Friday, December 12, 2014

Looking for that one picture....

Several weeks ago my daughter put in a request on behalf of the middle school for her Kindergarten photo and I've kept moving the task down the to do list because I knew it wasn't just going to be a two-second job. It would snowball into something. She's in 8th Grade and it's for the yearbook. I can't imagine being the individual responsible for acquiring these for every student AND putting the target deadline for Winter  Christmas Break. I'd love to see her inbox...

To put this in perspective, Kindergarten for us was 2006, right there between film cameras being stuffed in the back of the drawer and the complete acceptance of digital photography. Social media sharing also exploded around this time. Through this, the annual fall school picture day has still yielded an envelope of pictures that family loves to receive and display in their homes for years to come. Despite carefully posed selfies with clever filters that adorn Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and (insert 500 photo sharing sites here), the school picture is the annual avatar on the timeline of our kids' maturation.

I've never been the milk and cookies after school, June Cleaver type mom and I don't do a lot of the mom stuff in the traditional way, but I have done a pretty decent job at keeping pictures organized throughout my adult life.

I've shared my photo organization method with people over the years and it seems like a good thing to share here. While the above picture seems like chaos, it really wasn't. It was just one final organization step I had not completed yet in the overall system I use to keep pictures organized. It took me about half an hour to actually locate the photo I needed, and another hour or two to finish organizing this part of our photo archive.

The tips below are for the everyday folks trying to manage the day to day pictures. I'm not a professional....I'm sure they've all got a better system. One big suggestion as you embark on this process... when you are reminded of the story of the photos you see, jot it down on a piece of paper. Even if you aren't a scrapbooker, others seeing the photos later will enjoy the story if it's filed along with the photos. For digital photos, most photo management software allows for captions or notes or something.

Digital photography:
I'm a scrapbooker and the first thing I learned years ago was start with today and stay current going forward, then catch up the past when you have time. Get your workflow down that works for you. Then apply it going backward, most recent first.

Start the new year off right and set up a folder in your picture section on your computer or the cloud of your choice for 2015, make folders for each month. That's where you will start January 1, 2015 regularly transferring pictures from your phone, camera, etc. I do this on average, once a week from my phone.

I use Dropbox as the in between, then transfer to iPhoto after scrapbooking, editing, deleting the duds, etc for permanent backup. My DSLR has a wifi feature and they get automatically dumped into my computer when I'm home, but the same process applies if you transfer off your camera via USB.  Dates are embedded in the meta data (right click, properties) so there's no need to make weekly folders or daily etc...unless you are highly OCD, which I am, and I do, but it's more for my scrapbook workflow than overall preservation. By year, by month. Simple. Some photo organization programs use tags and facial recognition...if this helps you, go for it. I don't take more time to do that, plus I only have one child so it just became an unnecessary step for me.

This is the system I have used for digital pictures since digital started. The same structure is on my computer, my onsite backup drive, and the backup drive that I recently sent with my parents to put in their fireproof safe. If you don't have your digital pictures on a backup drive, please please do this. Been there, done that with a crashed hard drive and days of waiting to see if that last picture of me with my grandpa can be recovered. It sucks. I think this event was when I got as serious about digital photo organization as I had been my film photos.

The blessing of this effort: If I want to see my daughter's 6th birthday cake...I can find it in about 5 minutes. You'll thank yourself for this effort when it comes time to get that high school graduation slide show ready. Your descendants will thank you as well.

If you have a 10+ year mess of digital pictures on your computer (or phone, multiple cameras, multiple SD cards, CDs, etc) this is going to take some time so break it down into workable parts. Set up the years and months folders. Start dragging pictures and folders into them here and there. Then dig in year by year, month by month while you're sitting there watching TV, bored at the next family gathering, having coffee or a glass of wine while waiting for the kids at practice, etc. Don't forget to back up.

Pre Digital:
I developed the computer system I use from how I organized all my film camera pictures prior to digital after my daughter was born. Everything is sorted by year, then month and/or major event. If you can't break old pictures down by month, then do the best you can to get them by year or event, or decade if you have to.  It isn't always easy to remember. My sister and I started this process with my mom several years ago and it was challenging so use other people to help if you can. It's really quite fun! We need to finish the job with her sometime and I'd venture a guess that the same thing needs to happen on my husband's side of the family.
Gather film photos in a central location over the next few months. Feel free to throw out duplicates, dud pictures that are especially common with film photography. It's ok. Really. You don't need 25 blurry pictures of Aunt or two are fine.
Get some photo boxes. Michaels, Walmart, Target, etc have them. The beauty of digital photography....I only have 4 big photo storage boxes on the basement shelf for my entire life...up to the mid 2000s.
Get index card dividers that you can label or just cut paper, card stock, or use envelopes to label with the years, months.
Dig in, make piles, write on the back of pictures, sort sort sort. Then file.

Professional family pictures, school pictures of your kids, your other kids in the family, etc:
The size and number of these made it inconvenient to store in the photo boxes, which is why I had the huge piles yesterday that were only partially organized. I use envelopes divided by year, child, grade.
My nieces and nephews school pictures go in envelope for my side, one envelope for my husband's side. It's their parents' job to organize those! haha!
When I started doing an annual album in the Project Life method these pictures became part of the album and are put in either digitally or placed in the large envelope stored in the album where I put greeting cards, etc.
Our cousins and their kids pictures are similarly divided...they all go in one envelope by family.

What about all that artwork the kids brought home through early elementary school?
Save a few favorites, take digital photos of the rest, and toss it. Then make a photo book on any number of photo sites out there or make it part of your annual album. I know when we moved this last time I got rid of so much of the artwork, but I photographed it for this purpose. Somewhere in the 2011 photo files are the pictures because that's the winter after we moved and when I did the big purge of all that stuff that was hiding in our closets for 8 years.

The job may seem overwhelming so take your time. Set a goal of a year or so to get it under control, while keeping the current year organized. It really is worth it to have this part of your life somewhat organized. Hope these tips have given some direction to the job. You don't have to scrapbook anything, just keep it organized. Post any questions in the comments.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

December Daily 2014

     I toy around with the December Daily every so many years. I love the concept of it. I am the family storyteller, so I get a little geeked out over this kind of stuff. With gearing up to do the annual album in 2015 Project Life style I'm trying to get back in the habit of writing and memory keeping.

     I've completed the project two or three times and I always enjoy going back and seeing what I might otherwise have forgotten in the whirlwind of activity, travel, etc that takes up December. December is also my reflect and plan for the new year month so I tend to get nostalgic. It's something one of the blog authors I follow, Ali Edwards, has done for several years and the scrapbooking community follows along in huge numbers.  Here's a link to her foundation pages for this year. The idea is to document the first 25 days of December and hopefully give some insight into your family traditions, fun experiences of the month, etc.

     I'd nearly given up the idea of doing this album this year. We aren't traveling or having guests until after Christmas. While we have decorations up, the big blowout gift opening really isn't happening as we are taking vacation. We have one side of the family Christmas already done and we've really cut back our gift giving to family over the years. It just seemed rather mundane to go to the trouble of recording the "same thing, different year". Our month is rather, normal, so why bother?

     Then I saw this post on Kerri Bradford's blog. What a great way to store, preserve, save, and keep organized all the happy mail we get during this month! Annnnndddd.....wherever binder rings are, an album will sprout. I realized then that I didn't have to do December DAILY, just December Whatever and add Christmas Cards.
     As I processed through the how of what method, sizing, etc I was going to use, I already had a lot of the stuff I needed. I decided to use some 6x8 digital templates and digital elements from Cathy Zielske  and some patterned paper that just so happened to coordinate. I decided to print the template pages I create at home, then add them to pattern paper backgrounds, and embellish as I wanted. (aka, hybrid scrapbooking) This way I can keep the album out for people to look at throughout the month. I like the immediate gratification of finishing a page, printing it, and having it in my hands right away on these smaller albums, whereas my annual album is exclusively digital and batch printed throughout the year either at Costco or Plus who the heck wants to deal with Costco anymore than necessary in December.
     As far as my focus and approach, I'm just kind of winging it and the Around Here theme Ali Edwards does sometimes kept coming to mind. In my annual album, especially if I get behind,  I use the concept of just jotting things down that are going on 'around here' to give a snapshot of life in a small space.  In this case I'm fleshing out the things going on around here a little more.
    Even though I have restarted the blog to kind of get back into the paper crafting, memory keeping circles, I don't plan to publicly share the album's pages beyond what I have in this post.

I found with my annual album it's so freeing of the mind and pen if you are just preserving life events for those who walk this life hand in hand with you, in person. 
     If you are inspired to do this type of project, click the links I provided, Google is your friend, and the #decemberdaily on Instagram will yield inspiration far more beautiful than I could ever create. ;-)