With the holidays on the horizon, many parents will sit down at their computers to create a beautiful holiday card to send to family and friends. Hours will be spent searching photo files in an attempt to find just the right pictures that succinctly capture — on one 5x7 inch piece of cardstock — a whole year in the life of a family. Daunting. Yet we forge ahead to get those cards printed and mailed — even when we know they may arrive late — because, let’s face it, this is probably the only time of year any of those pictures will see the light of day. Sound familiar?


Unfortunately, despite the ease of taking photos with smart phones and digital cameras, no one is enjoying their photos. Whether it’s that first dance recital, apple picking, trick-or-treating, or just a silly sibling moment, parents are just too overwhelmed by the number of digital photos they’ve accumulated on their hard drives and phones to print these pictures and enjoy them. The next time many of us will see those photos will be via a Facebook memory one year later. Though many parents have the ability to print their own photos, they simply do not. It is just too daunting a task to go back and sort through the mountains of photos scattered across multiple devices. 


  “Start where you are and go forward with a system, because when you look back it’s so overwhelming,” agrees Keri Gavin, professional photographer and mother of two. Based in Essex, Gavin photographs children and families and owns Keri Jeanne Photography(kerijeanne.com). Here are her tips for keeping digital photos organized going forward:



On Your Phone: There’s an App for That

Gavin recommends free apps like Mpix, Groovebook, and Collect, which allow you to upload, click, and print photos right from your phone. Photos are mailed directly to your doorstep — done!


Mpix (mpix.com), which Gavin describes as an affordable alternative to other photo printing Websites, is a sister company to a professional photo lab. Because of this, the quality of paper and ink are consistently of a higher standard. According to Mpix’s site, pricing starts at 19 cents per print.


 With Groovebook (groovebook.com), parents can upload 100 photos at a time to be printed in a perforated 4x6 inch format for $2.99 per book, shipping and handling included. Keep the photo book or tear photos out to share with friends and family. 


 Collect is a personal favorite of Gavin’s. Collect is a free photo-a-day app which uses a calendar interface/display with reminders. Simple to use, Gavin says parents can open the calendar, select the day, and import one photo for that day. Parents can then view their daily photos in calendar format, create video slideshows to share, and even print. For parents who find themselves uploading to Facebook simply for the sake of documenting daily photos somewhere rather than not at all, Collect is a great alternative. “It’s like an online journal,” adds Gavin, who calls this her go-to app for her phone. Visit  thelenslab.com/collect for more details.


 






On Your Computer: Folders are Key

Gavin recommends parents keep one folder on their desktop titled “To Print” as a visual reminder of the photos they want printed. To keep photos on the hard drive from getting out of hand, Gavin recommends sitting down at the computer on the same day each month to import photos from your camera. While importing camera photos, immediately drag favorites into the “To Print” folder. 


  “I am so passionate about printing,” she adds. “I really want people to print and enjoy the memories they create.”


  “Family pictures are a valuable tool for sparking conversation, drawing out memories, and sharing experiences,” agrees award-winning family photographer Amy Tripple. Together with fellow photographer Heidi Peters, the two started ShootAlong.com, a photography project exclusively for parents that offers photography and photo editing education. 


  “If your photos exist only on a hard drive, you’re missing an important step in the creation of a family legacy and story for your children,” she adds. 



Then Go Back

Now that you have a plan of action going forward, what is a parent to do with the hefty backlog of digital photos scattered across multiple cell phones, cameras, and computer folders?


  “It’s not uncommon for people to have an overwhelming backlog of digital images,” says Myndi Bogdanovich of Myndi B. Photography in Belchertown (myndib.com). “They’re unsure of how to organize them — especially when there could be hundreds or thousands of files.”


  First, parents should collect all of their digital images in one place, Tripple and Peters say. Purchasing an external hard drive to exclusively store family photos is one way to do this. Alternately, Tripple and Peters suggest using a cloud-based storage device like Dropbox, Google Photos, or Amazon Cloud. The next step is putting that plan into action.


  Fortunately, for parents tackling a large backlog, there are photo-managing programs to help make quick work of getting those images into one place. Bogdanovich, who photographs portraits, weddings and other events, relies on DIM (Digital Image Mover) by Alan Light to help keep her images organized. The program moves and sorts images from a camera or phone into folders sorted by year, month, and day they were taken, while also renaming them. The program is free to download at digitalimagemover.tumblr.com.


  Similarly, Gavin recommends parents try Mylio, which she describes as a “game changer” within the realm of photo organizing. Utilizing photo-organizing software, Mylio can quickly move photos off multiple devices while sorting photos by date/location/facial recognition.


  “It’s the best photo managing program I’ve seen yet,” says Gavin, who uses Mylio for her personal photos.


  Once photos are centrally located and organized chronologically, it’s time to pick out photos for printing. Gavin suggests starting with bite-sized pieces for printing or making albums.


  Rather than combing through a whole year’s worth of photos at once, Gavin advises parents to pick out and start with major events, like holidays and birthdays. “They’re easy to find, you know where they are, and it builds momentum,” she says. As you begin to feel more comfortable with your progress, go back and tackle three months at a time, then maybe six.


  “Tempting as it may be to want to design a beautiful, custom coffee table book or leather-bound album with your images, simplicity is the key to actually getting it done,” Tripple and Peters agree.


  They recommend parents add 12x12 photo albums with plenty of 4x6 openings to their shopping list. Once pictures are printed and delivered, simply pop them into the albums. If printed pictures begin to pile up on the kitchen counter, enlist the help of your children, Tripple says. Children love looking at pictures, especially when they’re in them! Tripple and Peters suggest keeping these simple albums on a coffee table as a constant reminder to keep building your family’s visual history. At ShootAlong.com, Tripple and Peters provide a free guide for inspiration and how-tos on how to display your printed photographs.


  As parents gain momentum and begin to plow through the backlog, they may even be inspired to spend more time creating photo books of their family’s special memories or occasions. Blurb (blurb.com) is a great option for families who want to create photo books, Gavin says. Parents can take a folder of images (from the “To Print” folder), drag it over, and Blurb will automatically create a photo book. Parents can even make books out of their Facebook pictures and add comments. Books start at $14.99.


  Likewise, Bogdanovich says parents can also use Montage (montagebooks.com) to create a beautiful photo book worthy of coffee table display. Photo books start at $24.65.


  “I used their software to upload over 200 images from a vacation and they were laid out in the book in less than 5 minutes! From there I arranged the pages how I wanted, and switched out a picture here and there. I had the entire book edited and ordered in less than 30 minutes,” she says.


  Now that you’re a photo-printing expert, you may even be inclined to dust off that scrapbooking bin (you know, the one hiding under the bed, in the closet, etc.) OK, maybe that’s taking things a little too far. However, if so inclined, Gavin advises parents to stick to one scrapbook page per child per school year.


  “I really just believe whatever you can do to print — do it! Our kids deserve their memories,” Gavin says.