Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Help Your Digital Pictures Shine - How to Transform Your Backed-up Pictures into Real Albums

A philosophical question - if your pictures are only on your camera or computer, do they really exist?
Seriously, sometimes I miss the old days... Do you remember finishing a roll of film, and then running to get it developed?  Sure, your thumb might've guest-starred in a picture or two, or you might've had some scary red eye, but it was physical photographic evidence that your vacation (or pageant or party) actually happened!

Don't get me wrong - I love my digital camera.  People run when they see me coming, because I snap pictures non-stop.  After my son was born, my condition took a turn for the worse.  Soon, I realized there were thousands of shots on my computer and no actual albums to show for it.  Something had to be done.  So, little by little, I implemented the following digital picture organization strategy, and I'd like to share it with you!

Step One:  Playing Catch-Up; Turn Your Backed-up Pictures into Albums

Part 1 - Get Everything In Order
  • Look at your old albums.  In what year do the albums actually stop?  Was it 2 years ago?  5 years ago?  Figure out what year you need to catch up from. 
  • Check your computer and make sure your digital photos are all in the same place.  You may need to use a flash drive or a free online photo storage site (like to consolidate pictures into the same place, but it can be done!
  • Sort your digital pictures into two folders: "In Photobook" and "Not Yet In Photobook".  All pictures that are already in album-form can be put into the first folder.  The rest go in the second.
  • For those not yet in a photobook, FIRST sort them by year (make a folder for each year).  SECOND, within each yearly folder, sort them by month.
  • Set a time limit (say, 20 minutes) and go through the pictures for one year.  Make the tough decisions and delete, delete, delete.  Delete awful pictures, delete duplicate poses, delete whatever you can bring yourself to delete.  If you delete one by mistake, you can always go to your computer's recycling bin and restore it.
  • Lather, Rinse & Repeat this exercise for each year.  The goal is to simplify your choices when it comes time to select which pictures will make it to the Olympics (aka, your photobook).

Part 2 - The Big Leagues - Photobook Creation Time 

  • Pick an online photobook maker site.  My favorite site is Shutterfly - and I've tried most of them!  Shutterfly has varied formats, is intuitive to use, and auto-saves your work every few minutes.  Plus, there are coupon codes aplenty.
  • Create a new, blank photobook project.  You may choose to opt for a more deluxe version, such as a hardcover in a larger size (at least 8 x 8 or 8 x 11).  If possible, select the "custom path" and not the "auto-fill" option.  Auto-fill causes the site to only input a few pictures per page, which makes your photobook get big (and expensive), FAST.
  • Decide the time period you'd like your photobook to cover.  If you're paralyzed by the thought of wading through your pictures, start small, opting to do ONE photobook for each year (i.e., one for 2008, one for 2009, etc).
  • Determine how many pictures you want to include from each month.  A good guideline is 10 or 12.  Remember, your goal is to have an actual album (instead of having nothing!), so it doesn't matter if you don't get to include every beloved shot.
  • Select the format for each page.  The more pictures you include per page, the smaller the book (in theory!).  As long as you don't get crazy (trying to cram 10 pictures on a page), they all look pretty good!
  • Skip the caption features.  If you leave the captions blank, the photobook prints a nice, clean area, with no evidence that there was supposed to be a typed caption there.  When I receive the actual photobook, I write the captions in by hand.  It's much easier than having to format each caption and make your words fit.
  • Add in your title page, and customize your front and back covers.  
  • Google coupon codes before you order!  This is a must!  If nothing good is out there, wait a few days and try again.  Shutterfly (and other online sites) are always changing their offers.  Sometimes they offer buy one, get one free (but it must be two of the exact same photobook), which could be a great gift!
  • After you've ordered your book, move all of those photos into your "In Photobook" folder, and feel proud!
  • Repeat for each year until you catch up!  Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

I know - depending on how backed up you are, this can be a BIG undertaking, but if you do a little bit every week, you'll be caught up before you know it.  The price for a photobook can feel steep, but you need to factor in that you are no longer buying film (like in the old days), paying to get it developed (like in the old days) and buying expensive photo albums (like in the old days).

Tune in tomorrow for tips about how to stay on top of your photo organization and albums once you're all caught up!