Tributes & Video Biographies
Sharing Life Stories, Connecting Generations, Preserving Legacies

Sorting and Storing Digital Photos

Flickr photo:BayCamera

In previous posts I have talked about sorting and archiving old photos and how important it is to do that. But, I have actually been been daunted by the task of organizing my own digital images. Right now they sit on my hard drive, backed up daily to a second hard drive and dumped into individual folders which are labeled by the date and perhaps the event. Re: Thanksgiving 2007.

While I have really expensive editing and organizing software, it has sometimes taken me awhile to find a specific photo. Now mind you, I can tell YOU how Legacy Multimedia would recommend you organize all your digital photos but I am realizing that I need to do much more to get my own impending birds’ nest of digital photos into better shape.

The first step is to get your photos off your memory cards. Using your cards to store digital photographs may work but just as easily a card could get corrupted and all your images are lost. You can either connect your camera directly to your computer with a cable and download all your images or you can use a memory card reader which stays attached to your computer and you merely pull the card out of the camera and pop it into the reader. Readers usually recognize most cameras and are convenient if you take a lot of photos.

Next you’re going to want to sort your photos into appropriate folders and name them. The names the camera gives them, ie: DSC00062.jpg, will never help you find that photo of your daughter skiing when you are looking three years down the road. There are a variety of ways to sort but we recommend a sequential series including the date and perhaps a hint of the content. So photos taken at your Thanksgiving dinner in 2006 would be something like; thanksgiving_06_0001.jpg, thanksgiving_06_0002.jpg, etc. You want your final numbering sequence to precede with several zeros so that they stay in order as your numbers get over 10, 20 and 100. If you have thousands, best add an additional zero or two.

You can re-number the photos manually or there are several programs that will allow you to rename and renumber a batch of photos. Some of these in the non-professional range are Adobe Photoshop Elements, Picasa, and the system bundled iPhoto if you’re on a Mac. There are other utilities out there that I’m not familiar with. Some of these software programs will also allow you to tag a photo. Tagging a photo gives it keywords so that when you are looking for it later using your computers’ search feature, these keywords will help you locate it. The more tags you give a photo, the easier it will be to find it. When you’re searching for that picture of your dog playing frisbee on the beach, tagging it with “dog”, “beach” and “frisbee” will pretty much guarantee it comes up quickly in a global search.

Once your photos are numbered and labeled, you can put them into folders that have a bit more information. We also like to put a .txt file inside the folder with any additional information about the event; all the people there, the location, perhaps an anecdote or two about what happened.

At this point, you may want to do some retouching to the photos. Simple adjustments such as lighting levels, red eye removal and color contrast can give your digital photos some extra oomph without falling into the skills needed for photo restoration.

Okay, now you’ve gotten the lions share of the work done and you need to think about storing these photos. Hard drives are notorious for failing so you don’t want to keep all your photos on your computer. There are several options here and I’m not sure any one option is the best.

You can store your photos on a back up drive. Portable jump drives, Flash drives and backup hard drives are some options. Again, these all face the risk of failing at some point or not. No guarantees in life are there?

Burning your files onto a CD or DVD is another good long term storage device. I don’t recommend using this as a sole form of storage since one good scratch on your disk and it’s all gone.

Online storage sites. Apple started with .mac and now there are a plethora of digital archive warehouses where for a small monthly fee you can upload your photos, files and any digital data for long term storage. I have used .mac and found it simple and quick to access.

Finally, stepping back in technology, you can make hard copy prints of your digital photos. I know this seems like going back in time but photo paper is now made to last over 100 years and a good quality print, put away, may serve as the ultimate backup for your digital files.

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian and video biographer sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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