Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Printed Photo Storage: Leaving a Legacy

Where do you store your printed photos?  Most of us have photos tucked away in drawers and closets, boxes and bins.  When you have photos all over your home, it can be an overwhelming task to try to pull them together and get them organized.

Additionally, many people today have stopped printing their photos.  Its important to print those photos most special to you for preservation purposes.  The printed photo is not subject to technical obsolescence or computer crashes.  You can read more about why you should print your photos on my guest blog for Ancestral Breezes.

For those photos that ARE printed, help is here, in the form of the LegacyBox from Linea!

Your photos and stories are a legacy you leave behind.  I'm a strong advocate of making albums (traditional or digital) with your most important photos.  But if you aren't ready to do that, you should be storing those photos in a safe environment, and that is an archival photo box.

The LegacyBox will hold 2400 4 x 6 or 5 x 7 photos.  It comes with customizable pouches in two different sizes, so that in addition to 4 x 6 and 5 x 7 photos, you also have room for panoramic photos, medals and ribbons.  There is also an accordion envelope to hold larger photos and memorabilia.  Also included are 54 dividers for theme or category sorting.  The deep seal-shut lid keeps your photos secure if the box is dropped.  And its versatile style suits any decor for display!  Best of all, this box is manufactured in the USA!  The retail price is $54.99 plus shipping.  Here's the specs:

Contact me or a member of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (www.appo.org) if you'd like more information on the LegacyBox.

Set aside a little time every day to go through your photos.  You've probably got years and years of photos; organizing them isn't going to happen overnight.  But I can promise you will never regret the time you spend documenting your photos and stories!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Photos and Digital Hoarding: A Growing Problem

I recently read an article on digital hoarding.  It was definitely eye opening and it made me realize that I am actually an email hoarder.  I have thousands of emails still sitting in my three in-boxes.  I haven't deleted them because whenever I go to do so, I stop myself, thinking I may need something in them down the road.  This is really not a good strategy.  Chances are I won't need anything in these emails and if I do, most likely I can find it on Google or ask for it to be re-sent.

I have a much easier time with photos.  Maybe it's because I've been in the industry for many years.  There are lots of photos we take that we really don't need.  With digital, we can take 100 pictures of the beautiful sunset on our Hawaiian vacation.  But really we could probably do with one or two of those, and delete the rest.  Those other 98 are taking up space on your hard drive, cluttering your computer, and slowing your computer down.  Not only that, it slows you down too, because the more pictures you have, the more time it takes to find the one you need!  Multiply this by the extra pictures taken at your child's soccer game, family events, and everyday moments, and this can add up to a lot of extra photos clogging your computer!  When you download your pictures, do you go back and delete the photos you don't need?  Most people don't.

I actually go through the deleting process a second time in a lot of cases.  When I download my pictures (and I try to do it as soon as possible after the event), I go through and delete the ones I don't need immediately.  By doing this, it's a quick and easy job versus something that becomes more overwhelming the more you let it pile up.  But I also take a lot of pictures that I share.  I don't need all those pictures, but I take them because I know how much other people appreciate them.  I upload them to a photosharing app and cloud storage app called Linea, and share them with the others from the event.  If anyone else at the event was taking pictures, they can also upload them to the same "Line" of photos, allowing everyone that was at the event to view all the photos in ONE place, add comments and captions, and export any of the photos they want back to their own computer in the same resolution that they were uploaded in.  Linea is a free app, and it works on PC and Mac, iPad, iPhone and Android.  I like this because everyone in my family uses something different.  Its also private and secure.  The only people that can see your photos are the ones you shared them with.  If, like me, you have a lot of photos to store, you may want to consider a subscription for unlimited cloud storage.   There are lots of other sites you can use to store your photos such as Dropbox, Carbonite, Flickr, Picasa, and more but I personally like the viewing mosaic and other features of Linea that I mentioned above.  But for the record, I am a Dropbox and SmugMug user too.

Once I've uploaded to Linea, sometimes I go back and delete other pictures I know I won't need.  For example, I take a lot of pictures for my kids' sports teams.  At a game, I might take hundreds of pictures.  Ultimately, I don't need all those pictures.  I really only need and want the ones of my own children.  So I go back and delete the others from my computer after the season is over and I've shared the photos.

My backup system consists of cloud storage for my photos, and an external hard drive for all of my files.  My photos are the one thing on my computer I'd be devastated about if I lost, so they're backed up in several different ways.  One thing to note when you are backing up everything to the cloud, make sure your photos are being backed up in full resolution.  In the last few weeks during my photo organizing seminars, twice I have run into people who have used cloud storage companies to back up their entire computer.  Unfortunately these two people had their computers crash and had to rely on the cloud storage company to retrieve their data.  In these particular cases, their photo files came back as thumbnails.  They weren't saved in the original resolution and so for all intensive purposes, these folks lost their photos, because you really can't do much with thumbnails.  Needless to say, they were devastated.  So, do your research when choosing a cloud storage option.  But, cloud storage should be part of your backup plan, regardless of who you use.

If you want to read more about digital hoarding, check out this article from the Wall Street Journal.  As for me, I think I am going to go clean out one of my in-boxes.  Maybe I will find it easier if I do it one in-box at a time!  What about you?  Are you a digital hoarder?

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Disorganized Chaos of My Photo Life

by M. Shannon Hernandez

I am a VERY organized person.  I have a notebook and calendar in which I record everything for my business (on paper, with a pen), and then promptly transfer the information over to the computer and place on my blog, in my newsletter, into my digital filing system, or on the calendar.  All my spices are neatly labeled, on the top of the jar, so that I can find what I need quickly when I open the drawer and peer down.  I have 16 upcycled spaghetti sauce jars, all lined up in a row, which have been labeled with a professional label maker and hold my dried beans, rice varieties, lentils and grains.  I only buy purses and backpacks with a minimum of 3 pockets and pouches for easy identification of all the "stuff" that must go into the bag.  I have over 2,000 books, and they are categorized by genre on the shelves of my office and living room.  And my closet?  All pants hang in one section, by color, all skirts in another, by color, and all my blouses...you get the point!

But, something has happened in my photo life!  Mounds of photos sit in bags separated by theme or trip or event.  (I must give myself a little credit.)  Unfinished scrapbooks, complete with notes of what will go where, have been on my shelf for YEARS.  A single ziplock bag holds all of my photos and momentos from a magnificent trip I took to Ireland in 2005.  My wedding album of two years ago is collecting dust, and so are the photos sitting next to it!  Photo storage boxes, albeit with tagged organizers, are stacked -- cluttered with pictures begging me to document my life.

And these are just the printed photos.

Let's talk about the digital photos.  My life is a wreck!  I have pictures on my iPhone camera (current count 1523), photos I have loaded in Instagram, pics hanging out on the Project365 calendar, and all over Twitter and Facebook.  I have a mass storage device, which has over 19,000 photos waiting to be....???  What?  I don't even know where to begin.  I can't find photos I know I have because I haven't tagged them or named the albums when I imported them.  (I knew I should have--but just kept telling myself, "I would 'get to it.'")  My family uploads albums and albums to photo sharing sites like Picasa and Snapfish.  At one time, I was religious about following the links and viewing and printing the ones I wanted, but then the email notifications started sitting in my inbox, later to be deleted because of this feeling of adding more to the chaos of my photo life made me panic.

I am overwhelmed.  I need help.  And until a month ago, I had no idea where to begin.

I met Michelle Nahom, Marketing Manager for the Association of Personal Photo Organizers, via Twitter.  I was astounded!  Wow -- there were really people that would help you organize your photos?  I began following her blog, and then I had the opportunity to meet her at a photo organizing seminar she held in conjunction with Arista Camera in Bronxville, NY.  At the seminar, I listened, in awe to the number of people who were completely at a loss in their photo organizing, just like me.  Stories were shared of massive amounts of family memories and history being lost because the computer crashed or the hard drive was lost, or the online photo sharing site went out of business or accidentally deleted their files.  I learned I was a photo hoarder--and my husband too!  We fit the definition "to a T"--2,127 of our photos are either of sunsets or flowers.  I mean really--who needs 2,127 photos of anything, let alone sunsets or flowers?!

I left that seminar feeling empowered to change my disorganized digital photo life.  I have laid out my own personal plan for "dealing" with all of these pictures.  One night a week, I am purging photos--getting rid of the duplicates, blurry photos, or photos that don't even have a story.  It's a start.  The next phase will include creating categories and event titles, thus organizing them by theme.  After all of this, I plan on consulting with Michelle again and figuring out how I want to display certain photos throughout my home.

The biggest revelation I had at the seminar (besides how much help I needed!) was that I was not enjoying my photos, which are living memories of my past.  Not only was I not enjoying them, but I was not able to share them with other people, because I had "hidden" them away in digital files I couldn't track, name, or find.

If you have "found yourself" in any part of this story, I encourage you to start small, just like I did.  Follow Michelle's blog and Pinterest boards for practical tips and visual solutions to getting organized.  Begin going through your photos one night a week.  (To be honest, this "task" has turned into a "jog down memory lane" and I look so forward to it, because I am reliving my memories as I "work.")  Attend a photo organizing seminar in your community.  You can find Michelle's events on her Event tab on her blog.  The key is to take small steps in your personal quest of photo organization, so you can get them off your computer and shelves, and begin enjoying the visual memories of your past!

M. Shannon Hernandez, owner and designer of Sage & Time Designs, is a stationary designer in Brooklyn, New York.  She works closely with clients around the world to design handcrafted and custom stationary for their personal and social lives.  As a result of attending Michelle's seminar, she is now using a photo sharing software for her clients called Linea.  Linea also offers cloud based storage and syncs across all devices including PC and Mac, iPad, iPhone and Android, so your photos are accessible to you anywhere, anytime.  Linea has been a tremendous resource for organizing event design concepts, drafts of stationary designs, and inspiration boards in one, private location.  Both Shannon and her clients comment with feedback, on the photos in Linea, thus keeping all the design details of upcoming events in one place, which provides perfect tracking, excellent written and visual communication, and superior customer service.  You can learn more about Shannon on her blog, on Facebook at Sage & Time Designs, and Twitter @SageTimeDesigns.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Telling Your Family Story

by Jen Baldwin, Ancestral Journeys, Breckenridge, Colorado, USA

Families collect many photographs, artifacts, art projects, heirlooms, even written memoirs over the generations.  These items can be combined to create an inviting and beautiful family history.  With just a little extra work online, however, that story could easily grow to include facts, geography, and history.  I would like to introduce you to genealogy.

Pick a rainy day on your calendar, and then pick a family line to work on.  Will it be your maternal or paternal ancestors?  What about your spouse's family?

Think back to all those Sunday dinners, holidays, and special occasions when your family would sit around the dinner table and swap stories.  There is truth there; and it deserves to be remembered.  Write down as much as you can.  If you chose to share your project with family members, they will be able to contribute their memories, also.  Photos will be brought out of boxes, heirlooms and momentos will be handed around, and those stories - the ones that must live on - those stories will be retold again.

Start with what you know, or with what you think you know.  Even a rough outline here will get the job done.  So grab your pen and notepad (or your iPad!) and make a few notes.  Here's an example:

  • Grandma Helen Jones lived in Auburn, Washington.  She died there.
  • Her husband was Terrance Alvin.
  • They had children Paul, Terrance Jr., and Samantha.

From this, you can add details, and the big three are BMD: Birth, Marriage, Death.  If you are unfamiliar with the dates and locations, call a family member that might have a good idea.  Even a close guess is enough to get you started.

With those few facts, you can start looking.  I will offer you a few sites beyond Ancestry.com.  (Don't get me wrong, Ancestry.com and sites like it are wonderful and useful.  However, if you're not a committed researcher, there are other ways to get the information you seek without paying any fees.)

  • FamilySearch.org.  The LDS community has established the largest genealogical library in the world, they put more online every day.  A good way to get census records, which can give you a lot of information on just one page.
  • Bureau of Land Management GLO If you had an ancestor that homesteaded somewhere in the United States, you will almost certainly find their information here.  The benefit is that it gives you an exact location - down to the Township and Range.  You can pinpoint their land on a map; along with having the nearest town, county and state.
  • Go to the local library, and access the HeritageQuest database.  I have yet to hear of a library computer system that does not have access to this great resource.  There are several searches you can conduct: Census, Books, etc.  Try them all.  Another great way to get census images, and is easier to search with less information that other sites.
  • A quick internet search will identify local resources for the area you are looking in.  Utilize organizations such as Trails to the Past, US GenWeb and the local historical societies.  Many have searchable databases, and you'll never know what you will come across just by typing in your surname.  
  • Google.  Utilize all of its features, including images, maps, books, and reader.  You never know what you will find on a genealogy or history related blog, or in the details of a county plot map.  

Be forewarned!  Genealogy is very addictive.  There are many that have fallen to the "itch" with an innocent glance at a family tree.  The thing about genealogy is you never really answer all the questions.  We make history every day, and every day more is available online and in other resources.  You will literally never get to it all.  If you are not prepared to commit, walk away.  Just.  Walk.  Away.

If you do choose to begin your own ancestral journey, there are numerous resources available online, and a happy-to-collaborate community just waiting to help you.  Chances are, you have a cousin somewhere out there in the world that is looking at your family.  Might be a 2nd cousin, or a 5th cousin twice removed.  Either way, you have an ancestor in common, and it's possible that you have a cousin across town that you never met.

No matter what you do, take the time to digitally document your family heirlooms.  This is known to most people as taking a picture.  Try to be a bit creative, and have some fun with the project.  Find unique back drops, combine elements to tell the photographic story.  In this manner, you can share at least some of your family story without having to let go of those precious items.  One of my favorites is seen here, on this blog.  It is a photo of my father's tin baby cup, and it was passed down to me when my first daughter was born.  I set the shot with a picture of my father, the original owner, holding his brand new granddaughter about 30 minutes into her life.  When I showed him the picture, it brought tears to his eyes.

Your family story is unique; there is nothing else like it in the world.  I encourage you to begin your journey today.

You can follow Jen on her blog, Ancestral Breezes, on Facebook at Ancestral Journey and on Twitter @ancestryjourney.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On a Mission to Teach Photo Organizing

Photo Credit Nancy Aikins
I've been on the road a lot lately, educating the public on photo organizing.  By the end of this month, I'll have spent time teaching in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and New Hampshire.

Buried in a Sea of Photos...
Photo organizing is definitely a hot topic these days!  Most of us have boxes and old albums full of printed photos, digital photos all over our computers, old home movies we can't watch anymore, not to mention boxes of memorabilia and children's artwork.  We don't know what to do with it all, and it continues to pile up, creating an even more difficult situation to deal with.  It becomes a vicious cycle.  One couple who was at one of my recent events told me, "We're here because we can no longer walk into our office."  Another woman said she was there because her husband keeps all of their memory cards in a drawer as backup.  And when I mentioned digital hoarding, many people agreed that that term describes them!  Many of us download our memory cards but don't go through and delete the pictures we don't need, taking up extra space on our hard drives and making it more difficult to go back later and find the pictures that are truly important to us.

It's not that we don't feel like our pictures are important.  To the contrary, our photos and memorabilia are extremely important to us!  Studies have shown that after family members and pets, our photos are the next thing we would try to take out of a burning house.  So why have we let ourselves get into such a state of disarray?

The answer to that question is easy...lack of knowledge and time.  It's as simple as that.  But we took those pictures (or saved that memorabilia) because they had meaning to us.  Personally, I think we owe it to ourselves to create a system to ensure our photos are available to us in the future.  But it's easier said than done.

Creating a Plan to Preserve Your Memories
If you live in the Northeast, and you'd like to hear more about how to jumpstart the memory preservation process, please join me at one of my upcoming community events.  I'll be at The Memory Studio in Old Greenwich, CT on May 3rd, at the Cherry Hill Library in Cherry Hill, New Jersey on May 8th, at the Fairfield Museum and Historical Center in Fairfield, Connecticut on May 15th, and the Cragin Memorial Library in Colchester, CT on May 16th.  They're listed under my Events tab at the top.

There's lots of other places to get information on preserving your memories.  Your Digital Life is one of my favorite sites.  Techlicious recently posted a great article on The Best Photo and Video Digitizing Services.  If you'd like some help and want to work with a professional, check for a photo organizer local to you on APPO's website.  They can help you with your digital dilemmas too!  You can also join their Facebook Group: Association of Personal Photo Organizers for tips and techniques.

Photos are a gift we leave to future generations
One way or another, I hope you'll find a way to get help with your photos.  How great would it be to know that you won't be a stranger to future generations?  I want my grandchildren and great grandchildren to know what life was like for my generation, and I also want them to know ME, and where they came from.  It truly is a gift that we can offer them.  Watch for my upcoming blog from guest blogger and genealogist Jen Baldwin on how to research your past!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ninety-six Years of Pictures

by Caren Kimenker

Last year, my daughter's grandparents on her father's side passed away within 8 months of each other, leaving behind a ninety-six year legacy of family memories in photos.  They both loved their family and friends and surrounded themselves with photos of family groups and grandchildren as pleasant memories when they couldn't be there in person.

As precious as these family photos were to my mother-in-law, it would have been a shame to just sort them and box them away or just split them up amongst various family members.  So, I offered to scan them and make a picture book so that everyone could have their own copy of the photos to enjoy.  This turned out to be a larger task than expected as there were old photo albums and pictures stored all over the house - in main living areas, in the basement family room, in the attic, and in drawers.  But, to me, it was a labor of love.

I had so much fun looking at all the pictures as I was scanning them and then putting them into a book.  Seeing my in-laws in their younger years, the way the outside of their house looked when they first moved in without the porch and the landscaping, seeing my ex and his sisters growing up, all the family vacations and the adventures that they went on, and then the siblings' families as they grew.  My daughter was the oldest grandchild and she managed to have her picture taken with all the other grandchildren.  The pictures made me feel a special connection to my in-laws and a special appreciation of the joy and love they brought to their lives and to everyone they touched.

Putting together a picture book for someone else was not something that I was used to doing, so I took special care to make sure everything was just right and in the correct chronological order.  But, the more pages I finished, the prouder I felt that I was doing this not only for the family members but for my in-laws, because I know how special pictures always were to them.  Lil had diligently labeled every photo with the dare, the location, and the names of everyone in the picture so that the memory was never lost.

My special tribute to them is the last two pages where I did a collage of pictures of the two of them together, always smiling and always showing the love they felt for each other.

The book is finished, except for some final editing.  But, even before she saw the final product, my sister-in-law reminded me of why I do what I do as a photo solutions consultant: "You do a mitzvah with this business--in just one example, for those people who have pictures of their loved ones who have passed away, it is a way to continue honoring the loved ones, by honoring their memory."

Pictures are special because the people, places and things in them are special and because they all tell a story.  Don't lose the stories.

About Caren: I have been helping people create their own photo albums for eleven years.  People would buy the products to make their own albums but then they never completed the album.  They would comment that they didn't have time. Making scrapbooks and preserving memories and stories of photos has always been a strong passion of mine, so I changed my focus to help people get it done by helping them organize their photos and creating their albums.  So, I started CSK Photo Solutions to help people organize their photos and memorabilia, paper or digital, create memory books telling the stories of the pictures, photo gifts, wall prints and much more!  I receive a lot of pleasure from seeing client's reactions to looking through their books that tell their stories.  I will be glad to help you.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Photographing Everyday Moments: Soccer and BMX

Soccer and BMX...these are the things I took photos of this weekend.  I like to take pictures of our everyday activities.  I have to say I am better about doing that than capturing big events.

Sports play a big part in our family.  My husband and I are runners.  We both ran in high school and college.  Neither one of us ever played soccer, but for years, that was the sport of choice for our kids.  In the spring and fall, soccer dominated our weekend activities.

This season I will have a lot of different sports to take pictures of.  My oldest son is running track for his high school and playing soccer for a town travel team.  My daughter is playing soccer for a premier team, and my youngest son is playing soccer for a town travel team, and now has decided that he wants to try BMX racing.  It was fun to watch him kicking up the dirt at the BMX track this weekend!

What kinds of everyday things do you take pictures of?