates automatically folders for picture year and month (if it is not there yet), and automatically rotates those annoying portrait pictures taken with your camera sideways.

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