Don’t Forget to Name Your Digital Photos

Let’s talk about metadata, a word that may stir a sense of uncertainty and fear in you if you’ve never heard it before or if technology isn’t your strongest suit. Metadata refers to the properties of an image — things like file size, format, the date the photo was taken and the name automatically given to the photo, such as IMG_9876 or JPG-2839. Although metadata is an incredibly valuable component in today’s information age, leaving our photos with these unidentifiable names leaves many of us drowning in a sea of thousands of photos with no way to locate specific memories. Let’s take a look at one piece of metadata: the file name.

 

Why name your photos. Twenty years ago, you or your parents may have picked up photos from a local photo lab and simply written the basics on the back of the prints: the date, location, who is in the photo and what’s going on.

Today, we don’t give our photos this type of attention. Instead, we may think about doing something with them only when our phones run out of memory and prompt us to make more room by exporting the photos to other storage devices. Years of this saving go by, and then we find ourselves in the unforgiving sea of unnamed images.

Using metadata and a consistent file renaming pattern increases the “searchability,” of your images. If you want to be able to quickly find your images, it’s important to start renaming your files now. Otherwise, a decade from now when you’re looking for a photo of your daughter’s first day of school to post on her graduation day, you might be wanting to pull your hair out as you try to locate it.

Consistency is key. First, professional photo organizers recommend using a consistent system when it comes to renaming files. This will tie your entire collection together, despite the years that may separate certain pictures. Professional organizers also encourage you to find a system and style of renaming photos that will work best for you. Feel free to make variations on the following suggestion, but whatever naming convention you pick, be consistent.

Who, what, when and where naming approach. This naming system — who, what, when and where — has proved to be the most popular with professionals. For this system, you’ll include people, event, date and location in the file’s name. An easy reference to remember this organizational tool is: YYYY-MM-DD-location-event-who-sequence number. For example, a birthday party for your mom, Susan Smith, in San Francisco on May 23 would look like this: 2017-05-23-san-francisco-birthday-party-mom-susan-smith-JPG-2839.

When you are naming files, avoid special characters except for hyphens and underscores.

Once you have named individual files, you can put images in folders. Professional organizers have found that the simplest way is to organize by year, and you always have the option to further consolidate by decade. You can also create folders for specific people, such as your kids, or events, such as vacations and sports matches.

Where to find missing details. If you are unable to recall the specifics of a photo, refer to the metadata. All you have to do is right-click the photo, and then click on the option that says “get info” or “properties” to view the file’s metadata. This will reveal the date the image was created, which is vital for the above photo renaming system. But, you’ll also find the file size, the name of the device that took the image and sometimes even the location.

Why do this now. The work may seem tedious at first, but consider the even more daunting task of trying to find a specific image years from now if your photos aren’t organized. This is why photo naming matters! Start renaming your photos, and in the future, your family members will also be able to easily locate photos to share with their loved ones.

 

 

 

 

Bio: Cathi Nelson, author of Photo Organizing Made Easy; Going from Overwhelmed to Overjoyed, is the founder of APPO (Association of Personal Photo Organizers), a membership organization dedicated to helping thousands of entrepreneurs from around the globe build successful photo preservation and organizing businesses.

6 Steps For Organizing Your Shoebox of Photos

6 Steps For Organizing Your Shoebox of Photos

We all have those lonely shoeboxes of photos and negatives that weigh on our mind every time we open our closet doors. Tackling the contents of those boxes can seem daunting at best and insurmountable at worst. But don’t despair. Here are six tips that can help you sort through your photos and give yourself some organizational peace of mind.

 

1. Don’t be afraid of the trash bag. That family trip to the Grand Canyon was amazing, but do you really need a hundred photos of the Grand Canyon itself? The answer is no. Those multiple scenery shots, while beautiful, don’t tell the story any better than just one can. My general rule is to eliminate 80 percent of the photos in a box, keeping the other 20 percent for albums. Don’t worry, the Grand Canyon will be around for a long time. I promise that no one will forget what it looks like.

 


 2. Organize by theme.A lot of people think they need to organize their photos chronologically. For some, this method works very well. For others, however, this is a daunting and overwhelming task. It’s often easier — and more effective — to organize by theme. Organizing by theme makes it much simpler to pull together an album. Themes are also easier to identify than dates. While you may not be sure which year that Christmas photo was taken, you definitely know that it’s Christmas.

 

3. Pace yourself. As hard as it is, you need to strike a fine balance between lingering too long on precious memories and pushing yourself to go too fast. For the former, give yourself two seconds per photo — and only two seconds — to reminisce before deciding where that photo belongs.

Also, set a timer for one to three hours, and be sure to give yourself time to recuperate between sorting sessions.

 


4. Create a family timeline. Preparing a photo timeline aids in the sorting process as you begin to tackle your collection. I suggest creating a chronological list of events that will help you as you begin uncovering photos, letters, cards and newspapers from the past. By placing them along a single timeline, you’ll start to get a more comprehensive view of your life, even if you don’t know exact dates. A guesstimate will do and will keep you moving forward.

Your timeline can be as simple as drawing a horizontal line across the middle of a piece of paper and adding vertical lines to mark and label events. As you look at the entire collection of photos, determine the oldest photo and the most recent one. This is the time span you’ll plot on your line. Once you have these major markers in place, you can begin to jot other moments or milestones in between.

 

 

5. Store your photos safely. Once your photos have been sorted, it’s imperative that you store them correctly. This means putting them somewhere with average temperatures and low humidity — no attics or basements. They should also be stored in containers designed specifically for photo archiving. One reliable source for these is Archival Methods. It offers a variety of acid-free boxes that will preserve your precious memories for decades to come.

 

6.Get ready to be emotional. The gift of photography is being able to look back on our lives and reflect on the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. The story your photographs tell is one of joy and love, loss and heartache. Ultimately, going through your photos can be a journey of healing. Allow yourself to feel these emotions. It can be extremely helpful to journal how you’re feeling during the process and, if possible, connect with friends and family to discuss the wave of emotions you’re riding.

Organizing your shoebox of photos can feel like an impossible task, but don’t lose sight of the fact that this is important and meaningful work. You are the keeper of your family’s memories and the teller of its stories.

 

 

Bio: Cathi Nelson, author of Photo Organizing Made Easy; Going from Overwhelmed to Overjoyed, is the founder of APPO (Association of Personal Photo Organizers), a membership organization dedicated to helping thousands of entrepreneurs from around the globe build successful photo preservation and organizing businesses.