Friday, July 28, 2017

One Fantastic Solution to Too Many Pictures: Yearbooks

Digital photography allows us to take a lot of photos any time.  We can get just the right shot even if it takes twenty tries.  The downside, though, of digital photography is that we often have way too many photos to even deal with.  It can be {overwhelming}.  Unfortunately, this situation is a common one, and many people don’t even know {where to start} when they think about actually preserving their photos, memories, and stories.  One of my favorite solutions to this problem is a Yearbook (sometimes called a Family Yearbook).

I'm excited to share this with you today because it's not just an idea or a suggestion.  This is a solution!  This can actually help you preserve and see your pictures if you haven't done so for a while because you have too many.  So what's a yearbook?

Simply stated, a yearbook is one year’s worth of photos preserved in one book.  This method is one I recommend often, especially to people who just have a lot of photos and don’t know where to start.  I love this method because:
  • It makes logical sense.  You know where to start and where to end:  January 1-December 31.  Everything from that year will go in one place.
  • Because it’s chronological, it’s easy to break down a mountain full of 400 pictures into sections (organized by month).  From there, it’s easier to decide what’s worth preserving and {what’s extra}.
  • You only have to work with part of your pictures at a time.  Instead of staring down 8 years’ worth of photos, you’re only dealing with ONE.
Keep reading to find two plans to create your yearbook.  One gets you a yearbook every six months, and the other is in just 8 weeks!  

Yearbooks can be created physically (with paper or albums) or digitally.  The most important aspects of a family yearbook are high quality and journaling (write the memories that go with the photos).  I prefer high quality digital family yearbooks because, among {many other reasons}, it’s easy to get multiple copies.

Having a lot of photos that you know need to be preserved can be overwhelming.  It can really be a daunting task sometimes.  Yearbooks really break things down into doable parts.  Start with some of the basic tools you’ve seen here on #familyhistoryfriday posts to organize your photos, or explore the tabs at the top of this page (under the header) and then start creating your own family yearbooks, one year at a time.

Or, to make it really easy, just watch this video I've made about yearbooks.  It's not just the yearbook itself that makes this a fantastic solution to too many pictures--it's the whole method involved.  And I walk through the whole thing step by step here:
 (Just skip the technical difficulties I had from 27:11 to 34:05)

If you're worried that starting to preserve your photos from one year won't help you make progress in the end since you're still taking more pictures, don't!  I've got you covered!  Here are the two approaches I mentioned earlier:

One of the best tips I’ve ever heard for catching up on your photos is to have a {2-in-1 plan} (Scroll down to the 8-week plan for helpful links as you create your pages.)

Here's how it works.  If you spend this year preserving the photos from, say, 2012, then you still haven’t preserved the photos from this year.  So if you can take out two years in one, you’re getting ahead and you’ll catch up!  Preserving one years’ worth of photos in six months is the perfect 2-in-1 plan, and it works like this:
  1. FIRST MONTH:  Preserve photos and memories from January and February from your chosen (past) year.
  2. SECOND MONTH:  Preserve photos and memories from March and April from your chosen year.
  3. THIRD MONTH:  Preserve photos and memories from May and June from your chosen year.
  4. FOURTH MONTH:  Preserve photos and memories from July and August from your chosen year.
  5. FIFTH MONTH:  Preserve photos and memories from September and October from your chosen year.
  6. SIXTH MONTH:  Preserve photos and memories from November and December from your chosen year.
  7. SEVENTH MONTH:  Preserve photos and memories from January and February from the current year!
  8. EIGHTH MONTH:  Preserve photos and memories from March and April from the current year.
  9. NINTH MONTH:  Preserve photos and memories from May and June from the current year.
  10. TENTH MONTH:  Preserve photos and memories from July and August from the current year.  
  11. ELEVENTH MONTH:  Preserve photos and memories from September and October from the current year.
  12. TWELFTH MONTH:  Preserve photos and memories from November and December from the current year.

Don't you love how that can help you actually get caught up preserving pictures?

Or, try my Yearbook Boot Camp method!

This approach is a faster one than the Two-in-One Plan, so you have to dedicate more time to it each week, but a lot of people love it because it gives you a yearbook quickly!  That the momentum can propel you forward sooner, so you're ready to create more yearbooks.  It helps you catch up in no time.  You'll need to set aside 1-3 hours (approximately) each week to follow the plan outlined below.  This gives you a yearbook in just 8 weeks!

Here's how the Yearbook Boot Camp Method works:

WEEK 1: 
  1. Choose the year's worth of photos you want to preserve (2018, 2012, etc.)  
  2. Organize the photos from that year on your computer.  I made this video to help.
  3. Open your Heritage Makers account if you don't already have one, and learn about pricing/savings options.  I made this video to help.
  4. Upload the photos from your chosen year into your Heritage Makers account.  I made this video to help.  And this article explains photo security and privacy in your Heritage Makers account.
  1. Choose the book size you'd like to create.  12x12 and 11.5x8.5 are best for yearbooks because they showcase many photos well.  If you need help deciding, go to and click "products" at the upper right.  You can find product sizes and specifications under "storybooks."  Please note that the prices listed under "products" are for books with 21 pages.  Yearbooks have 26 pages (2 per month plus the title page), so your book will be a few dollars more.  You can also add pages if you like, which would also increase the cost some.
  2. Learn about The Yearbook Method in 2 minutes.  Watch this video from minute 15 - minute 17.
  3. Choose your favorite yearbook template.  At the website in #1, click "template gallery" at the upper right.  Type in "yearbook" in the search field to find lots of options.  If you chose not to have a Preferred Customer account last week, you'll want to select the "Basic" templates at the left so that you don't have to weed through all the "Premier" ones.  Remember that all Heritage Makers templates are 100% customizable, so you don't have to look for The Perfect Template, just one that is mostly like you want--they you can customize from there.
  4. Learn how to use a Heritage Makers template.  I made this video to show you a few tips and tricks and fancy stuff when using templates.
  1. Now you're ready to go!  This week, complete the front and back cover, the title page, and the two January pages.  If you're new to Heritage Makers, be sure to check out the Studio 101 tutorial video I made to walk you through everything.  I show you what all the buttons do, and you'll find some fun possibilities like putting a drop shadow behind an element or picture and much more.
  1. Complete the two February pages in your yearbook, the two March pages, and the two April pages (or more if you've decided to add more).
  1. Complete the two May pages and the two June pages in your yearbook (or more if you've added more pages for either of these months).
  1. Complete the two July pages and the two August pages (or more if you add more).
  1. This week, complete the two September and the two October pages in your yearbook (or more pages in those months if needed).
  1. Complete the November and the December pages in your yearbook!  YAY!
  2. Preview your book so you make sure it's exactly how you want it.  I do offer to proofread/double-check your first Heritage Makers project for free, if you like.  Here's my contact information.
  3. Order your completed yearbook!  I made this tutorial video about closing out your project and placing an order.  Books take 7-10 business days to be printed and shipped to you.  (A few other Heritage Makers products that are printed by our specialty printer take 2-3 weeks.)

The Yearbook Boot Camp Method has helped many people get caught up on their photos and memories!  And yearbooks are a perfect way to simplify those thousands of photos you have.

Before I go, I have to show you my favorite yearbooks.  A few examples are shown in the video, too.  I especially want to tell you why I love them!

My Favorite {Family Yearbooks} are from Heritage Makers because there are so many templates available.  They are available in 12×12, 11.5×8.5, and 8×8.  You can see some page-by-page examples {at this link} and {at this one}.  Each Yearbook template has a two-page spread for each month.  So, there are two pages for January, two pages for February, and so on.  I think this makes organizing photos –and, therefore, publishing them– so easy!  If you are creating a 2015 Yearbook, for example, and you come across a photo from Halloween, you already know what page it goes on!  No thinking required.

Other reasons Heritage Makers Family Yearbooks are my hands-down #1 recommendation for people with lots of photos to catch up on are:
  • The templates are completely editable.  If you need to use 3 pictures but there’s only space for 2, you can change things around.  If you don’t like quite so many flowers on your pages, take them off.  You really get exactly what you want.  That is personally very important to me.
  • Heirloom Assurance means that the digital version of your project is saved in your (active) account indefinitely and that if something happens to your book (dog chews it, house burns down), you can replace it for half price.  I love that it’s basically insurance not just for my digital photos but for my actual books!
  • Quality is a big deal to me.  If I’m going to spend time on something, not to mention spending money on it, I don’t want it to fall apart next year.  Especially when we’re talking about precious photos and memories!  I always recommend Heritage Makers because the books have a library binding and are bound with a metal stitching (not glue).  The word “heritage” is in the name of the company for a reason.
If you want to make your own Yearbooks, use {this website} or just follow the directions in the video.  {This link} is designed to help you get going. 

Creating Family Yearbooks is the best way I know of to preserve your photos when you have a lot of photos to preserve!  It can be a really neat and meaningful family time if you create your family yearbooks together, or it can be a fun surprise gift from you on your child’s birthday.  

Family Yearbooks provide all the {benefits of memory-keeping} that we need so much, and the connections they create help children and parents alike.

Share this post on social media or with someone you know who could use some help with too many pictures.
This post was originally published at on July 28, 2017, by Jennifer Wise.  More #familyhistoryfriday posts can be found by clicking the hashtag link next to Labels below.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

make your own tri-fold brochures ~ business or personal

We've been having a lot of fun with these Tri-Fold Brochures lately! 

These are nice thick paper--thick enough to fold up and tape shut and put a stamp on and mail!--and both sides are completely customizable. I love how much information I can fit on them!

I normally use these to send as thank-yous to clients, but I've actually used them for Christmas cards as well.

They would also be great for showing your favorite products--like making your own mini catalog of sorts! Tri-Fold Brochures are also perfect for price lists and packages you offer. They come in a pack of 20 for around $15-$16.

Like all Heritage Makers products, there is no limit to amount or placement of text, photos, or digital art (thousands of pieces included!!)

If this looks like just product you had in mind, {get started creating right here}.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Helps for Dating Nineteenth Century Photos

Are you lucky enough to have really old family photos floating around?  These treasures of your family story, or family history, are priceless.  If they aren’t already dated, there are a few clues and tips you can use to approximate a date.  Dating photos can sometimes even help you figure out who is in the photo.  So if you have a gem or two but don’t have dates, here are some helps on dating nineteenth century photos– and preserving them, too.

Did you know that knowing the photograph type can help you date it?

The photography process was perfected and made commercially available around 1837.  During the first 50 or 60 years of photography, photos looked very different– very different from each other, and definitely very different than they look today.  Identifying the TYPE of photograph you have can give you an excellent clue into the date it was taken, which in turn can give you other clues and information about the photo.  You can find more detailed information at {PhotoTree}, but I’ll outline the basics here to help you identify 19th century family photos.  (photo cred: my father-in-law, from his own family history!)

The earliest photos were daguerrotypes.  Images were printed on mirror-polished, silver-plated copper.  The image was sharp and shiny and appeared to be floating.  It was only viewable at an angle, a little bit like a negative.  
Daguerrotypes are always encased as there are many layers– including a mat and glass –to create this type of photo, which is essentially a mirror with an image on it.  The average size for a daguerrotype was 2 5/8″ x 3 1/4″.  Daguerrotypes first appeared in 1839 and were most popular between 1842-1856.  By about 1860, they were no longer in use.

Ambrotypes were a great improvement over daguerrotypes because they didn’t have to be viewed at an angle, and they didn’t tarnish, either.  The images were simply easier to see.  
Ambrotypes were sharp images on silvered glass and appeared to have a kind of depth to them, but they could be easily smudged by touching or cleaning.  Like a daguerrotype, the average size for an ambrotype was 2 5/8″ x 3 1/4″.  The shortest-lived type of photograph, ambrotypes first appeared in 1854 and were most popular between 1855-1861.  By about 1865, they were no longer in use.

If you’ve got an old family photo that you can attach a magnet to, you’ve got a tintype.  With a tintype, images were made on a blackened iron plate– a thin sheet of iron.  Some tintypes were encased in paper sleeves, but many of those sleeves have not survived time.  
Tintypes were a very popular type of photograph because the price of photographs was dropping and people could afford to have more photos taken.  Many Civil War era photos are tintypes.   Tintypes (which aren’t actually tin) first appeared in 1856 and were most popular between 1860-1870.  Around 1870, tintypes were also available in “chocolate,” a distinctive brown hue.  Although they fell out of general popularity by about 1878, tintypes were still produced well past 1900 because they were used as novelty items at fairs, carnivals, and beach resorts.

Carte de visites or CDVs were the first type of photos to be developed from a negative.  Images were first printed on thin paper and then attached to a stiff card stock paper.  The carte de visite changed photography!  Prices were still coming down, so photography was more accessible, but in addition, CDVs were the first opportunity people had to order multiple copies of one photo.  
Prior to the carte de visite, one image could be printed once– on a mirror, on glass, or on iron.  With the creation of a negative, it was now possible to get multiple copies to share.  Carte de visites ushered in the family photo album, too!  Thinner pictures and more of them meant you could collect pictures of family members.

If you’re trying to identify this type of photo, look for a border around the edges and studio background and props.  Most CDVs are a sepia tone.   Carte de visites first appeared in 1859 and were most popular between 1860-1880.  By the 1890s, they were not used as much.

The cabinet card enjoyed as much longevity as the carte de visite, but cabinet cards are distinguishable by their bigger size and by artwork and print right on the card.  The print is often the name of the photographer or the location, which can help in dating the photo.  By the 1880s, the quality of cameras and papers for printing had improved, and many cabinet cards of the 1880s and 1890s look like artwork.  Some even have scalloped edges.  
Cabinet cards first appeared in 1866 and were most popular between 1874-1900.  Their popularity waned in the early 1900s.

Once you learn the type of photo you’re looking at, you can narrow down or approximate a date. 

Now that you know how to date 19th century photos, let's talk about how to preserve them!

 Making a digital version of treasures like this is a great way to preserve it for the future.  Scanning is the most common method of preserving a photo because it creates the sharpest and clearest image, but taking a picture of your old photo is another option.  

For a 4×6 size photo, scanning at 300 dpi is common, but if you want to enlarge the photo, or if the original is smaller than 4×6, scanning at 600 dpi (or even 1200 dpi) is recommended.  Scanners are readily available these days as part of an all-in-one printer, but if you don’t have a scanner, your local photo processing store (Walgreens, Target, Walmart, etc.) often has scanners available to use right there at the store.

Once your old photos are scanned, use them– share them.  Having a digital copy is good, but having a hard copy that you can see and enjoy is so much better!  Telling a family history or family story in a {storybook} like I’ve done here is a great way to share, and knowing family stories has {so many rewards}Family stories help us know we belong.  Knowing how our ancestors overcame their own hard times gives us courage and strength to overcome our own.

I love this "My Heritage" book I made a while back.  It was actually one of the first {Heritage Makers} books I ever made back in 2005.  My uncle is a photographer, and since my grandma died he has become the family historian in charge of photos.  He scanned these wonderful photos of my ancestors and I preserved them for myself in this book along with a little paragraph about each one.  What I love about that is that I will never OWN these photos, but because of scanning and digital sharing, I can have them still.  I also love that housing them in a storybook means that my kids can touch them!  If I had those original 150-year-old pictures, I wouldn't let them be touched!  This is a user-friendly, kid-friendly way to see the faces of my family, including people I've never met!

Storybooks aren’t the only way to share the old family photos you’ve preserved.  One of my personal favorites is this {family tree canvas}.  It helps put names with faces in a simple and beautiful way.

template 123273 at
Remember that once you've dated and digitized (scanned) these precious family photos, it's most important to now be able to SEE them! Whatever your method, be sure to display, preserve, and share these family treasures in a high-quality, meaningful way.  

Save this post by Pinning, Tweeting, sharing on Facebook, Favoriting, or e-mailing!

This post was first published on July 21, 2017, at by Jennifer Wise.  
More #familyhistoryfriday posts can be found by clicking the hashtag next to Labels below.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How to Catch Up on Preserving Photos: the two-in-one plan

Back when we only took two rolls of 36 pictures each year, catching up on preserving them wasn't even a thing.  These days, though, we can take 36 pictures in a day.  And if they sit as jpeg files for weeks and months at a time...  Well.  You do the math.

If you do {make time} for memory-keeping and you get all the photos from 2010 preserved, that's fantastic and worth celebrating!  But while you were preserving those photos, you probably took just as many more.

So how on earth do we CATCH UP?  How do we make progress instead of just holding steady?

The answer?  THE TWO-IN-ONE PLAN!

First, choose one year's worth of photos to focus on.  If that alone is overwhelming, you probably want to sort your photos.  You may have EXTRA photos that are weighing you down, or you just may need to choose your favorites.  I wrote some tips and helps {at this article} for you if you need them.  Be realistic about how much time you have to preserve your photos and then plan accordingly.  If you can set aside 1 hour a week or 4 hours a month, then preserving 100 photos a week might not be the right move for you--you may need to choose your favorite 10.

Second, dedicate some time to preserving your photos and memories.  This is a really important step.  It's not just going to happen, even if you wish it would.  (To quote Dr. Phil, "How's that been workin' out for ya?")  If you need some help making time, click the "need TIME?" tab in red above.  There are some great articles and suggestions there for setting aside time for preserving your photos.

Third, follow the Two-in-One Plan.  It's pretty simple.  Once you've chosen which year's photos you are going to preserve first, and set aside enough time each week or month to do it, follow this plan:
  • month 1:  Preserve photos and memories from January and February.
  • month 2:  Preserve photos and memories from March and April.
  • month 3:  Preserve photos and memories from May and June.
  • month 4:  Preserve photos and memories from July and August.
  • month 5:  Preserve photos and memories from September and October.
  • month 6:  Preserve photos and memories from November and December.
  • repeat
See how that's two-in-one?  If you do the Two-in-One Plan for six months and then repeat with another year's worth of photos, you've preserved TWO YEARS' worth of photos in one year!  That's PROGRESS, my friend!

And that's the goal.

Find some great memory-keeping methods at the "3 Memory-Keeping Options" tab in red above.  There are some simple solutions that will make actually DOING the Two-in-One plan not just doable, but fun and even {addicting}!  It's pretty easy to be a successful memory-keeper when you have a system that keeps you coming back for more!  :)

Heard someone complain recently about being behind on preserving their photos?  Share this Two-in-One Plan with her/him, or on social media using the tabs below.  I love sharing doable solutions for memory-keeping with one more person every day.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Negatives, Old Photos, and Boxes, Oh My!

If that box of photos you have includes some old family photos, you may run into challenges identifying who is in those precious old photos.  One of my grandmothers consistently wrote on the back of photos–names, dates, places–so that they are easily identified every time.  Not all of us are so lucky!  So if it falls to YOU to be the identifier of the names, dates, and places, here are some helps.

Identifying who is in an old photo can have its challenges, but learning a few tools can help.  There are several great online resources to guide you as you try to identify old family photos.  I’ve listed three here for you, and each one has a link with much more information than the simple overview I’m listing here, so be sure to click around.

Maureen Taylor, {The Photo Detective}, has a lot of tips and resources, including:

·         how to date old family photographs, with hints on 19th century hairstyles and fashions
·         how to identify family photos
·         how to identify Civil War photos
{AncestralFindings} has some thorough information and steps about:
·         how to date old photographs
·         how to identify people in them
Here are 5 steps from {ThoughtCo} for help identifying people in old family photographs:
  1. identify the type of photograph
  2. identify the photographer
  3. look for clues in scenes and settings
  4. look for clues in hairstyles and clothing
  5. use your current knowledge as a resource

They’re Identified.  Now What?

First, write.  After identifying who is in the photo, write it down.  Your notations will be helpful to you as you look at the photo again in the future, but it obviously also helps other people who wouldn’t otherwise know who is in the picture.  When you write, include any necessary details, such as where you got your information or how you identified the person.  If you are guessing, be sure you write that as well.  If you use clues to guess at a date (such as hairstyles and clothing as mentioned earlier), give a date range and acknowledge your guess by writing something like “probably 1920s” or “around 1850-1860.”

Second, preserve.  It’s important to get this treasure out of the box where you found it.  It can’t stay there.  Although printed photos can last upwards of 200 years, the condition in which the photo is preserved strongly contributes to its longevity.  Photos should be protected from light and dust and heat using acid-free, lignin-free products.  (If you don’t know what that means, that’s okay.  Most products you can buy these days for preserving photos are that way.  If you’re using photo albums from the 70s or 80s, though…  Don’t.  Acids in the pages will eat up the photo!)

When you place your photo in an album, scrapbook, or {digital storybook} like the one shown aboveyou are not just preserving it, but you are creating a place where you can tell its story.  Writing on the back of photos like my grandmother did is a start (although, honestly, sometimes the pen made indentations on the front, and sometimes using the wrong kind of pen rubbed off onto other photos), but there’s a better way.  A photo needs a protective home where details can be preserved, too.  Whether you scan your photos and preserve them digitally as shown here, or you simply put your photos in a high-quality store-bought album, you’re prolonging their life!  You’re making them available to future generations, and you’re better able to enjoy them yourself right now.

A word about negatives and slides.

Like their digital file (jpeg) counterpart today, negatives are a {backup of the real thing}:  a photo.  Negatives and slides are a more recent development in photography, so you may not have as much trouble identifying people in them.  It will probably be easier for you to ask other family members for help in identifying people in slides and negatives because those lifetimes probably overlapped.  People still living will likely know who is in negatives and slides.

If you find yourself in possession of negatives, the first thing to do is figure out if these are photos you already have or not.  Hold them up to the light and see if they look familiar.  Next, decide if these are photos you want to have or not.  Print as needed.  Many photo developing places continue to print photos from negatives.  There is also an option to get a digital version of the photos on CD with the same order.  You can even just order a CD from the negatives if you prefer.  Once you’ve printed and preserved the photos from the negatives, store them like you would any other backup:  in a safe place away from the elements.
The more you can learn about the person in the photo, the more valuable it becomes.  Identifying a photo as “Barbara Smith, about 1890” makes a world of difference!  Putting the name with the face and connecting her to your family is an exciting, meaningful, important thing.  But finding out even more makes that person REAL.  Using websites like {} or {} might give you additional information, but it also might connect you with a distant cousin who may have more information than you do.

The work of identifying a family member in a photo and learning more about them is one of the most rewarding parts of family history, or just being a family.
"My ancestors not only passed down their physical traits to me and their other descendants but also their beliefs, hopes, dreams, and fears.  As I reflected on the human family, I realized we are all connected, all one family." -Valerie Atkisson
So find your connections.  Learn, write, and preserve.

Heirloom-quality books shown here were {created and self-published here}.  Steps to get started are {right here}.

Pin to save and share, or use the social media buttons on the left.
This post was originally published at on July 14, 2017, by Jennifer Wise.
More #familyhistoryfriday posts can be found by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

making time for memory-keeping

I've posted several ways to {make more time} for memory-keeping, but if you're serious about it, here's a great way to make your goal into reality.

I host an online Digi-Crop four times a year.  (My next one is on Thursday!)  We "meet" at a Facebook event and work individually from our own computers at home to make progress on our memory-keeping (or other Heritage Makers projects).  You can certainly work on paper scrapbooking, too, if that's your preference.  We post screen shots of what we're working on and celebrate our progress.  And you can join from anywhere in the country!

It's really just a gift of TIME.  If you struggle to find time, you'll need to make it!  These are great opportunities to work on your memory-keeping goals and make some progress because these events GO ON YOUR CALENDAR!  That can be very helpful in making your goals into reality.

These events happen in my Heritage Makers Facebook group, which you can join by clicking here:

Definitely invite friends!  I'm passionate about helping people {turn files into real photos} and really make a difference since memory-keeping {creates connections within families}, {builds self-esteem in kids}, and even {lowers stress}.  

The four Digi-Crops are seasonal--there's a Spring one around May, a Summer one around July, a Fall one around September, and a Winter one around February.  Joining the Facebook group will get you automatic invitations.

Here's how Digi-Crops work:

Before your first Digi-Crop, you'll want to follow the instructions in the "how to get started" tab at the upper right here on this blog.  Unless you already have a memory-keeping system you like and use, you'll want to create your Heritage Makers account, upload your photos into your account, and be ready to create at the Digi-Crop.  There are tutorial videos at that link as well, but you'll be able to ask questions and brainstorm at the Digi-Crop, too.

Hope to see you there!  Let's change lives one photo at a time.

Friday, July 7, 2017

When Photo Overload Becomes Photo Overwhelm

Photographs.  Negatives.  Slides.  Digital Files.  Duplicates.  Some you’ve taken.  Some from Grandma’s boxes.  Some from… well, we’re not sure.  In the 1800s, photos were unique.  Even in the 1980s when photos were not unusual any more, they were manageable.  In the past couple of decades, though, the phrase “photo overload” has been rightly coined!  Many people now find themselves overloaded with photos in many forms and from many sources.  So what do you do when Photo Overload becomes Photo Overwhelm?

The goal is to stand on top of your mountain of photos, not be crushed under it.  

Here are four helps to get you out from under your mountain– and help you actually get to the top so you can plant a flag there:

  1. Find out what you have.  Organize chronologically by year and month.  (You can find several {organizational tips at this link}.)  Until things are sorted and organized, you won’t even know what you’re dealing with.  You need to know what you want to preserve and what is extra.
  2. Differentiate between the backup and the real thing.  What you’re going for is PHOTOS, hard copies that can be seen and interacted with and preserved with details and memories and stories.  Slides and negatives and digital files are not photos.  Not yet, anyway.  You probably remember this truth from the {“Why it’s Important to Print Your Photos”} post a few weeks ago:   Backups are to be STORED.  Photos are to be SEEN. 
  3. Preserve the photos and store the backups.  The great news is that once backups are safely stored, you don’t really have to think about them again!  Whether you are storing negatives or flash drives or photos in the cloud, they are there “just in case.”  Focus on the photos!  From those backup versions of your photos, take the things you and your family need to see again and again, the things that will bring back happy memories, the things that will strengthen relationships and bonds.  Print those.  Tell your {family stories}.  Share them, too!  There are lots of {creative ways to preserve and share pictures and family stories}!  Quite a few suggestions and solutions for the “preserve the photos” part of this step are right here on #familyhistoryfriday posts, so click around.
  4. Don’t be afraid to part with something.  If you have 12 photos of your grandfather, you need all those photos.  If you have 120 photos of your child’s field trip, you’re going to have to be okay with not printing them all if you want to stand on top of your mountain.  Decide which ones stay in digital form and stored (or deleted, if you’re a person who can do that) and which ones get preserved in albums, scrapbooks, or {digital memory and photo books}.  You don’t need to keep blurry photos or photos in which the subject’s eyes are closed unless they are the only ones you have.  Parting with photos that aren’t your favorites anyway is just fine–  I promise!
Each photo you have, whether digital or printed, needs two things:  1- a hard copy preserved with written details and story, and 2- a backup stored.  Beyond this (such as duplicate copies or blurry photos), we will call EXTRA.

To get on top of your mountain, you really need to start with deciding what exactly is EXTRA.  Start by sorting.  Find duplicates from 35mm film days, find less-than-fantastic pictures (blurry or dark, for example).  Do this with digital photos, too.  Find which of the 300 pictures you took at the beach are your very favorites.

Ask yourself what benefit each of those EXTRA photos has to you or would have to someone else.  You will need to decide the benefit and value of each photo based on your own criteria.  Photos in which someone’s eyes are closed, for example, can be valuable if there isn’t another photo from that time period or if it’s one of the few photos you have of that person.  Otherwise, maybe not.
EXTRA photos from the 35mm days might mean duplicates.  EXTRA photos from digital days might mean 200 photos from one event that could be condensed into 30 or 50.  Or even 5 or 100.  For now, just keep these photos as EXTRA.  Label them.  But sort them away from the most important photos.  This is just streamlining– a simple reduction in the amount of photos you have to deal with.  Set aside the EXTRA.

A little about scanned photos:

If you are digitizing (scanning) photos, you’re creating for yourself a second copy (or version) of that photo.  If photos are in bad shape, {scanning} creates a digital backup from which you can get a new hard copy.  Just remember that scanning photos to preserve them digitally isn’t the only goal.  First and foremost, be sure you are focused on a having hard copy of some kind.  That’s the real goal because being able to SEE photos is what makes them important.  Preserve photos in an album or book and then store the other (digital) version.

Keep in mind that because technology changes so quickly, experts recommend that you store your photos {digitally in two ways}, not just one.  That means storing them on a CD, flash drive, external hard drive, or in the cloud is great, but you never know when technology will be outdated, files will become unreadable, or an online photo storage company will go out of business.  So two methods of digital storage is safest.

You may end up with additional EXTRA photos when you have them scanned.
Here are some suggestions on what to do with those Extra photos.

Once you’ve discovered the EXTRA photos, whether digital or physical, and have set them aside, focus first on preserving hard copies in a book, and next on storing digital (or negative) versions as backup.  Now you’ll be sure that your extra photos are really extras!
  • For truly worthless photos, throw them away–right now.  I’m talking about those accidental ones of somebody’s finger or the ground.  Get rid of photos like that ASAP.  They’re just in your way.  These is the fast track to getting on top of your mountain of photos.
  • You may have some special photos that you don’t really need any more since they’ve been scanned or otherwise preserved but you don’t really want to throw them away, either.  An example of a photo in this category would be an original photo of Grandma & Grandpa on their wedding day.  Once you’ve scanned it, printed it to preserve in an album or {family storybook}, and preserved it digitally, that original has become EXTRA– but you don’t want to throw it away!  I highly recommend passing photos like this on to someone else— a sibling, a child, a cousin.  Let them enjoy and appreciate this heirloom and bit of family history like you have, especially now that you don’t have to worry so much about something happening to it. 
  • If you don’t want to throw away photos, that’s fine.  Just know that you’re going to need to find a way to store them.  If that means bins of physical photos, or if you want to store a terabyte of digital photos, that is perfectly fine.  But just don’t forget that storing isn’t seeing.  Make sure you’ve chosen your favorites to print, see, and love.
If you have a lot of digital photos that you’ve taken yourself, sorting them and finding EXTRAS is absolutely vital to you being able to get on top of your mountain!

Let me give you a little perspective.

I talk to a lot of people about their photos these days, and I find it interesting how many of them don’t ever even SEE their photos because they have too many to do anything with.  Many are just left in digital form on a computer or in the cloud and not ever looked at again.  Yet in the same breath they tell me they can’t possibly part with any of their 5,000 photos, so paring down is not an option.
I’m very sentimental, so I understand the difficulty of parting with a photo, but realistically, they have to make their choice:  either they keep every photo and stay under their mountain of photos and likely never see any of those photos they took because they’re so overwhelmed, or they have to pick and choose their favorites to print.  Think about it:  if they’re never going to see any of those great images, it doesn’t make that much sense that they’re so protective of them.   They’re kind of thrown away already.

So be brave.  Sort.  Find the extras.  Removing them is like taking rocks off your mountain and lowering its elevation.  And by all means, focus on your favorite photos!  

Remember that the goal is to SEE them, not just to store them.  Choose {a high-quality way to preserve them} so you can see and enjoy them for years and years to come.  Here are some steps to {get started}.

Know someone else who is suffering from Photo Overwhelm?  Share this post on social media.
This post was first published on July 7, 2017, at by Jennifer Wise.  You can find more #familyhistoryfriday posts in this series by clicking the hashtag next to Labels below.