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How To Organize and Preserve Digital Photo Collections

If you’re like me, you take photos every day, in just about every situation. It’s estimated that 1.3 trillion photographs were taken around the world in 2017 alone. And statistics show that we upload 300 million photos to Facebook daily worldwide.

That’s per day, people. 300 million.

Ohio History Connection curator Lisa Wood shares best practices for organizing and archiving digital photo collections.

Let’s have a conversation about photo clutter. You know what I’m talking about – all the photos we take and keep because we think that all of them are somehow better than just one. We might need that extra shot because, well, you know, because.

At the same time, we pride ourselves on getting rid of repeat shots, blurry shots, mistake shots of our big toes as we pulled cameras out of our pockets. That’s great. But it’s not enough.

Those extra shots cost money and time. Extra storage space isn’t cheap, not to mention the time it takes to organize your shots (if you actually organize your shots – statistics say we don’t).

How many times have you wanted to share a photo with a friend only to scroll endlessly through your phone trying to find it? Enough!

Photo Patience
Patient photographers look at a scene and decide on angles and action before they snap the picture. They analyze the narrative of what’s happening first.

In contrast, we sometimes mindlessly snap away, and this leads to rushing through the moment. Slow down. Experience the emotion of the moment. Then decide on how to capture it.

Taking one great photo is much more satisfying than 20 thoughtless ones.

End-of-Day Recap
At the end of every day, look through your photos. Most people use their phones a remarkable 4 hours and 5 minutes per day (at least in 2017). Take some of that time to delete the photos that are easy to get rid of – duplicates, blurry, etc. – and then look closely at the others.

When I’m on vacation, I look at my photos every night with a glass of wine. It’s a wonderful way to end the day.

Focus on What to Keep First
Find two, max three, photos that really tell the story of the moment (not of the entire day – that’s a big difference). Then get rid of the rest.

I’ve found that the keepers are easy to spot because they truly spark an emotion for me. And it doesn’t have to be joy – it could be awe, or tenderness, or anger, like the time I caught a group of taggers on a UK train. Other photos that don’t hold the same amount of emotional energy are ripe for the delete button.

Tip: Vacations come with many “moments” throughout the day. It’s OK to keep 30 photos of a vacation day if you have them pared down into distinct moments that happened over the entire day.

Check out Marie Kondo’s advice for paring down photos.

Some Exceptions
If you’re documenting a one-time event, such as a wedding or retirement, give yourself a photo limit. My totally random number is 25 photos per event. Choose the ones that capture each moment throughout the event, with everyone looking spectacular.

Professional photographers give their clients the best of the best to view and make their ultimate selections. Make sure you do the same.

Cindy Gaillard

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How to Archive Historic Photos

Ohio History Connection curator Lisa Wood gives tips on how to preserve historic family photos, archives and treasures.