How to manage your photos

Snapshots are the primary method we use to communicate and to record history. We don't use words much anymore except in highly perishable form such as text messages and Facebook posts, and that is a loss we hand down to young people.

Snapshots are the primary method we use to communicate and to record history. We don’t use words much anymore except in highly perishable form such as text messages and Facebook posts, and that is a loss we hand down to young people.

The full title of this post includes the phrase “for the benefit of children and future generations.”

My parents—that’s Dad in the photo—had a simple management system that involved taking exposed film to the drugstore, picking up the prints a couple of days later, and placing them willy-nilly in a cardboard box. When the box was full it was time to start another box.

Mom would occasionally make a notation on the back of a print such as, “Danny, age 5.” Those are very special to me now.

We could use this reliable system today except that we rarely make paper prints. We also write our verbal messages in environments like Facebook that consider an hour to be a long time. Clearly we need a new plan.

I talk to a lot of people about their photographs. People are reluctant to manage photographs. Perhaps it is in the mental category next to flossing, or washing the car. I would like to present you with the notion that managing your photographs can be fun and satisfying. Reaching that state will require some revised thinking, however, and such shifts can be a challenge. Here are some of the obstacles that stand in the way of most people along with my suggestions for creating a shift in how you view this task.

Step one is to simply be aware that for the most part people do not work together anymore except for money. No more quilting bees, barn raisings, or hauling logs to build a log cabin. We lack a common experience to bind us together in work parties. Work parties make photo management fun and informative. I think the substitute for the face-to-face work party is online repositories. More about those later. The point is, Aunt Bee is not going to come by and identify the unknown people in your photographs, but don’t let that get you down.

Printed photographs are the gold standard of photography. I mostly view images on my 27-inch monitor, but that is because I deal in high volumes. The best viewing is still the view of the printed image. This is partly because light falling on an image produces a different experience than light shining through an image. More about this later, too. More important than the subtle differences to the eye is the fact that printed images can last for generations, while your computer will eventually be retired from service.

This means that you must commit to making some prints. The art of printing has come a long way and now includes printing on canvas, metal, and coffee mugs. From novel to spectacular, the choices are yours. A fancy inkjet printer can even make excellent prints at home.

Books are the ideal way to present photographs that are organized by theme.

Books are the ideal way to present photographs that are organized by theme.

Remember that consolidating your photos into a book is also a form of making prints, and it is the form I personally favor for several key reasons. The cost per photo is very low. A book is durable. You can add all the text you want. If someone admires it you can order another copy.

In future posts I will offer advice on these topics:

  • selecting photographs for printing
  • some places to go to get your book printed
  • ways to use online resources to help Aunt Bee help you

I read my Facebook newsfeed and come across lots of stories of how parents are impossibly busy. I realize that, but there is nothing new about that. My parents had their share of challenges, but quite a few photographs survived. I’m grateful for that, and your children will be too.

 

About Daniel

I emphasize natural light portraits taken on location.
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