About a year ago, I was lamenting — completely irrationally — how many things I still hadn’t done and how many places I still hadn’t visited. Everyone I knew was out traveling the world, and I was at home with my young toddler, pregnant with my second. I was going nowhere soon.
Yes, it was quite a pity party. I ended up flipping through one of our pre-baby photo books and was instantly reminded of all the cool stuff we did the year we conceived our son: trips to Boston, Barcelona, and California; camping with friends; crawfish boils; happy hours at hip restaurants downtown. I almost teared up with how fortunate and lucky I’ve been to do so much.
In that moment, the importance of having tangible printed photos to re-live memories really hit home. That same walk down memory lane would not have been the same on my phone. As a family photographer, I find myself preaching from the mountaintops that printing and displaying your photos is super important — not just for you, but for your children, too.
I want to share my system for maintaining and organizing my family’s photos and show you that it’s not as hard (or time-consuming) as you’d think. My goal is to create annual photo books so by time we’re old and gray, we’ll have an entire collection. It’s something our parents and grandparents are used to doing but our digital generation seems to need a little nudge in making the intangible tangible.
To that end:
Having a System is Key
Theoretically, I sit down on the first of every month and put my favorite photos into a yearly digital folder that’ll eventually be turned into our annual yearbook. (Lest you think me a saint, I did fall behind by about three years and spent a lot of time playing catch up. Oy. Stuff happens.)
It helps to have dedicated time to do this. It takes less than 10 minutes. Set a calendar reminder for a time when you’re most likely to stick to it. Don’t forget to ask your friends and family for photos they may have taken of you or your kids but not sent to you.
I try to edit my photos as I go (mostly adjust brightness and tint/warmth), so I’m not stuck in an editing wormhole when it’s time to make my annual book.
It’s Not as Time-Consuming as You Think
The biggest hurdle (for me) is the mental one: It almost always takes less time than I think it will, and I’m always so glad I made the time to do it.
If you’re massively behind like I once was, start with this year. Unless you’re taking thousands of photos a month, it should be pretty easy.
If you want to get caught up, I recommend working backward from the current year. I don’t recommend setting out to get an entire year done in one sitting (unless you really have the stamina, or you really don’t have that many photos). The more “wins” you experience, the more likely you are to stick with it and continue doing it.
Set Up Your Phone to Automatically Sync as You Go
Technology really is amazing. I can take photos on my phone, and they are available in iPhoto on my computer a nanosecond later. There are a lot of options for syncing your photos, but the two I’ve used are iCloud (Apple device to Apple device) and Google photos. Of course, you can keep all your photos on your phone and order products straight from it. I’m a little old-school and need a bigger screen to see what I’m doing.
Decide How You Want to Display Your Photos
For me, I’ve got the annual yearbook on the brain first and foremost. I’m also in the midst of raising babies and toddlers, so I’m typically thinking about their baby books and printing photos for their memory boxes (which is basically a big photo storage box with printed photos and other ephemera that doesn’t fit in their baby book, divided by year).
If you’re particularly crafty or motivated, you can make photo books by hand. I personally do not have the patience. Keep in mind photos you want to display around your home or give as gifts to grandparents and other family members.
There are so many benefits of living in a digital world where we carry pretty amazing cameras in our back pockets. But rather than hand down your device to your grown child full of their memories, I think it’s worth the time and energy to make tangible photo books each year that can be shared and re-lived over and over.
There is nothing like flipping through worn pages of your spouse’s baby book or a family trip from the early ’90s before digital cameras hit the market. Set a reminder on your calendar and get it done, mama.