Our photos are little legacies of the life we have led – our travels, experiences, food, family, friends, work relationships and more. Each photo is a window into a moment, and the collections of images we take over the years are a window into who we were and what we valued.
It was in the year 2004 that I got my first digital camera, a point and shoot Casio with 3 megapixels. I have upgraded my camera every couple of years and currently have a Lumix point and shoot with a whopping 14.5 megapixels. Over the years I have taken tons and tons of digital photos and until a couple of years ago they were all on my hard drive, totally disorganized. Then one day my hard drive crashed – an amazingly rude wake up call. Some of the photographs could be recovered but many had disintegrated into virtual ashes.
It was a hard lesson to learn and I have since come up with steps and strategies to save, organize, share and backup my digital photographs. Here is a primer to save your photographs and your sanity:
Step 1: Get Organized
The great thing about digital photography is that you don’t have to worry about using up film and paying for processing. The flip side is that you’re likely to end up with hundreds of photos scattered all across your computer. When you find yourself scrolling through thumbnails for five minutes looking for what you want, it’s time to pause and get a grip on photo organization.
The first step in organizing your precious photos is to use a good photo management program. This could be your default photo gallery program on your computer or you could use a dedicated, commercial program such as Adobe Photoshop Album. These are more user friendly with a host of extra features. Import your pictures into the photo management program from your hard drive, camera, USB drive etc. Remember to sort your photographs into folders based on a combination of date and descriptive term for e.g. ‘2010-11 India trip’. If you like to edit your photographs, then do make an additional folder for these edited files. The photos folder on your computer can follow a simple folder hierarchy with 2 major subfolders:
- Photo Albums
- Edited photos
Step 2: Backup, Backup, Backup… All Your Photos Regularly
This isn’t the most exciting step in the world, but you do need to save your pictures. External drives are a good solution with prices decreasing and you can store them at a separate location so as not to be wiped out by fire or burglary. CDs and DVDs can be the redundant back up for easy access, although an annual check or renewal of the storage media is recommended.
Another good option is an online gallery for online photo storage and sharing with handling of organizational duties such as Flickr, Picasa Web or Snapfish. Pick out your favourites from your computer and upload them to the site. This makes it easy to locate and share photos with your friends online.
Sign up as a member on online communities, where you can upload your photos for others to look at and comment on. A great learning and sharing experience online on sites such as:
Step 3: Get Creative with Your Photographs
Not sure what to do with all those fantastic photos? Do they just sit there and take up digital space? No matter where these photos are, turn your love for photography into creative projects, gifts and even a revenue generating opportunity.
Print them: Use your home printer or print at most photo development into greeting cards, big frame able prints and posters. You can even have these printed onto canvas to make custom table mats or cushion covers etc.
Make a movie: String together your favourite images in a slideshow format with music. Upload to YouTube and share with your friends.
Make a motivational poster: Make your own version and say whatever you want using free image editors available online.
Make money: Have a go at selling some of your pictures, what have you got to lose? Photographs that are in demand include landscapes, street scenes, famous landmarks, market scenes, think of the type of shots you see in magazines, not the adverts, the photos that illustrate the editorials. Go through all your shots, pick only the ones that are well exposed, well composed and in focus, and think about whether they could be of interest to a complete stranger. Some good stock photography sites are:
Taking the time to organize your digital photo collection is a worthwhile investment. Retrieval of photos is a snap and be creative to showcase and monetize your captured moments. I’m sure your digital photo experience will be that much more rewarding.