Today's children are the most photographed in the history of mankind. Yet always having a camera within reach is creating a major headache for well-meaning parents: How do I stay on top of all the photos and videos?
Massachusetts parents Eric and Jennifer Niloff have launched a new nationwide service to help families find, organize, and enjoy that massive mountain of data, and turn it into the family memories they were always meant to be.
The Niloffs' company, EverPresent , was founded in 2012, offering media conversion services: taking old photos, slides, videos, negatives, and film reels and digitizing them to ensure they could be enjoyed by generations to come.
"My wife and I were visiting my grandfather in Florida and came across that magic closet full of World War II photos," Eric Niloff says. "Fast forward four years and kid #1 later, and we had started this company."
EverPresent's new digital organizing service, Fresh Start, began after clients had secured their past media, and wanted help with the ever-expanding present. After the Niloffs had their second child and their own photo library began to balloon, they understood the challenge first-hand.
"We knew about the digital problem," he said. "The ease of creating new photos and videos is far exceeding people's ability to deal with them and have fun with them."
The problem is threefold: 1. Thanks to technology, people are taking far more photos and videos than ever before. 2. Photos and videos are often scattered across several devices -- smartphones, digital cameras and memory cards, cloud backup services, USB sticks, external hard drives, email, online photo printing/gift sites, and more. Multiply this by two if both parents are shutterbugs. 3. There is so much to manage, most parents don't have the time, energy, or expertise to stay on top of it. Therefore, a family's photo library keeps steadily growing in multiple locations unchecked, unmerged, and unmanaged.
"It's so rare that we have a client who hasn't tried really hard in this area," Niloff says. "It's not people being lazy about their photos, it's that people come to us with a decade's worth of good intentions gone wrong. [For] even the most motivated or tech-savvy of people, if you have 100,000 photos and videos in your library and you're taking 10,000 a year, no amount of motivation's going to make that not take 20 hours to get through.
"[Photo organization is] not something that lends itself to making a lot of progress in 10-minute increments," he continued. "It's a big block of time kind of thing."
And with busy parents, big blocks of time are hard to come by, pushing photo library management far down the priority list until they need to find an image they know they have -- but can't locate.
"Whatever number of years since they had their first kid, that's how long they've been trying to tackle this," Niloff says of clients.
The Fresh Start program pairs a family with one of EverPresent's Personal Digital Organizers, who helps clients inventory all their devices to ensure all photos and videos are found and accounted for. A client's library is then backed up, copied, and transferred to EverPresent, where every image is consolidated and organized into chronological folders. And, perhaps more importantly, the library is de-duplicated -- multiple copies of the same image are deleted, saving gigabytes of storage space. Organizers then reinstall the new library and provide training on how to maintain it.
"We quickly realized people needed a fresh start, which is what we named the service," he says. "Before we could even get to the truly fun stuff, making archives searchable and helping people edit their videos and making amazing books about their kids, you had to have sanity and security. There's not an open and honest dialogue right now about how hard a time parents are having keeping up with this very challenging topic. Everything you read is how wonderful the latest new app for your phone is. You almost never read anything about, 'I'm taking 10,000 photos and videos a year and I'm supposed to be making books for everybody for Christmas, and I'm supposed to be carrying everything online, and I am raising three kids and have a career, and there's not enough time because it's too easy to take too many pictures.' I think people think they're alone, they're the only ones."
However, Niloff says this is a very common problem.
"The average person comes to us with about 60,000 [photos and videos], of which somewhere between a third and a half are duplicated," he says.
So far, the largest collection of images the company has seen is 400,000. "That client had so much duplication, the actual number of unique photos was 60,000 to 70,000," he added, a library size he classified as "large, but not abnormal."
The largest number of unique photos EverPresent has set out to organize is 225,000. "We have seen all kinds of huge libraries," Niloff says. "It's amazing."
Niloff says many families come to the company overwhelmed, which is how client Alicia Piedalue, a mother of three from Charlestown, described her former photo life.
"It was a mess," she laughs. "I still had hope that I would be able to go organize them and make the baby books I should make, until I had the second child," she says. "I had been putting it off for years, and now there were two and I had no idea what to do. Then I had a third child."
Piedalue learned about EverPresent on a moms' online forum and began the Fresh Start service when her youngest was 6 months old.
"I had 13,000 photos. The more kids I had, the rate of accumulation just increased," she says.
Her photos were scattered across her phone and digital camera, her husband's phone, and wherever she had stashed photos that were sent to her from friends or family. Making matters worse was the fact the family switched computers between her first and last child, which corrupted the images' timestamp data, mis-organizing them. For example, photos of her newborn were sitting in folders containing pictures before the couple had any children, making it difficult to locate the ones she wanted and knew existed.
"I was very overwhelmed and I didn't even know where to begin," she remembers. "The few times I did try to [organize photos] myself I would just get distracted by all the cute pictures. Or I would have this horrible feeling, I know there's another picture of this age group. Where's this one? I could remember it and I couldn't find it. That kept happening."
Piedalue signed on for Fresh Start and "within 10 minutes I realized, This was a dream service," she says.
Her photos were located and organized correctly, timestamp image repaired, and the entire library was de-duplicated and streamlined.
"I think that's one of the reasons people like me don't even start," she adds. "Who wants to start with that? You're not sure where to start. Knowing photos weren't lost and someone could get them in order was just so comforting. You don't want to lose that forever."
Starting at $449, Fresh Start is an investment, for sure. But for Piedalue, it was an expense worth the price.
"I thought, This has to be done at some point," she says. "And for me to do it it would easily carry that same price tag in some other way, maybe getting a babysitter to watch my kids for two full weeks while I dedicate myself to the project. I didn't think I had the expertise to make sure I was getting it right. I knew I'd have to hire that out. It wasn't an option to not have the photos in order. In some ways, it's like not even having the photos."
Piedalue say she now can find any photos she's looking for when she needs them, empowering her when it comes to her family's priceless cache of digital memories.
"Man, it is so useful," she sighs. "I'm not overwhelmed anymore."