This is a post I’ve wanted to make for a while. Back in 2006, I had a hard drive crash…and there is about a 6 month period of my life with zero pictures! Luckily it was before kids, and there wasn’t probably anything too exciting in those pictures, but ever since I’ve been determined to never let that happen again. This post is about how to make sure your precious family memories are safe, and also organized!
Before I get to making sure your photos are safe, we need to talk about how to manage your digital files. We take SO many pictures, and if we don’t have a system to organize them, we’ll never be able to make sense out of our digital mess.
I use a very simple file structure, and I organize the folders myself.
I start with a main “Image Folder.” Inside that folder, I have folders for each year. Inside each of those folders, I have a folder with a date and description. I organize my photos by individual day. The only exception to this are some multi-day trips. I’ll use the first day of the trip in the title…but I don’t need 8 separate folders for our honeymoon. A nice benefit to this setup is that you can quickly access photos from different times in your life. I can find photos of any children’s birth in seconds. More on “viewing” photos in a second.
Usually I take photos off the camera every few weeks. What I do is I open a folder view of the SD Card, and a folder view of my “Image Folder.” I look at the photos on my SD Card, then create a folder with the correct date and description, and I move the photos off the card and into the folder. Once I go through the whole card, every photo should be moved off, the card is empty, and it can be put back in the camera.
Now, even though the pictures are off the card, they need to be “edited.” Personally, I only do light editing. Photos come out of the camera now looking near perfect, so major editing isn’t usually necessary. Instead, I edit only for quality of shot. I don’t need 15 copies of the same shot, trying to get a good smile. Often times a folder with 100 pictures will shrink down to 30 once I’m done getting rid of the “bad” pictures. I don’t want multiple shots when one is clearly better. I don’t want blurry photos. I don’t want pictures of the floor. Save the best! This makes looking at the pictures much more enjoyable, and ultimately will save you a LOT of space.
So how do I do this easily? Picasa. If you don’t have it, download it. I have it set to “watch” my image folder, so as soon as I copy photos off the SD Card onto my hard drive, they instantly pop-up in Picasa, and I have the same beautifully organized folder view with pictures separated by day. I go to the newly created folders, open the first picture, and start arrowing through them. When I see a good picture, I star it with spacebar. Sometimes when I have multiple versions of the same picture, I’ll star all the good ones. Out of 15 shots trying to get the kids to smile, I might narrow it down to 5. After I star everything I want, I go back to the main view, and click the “Select Starred Photos” button. This picks all the GOOD photos. Then, hit ctrl-i to “invert” your selection. Now you have all the BAD photos selected…and hit delete. This leaves only your good photos. I usually unstar all of them, and if necessary, go back through if there were some I wasn’t sure about.
The most important thing is to do this everytime you take photos off the camera. Be consistent, and keep your digital photo collection curated and organized! You could do more editing…adjust contrast, crop, etc. I don’t usually do this, usually due to time. Most photos look great right out of the camera, and I’ll usually only heavily edit if the photos are going in a photobook or something like that.
Doing all of the above is pointless if you someday lose all of those precious photos! You could put them on an external hard drive, or burn dvd backups. The problem with that type of backup is you have to actually do it! Months usually go by without backing up, and then something crashes and you have a big whole in your photo history.
I have opted for a much easier solution: Google Drive. I pay a measly $5 a month for 100GB of extra google drive storage. I put my main Image Folder inside my Google Drive folder. The moment I move pictures from the SD Card to my computer, those files start uploading to google drive. They get backed up immediately, without any effort on my part. This is also offsite storage. If the house burns down, all my pictures will be saved. You can also use the google drive app to view all your photos on phones and tablets wherever you are.
This is a good reason to edit your photos though. You would be surprised how fast 100GB of storage will get used, especially if you’re saving thousands of junky pictures you don’t want.
Video Organizing and Backup
I have an HD camcorder, and this provides some different challenges. Originally when I got one, I thought I would be editing all my videos and making them look great. No way…I just don’t have time, and they’re usually short enough that I don’t need to edit them much. I simply organize them by year, and then by month. I don’t need specific day folders, because usually there are only 10-20 videos in any given month.
I have a Western Digital external hard drive that has two 500GB drives in it, set in a raid configuration. I copy videos onto that external drive, and it is immediately mirrored on two different hard drives, so I’m safe if one of them fails. I could use google drive, but I would need at least a $20/month plan, so it’s clearly not cost effective for big HD movies.
I bought a $50 bluray burner a few months back when my dvd drive died, and finally today I ordered some blank blurays. Ones I bought are about $0.80 each. Now I can use about 10-15 of them to backup all my videos, and take them to my Dad’s house. I now have triplicate backup, including offsite. Not as convenient or as simple as my images solution, but it will work for now.
That’s my general setup. I want to make sure these memories are preserved for year and years for my kids and grandkids to enjoy!