Friday, March 30, 2012

World Backup Day

Did you know World Backup day is March 31?  When was the last time you backed up your photo files?  Unfortunately backing up is something most of us don't think about until it is too late.  I'm sure you know someone who has lost some or all of their photos at some point in time...or paid a large sum of money to have those photos retrieved after a computer crash.

Creating a secure backup is important.  Not only should your photos be accessible, but you should also be able to recover them in the event of a computer crash, natural disaster or theft without it being a difficult or financially prohibitive process.

To accomplish this, you're going to want to backup and archive in several ways.  An external hard drive should be part of your backup plan.  However, keep in mind that research shows external hard drives have a limited shelf life of five years or so.  If you keep your external hooked up to your computer for backups that happen on a regular basis and your computer is stolen...the thief is probably going to take your external hard drive too.  That happened to a friend of mine.  Her computer was stolen right out of her house, with the external hard drive attached.  She lost a couple years worth of pictures.

You may also want to consider Picture Keeper.  Picture Keeper has built in software that searches for and saves your photos in their original file structure.  It's easy to use, because it's programmed to find your photos for you.  The next time you plug it back in, it'll find the new photos, as well as those that have been edited.

You'll also want to take advantage of cloud storage options.  One of my favorites for photos is Linea for its photosharing and beautiful viewing capabilities, but I also use Dropbox on a regular basis.  When considering a cloud storage service, you may want to consider privacy and security, and you should make sure you can retrieve your images and export them back to your computer in the same resolution you uploaded them at.  You also want to make sure the site stores your images on more than one server.

Another backup option is copying your photos onto archival quality CDs or DVDs and storing them away from your home.  Fires and natural disasters, while not regular occurrences, can happen.  However, remember if you store on CDs or DVDs, you will need to re-record at some point, as technology changes.

And last but certainly not least, the printed photo is your best backup!  Printed photos are not vulnerable to technological obsolescence and can last hundreds of years if stored properly!

If you need help with coming up with a backup plan for your photos, the professionals at the Association of Personal Photo Organizers can help.  Check out the APPO site for a personal photo organizer in your area.

Check out the World Backup Day site for more backup solutions!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How to Photograph Your Teenager!

by Karen McCann

When you walk into the room with your camera, does your teen throw their hands in front of their face and run the other way?  After raising 3 teenagers and surviving the "Mom, please, no more pictures" phase, I can impart a few tips that have helped me survive this and capture some great images along the way.

The first tip is to try to have a camera with you in your bag or car for any photo op that pops up.  I have been known to keep a disposable camera (I have several from weddings) in the glove compartment.  Carpooling your teen around town may provide unlimited opportunities, and will capture them and their friends in their daily lives.

Use humor to sooth the savage beast is my second tip.  If your teens start to become irritated at your attempts to take their photo, getting silly will soften them up and take some of the attention away from them and onto you.  You can be clicking away as they roll their eyes at your efforts to get them to laugh.  You are sure to chuckle at the shots you will end up with.

Finally, don't worry much about the perfect pose.  Long gone are the days you can dress them up in matching outfits and sit them on the couch perfectly.  Just capturing your teen in "real time" will be far more valuable in the long run when you look back at those photos years from now.

After all these attempts, your teen still may not appear to show much enthusiasm at your end results.  But, I'll bet deep down they will be glad and will cherish these memories as they grow up.

If you'd like some more tips on photographing your teen, check out this blog post from Confident Camera Moms.

About Karen: 
Karen has been an amateur photographer for many years and has a Photo Organizing business to assist her clients with managing their photos, both digital and printed; as well as creating beautiful photo projects for her clients.  She is a Certified Member of APPO, the Association of Personal Photo Organizers.  You can check out her website Save Your Memories here.  

Friday, March 23, 2012

Technology...a blessing or a curse?

Technology is a blessing and a curse.  On one hand, consider how far we've come.  When digital cameras were first introduced in 1997, skeptics said they wouldn't last.  There was nothing wrong with film technology.  It worked just fine.  I know I didn't run out and buy a new digital camera!  It took me years to switch over.  But the critics were wrong.   Today, most households own a digital camera of some sort, especially since most phones now have a digital camera.

The reason digital is so successful?  Digital pictures are instant gratification!  You can see the picture as soon as you take it and you can decide whether to delete or save.   We can delete the bad hair days, the unfortunate moments, the bloopers.  That brings up another point doing this, are we re-writing what our family history actually looks like?  I guess thats food for thought, but I have to say I do like the freedom digital gives me!

On the other hand, technology can also be a curse.  We're a society of innovators and that means our technology changes at an amazing pace.  Every time technology changes, we have to decide whether or not to re-record.  If we don't, we risk losing the data.  

Consider our old home movies on various formats that we can't watch in their current format anymore.  In all likelihood, we'll convert them to DVD.  But in 30 years, we probably won't be able to read those with our computers either.  So if you want to preserve those memories for future generations, just be prepared to re-record every time technology changes.

So, what are your thoughts on technology?  Love it?  Wish it would slow down?  I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How my Grandfather Inspired Me to Save YOUR Photos, by Mandi Zucker

My grandfather was a photographer.  He never got paid for it, but he had a real talent.  He had lots of various jobs, from a tire salesman to construction work.  He was a pilot in WWII and took some amazing, historic, and horrifying photos in the war.

My grandparents have an interesting love story.  They married very young, as many people did at the time, had my mom and her brother, but eventually divorced after almost 20 years of marriage.  They both remarried but after a second divorce for my grandfather, and my grandmother's second husband's death, they found each other again.  As a child, I thought it was so cool that my grandma and grandpa were dating EACH OTHER!  They never remarried, but they lived together on weekends and my grandmother took care of him when he eventually got sick and passed away.

I guess my love of photography came from my Pop.  I never took many photos until I had children of my own, and although I'm not great, I can usually get the shot I want and am pretty good with the photo-editing tools on my computer.  I know I'm not a professional level photographer, but I started realizing the importance of taking photos and preserving them when my children were born about 11 years ago.

My grandfather died in 2004.  While helping my grandmother clean out his apartment, we came across boxes and boxes of old photos and memorabilia.  My grandparents' engagement photo and their engagement announcement from the newspaper, love letters, photographic testimonials of the horrific acts witnessed during the Holocaust, report cards, and more were just some of the "treasures" I found in closets and under his bed.

At the time, I wasn't ready to tackle this emotionally and physically exhausting project.  So, my grandmother took the shoeboxes and memories to her apartment, and I figured I would get them back when I was ready to work on them.

That never happened.  About a year later, I was ready.  So I went to my grandmother and asked for them back.  I told her I wanted her help to create a keepsake album so my children could learn about the grandfather they would never get to know.  She said, "I'm sorry.  I didn't know what to do with them, so I threw them away."

Gone.  Family treasures.  My grandfather's legacy.  Historical pictures and newspaper articles.  All gone.

I was devastated.  But at that moment, I swore I would never let that happen to my own children.  I know they are going to be very important people and go on to do amazing things.  I want their grandchildren to know about it.

So chronicle your pictures.  Scrapbook them.  Frame them.  Make a slideshow with narrative and subtitles to tell their story.  If you need help, there is a great nonprofit organization called StoryCorps that provides a list of questions that may be helpful when trying to think about documenting your story.  It doesn't matter how you do it, but don't let your family treasures be thrown away!

If you'd like to learn more about how you can preserve your most precious memories, APPO offers community talks on tips and techniques for organizing your photos.  On April 5th, we'll be in at the Bronxville, NY library doing our "Got Photos?  Get Organized!" presentation.  Click on the link to RSVP and join us!

Mandi Zucker is a Personal Photo Organizer and the owner of NY Photo Services.  She has been helping people with their photos for 7 years.  For more information, email her at or check out her website.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Attend a seminar near you on photo organizing!

Do you have boxes of printed photos tucked away in closets?  Digital photos all over the computer?  Old home movies, memorabilia and children's artwork?  For most of us, trying to figure out the best way to deal with all of this is simply too overwhelming, so we leave it for another day.

If this sounds familiar to you, maybe I can help.  For the next few months, I'll be criss-crossing the Northeast, teaching the ABC's of photo organizing as well as offering tips, techniques and product suggestions that will help you preserve, share, and get those photos back into your life where you can enjoy them!  If you don't live in the Northeast, one of my colleagues across the US or Canada may be able to help...we're on a mission to educate the public on the easiest way to organize their photo collections and where to get help if you need it!

We're passionate about helping people preserve their memories and tell their stories.  To find an event near you, click on the word "Events" at the top of my website.  I'll be updating these events regularly.  Don't put this off for another day...join us for one of our talks and learn how you can conquer your photo collections!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Telling My Story, by Christy Schimanski

A note from Michelle: I am thrilled to hosting several guest bloggers over the next couple of months who will be sharing their experiences with the photos of their lives!  A big thank you to Christy Schimanski who is my very first guest on my blog!

Growing up, my parents did not take a lot of pictures of me or my siblings.  My parents were not well off, and the only camera we had was a Polaroid Instamatic, for which the film cartridges were expensive.  Picture taking was saved for birthdays and Christmas, Halloween and Thanksgiving.  There are huge gaps in the photo documentation of my life.  How sad is it to know that all of my childhood photos can fit in a single shoebox?  Has this happened to you?

Today we have access to so much more technology…from digital cameras, to camera phones and tablet computers.  Picture taking has taken on a new life in the 21st century…more information is shared now in real time than ever before.

With the rise of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, companies have created new ways to share those photos with those in your media circle. 

I am a mom to an only son.  I have taken more photos than I care to admit to.  Have I gone to the opposite extreme…compensating for my parents’ shortcoming in my pictures?  I don’t think so…and here’s why:

Life isn't just about special moments…birthdays, a holiday celebration, a job well done.  Life is about the little things…things that happen every day.  Documenting what my son’s favorite book is at the time, the length of his hair, a lost tooth…all of these things are important in defining who he is.  I want to capture what is happening in his life while it’s happening.  I want him to look at photos of himself later on in life and remember what his typical day was like.  What his favorite color was in 3rd grade.  Who his science partner was for dissecting his 1st worm.  He enjoys looking through his scrapbook albums now, remembering the details of his life, laughing at the goofy poses he struck, smiling as he recalls events in his life.  This is important to him. 

It is also important for me, too.  As the mom of an only child, I realize that someday when I’m gone, these pictures will hold so much meaning for my son.  I choose to tell my story, his story, through those pictures.  Are you telling your story?

So, the next time you think of it, go grab your camera.  Start taking photos of everyday things…the flowers blooming in your garden, the woodpecker at your bird feeder, your child running through the sprinkler.  Start documenting elements that define who you are…and start telling your story through pictures.

*Christy Schimanski is owner and Chief Creative Officer of Just Scrappin’ Happy, a scrapbook company specializing in scrapbook page kits, mini album kits, and handcrafted page embellishments.  In her spare time, she loves to spend time with her husband, son, and their golden retriever, Jake.  She shares her love of photos and scrapbooking with other photo enthusiasts and teaches classes at her local scrapbook store.  You can find her at

Monday, March 5, 2012

Organizing your Photos by Theme

When I ask people why they take photos, most of the time they tell me to remember and to document the important events in their life.  Our photos allow us to re-live our memories and the experiences we shared with our loved ones.   Memories are a wonderful thing....they give us that sense of belonging and significance.  Photography and photo books have given us a unique opportunity.  Our photos tell the world that we were here, and in a photo book we have the chance to tell our stories alongside of those photos.

Over the years though, we've accumulated a lot of photos, and a lifetime of photos can really be overwhelming to sort through.  We talked about the ABC's of Photo Organizing™ in my last blog; now we're going to talk about using themes to help the organization process along as well.

Let me explain what I mean.  If you're trying to create an album using your photos, you don't need every photo.  Nor do you want every photo!  Let's say you are making a graduation album.  Your child played soccer from kindergarten all the way through high school.  You have hundreds of photos.  Wouldn't it be more interesting to look at a couple pages of soccer through the years rather than twenty pages of soccer?

Likewise, if you've got a lifetime of photos, do you think you would enjoy the album more if you concentrated on the themes that were important in your life and focused on those, or if you had every photo you ever took in it?

Go back to the reason you took the photos in the first place! Think of the key themes in your life.  Perhaps your family liked to travel.  Maybe you were really into sports.  What about family traditions?  You can see where I am going with this!

My family loves to ski together.  My children have been skiing since they were 4 or 5 years old.  They learned to ski in Massachusetts, but now we tend to go to Vermont.  However, several times we've taken trips to other places, such as Mt. Tremblant, Winter Park, and Whistler.  This is something we enjoy together.  Our time together skiing has played an important part of who we are as a family.  This is a key theme for us.

What are the themes of your life that you most want to preserve?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Organizing Your Photos Can Be as Easy Using Your ABC's!

If you have boxes upon boxes of printed photos in closets and drawers, and digital photos scattered all over your computer, you're not alone.  Like many others, you probably find yourself somewhat overwhelmed by the task of organizing them.  This process doesn't have to be intimidating though!

Organizing your photos can be as easy as using your ABC's!  At the Association of Personal Photo Organizers, we teach a method called the ABC's of Photo Organizing™, developed by Founder Cathi Nelson, to help people work through the sorting process.    

The first step is to gather all your photos into one spot, whether on the table or on the computer.  Then you'll start making decisions on what to save and toss.  If you have digital photos all over your computer, you might want to consider using Picture Keeper to round up all of your pictures.  All you have to do is insert your Picture Keeper into any USB port on your computer, and it will automatically go and find all of the photos (rather than you having to go find them in various places on your computer yourself!).  This gives you an easy way to corral all those photos, and then you can put them back into the software of your choice to organize them.  Check out's Top Digital Photo Software Picks for Family Photos if you need help deciding which software to use.

Once you've established which software you are going to use for your digital photos, you're ready to move on to the ABC's.  

A is for Album.  Your A photos belong in an album or a photo book.  They are personal and cherished...they have stories behind them.  If you are sorting printed photos, you'll simply place them into an A pile.  If you're working with digital photos, you'll be tagging them with a flag or a rating.

B is for Box.  Not every photo needs to go into an album.  However, that doesn't mean they aren't significant to you.  Your B photos should be organized into an archival storage box.  Printing your photos is the best way to preserve them.  The printed photo is stable, and can last hundreds of years if stored properly.  They aren't susceptible to computer crashes or technical obsolescence.  When you pass away, your relatives are more likely to keep your printed photos than your digital files.  You also should consider using a photo labeling pencil to keep track of the who, what, when on the back of these photos.  

C is for the Can...whether it's a digital trash can or a physical one.  Give yourself permission to throw away the photos you don't know, the blurry ones, the duplicates, the ones with the heads cut off, and the people you no longer know.  With digital photos, I try to download my photos as soon as possible after taking pictures and delete the ones I don't need right away.  Because we take so many more pictures with digital cameras than we ever did with film, we're likely have a lot of duplicates.  If you took 50 pictures of the sunset on your Hawaiian vacation, you probably only need one or two of them.  By paring them down right away, it's a bite size chunk of work versus becoming an overwhelming task if you wait months or years.

S is for the Story.  This is the most important part.  We're a people of stories.  Throughout history we have  used storytelling to communicate and document our lives.  Your stories typically accompany your A photos, and these memories are important to you, your children and future generations.  Sometimes a poorly composed photo is actually significant because of its story.  Consider this picture of this tree from my front yard.  To you, it's just a tree.  But to me, it was our first Christmas tree with our first child. We planted it after the holidays and now its a beautiful evergreen!

Now that you've sorted your photos into the ABC's, you may be wondering what the next step is.  In my next blog, we'll talk about themes and how you can use themes to organize in a way that makes sense for a lifetime of photos.