How to maintain and organize your personal photos

How to organize and maintain your personal photos | Chelsea Q. White Photography Dallas Fort Worth Texas family newborn maternity photographer

A few of my girlfriends threw a little sprinkle for me and Baby Girl a few weeks ago and at one point, the conversation turned to baby books — who did them for their kids, who’s were finished, who had their own baby books. 

I was able to proudly say that Logan’s baby book is (mostly) finished but it did involve one long Friday night (and several nights beforehand) of putting it all together after I’d gotten behind.

Which is not the only time I’ve gotten “behind” on personal photography maintenance.

Like a lot of mamas, my true desire is to have fully finished baby books for all my babies (not just the lucky firstborn) and yearly books of family photos. But over the course of the past few years, I got waaaaay behind on my personal photography maintenance (like three years behind) and I know the pain of trying to play catch up.

We have camera rolls filled with photos and seemingly no time to do anything with them. That’s how I felt. And truly, I was so busy documenting other people’s marriages and families that I let mine fall to the wayside. I didn’t have a plan or a system and I paid the price in my own desire to create these powerful memory books for myself and for my family.

Since then, I’ve come up with a fairly simple solution to not only keeping my personal photography organized and maintained but have been able to catch up on all the years I missed. So today, I want to share it with you PLUS a free quick checklist for you to download at the end of the post. You can save to your phone for future reference so you can slay all those personal photos taking up space on your hard drive.

System

First and foremost, you need an easy system to get your photos from your phone or camera onto your computer. I have my photos sync from my iPhone to my iPhoto any time I’m home and on wifi so I don’t have to worry about manually importing them. You can also do this with Android to Google Photos or iPhone to Google Photos.

As for photos taken on my professional camera, I download them as soon as I can into a folder on my external hard drive. I label the folders with the date and event title (i.e., 19-10 Pumpkin Patch). Then I “cull” through the photos immediately to find my favorites. Once I have my select few favorites, I edit them and then export them to a “selects” folder within the event folder (see below).

how to organize and maintain your personal photos | Chelsea Q. White Photography Dallas Fort Worth family photographer

I have a yearly photos folder on my desktop where I drag the photos taken with my professional camera, any professional photos we’ve had done that year plus everything from my iPhoto at the end of the year. You can also be saving photos of you other people upload to social media in this folder as the year progresses.

ACTION STEPS: 

  1. Sync your phone to your computer photo organizing program.
  2. Create “2020 photos” folder on your desktop to start saving to.

TOTAL TIME: 10-20 minutes 

Schedule

The reason I fell behind on creating my annual yearbooks was because I didn’t have a regular system in place to do anything with my photos. When I heard about the concept of a duty day via my girl Ashlyn Carter, I knew organizing photos would be at the top of the list.

Since my photos are constantly syncing from my iPhone to my iCloud, I don’t have to worry about manually importing them. At the beginning of every month, (theoretically) I open up iPhoto and drag my favorites into a yearly folder (so for this year, they go in 2020). This takes less than 10 minutes.

I’m also trying to get better about editing my favorite photos right away and allowing those to sync so I’m not spending hours brightening and cropping photos at the end of the year.

Even if you don’t hold a monthly duty day like I attempt to, it’s helpful to have a consistent time where you sit down to work on organizing your photos. It seriously only takes about 10 minutes a month, which is better than hours at the end of December!

A note about catching up on your photos if you’re massively behind like I was:

Start with today and work backward. If you try to start from the beginning, it’s going to feel like you’ll never catch up. Lucky for you, it’s only January so you can totally slay 2020 photo organization. You might set aside an hour a month to start working backward but don’t kill yourself. It may not be important to you to do every single year, just the ones going forward and that’s OK! You do you. 

ACTION STEPS:

  1. Set a reminder on your phone/calendar recurring monthly to go through your photos at a time when you KNOW you’ll be able to do it (i.e., the first Saturday morning of every month, nap time on the 1st, post-bedtime, etc.)
  2. Edit as you go!

TOTAL TIME: 30 minutes

Supplies

There are so many album companies and ways to print your photos available to us, and trust me, I know how overwhelming it is. Since simplicity is the name of my game, I’m going to share what works for me and not bog you down with tons of options. 

In my mind, there are two ways to go about actually doing something with your photos: doing a digital book and printing photos for “scrapbooks” (baby books are included here) or display in your home.

I create a digital book online using Artifact Uprising. I love everything they do and yes, it’s a little pricey but to me it’s worth it if I’m only ordering one per year (you know, when I’m not massively behind and ordering three in one year). 

If you’re going the “scrapbook” route, I’d plan to order photos once a quarter during the monthly time you set aside to organize your photos. I did this Logan’s first year to print photos for his baby book and it worked out really well. I order prints from mPix and have really liked their quality. I also like the scrapbook route for big trips we’ve taken (i.e., Paris and Barcelona) because they usually have various bits of ephemera to go along with the photos — ticket stubs, maps, etc.

Here’s my list of “supplies” you may need:

  • Album company: check out Artifact Uprising or mPix
  • Print company: I like mPix and Social Print Studio for little insta squares
  • Scrapbook/baby book
  • Double-sided tape
  • Stickers and washi tape if you want to get real creative with those scrapbooks (check Etsy from some cool, modern-looking stickers over the sticker aisle at your local craft store)

ACTION STEPS:

  1. Decide where you’ll print your albums/photos ahead of time.
  2. Gather all supplies in one easily accessible place.
  3. HAVE FUN!

TOTAL TIME: 30 minutes

I was talking to a close friend of mine who also likes to do yearly books and stay caught up on photo management about this recently and we agreed that one of the biggest hurdles to actually getting it done is the mental block that comes along with it. Organizing photos often doesn’t take nearly as long as I think it’s going to and trust me, it feels so good to press “order” on that yearly book.

I know we’re all so busy but you CAN have fully finished baby books and family yearbooks with just a little systematizing and scheduling. I’ve created an easy-to-digest checklist for you to save to your phone to reference when it’s time to work on those photos so grab it below!

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