3 Top-Notch Tools You Can Use to Edit Your Photos

3 Top-Notch Tools You Can Use to Edit Your Photos

Have you ever wondered how to remove “red eye” from your photos, or combine images into a snazzy digital collage?

Editing photos is no longer just for professional photographers….regular people (like you and me) can do it, too! With today’s technology, even novice photographers can edit pictures right on their phones. We can even take pictures of old print photos, and use editing apps to improve them.

If you’ve ever wanted to edit one of your photos, or if you’ve wondered what kinds of things you can change when you edit a photo, this post is for you. In this article, we’ve gathered some of our best photo editing tips, and reviewed three photo editing tools to help get you started.

Why Do We Need to Edit Our Photos?

Why should we edit photos? Why not just work the originals?

PicMonkey’s blog says:

Your camera can only capture a relatively narrow dynamic range. So it’s reasonable – and right – to use all the tools available to overcome those limitations and put back what the camera took out.”

We can edit photos for many reasons, and there are lots of things we can change and improve in our images. We can make corrections, like improving lighting, removing red eye, straightening a photo, or rotating it to the correct orientation.

Sometimes we need to make changes to a photo to get it ready to post on social media, or to buy a print of the image.

We can also do slightly more complicated tasks, like adding text to a photo or combining several images to make a digital photo collage, with just a few clicks.

What Kinds of Things Can I Do with Photo Editing Tools?

There are a number of affordable, easy-to-use editing tools you can use to improve or make changes to your photos. You’d be surprised how many things photo editing tools can do for you!

With photo editing tools, you can:

  • Make light and color adjustments to correct or enhance your photo.
  • Remove red and yellow highlights in your subject’s eyes by using a red eye correction feature.

Quick editing tip: Sometimes with red eye correction, the app doesn’t notice when your subject’s eye appears more yellow than red. You may need to try a couple of times and make sure the area size of the editing tool (usually a circle) is the same as the area to be corrected.

  • Erase bits of an image (like flecks, signs, or even people in the distance) using a blemish or retouch tool.
  • Correct your photo’s orientation (from landscape to portrait, and vice versa) by utilizing the rotation feature. Quick editing tip: Digital photos have an “orientation” tag that doesn’t always translate to editing programs. We’ll talk more about photo metadata and tags in our next post.
  • Crop your photo to improve the composition, or remove unwanted parts of the picture.
  • Change the angle of your photo. Straightening an image can correct the photo, or add a creative change.
  • Give the image a unique or artistic look by adding a filter effect.
  • Darken or lighten the corners of a photo, emphasizing the center of the image, by using the “vignettes” feature.
  • Add a border to highlight the image and make it stand out.

3 Easy-to-Use Tools for Editing Your Photos

There are many expensive photo editing applications on the market. Fortunately, with the advent of mobile devices, there are a host of quality apps to choose from, too – and most of them are free!

Here are the top three tools I recommend for people who want to experiment with editing their photos:

1. Photos (for Mac users)

Photos is a photo editing and image management application developed by Apple. It’s a user friendly, easy-to-learn tool that you can use to edit photos on your computer, iPhone, or iPad.

When you’re using Photos to edit a photo, you’ll need to make a duplicate of your original photo and edit the duplicate. This ensures that you’re always have a copy of your original, in case you make a mistake or need the original, unedited image at some point!

While you’re editing in Photos, you can compare your original with the new, edited version, so you can see subtle changes easily on your screen. You’ll also be able to see or add information about your photo.

When you’re using the iCloud Photo Library feature, your images will sync across all of your Apple devices, so you’ll be able to see your edited photo on your other devices, too. For example, if you edit a photo on your computer, that edited photo will appear on the photo library on your iPhone, too.

Photo’s basic editing features include:  

  • Auto enhance (automatically correct the color and saturation to make the image look more like what you see in real life)
  • Filters
  • Rotate
  • Crop and straighten features. Photo editing tip: Cropping a photo changes its appearance everywhere in Photos, including in all your albums, slideshows, and projects. Make sure you duplicate your original image FIRST, before you start cropping and editing – then make changes only to your duplicate.

The red-eye fix, retouch tool, and vignettes feature are only available in the Mac version of Photos.

Most Apple devices come with Photos built in, so you shouldn’t need to purchase or install extra software to use this application. Need help with Photos? Apple provides separate user guides for the Mac, iPhone and iPad version of Photos.

2. Photoshop Express App

Photoshop Express is a mobile application created by Adobe (the folks behind the full-featured version of Photoshop). The app is free and available in the app store on your phone, and it’s an easy-to-learn, user friendly tool.

When you’re editing your image with Photoshop Express, you can compare your original with your edited photo, and the app will also auto-save your edited image to your photo library.

Photoshop Express’s basic features include:

  • Auto enhance or correction tools
  • Blemish removal
  • Vignettes, borders and frames

Photoshop Express has some sophisticated features that aren’t available on some of the other free apps. Those features include:

  • Crop commands that allow you to resize your photo appropriately for social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Adding text to a photo.
  • Collage features, so you can combine multiple photos into a single image (including your choice of several different collage layouts).
  • An extensive selection of image border options.
  • Thumbnail images, so you can see what your possible preset edits look like.

Once you’re done editing your photo, you can:

  • Save the image to your camera roll on your phone.
  • Share your image by posting it on social media.
  • Send the photo to your Lightroom library.
  • Open the image with WhatsApp, your email program, Message, or Facebook Messenger.

3. VSCO

VSCO is a photography mobile app (available for iOS and Android) created by Visual Supply Company. VSCO is only available as a mobile app, and you can find it in the App store on your phone.

Once you select a photo using VSCO, you can change the image with one of ten preset filters. There are additional presets you can download – some of these presets are free, and some have a fee associated with them. Make sure to read the fine print before you download a new filter.

According to online reviews, the soft and faded look of VSCO’s filters are very popular on Instagram.

VSCO’s basic editing features include:  

  • Rotate
  • Crop
  • Straighten
  • Vignettes
  • Sharpen
  • Straighten
  • Skew

Once you’re done editing your photo, you can:

  • Share your image by posting it on social media, texting it to a friend or relative, or emailing it to someone.
  • Save the image to your camera roll on your phone.
  • Print the image.
  • Delete the image.

The filters and editing features (such as brightness, contrast and saturation) in the VSCO tools are more robust than other mobile apps, so it does take a bit more time to learn than Photos or Photoshop Express.

It’s Your Turn!

When you’re looking for the right photo editing application for you, you can definitely try out all three applications, and see which one you like best.

Of the three tools, I think Photos and Photoshop Express are the most user-friendly and practical for the novice, everyday photographer.

Do you have a favorite photo editing tool to recommend? Share it in the comments below!

What Millennials Absolutely Must Know About Their Photos

What Millennials Absolutely Must Know About Their Photos

In my last post, I talked about how my photo organizing company helps seniors organize, maintain, and pass down their photo collections.

Millennials have unique gifts that makes working with them different than assisting seniors, but both groups are wonderful in their own ways!

My children, and my client’s children, are from the “millennial” generation, which typically means they were born between 1980 and 2000.

In this post, we’re going to talk about how working with the younger crowd is different, why I love working with them, and discuss the most important lessons and advice I want to share with millennials about preserving their photo collections.

How Working with Millennials Is Unique

1. The millennial generation takes lots of pictures.

Millennials have had smartphones most of their lives, so they’re used to having cameras in their pockets at all times.

Their friends, their pets, buildings, funny moments, food, new hairstyles, new cars, new outfits – they are all worthy subjects for photos. They like taking selfies, and they know how to pose for the camera. Many millennials even have a “go-to pose” that they use in all their photos!

2. They are comfortable with technology.

Adapting to technology is a no-brainer for most millennials, because technology has always been a part of their lives. Unlike older generations, they are not intimidated by technology, and they are willing to jump in and learn something on their own if they need to.

Their photo collections are often kept on their phones and synced with a library system like Google or Apple’s Photos program. They may spend time organizing their photos in albums, but are more likely to do a quick search to find what they need.

My children and their spouses/fiancées don’t hesitate to try new apps for their phones or computers – they are fearless, and they learn quickly. Without question or hesitation, millennials use technology to make purchases, control the television, or search for things on their phone and computers.

This fearlessness and knowledge benefits me in my work as a professional photo organizer, because members of the younger generation have taught me a lot of shortcuts for navigating my computer and editing photos!

3. Millennials use social media and technology largely as a way to stay in touch.

Communication and connection are the name of the game for millennials. They share photos via text messages and social media sites, save photos on their devices, and create collages of their favorite images.

Most millennials have profiles on multiple social media sites. They visit these sites several times each day, and post photos to their profiles on a regular basis.

4. They are adventurous and have a strong sense of community.

Millennials like to travel, and they have a strong sense of local and global community that gives them a wanderlust to see the world.

They have confidence in themselves and their potential to influence the future. The world is their oyster, and they are eager to make a difference.

Members of this generation often photograph themselves, the community, and their surroundings with an appreciation for the cultural and social differences they experience. With airline ticket deals and affordable accommodation options like Airbnb, they can see the world on a budget and have travel experiences that today’s seniors only dreamed of when they were in their twenties.

Dining out is often an opportunity for a new, sometimes exotic experience. Millennials like to take pictures of their meals and share them on social media….after all, a photograph of food has a story to share, too!

5. Millennials can be impatient.

The millennials are sometimes called the “we want it now” generation, so they can be impatient when things move slowly. On-demand services like Amazon, Google, and Uber contribute to that sense of impatience, because so many things they need are available within seconds or minutes.

What I Want to Tell Millennials About Their Photos

Because issues for millennials are very specific (and those issues don’t necessarily apply to seniors or people who are middle-aged), there are certain lessons and tips about photos that I consistently share with younger people. These lessons are:

Lesson 1: Remember that your photos are part of your legacy.

Even if you aren’t in a committed relationship, and even if you don’t have kids, photos are part of your legacy! You should be good stewards of your images and videos, and make sure you always value the stories they have to tell.

Your photo collection needs to be preserved, so future generations can enjoy seeing the moments you’ve worked so hard to capture over the years.

Lesson 2: It’s critical that you back up your photos and videos regularly, to ensure your favorite moments aren’t lost.

As I seek to understand how millennials take and share images, I’ve found that having simple resources for organizing, maintaining, and backing up is a priority for you.

The most important message I convey to this generation is the importance of backing up your photos. As a millennial, you tend to be frugal, living on a budget and only buying what you need. Spending additional money to back up your smartphone photos isn’t typically a financial priority.

You typically don’t worry about whether you have originals or optimized versions backed up. Just knowing that your photos exist “somewhere” is good enough for you, and many of you haven’t needed to pay attention to whether or not your photos are secure – until you learn the importance of good backup systems “the hard way” by losing your photos.

Because of these issues, setting up a backup system for millennials must be easy, fast and affordable.

As I’ve talked about before on this blog, syncing photos between devices doesn’t really qualify as a backup. A backup is an additional copy of photos that’s stored separately from the originals of the photos.

Setting a backup system to automatically save photos from an external hard drive and a computer is typically only $5 per month, which is less than you probably spend on coffee each month! You can check out step six of this post for more information on setting up a simple, fast, affordable backup system for your photos.

Lesson 3: Be careful about the photos you share with others.

As a millennial, you are probably very casual about your photos, because you’re sharing images and videos constantly in your daily life.

But please remember that the photos you take now may not be the ones you will want to keep in the future – especially if the images are compromising shots of you having crazy adventures with friends.

Before you share a photo with a friend or on social media, consider whether you would want the image to be publicly available in a few years. Once compromising or embarrassing images are posted online and publicly available, removing them next to impossible.

Getting the Message to Millennials

Millennials are a joy to work with as a photo organizer, but it’s important that you embrace the concept of having a photo legacy, set up a consistent backup system for your photos, and be careful about the photos you share publicly.

Do you know a millennial who could use a reminder about these important lessons? Share this post with that person via social media or email! You can use the buttons in the header and footer of this post to pass on this article. Thanks!

7 Ways Photo Organizers Can Help Seniors

7 Ways Photo Organizers Can Help Seniors

I love working with seniors in my professional photo organizing business.

I enjoy helping seniors preserve the family legacies that are captured in their photos, while being mindful of managing a photo collection that they would like to pass onto their children and grandchildren.

I define “seniors” as anyone in their 50s and older with grown children and grandchildren. Seniors are especially important to me – maybe because I’m technically a senior citizen, too!

I enjoy the chance to help my own tribe of people who share my passion for families and their stories.

In this post, I’ll be talking about how I help seniors manage their photo collections and get their collections ready to pass on to the next generation.

How Working with Seniors Is Unique

1. Seniors have a sense of urgency.

Many of us in the “senior” generation share a sense of urgency to preserve the stories and memories from our pasts, so they are available for our children, grandchildren and future generations. We tend to photograph things that capture a fleeting moment in time, such as a newborn baby’s foot, a rare gathering of friends, a milestone event, or a beautiful sunset.

2. Some seniors have difficulty adapting to change (especially changes in technology).

While they lead active, busy lives, seniors make a concerted effort to cherish and capture family moments. However, this population can struggle to keep up with technology changes.

My clients often say, “This is like having to learn a foreign language!” and they often find the changing scope of technology intimidating and overwhelming.

Change is more difficult for many of us to grasp, as our experiences have taught us that sometimes change isn’t always positive – yet we know we need to adapt to change while understanding the importance of cherishing each moment.

Middle-aged and young seniors (like me) are more apt to tackle changes in technology. We have a willingness (and the mental capacity) to stay current so we can stay in touch with our kids and manage our televisions, homes, and cars.

However, older seniors (in their 70s and 80s), are more apt to have older media such as prints, slides and home movie reels. These images and videos are precious to them, and they have a deep desire to pass along the stories and moments they represent, but they don’t know how to go about it. Younger seniors are likely to have these types of media, too – either from their own collections, or one they’ve inherited.

3. Seniors are often willing to ask for help in managing their photos collections.

I’ve found that most seniors are willing to learn the basics of taking photos and saving them.

However, spending time on more advanced skills required to capture the stories and preserve them is either beyond their capabilities (older seniors or those not technology-minded) or they just don’t want to handle those tasks themselves. Seniors want to know that their photos are safe, though, and they are often happy to invest in hiring a professional to make that happen.

That’s where I come in! My clients trust me to keep up with changes in technology, and they appreciate knowing that when necessary, I have additional resources and vendors available (through my involvement with the Association of Professional Photo Organizers).

When I work with seniors, their priorities include:

  • Making sure they don’t leave a mess for their children and grandchildren.
  • Needing to be sure that their photo collection is manageable and organized.
  • Properly caring for the originals of their images and videos (including prints, home movies, and slides).
  • Documenting the historical relevance of their stories. This includes things like what they (and their family members) were doing at pivotal points in history. For example, many of my clients have photos of family members who are veterans. War stories have a different meaning when you’re looking at photos of a soldier in uniform!
  • Documenting family history (i.e. family trees, timelines, etc) and preserving and sharing their family stories while they can still remember them.

How I Help Seniors Organize and Maintain Their Photos Collections

One of my jobs when I work with seniors is helping them understand the technology they’ll need to take and manage their photos.

I try to keep it simple, teaching them the basics and when things get more complicated, I often step in to manage those more complex pieces for them.

In my work as a photo organizer, I can teach seniors how to:

My senior clients need more than just technical tutoring from me, though. I provide a mixture of hand-holding and photo management for my clients. That means things like:

1. Giving guidance when they’re selecting photos to be archived, and offering ideas and solutions for showcasing their favorite photos and memorabilia.

2. Maintaining a family timeline of birth dates, events, and locations, which makes organizing their photos easier.

3. Organizing and digitizing their overall systems, regularly checking in to get new photos, and keeping their photos organized through albums, frames and collages. I keep a detailed system for knowing what’s been digitized and backed up, as my clients sometimes forget these details. They trust me to keep track of things, because I know their system well!

4. Coordinating prints and framing so my clients don’t have to worry about it. Uploading photos to a website to get prints or framing jobs can be confusing and overwhelming, especially if your eyesight is failing.

5. Copying images from a camera card to their computer or backup drive. Once I copy images over, I indicate that the photos have been backed up and store those prints in chronological order. If my clients don’t know how to change their camera clocks for a different time zone, I can help them or change the dates on the images once the photos have been taken.

6. Helping them pass along photos and mementos to their children. For some of my clients, we have photographed mementos from parents so that children can select the items they’d like to inherit.

We also make sure their children have copies of the images they’d like to keep. We can share childhood photos and family memories using the child’s own external hard drive.

We also decide what images need to be preserved and secured, but not necessarily shared with the kids. For example, any photos specific to the parent’s interests and community (separate from the family) aren’t typically important to the children, so we identify and store those images separately.

7. Supporting them through loss (like divorce, death, estranged relationships, or memory issues). When my clients are going through a loss, I can help them decide whether to keep and preserve photos that represent that loss, and who to share those photos with, if need be.

We have also provided extra identification of photos in albums, for an aging parent, so that if family members’ names are difficult to recall, the album is labelled as a subtle reminder.

We can even help with a memorial services when the client has lost a loved one. We can frame photos to showcase during the service, or create a memorial slideshow customized with favorite photos and songs.

Are You a Senior Who Needs Help with Photos (or Do You Someone Who Is)?

If you need help with your photos, we’d love to help! You can get in touch with us today for a free no-obligation consultation.

In our next post, I’m going to cover tips for millennials who want to understand the value of their photos and the importance of safely securing their collections (including photos they inherit from their folks!). Look for that post in a few weeks.

How a Professional Photo Organizer Cleaned Up Her Own Photo Mess

How a Professional Photo Organizer Cleaned Up Her Own Photo MessYes, I’m a photo organizer…and up until very recently, my own photo collection was a mess.

My family includes baby boomer parents and millennial children, and I think our photo collection was pretty typical of most families like ours. We had:

  • Print photos from the 1950’s through approximately 2004, including some heritage images inherited from both sides of our family.
  • Print photos and corresponding CDs of the images, starting around 2003.
  • Digital images from our SLR camera, from about 2008.
  • Recent smartphone images, from the last few years.
  • Finished photo albums and unfinished photo projects. Any photos used for completed projects were either glued in scrapbook albums, in magnetic albums, or loosely placed in heritage albums. We also had collections of images in photo boxes, or scrapbook albums with prints ready to be used but that were pulled out of context from their events.
  • Scrapbook projects that weren’t necessarily my best work. Many of these had hideously cropped photos (remember when we thought it was creative to cut around people to make silhouettes of them on the page)? There was also lots of stickers that seemed cute when they were in style, but they now seem dated and distracting.
  • Reprint copies and negatives galore.

To make things even worse, our digital photos were in multiple places, devices, and platforms. My husband uses a PC for his main computer, I’m loyal to my Mac, so we have multiple devices in our home, on different operating systems. Like many of our clients, we each had copies of a lot of the same photos on our computers, because we didn’t have an efficient and easy way to share them with each other.

Our backup system was confusing, and we often ended up creating duplicate backups of the same pictures. Plus, it was difficult for me to view the most recent backup of our photos at any given time, which didn’t exactly inspire confidence in our system!

Does all this sound familiar?

Each time I tried to wade into my photo collection to try to make progress on organizing everything, I felt overwhelmed. Whew! I realized this must be how my clients feel, and I gained a newfound appreciation for their angst over their photo collections.

My Very Own “Motivating Event”

Since I’m a photo organizer, most people would assume that I could keep my OWN photo collection organized. However, with a busy family and a growing business, I didn’t have any spare time to get my own photos organized, searchable, and properly backed up.

Over time, as we added more photos, the problem kept getting worse and worse, until the whole thing was so overwhelming that I just keep avoiding it – much like my clients do with their photo organization problems!

For many of my clients, there’s typically a “motivating event” that inspires them to reach out and get help. This can include things like birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, and weddings.

I had the same kind of motivating event! My daughter Molly got engaged in August 2016, I knew right away that I wanted to create a slideshow for Molly and Michael’s rehearsal dinner. To create this slideshow, I was going to need to find photos of Molly from childhood to present day.

The way my image collection looked at that time, I knew this task was going to be really difficult…so that’s when I decided to enlist some help in dealing with my photo mess.

How We Corralled My Photo Mess

Luckily for me, help was within easy reach! I decided to use my own team to help me create a system to organize and maintain my photo collection.

My team and I essentially followed the same process I use for my clients:

  • Gather all the photos (both print and digital) in one place.
  • Review the photos using what we already know about family members.
  • Create a family timeline of key events.
  • Eliminate duplicates and blurry photos.
  • Get everything centralized and organized onto a family drive.

Organizing My Print Photos

For my prints, we grouped all the photos from events together, and put them in order. Fortunately, the heritage photos from our families had already been organized and digitized, and filed by family and person.

We put negatives back into their original photo lab envelopes, and filed them according to the date they were taken.

I’m thankful that information about when events happened (and when photos were taken) was mostly documented. Occasionally, we had to make a judgement call in certain situations, but our timeline helped us make an educated guess about where photos belonged.

We pulled photos out of magnetic albums and scanned the scrapbook pages. For the silhouette or odd-shaped prints, we tried to find an original version to scan instead. We discarded all the extra reprint copies. If we found prints that were also in digital format (on CD’s), we compared the images to make sure the prints didn’t need to be scanned.

Sometimes we decided to scan these because the photo lab put the files in reverse chronological order on the CD. Since the file name is the date the photo was processed, we would’ve needed to go back and edit all that information anyway, so in some cases it was faster to just rescan some of the images in the proper order and adjust the metadata later. Because we scan in 600 dpi, this re-scanning also ensured the photos were captured in a high resolution file format.

Once the prints were all organized and identified, we scanned them all and stored them in archive-quality boxes, then filed the boxes in chronological order, by year.

Then we edited the digital files of all the scanned images. Using Photo Mechanic, we changed the file date, then we added the “who, what, where, and when” to the file name. We saved all those changes to the file’s metadata.

Note: Look for an upcoming post from us for more information on changing the metadata of your photos!

After we edited the digital files, we stored all the images onto a family external hard drive.

Organizing My Digital Photos

The family drive we used for our scanned print images is also where we consolidated the existing digital photos that we gathered from the computers, CD’s, hard drives, and SD cards.

Even though we knew it was likely we’d have duplicates (especially from the multiple backup copies), all the digital files were copied from each device and copied onto the family drive. This ensured we got every single image at the start of the process.

Then we ran a duplicate program called PhotoSweeper, which checked the entire drive for duplicate photos. I use this program with my clients to pare down digital photo collections and make sure we’re keeping only one copy of each photo. It took several passes with PhotoSweeper to eliminate all our duplicates.

After the duplicates were eliminated, we went through all the final images, added the correct dates, adjusted the file names to include the date taken and the event, and added keywords to make sure all the information in the files was easily searchable.

Then we filed all the images on the family drive by Years and Month. We also have Theme folders for Vacations, People and Places.

The entire family drive is backed up using Backblaze, which stores a copy in the cloud for safekeeping.

Here’s a little preview of what my file system looks like, on my Mac:

How a Photo Organizer Cleaned Up Her Own Photo Mess

Maintaining Our Organizational System

I wanted to create a plan for maintaining our photos and making sure everything stays up to date and organized. I’m just like my busy clients, and it’s easy for other things to take priority, and I wanted to avoid letting things get out of control and overwhelming again.

I created a simple, easy to follow system for maintaining my photos, so it’s not overwhelming to keep up.

Since we don’t often need to view photos that are more than a couple of years old, keeping all the images in one place works well for our family. If we need images for a project (like Molly’s slideshow), we create a project folder with a copy of the images we’ll use, so the originals are always kept safe.

Here how we deal with new photos coming into our system:

  • New prints: When new photos come in that need to be filed and labeled properly (like the heritage photos of my father’s relatives that we just inherited), we just scan them, name according to date taken and event, then archive them following the system I’ve created.
  • New digital photos: When we take new pictures with our SLR camera and smartphones, those periodically copied onto the family drive. When we move them, we rename the images, adding date taken and event name, so the information is always searchable. 
  • If I want to view the SLR images on my Apple devices, I’ll import them into my Photos library.  Since our family all have Apple phones and devices, we can easily share photos in Shared Albums. This gives us the chance to see each other’s photos having to make new copies of the images on our own individual devices.
  • Photos shared by family and friends: When relatives or friends send us images by text or email, we save them to our phones, so those images get included when we periodically copy images over to our family drive. As the images are added to the family drive, we also check for duplicates.

I also have a lot of random screenshots, photos of future purchases, and photos of my grocery list on my phone. These “temporary” but useful images are either saved in albums the Photos app, or are periodically deleted. I also review my photo collection regularly, which helps me avoid keeping images I no longer need.

Using This System to Tame Your Own Photo Mess

So….I’ve confessed! My photo collection used to be a mess, too. Now you know my secret!

The good news is that I was able to get my photo mess under control….and you can, too!

If you’d like to tackle your photo collection on your own, you can follow the steps we describe in this post – or we can always assist you with this process! Get in touch with us today for a free consultation if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

How to Create a Photo Legacy That Lasts for Generations

How to Create a Photo Legacy That Lasts for Generations

Photos tell the story of our lives….but how we can turn our images into a lasting photo legacy?

A “legacy” is a gift that is handed down from one generation to the next. For example, the president of a company might leave a legacy of integrity, honesty, and grit.

Instead of just handing down a random collection of unorganized photos to future generations in your family, wouldn’t it be great to add the details in your photos, so the stories aren’t forgotten or lost?

Creating a photo legacy involves taking some active steps to organize and manage your photos, so they are easily found and identified.

Without the stories and identifying details behind the photos, your images are at risk of becoming items from the past with no apparent meaning – merely a collection of items. If you think of your photos as part of your family legacy – with the stories, accomplishments, values and challenges they represent – then they become part of a legacy that future generations will cherish.

In this post, we’ll identify the things that could stop you from creating a photo legacy, how to get past those potential roadblocks, and how to take the steps to ensure the stories in your photos are preserved for future generations.

Roadblocks That Prevent You From Creating a Photo Legacy

Roadblock #1: You can’t remember the people who are featured in your photos.

It can be frustrating when you’re looking at older photos that aren’t labeled, and you can’t identify who’s in the images.

If you’re not sure whether your photos represent anything of value (because the stories and details aren’t included), you might not feel like your images are really a part of your family legacy.  

The good news is that there are clues in old photos that help you narrow things down. Check out this post for some excellent tips on identifying people in your older photos.

Family resemblances can also give you clues about the people in your photos. For example, does your grandfather look very similar to your brother? If so, that resemblance can help you sort out the “Who’s Who” in your images.

Roadblock #2: We don’t know how to make our photo collection into a photo legacy.

You might feel like you’re not sure how to create a photo legacy…but the good news is that it isn’t that difficult. You just need to know what steps to take!

Here are some tips for making your photos part of a legacy collection that people can enjoy for generations.

How to Create a Photo Legacy

1. Make sure your photos are preserved and stored properly.

As a photo organizer, I’m a stickler for making sure you preserve your photos, so they’ll last a long time.

When possible, always preserve your original prints. They are a historical example of something members of future generations don’t get to see or touch very often – and that makes them important!

If you don’t want to keep your old heritage photos, sometimes museums or historical societies will accept donations of items like this. I get really sad when I think about prints (especially old heritage ones) being thrown away!

Designate a family historian to be in charge of the photo collection, and let your family know who that person is! This may seem obvious, but you need to tell people who has the photos and where the images are being stored (physically and digitally).

You can make your digital files a part of your estate, and share login details so they don’t get lost – just make sure you keep these details updated if you change login and password details.

If you are using a library system or a shared site, you also need to make sure someone is maintaining that system. The family historian or the person responsible for the estate needs to keep things current, and be aware if a site has become obsolete.

Wouldn’t it be awful if you thought you had your photos safely stored online, only to find out the company or site has gone out of business – and your photos were gone? That’s why I recommend keeping it simple, and storing photos on a device that’s easily accessible.

2. Be mindful of technology changes.

Digital file formats can change, and I recommend keeping your file formats current. For examples, your home movie reels and tapes should be converted to digital files.

I recommend making that files formats are current as formats changes, and ensuring that your files can be read by current equipment and software.

I just read a recent article on the possibility of Apple making some changes to their file formats. It is always important to be aware of changes like these, to keep your collection current with trends – otherwise you may end up with file formats that your devices can’t read or play!

If this sounds daunting, we can help – managing file formats is something we do for our full-service clients.

3. Share the stories.

Try to keep photos of a series together, including photos from the same event or day. As the stories unfold, these images will tell the story of what was happening at that moment.

When you’re taking photos, use your camera to take pictures of moments that tell stories.

You can also create a family timeline to document events, dates, etc., so you can use it to identify and label your pictures. A family timeline will make the job of the family historian a lot easier!

For more ideas to on getting stories out of your family, check out these tips from one of our recent posts.

You can also use photos to help you document the meaning behind sentimental items. Photographing these things can help you let go of these items, or just document their meaning – which is especially important if you plan to bequeath them to a family member.

My mother used images to document the meaning behind some of the heirlooms that were passed down to her from her mother and grandmothers. It’s so much more meaningful to know the stories behind some of these artifacts, versus just seeing a pretty bowl or serving platter.

4. Use metadata to save the “who, what, where and when” of your photos.

Metadata” is information that goes along with a photo file, like what camera was used the take the picture, when the photo was taken, etc.. Photo metadata allows information to be transported along with an image file, in a way that can be understood by other hardware, software, or end users.

Storing information with an image’s metadata is a great way to make sure information about the photo doesn’t get lost – but there are a few things you need to be aware of when you’re editing photo metadata.

The best way to edit the metadata of a photo is to save the metadata directly to the image – which you can do with Photo Mechanic or Adobe’s Lightroom. It’s critical that you edit metadata and save it directly to the file, so that information will always travel with the image, if you’re exporting the photo or moving it around from place to place on your computer or tablet.

If you’re using a library application or software (like Google Photos, or Apple’s built-in “Photos” program), you can add metadata like keywords, etc. – but that information is saved in an external file that will be stripped out if you move or export the image.

Folks can unknowingly strip metadata out of their photo files by exporting them from certain programs, so the technical information (date taken, camera settings, camera type) gets lost. That can mean a lot of work down the drain!

If you want to add keywords or tags to your images, the ONLY way to preserve those changes is to save them to the file using a program like Photo Mechanic or Lightroom.

If you use a library application, that also means you’ll only be able to find your images when you’re in that particular app or program, which doesn’t allow you any flexibility for working with your photos. If you save your metadata directly to the file, you will always be able to locate your photos, without being dependent upon a specialized photo app or program.

Adding metadata to images is a service we provide to our clients, because most people don’t want to manage this themselves – but they like that we handle this, so the details of a photo are saved and made available for future generations.

5. Make sure the file details are universal and logical (to anyone).

The simpler your system is, the easier it will be for people to find things – so it’s a good idea to make sure your organizational system can be understood by anyone who might be looking for your photos at a later date.

If you plan to keep things simple and organize your photos in folders with filenames that include the details of the event, etc., make sure the naming is easy to understand and follow. For example, using acronyms or nicknames may not be universally known to future generations. Here’s a great article written by colleague on the best ways to file photos based upon the theme or event.

However, with artificial intelligence, files can now be searchable based upon certain keywords for details such as location, people, and events. This is where the accuracy of the photo file’s metadata comes into play (see above).

I’ve realized this is a more common method for younger generations, or for tech savvy folks who like this system – but you’re likely to pass along your photos to younger generations, so this IS important to keep in mind!

Photo keywords tie events together, but you need to be consistent so that when you search, you find all the files that fit that search criteria. Check out this article for types on best keywording practices.

If you want some recommendations on best practices for naming photos, so the information is searchable, here are a few articles to help you out:

How Having a Photo Legacy Helped Me Celebrate a Wonderful Moment with My Daughter

I’ll share a recent experience that emphasizes the benefits of having photos ready to be part of your family’s legacy.

Our daughter Molly and her husband Michael are currently in Thailand enjoying their honeymoon. Just this week, they had the opportunity to interact directly with elephants while they were on their trip.

Molly was really looking forward to this experience – and it didn’t disappoint!

How to Create a Photo Legacy That Lasts for Generations

After seeing this photo shared by her hubby, I realized that this actually wasn’t the first time Molly had been that close to an elephant! I remembered another photo, taken back when Molly was really little, back in 1993:

How to Create a Photo Legacy That Lasts for Generations

Because my photo collection is organized, I was able to find that older image and text it back to Molly and Michael within a few minutes. Imagine what it would’ve been like it I didn’t have my digital photos organized, or if I just had a stack of prints hidden in the back of one of my closets! It was such fun to be able to find this image so quickly, and be able to share it with them.

In my next post, I’m going to share all the insider secrets of how I got control of my own photo collection. I’m going to tell you exactly how I was able to find this photo so easily – so make sure to keep your eye out for that post in just a few weeks!

How to Document Your Family Reunion This Summer

How to Document Your Family Reunion This Summer

Family reunions are one of the few times you can get your family members all in one place at one time – and that means it’s the perfect time to do some storytelling, and document those stories!

Since we talked about family reunion planning in our last post, I wanted to give you some tips on documenting your family reunions this summer, and that means taking photos, recording stories via audio, and creating videos.

All three can be quick and easy to do, and you’ll be so glad you took the time to document your family stories. You never know when you’ll get another chance!

Here are some tips for documenting your family reunions:

1. Get your family to help you think about the stories in advance.

Sometimes it’s hard for your relatives to come up with stories on the spot, especially if you’ve just stuck a microphone in their faces.

Do a little advance planning, and ask your family members (or all generations) to jot down the topics of their favorite stories, or send them to you via email or text. Include your own favorite stories, too!

If you want some ideas, I’d suggest a book called “To Our Children’s Children: Preserving Family Histories for Generations to Come” by Bob Greene and D.G. Fulford. It’s a great book about putting together a personal history for your family.

2. Take photos from your reunion.

When you’re taking photos, include as many people and moments as you can (both posed and candid). For more tips on taking great storytelling photos, download our free report, 8 Ways to Tell Stories with Your Family Photos.

How to Document Your Family Reunion This Summer

We held a little family reunion after my daughter Molly’s wedding.

3. Record your relatives telling stories.

Once you’ve got a list of stories to include in your documentation process (see #1), you can ask someone in your family to tell a specific story, instead of just saying, “Tell me a story!” and putting that person on the spot.

Use the ideas from your list to get conversations started. You can also have folks bring photo albums, and document as folks reminisce over the photos. Family photo albums can be a great way to get memories (and good stories) flowing!

Here are a few ways to capture audio recordings as the storytelling happens:

  • For iPhones, you can use the Voice Memos application. Just make sure your phone is fully charged up before you go to the reunion!

You should already have Voice Memos on your phone, so you can simply open the app  and press record. When you’re finished, just tap “Save”. You can give your recording a name, and it will be saved within the app. Here’s a handy article on how to use the Voice Memos app to record stories. The Voice Memos application is exclusive to the iPhone right now, but there is mostly likely a voice recording app you can get if you have an Android phone.

You can share and send these voice recordings directly from your phone, the same way you share photos. From the app, select the voice recording to share, then choose the method you’d like to use to share the recording (Message, Mail, Add to Notes, or a third party app).

The recording is a .M4a file, which is like a ringtone file, so you can also convert a voice recording to a ringtone or text tone – but that’s a whole different conversation! If you’d like to know how to do that, let me know in the comments, and we’ll try to address it in an upcoming blog post.

Whatever tool you decide to use for audio recording, make sure you test it in advance to make sure you understand how it works. You need to know how to start, stop, and save recordings easily. There’s nothing worse than missing great stories because you’re fiddling around with your technology!

4. Videotape the reunion, if you can.

It’s so nice to have motion and voices in your recording – so if you’ve got the technology and the skill to create a video of your reunion, go for it!

When you’re recording, be mindful of getting the best perspective. While it’s possible to create vertical videos (by holding your phone the long way), keep in mind that for playback, this doesn’t work with all devices. Computer and TV screens are designed for horizontal video viewing, so things will be easier and more pleasant to watch if you shoot things horizontally. Here’s an article that offers some perspective on the horizontal/vertical debate.

5. Upload your photos on sharing sites.

Want a simple way for relatives to view (or give input on) your reunion photos? You can create a shareable album, so all your family members can enjoy your event images. Check out our previous posts for more information on creating easily shareable albums.

For slideshows or videos, you can upload them to Vimeo and share them with everyone in the family.

Reunions Are Great Storytelling Opportunities

Remember: Your family reunions are wonderful opportunities to sit down with your relatives and share family stories – so why not document that process?

Today’s modern tools make it relatively easy to document your reunions, so you should definitely take a few extra minutes to create some priceless photos and recordings from the event.

You’ll be so glad you did!

Top 10 Tips for Planning a Memorable Family Reunion

Top 10 Tips for Planning a Memorable Family Reunion

Family reunions are the perfect time to connect with extended family members we don’t get to see very often – and summertime is the best season to host one!

Whether you’ll be gathering with a dozen close family members, or several hundred relatives, planning a fun, memorable, and meaningful family reunion can be challenging. You’ll need to stay organized and keep your sense of humor throughout this experience!

I’ve helped plan a number of family reunions and larger family gatherings over the last few years, and I’ve learned a lot about how to plan a successful event. Here are my top 10 tips for planning your own family reunion:

1. Plan in advance. To get a lot of people to attend, you’ll need to give your family members lots of advance notice about the event. Allow plenty of time for folks to get the date on of their calendars, and make their travel plans. Some people may need to buy plane tickets, and they can save money if they buy in advance, so the more notice you can give, the better.

2. Think about how long you want the event to last. Are you gathering for just one meal, or will your get-together last an entire weekend? The longer your event lasts, the more activities you’ll need to plan and the more food you’ll need to provide – but longer events also mean you’ll get to (hopefully) spend more time together as one big happy family.

Whatever you decide, make sure to communicate about the length of your event clearly, so your relatives know what to expect.

3. Consider the purpose of the family gathering. If your relatives are already getting together because of another event (like a graduation ceremony, wedding, or even a funeral), it can be a great opportunity to plan a family reunion. Everyone will already be in one place, which can mean you’ll be more likely to get people to attend your reunion.

The day after our daughter’s wedding (which is now right around the corner!), we’re having a family picnic. Since both sides of the family are traveling to Seattle for the wedding, we thought this was a perfect chance to spend more time together to get better acquainted.

4. Create a planning committee. It helps to have input and assistance when you’re planning a reunion, so get some help! You can delegate the food, accommodations, activities, and/or communication about the event. The bigger the family, the more details there are to keep track of, and you don’t need to do everything yourself to have a successful event.

5. Set your budget. Reunion expenses can get out of hand quickly if you’re travelling for the event, or have a large group of attendees. With your planning committee, decide if you’ll ask folks to help pitch in to offset the cost of the venue, food, activities, or accomodations. If you ask people to pitch in, work with your committee to come up with a figure that’s affordable for your attendees.

6. Carefully come up with your guest list. How large do you want your reunion to be? You can go big, and host a giant event with your extended family (one side, or both sides), but you can also consciously decide to host a smaller event, with just couples and kids.

When you’re making the guest list decisions, remember that large events can be great, but they can also be expensive and time-consuming to plan…..make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew!

7. Decide if you’re going to send invitations. If you decide you want to send invitations, you can use Evite, which enables you to send free online invitations via email, share details on locations and activities, track RSVPs, and receive correspondence about the event. Keep in mind that if you use Evite, you’ll need an email address for each family or attendee.

8. Consider who’s attending when planning the activities. If your group is multi-generational, you may need to split up your activities a bit, and have different age groups doing separate activities. You can get as detailed as you want when you’re planning activities. You can provide ideas for your family members to consider, or even make reservations for activities and outings for the entire group.

More than likely, you’re going to have some people in your group who need a bit of downtime every day. Make sure you give people the choice to opt out of activities if they need time to recharge.

In my blog post on family traditions, I talked about a Memorial Day event I attended with my family a few years ago. In their enthusiasm to create a fun weekend, my relatives packed every moment of that weekend with games and activities. As one who’s not a big fan of games, competition, or extended time with people (yes, I’m an introvert), this was a tough weekend for me in some ways. It would have been nice if the event planners had factored some downtime into the schedule.

9. If you’re planning an outside event, have a backup plan. Make sure you know what to do if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Can you gather under a picnic pavilion, or go inside the house, if you’re meeting in someone’s backyard? Make sure you’ve got enough room to accommodate everyone in your backup space.

For my daughter’s wedding, the post-wedding picnic will be held at the house we’re renting. The house has a nice-sized yard we can comfortably entertain in, but should the weather change, we can bring everyone inside.

10. Plan on including some storytelling in the event. Reunions are the perfect time for storytelling! Take pictures at the reunion and bring pictures to reminisce over with your relatives.

And by all means, prompt the members of the older generations to share their stories. How often do you get the chance to just listen to them talk about their lives, with that type of audience? Don’t miss this opportunity to get your older relatives to chat!

Want to know how to take storytelling photos at your reunion? Pick up a copy of our free report, 8 Ways to Tell Stories with Your Family Photos.

How to Share Group Vacation Photos and Create a Keepsake Trip Album

How to Share Group Vacation Photos and Create a Keepsake Trip Album

Yay! You’ve decided to go on a group vacation! I’m excited for you….you’re going to have a great time, especially because you’ve done your homework, and you’re well prepared for the trip.

You can make your travel experience even better by documenting your group’s adventures with your photos, and setting up an easy way for group members to share photos once the trip is over.

In this post, I’d like to give you some tips on how to take great storytelling photos, share your pictures with one another, and create a memorable photo album that all the group members can enjoy.

How to Document the Experience on Your Group Trip

It’s a good idea to decide in advance whether you’d like to create a photo album about your trip, because that decision may influence the kinds of photos you take on during your travels.

If you’ll be leading this effort, talk to your group members in advance, and let them know you’ll be creating a group album, and that you’ll create a place online where people can share their photos for the album.

Then, when you’re taking photos during the trip, you’ll want to document:

  • Who you’re traveling with.
  • The stops you make.
  • When you get to your destination.
  • All the stories and memories along the way.

Memorabilia can be helpful to keep track of some of the details on your travels, so hang onto your airline tickets, maps, pamphlets, restaurant menus, and your itinerary (which will likely included with the group planning of the trip).

Use your camera to help you document everything you experience. Take photos of things like the people you meet, the food you eat, and the signs you see. In a previous blog post, we’ve offered some tips for documenting stories from a trip. You can also check out our previous post on keeping your photos organized (and backed up) while you’re traveling.

If you are changing time zones during your trip, make sure your camera clock is set for the correct time – and tell your fellow group members to do the same. This is particularly important when you’re sharing photos with one another and creating an album. If someone’s camera clock is set wrong, it will be tricky to place that person’s photos in the correct sequence when you’re compiling images.

Most Android and Mac smartphones have location settings that will automatically adjust when you switch time zones. If you’re using an SLR camera, check to see if it has a location setting that will automatically adjust – if not, you will need to remember to manually update the clock.

We do have clients who don’t bother to change their camera clocks when they travel. When we have that client’s itinerary while we’re organizing their photos and creating albums, we can adjust the dates and times to match their locations during the trip. That’s a service people really appreciate – but you don’t want to get stuck adjusting time settings for the other group members. A quick “Set your clocks!” reminder to people when you arrive in your new time zone should eliminate the problem.

How to Share Photos from Your Group Trip

You can set up a sharing site that folks can use to upload their photos while they’re still on vacation, or after they return.

It’s easy to set up, and your group members will love you for this!

In a previous post, I recommended some options for good photo sharing services, and you can use any of the sites I mentioned in that post. Dropbox is a my favorite service for a project like this – it’s easy to set up the folder system that I’ll be talking about next.

You probably don’t want the members of your group to upload every single photo they take on the trip, so it’s a good idea to suggest people review their photos and only upload their favorites.

It’s also best to share a paid account for the sharing service you choose, because the free services will probably compress the photos when you upload them, making them lower quality. Poor quality photos won’t work, because you’ll need full size, printable versions of the photos in your album.

I’ve done photo sharing during several group trips. Here are my top four tips for setting up your sharing system and getting great quality photos to share:

1. Set up a group shared project folder, and title that folder using the year, month, and trip location (i.e. “2017-07-China”). Then create subfolders with people’s names, so each person can upload images to his or her individual folder.

For example, you can title the folder “Smith-John.” Using this naming convention and organizational system will be easier to manage than having a huge group of everyone’s photos all in one folder. It will also make it more manageable to work in portions (by day or event), rather than all at once.

When we took a trip to France a few years ago, we traveled with a group of 20 people – which meant that people contributed photos from 20 different cameras!

2. As I mentioned earlier, have them upload just their favorites. When you have people self-select the best photos to upload, it helps pare down the quantity of photos you have to review for your album. For our trip to France, I had to sift through over 7000 photos, because I didn’t use individual folders and didn’t ask people to limit the photos they uploaded!

3. If you’re creating the album, download the shared photos to your computer. This gives a clean copy of the images to work from while you’re picking images for the album.

4. As you’re downloading the folders, rename the photos and add the name of the person who took them (for example, “2017-07-01-China-Smith-John-Canon”). By having the date taken to the photos, the images will fall in order – which will help when you’re creating your album. This is also helpful for tracking the sources of the images, which means it will be easier to deal with problems if they crop up.

My Recommendations for Creating a Group Album

Once you start creating the group album, you’re going to be grateful that you’ve been so meticulous and organized!

You’ll have only the very best photos of the trip, which will make it much easier to select the images you want to use. You’ll also have a simple way to refer back to the who, what, where, and when of your trip, which will be useful for storytelling.

Follow these steps to create your album:

Step 1: Create subfolders for each day of the trip. In most cases, people want the album to be in chronological order, so it’s a good idea to create subfolders by day – especially if you did a multi-day trip. Then you can look at all the photos for a particular day, and pick the best ones from that day for your album.

Step 2: Review the photos people have shared, and select the best ones. Keep in mind that each person on the trip will want to be represented, so you’ll need to make sure you have photos of each person. Some folks in the group will take fantastic photos, but not every person is a great photographer – so you may want to let people know in advance that you will get to choose which photos are used!

Step 3: Edit any images that need to be adjusted. You may need to flip or rotate some of the images, so now’s the time to do that. I actually have one travel buddy who managed to take all her photos upside down! You can also color correct your images through the “Photos” features on your computer.

Step 4: Copy the best images (post-edits) into a project folder. Keeping the final, edited versions of the images in separate folder – instead of saving over the originals – will be handy if you need to revert back to the originals.

Step 5: Create the album by page or spread, keeping events and/or locations together. Now you get to create your album pages!

When we design an album here at Picture This Organized, we typically leave space for text (for captions and stories), then add captions and stories after we know which pictures will be used. You can also wait to design the album until you have all the text.

You can utilize your photo sharing site (where people uploaded their photos) to clarify locations or get stories from the group members. Most photo sharing sites have comment fields, and you can copy and paste comment text directly into the album layout pages.

Unsure of the location of a particular photo? That’s okay! If you stopped at locations that had similar features (like cathedrals, ruins, etc.), you can refer back to your itinerary and use the Internet to search for locations and verify photos. We often use this trick when we’re working on client projects.

How to Share Group Vacation Photos and Create a Keepsake Trip Album

Step 6: Get your album printed. When you have finished choosing your photos and adding text, you’ll need a good company for album design and publishing. I recommend Mpix – you can share the login details your group members, so people can see your progress and help with the final proofing of your album.

Once your album is completed, you can have each person order their own copy, or you can collect money and handle the ordering for them.

Sharing the Highlights of Your Group Trip

Group trips are often terrific experiences, and when you take the lead on helping people capture and share their best photos, you’ll get the group to document all of their very best memories.

And once you’ve used these tips to design and print a beautiful photo album about your big adventure, all of you will have a wonderful keepsake that will remind you of the wonderful trip you all took together.

How to Actually Enjoy Your Group Vacation

How to Actually Enjoy Your Group Vacation

Taking group vacations is one of my favorite ways to travel, and I’ve had some amazing experiences with group travel over the years. I’m actually more of a homebody, but my friends have helped me to step out of my grid!

Several years ago, I participated on a choir trip to the Czech Republic and Israel. There were about a hundred of us on the trip, which included singers, leaders, and the band. It was a multi-generational group, ranging in age from 14 to 80 years old, so getting everyone onto planes and loading luggage, equipment, and bags onto busses was a complicated logistical experience!

By the end of that choir trip, we had all become like a big family. We supported each other through fatigue and illness, shared cell phones to call home, interpreted in conversations with the locals, and helped each other figure out how to pay for things in foreign currency.

On the other hand, I once went on a trip that went horribly wrong…but it was still a bonding experience for all of us. On a group trip with some friends, we were going to travel on their yacht for ten days of good food, wine, snorkeling and sunshine. Instead, about 5 days into the trip, everyone came down with the flu! We all suffered together, sharing updates on our symptoms.

Because I’ve done a number of these group trips, I’ve got some good tips for how to actually enjoy traveling with your friends and family members. But before we dig into those tips, let’s talk about the pros and cons of traveling with a group. After all, group trips aren’t for everyone, and you’ll want to figure out if they’re a good fit for you.

The Pros of Group Vacations

Here are some of the biggest advantages of vacationing with a group:

1. Often, the itinerary is planned for you. If you’ve been invited to travel with someone else, it’s likely that most (or all) of the itinerary for that vacation will be planned for you. That can be a big plus if you hate vacation planning and don’t care for doing research about your destination.

2. You may be challenged to try new experiences. Because someone else is planning the itinerary, you probably need to be open to trying new things on a group trip – including participating in new activities or experiencing new culinary adventures.

3. You can create amazing memories with people you know. You’ll have wonderful stories and shared experiences with the friends and family members you know before you go on the trip – and you’ll also bring home some incredible photos!

4. A group trip is a great bonding experience, so you can expect to meet new people along the way – and those folks will often feel like close friends by the end of the trip.

5. When someone else plans your trip and leads you through new experiences, you can see the world through that person’s eyes. You can learn a lot about other cultures and countries by going with the flow on group trips.

6. It’s easier to accept help from people you know. Ever notice that it’s easier to call a friend and ask for directions than it is to stop strangers and ask them? When you’re lost, confused about currency, or baffled by local customs, it’s far easier to turn to someone you know and ask for guidance.

7. Group vacations can be cheaper. You can often get discounts when you travel with a big group, so that can help when you’re on a budget.

8. Guided tours are often included in group trips, which can be a big plus if you’re worried about speaking a foreign language, navigating through a new city, or driving on the wrong side of the road!

The Cons of Group Vacations

1. As I mentioned above, you’ll probably meet new people on a group vacation – and that can be rough or meeting new folks isn’t really your thing. When you meet new people, you’ll probably find yourself making a lot of small talk on your vacation. If you’re really introverted, small talk can feel exhausting and crowds may feel overwhelming.

2. You may be limited in your travel choices. There are certain places where a large group is going to have trouble traveling, so you may need to compromise on your vacation choices in some cases. It easy to navigate a new city with 4 to 6 people, but there if you’ve got a group that can’t all fit into one car, you’ll need to coordinate carefully.

3. When you travel with a group, there will likely be times when you lose your authority over your decisions – like when you’d like to wander freely in a new city, but the tour guide tells you that you need to stay with the group. If you always want control of your time, group travel may not be for you.

Other Questions to Ask Yourself Before Going on a Group Vacation

Factors like the length of the trip, how familiar you are with the people in your group, and your level of travel experience can all affect how much you enjoy yourself on your group trip – so it’s important that you ask yourself some critical questions as you’re planning your vacation.

Ask yourself:

How often do you travel?

Having experience with traveling on your own is helpful if you’re going to travel with a group. Traveling puts you out of your comfort zone, and adding more people to the mix can complicate things in some ways (but make them easier in others).

Along the same lines: Consider whether your destination a new place for you, or if you are returning to somewhere familiar.

How well do you know the people you’ll be traveling with?

Have you travelled together before? Have you spent much time together? Spending time together for shorter periods of time (like for dinner, or doing activities together) is different than waking up with people every morning for a week.

On a group trip, you’re likely to see some annoying habits –  especially if you share bedrooms and bathrooms – and people can sometimes get under your skin. It helps if you know what you’re in for in advance.

Do you have similar interests to the people you’re traveling with?

If everyone on the trip has completely different tastes and preferences, you’ll be more likely to have conflict on your trip when you’re trying to make decisions.

My husband and I went on a 10-day sailing trip around the British Virgin Islands a few years ago. We were traveling with five other couples, and we were sailing with a crew who managed the boat and cooked and served all the food.

The majority of our time was spent on the boat, and we only made a few stops every couple of days. Most the people on the trip were happy with that, but a few people felt a bit confined.

We were given the details of our itinerary in advance, so we should have known what to expect. Those of us who felt some cabin fever came to the realization that we do better if we got to disembark more often. But since many of us had never experienced a vacation like this, it was a learning experience – and we learned to speak up when it was possible to make an unplanned trip ashore.

Would you mind being on a sailboat for seven days, or would you prefer to disembark more often?

What’s the situation going to be with food?

Will food be provided on the group trip, or are you sharing the cooking? If you’re sharing the culinary duties, do you like to cook for large groups – or do you prefer to eat out and try new types of food when you’re traveling?

If you have dietary restrictions, you’ll also need to plan for that in advance. I’m gluten intolerant, so I need to be careful and always understand exactly what I’m eating. I’ve discovered that whoever is preparing the food for the group appreciates knowing about any dietary restrictions ahead of time. For the most part, most people are willing to accommodate most dietary needs if given some advance notice.

How long will you be gone (or more importantly, how long do you like to be away from home)?

Do you like to be away for extended periods of time, or do you prefer short trips, like a long weekend or an overnight excursion?

What’s your preference for accommodations?

Do you like camping, or would you rather stay in a 5-star hotel? If you’re not really an “outdoor person,” camping for a week with your friends might be kind of miserable. Ask yourself what types of accommodations you prefer, and take that into account when you’re planning your trip.

I’ve found that sometimes it’s possible to make adjustments. For our annual Great Sand Dunes family camping trip, some people camped in tents. Since I’m not much of a camper, we rented a pop-up camper that provided shelter from the elements. This proved handy when there was a rainstorm – our 3 children were thankful they could retreat to our camper!

Does everyone in the group have the same budget?

Figure out in advance if you’re on the same page, as far as your budget expectations are concerned. If the people in your group have budgets that are vastly different, are there options for those who are more frugal to opt for a different experience than those who are want to spend more?

Will you be traveling to a foreign country? If so, does someone in your group speak the language?

Will you need an interpreter? If so, who will be in charge of acquiring those services? It’s helpful for everyone in the group to understand the plan for handling language issues, when these situations arise.

My family went on a trip to Europe, and we spend part of the trip in Germany, visiting Tom’s family. The vacation was amazing, and we had a great time seeing Hamburg through the eyes of locals.

The trickiest part of the trip was when we all went on a tour with a guide who spoke German the entire time. Tom speaks German, but it was really tough for him to be our interpreter (it’s a lot harder than it looks!) The kids and I nodded off several times because we were so jet lagged.

I felt awful about it, and we didn’t mean to be disrespectful, but hearing the German speaking tour guide lulled us to sleep. In hindsight, it would have been helpful to have an English version of his talk, so that we could follow along.

My Top Tips for Planning and Enjoying Your Group Vacation

1. Plan ahead. The more people you’re coordinating, the more schedules you have to juggle. If you plan your trip a year or more in advance, the members of your group can plan accordingly and block off the time on their calendars.

2. State your needs. I don’t like to plan vacations, so I’m happy to have someone else handle the details – but I do have opinions about how busy each day is. I don’t like to have every single minute of every day scheduled for me. Consider your individual preferences in advance, and make sure to communicate with your group leader about your biggest needs and concerns.

3. Decide who’s in charge. It’s easier to have one or two people be the “go to” authorities for questions and decision-making. Making decisions by committee can be tricky, and conflicts can detract from your vacation experience. If the itinerary is planned ahead of time, it’s also easier for the leaders to keep track of confirmation numbers, reservations, travel plans, etc..

Even if the person in charge makes a bad decision, at least you’re all in it together. It’s much easier to change course together when everyone is on the same train!

4. Whenever possible, have separate sleeping quarters per person/couple. It’s good to have a bit of distance from each other, and getting a good night’s sleep makes little annoyances easier to deal with. No one wants to deal with someone snoring in group sleeping quarters, and keeping everyone awake every night – and no one wants to be THAT person, either!

5. Go into the trip with patience and a sense of humor. Things will go wrong on your group vacation, and recognizing that fact can help you cope. Keep in mind that sometimes those spontaneous, unplanned experiences are more enriching and fulfilling than the planned ones.

The Magic of Traveling as a Group

I know some of my all-time favorite travel memories have happened while I’m on group trips. It’s a fantastic way to travel, as long as you plan ahead and speak up about your own needs.

Now I’d love to hear from you – do you have any fun group trip experiences (or any group travel nightmare stories)? Share them in the comments below!

How Does a Photo Organizer Create an Album (and How Long Does That Process Take)?

How Does a Photo Organizer Create an Album (and How Long Does That Process Take)?

During the photo organization process, many of our clients ask us to create special albums of their precious memories. I love creating custom albums for my clients, and it’s one of my favorite parts of being a professional photo organizer.

When you create a photo albums, you get the opportunity to share photos in an accessible way, and showcase the stories those photos tell. Albums can be a personal way to honor a life or a milestone, reminisce about a memory, share mementoes (such as recipes or artwork) or favorite interests (like fishing, painting, photography, or nature).

It’s fun to laugh with my clients as they share funny personal stories or travel adventures (and misadventures!). The best part of creating these special keepsakes for my clients is seeing the joy on their faces as they pour over their published albums.

In one of our previous posts, we talked about how photo organizers typically work, and how much time you should allow for certain projects. Some of my clients asked why it takes so long to create a photo album – so I wanted to explain a little more about what the process looks like, what it typically costs, and why it’s important to plan ahead if you’d like to create an album to give as a gift for a special event (like a wedding, graduation, anniversary, or birthday).

Curious about how the album creation process works? Let’s dig in!

What Our Customized Photo Albums Look Like

First, let’s set the stage: What kind of albums do we create for our photo organizing clients?

These albums are personalized keepsakes that are often displayed prominently in the client’s home, and we customized each album based on the needs of that particular client. We don’t use templates, and these aren’t cookie-cutter projects for us. The album style, color, and quality are all carefully chosen to coordinate with the decor in the client’s home.

Our albums are luxury books that are published with premium vendors. They are published on high-quality paper, and include sturdy covers that can won’t get torn or destroyed when lots of people handle them. The albums lay flat when you open them, so you can view all the photos easily and comfortably.

What does it take to put one of these premium, personalized albums together for a client? First, we start with our prep work.

Our 5 Key Prep Steps for Creating a Client’s Photo Album

When we kick off a new album project, we always start with doing a some crucial prep work. These are the steps we need to take before we begin design the album:

1. Organize the photos.

Sometimes a client knows they want our help creating a special album, but their photos aren’t organized, or they’ve got digital photos spread haphazardly across multiple devices.

If this is the case, the first thing we need to do is organize the client’s photos, so we can choose the best images for the project.

We’ll search through the client’s photos to find the ones that fit the theme of the album, then resume organizing the rest of the collection after we’ve completed their album project.

2. Choose the theme of the album.

If you’ve never created an album before, it can help to have visual examples of what’s possible. We can show you samples of albums on each of these themes:

  • Year in Review
  • Life Story
  • Travel
  • Milestone Moment (i.e. Birthday, Anniversary, Graduation, Wedding)
  • Showcase Mementoes (ie. Artwork, Recipes, Memorabilia)

We’ll work together to choose the overall theme for your project.

How Does a Photo Organizer Create an Album?

How Does a Photo Organizer Create an Album?

3. Select the photos.

Once we’ve got your theme nailed down, we’ll select the photos for the album.

We are always careful to pick photos that are the best quality (meaning they are clear images, and the key elements of the photo are easily identifiable).

We’re also looking for photos that tell a story. We want to share the location, the details of the experience, and the main people and places behind the image. Sharing the moment as clearly as possible is always our main goal.

Ideally, we’ll select digital photos that are ready to be used right away. If you want to use print photos in your album, they will need to be digitized first. We can do that for you, if you need help with that step. As part of our premium scanning services, photos are named by the date and event.

Sometimes the color or lighting of a particular photo isn’t optimal, so a little editing might be needed. This is done post-digitizing, and part of our pre-album design services.

4. Plan out the album text.

We can use strategic sections of text in your album to:

  • Explain the relationship between photos.
  • Remind the reader of details (like people, places, or things) with a label or caption.
  • Tell stories. Journals can be very helpful in telling stories, and we have clients who jot down funny stories, favorite foods, and people they meet in a travel journal when they’re on the road. These stories are incorporated throughout the travel album, giving the client a chance to revisit precious memories. Those stories are also preserved for future generations to enjoy.
  • Share funny quotes or stories from the people who are part of the album’s story. When we created my father’s 80th birthday album, we asked his friends and family to share funny stories and photos of him. That text became a really important (and treasured) part of the album.

5. Choose the size of the album, and the publisher we’ll use to create the final product.

Our albums are designed according to who will be publishing it, so we need to choose that vendor in advance, so we can plan accordingly.

We also need to decide on the final size of the album, so we’ll know how large each page will be. We typically design 12×12, 10×10 or 11×8 albums for our clients.

How Does a Photo Organizer Create an Album?

How Does a Photo Organizer Create an Album?

How We Design Our Photo Albums

Once the prep work is completed, we’re ready to design the album pages.

Our albums are designed with a clean, classic, timeless look, and the photos are the primary focus of each album spread.

We don’t use embellishments or patterned backgrounds, like you would on scrapbook pages, as we feel that these are distracting and can make the album look dated. We want our clients to be able to enjoy their albums for years to come, without the albums looking old-fashioned after five, ten, or even twenty years have passed.

Because we’re all about creating albums that last, we use carefully selected premium publishers that create high quality products. We make sure that we create albums that stand the test of time, and we want our clients to feel proud to showcase their albums in their homes.

Initially, we work side-by-side with the client to select the best photos for the album. We’ll make note of any details about the theme, stories, location, or stories, so we can group photos together and create appropriate captions and text in the right places.

At this stage, we’ll also discuss design preferences like fonts, background colors, and so forth, so those details can all be incorporated into the design.

When we’ve got all the photos selected, we proceed with designing and planning the layout of each page of the album.

How Does a Photo Organizer Create an Album?

Publication Process – and Why We Need a Lot of Lead Time

Once we’re done designing, we’ll upload it to an album proofing site, so the client can review the entire project (on their own, or in-person, with me).

The client reviews the photos and text to check for accuracy, and provides input on any changes that need to be made. Since we’re always careful and accurate during the early planning and designing stages, there are typically few revisions at this point.

When the album is approved, we upload the final project to the album publisher, and place the order. Album publishing is a separate fee, and the cost varies depending upon the size of the album and the number of photo spreads.

Most album publishers have a 10-spread minimum and a 50-spread maximum. For larger travel experiences (for example, a 4-week trip to several countries), we can split an album project into multiple volumes. We can also order more than one copy of the album if you need extra copies.

Turnaround time varies by the publisher: Final publication and delivery can take one to two weeks, depending upon the publisher and time of year. The busiest season is during the winter holidays.

We typically design and submit albums for publishing BEFORE late November, or AFTER January 1st. Experience has taught us that placing orders for holiday gifts in December can be risky, and we can’t guarantee that you will receive your album in time for the holiday gift-giving season.

Occasionally a publisher will have some production issues, so we always allow extra time in case an order needs to be redone.

Publication schedules are one of many reasons that I advise my clients to give me plenty of notice for album projects.

How Does a Photo Organizer Create an Album?

How Much Time Does the Entire Album Creation Process Take?

By now you might be wondering: How long does creating an entire album usually take?

The answer is – it depends. How long your project will take depends on whether your photos need to be organized first, how many photos you have, and whether we’ll need to digitize or edit your photos before we can use them in your album.

Here are some approximate timelines for each stage. These as minimums, and these times can vary widely depending on your individual situation. I’ve estimated most of these tasks in “half days”, which is the typical unit of time I charge my clients for:

  • Selecting photos – 1 to 2 half days
  • Digitizing – 1 to 3 half days
  • Album Design – 4 to 8 half days
  • Album publishing – 1 to 2 weeks (depending on the publisher)

Talk to Us About Your Personalized Photo Album Project

We’d love to create a beautiful, keepsake photo album for your special event or travel experience! When you create a customized photo album, you’ll have a special keepsake that you can display on your home, share with your friends and family members, and appreciate for many years.

Get in touch with us today to discuss your project.