Make Your Life Easier with Julie’s Best Smartphone Tips

Make Your Life Easier with Julie's Best Smartphone Tips

Smartphones are everywhere these days, and at this point, most of us own one.

Sometimes we love them, sometimes we hate them….but either way, they’re part of our lives, and they’re here to stay.

Because I’m a photo organizer, you might think I use my phone strictly for taking photos and organizing images – but I actually use my iPhone for lots of other things. I use my phone so much that I get really uneasy if my iPhone isn’t within arm’s length at any given moment!

I know many of my clients love their smartphones, too, so today I thought I’d share all the different ways I use my iPhone, and give you some of the best tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years.

Please note: Most of these tips are applicable to iPhone and Android devices, but when I give specific instructions, those directions are only for iPhones. The instructions will be different for Android phones.

Let’s dig in!

Customizing Your Smartphone Settings

Changing your phone settings can be a little daunting, because there is a lot of information in the settings area. Customizing some of these settings can make your phone easier (and more fun) to use, though, so I wanted to start with my best tips and tricks for understanding and adapting your settings to your individual needs.

1. Customize your passcode. On most phones, we set up a numeric passcode that we use to unlock the device. If you want to set up a passcode that is harder to hack, go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Change Passcode. Then enter your old passcode, tap Passcode Options > Custom Alphanumeric Code and create your new one.

2. Understand your phone’s location services. Location services on your phone allow apps like Maps to help you with directions, so they can be really handy – but it’s important to understand this feature so you can take steps to protect your privacy. On my phone, I keep my Location Services turned on, but then I turn this feature off in certain situations,  or limit it on individual apps. You can read more about location services here.

3. Use the “Do Not Disturb” feature. You can put your phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode if you don’t want to be interrupted by phone calls, texts, or other notifications. This is a great feature to use after business hours, at night when you’re sleeping, when you’re driving, or when you’re trying to do focused work during the day. Want to make sure your immediate family or best friends can always reach you? You can set up your favorite contacts in your settings, so they’ll be able to override the “Do Not Disturb” mode for emergencies.

4. Customize your display and brightness settings. Here are some things you can do to adjust these settings to suit your individual needs:

  • Turn up (or turn down) the brightness of your screen. You can also set the screen to dim during nighttime hours (tap on Night Shift to set the start and end times of this dimming action).
  • Enlarge text size. This is a great feature for my middle-aged eyes!
  • Use display zoom. When you activate this setting, your phone will change things like your home screen, texts and emails from “Standard” view to “Zoomed” view. This helps you see things better, but be aware that you won’t be able to see as much content on your screen when you’re in zoom view.
  • Use LED Alerts. You can get alerts on your phone without having to hear a distracting sound or vibration! Turn on the “LED Flash” mode by changing the Alert settings. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility. Under the “Hearing” section, open the “LED Flash for Alerts”  menu. There are two toggles: one to turn on the feature, and one to use LED Flash for Alerts when the ringer switch is set to silent.

5. Be smart about managing your storage settings. You can manage your storage by going to Settings > General > iPhone Storage to see what apps are taking up the most space on your phone. Checking this periodically and deleting items from certain apps can help you manage storage on your phone and keep you from getting those dreaded “Out of Storage” messages on your phone.

6. Set up AirDrop for a quick and easy way to share files and photos. Sharing photos this way is quicker and easier than texting an image, so it’s a great way to share your best shots. You can share photos with anyone who has an iPhone, so if you’re in a group, only one person needs to take pictures!

To set up AirDrop on your phone, go to Settings > General > AirDrop. From there, you can turn AirDrop off completely, allow access to everyone, or limit it only to specific contacts. Not familiar with AirDrop, and what it can do for you? Check out this post for more details.

7. Make your keyboard easier (and faster) to use. You can set up customize keyboard settings (like double tapping at the end of a sentence to add a period to a text, note, or email).

Customize your keyboard (or add new keyboards) by going to General > Keyboards settings. You can even add foreign language keyboards! Be careful when adding third-party keyboards, though – the third party can access anything you type!

Saving Your Phone’s Battery Life

I don’t know about you, but I typically don’t like to let my phone get lower than a 20% charge, and I always keep a charger close at hand (in the car, carry on, purse, etc.).

You can preserve battery life by fetching your email (in the Mail app) manually, rather than setting your phone to check mail automatically. For quicker charging, you can also put your phone in Airplane mode.

I also make sure Background App Refresh is OFF to save battery life. To change this setting, go to Settings, then tap on General > Background App Refresh > Off.

Keeping Your Apps Organized and Running Smoothly

When you add a lot of apps to your phone, your screen gets cluttered really quickly!

You can keep your apps organized by putting them into folders. To set up a folder, tap and hold an app, or press lightly on your home screen until all your apps start to “jiggle” on the screen. Drag one app on top of another, and a folder will appear with those two apps inside. My folders include Business, Contacts, Communication, Entertainment, Games, Google, Health, Library, Navigation/Travel, News and Info, Photography, Social, and Utilities.

To keep your phone running smoothly (and keep your storage from continually filling up), review your phone apps monthly, and remove any app you’re no longer using.

Many of us also keep a bunch of browser tabs open at one time on our phones…this can really slow down the performance of your phone. In Safari, you can close all your open tabs at once by pushing down on the tabs button in the bottom right corner of your screen. Tap on the “Close X Tabs” option to close all your tabs with one quick click.

Having Fun with Emojis on Your Phone

I love using emojis when I’m talking with my friends and family members! I think they make texting more fun.

As you type certain words (like “orange”), a corresponding emoji will appear. If you’d like to replace the written word with that emoji, you just tap on the word. There’s no need to change your keyboard – your phone will do this automatically.

Predictive text or emojis work the same way. As you type, suggested text or emojis appear in the windows. Just tap on a word or emoji if you’d like to use it.

You can also create your own Emoji Shortcuts! Go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement and tap on the “+” icon in the top right corner of your screen.. Enter the text and the corresponding emoji. Every time you tap the text you’ve assigned to an emoji, your chosen emoji will appear in a window for you to choose.

Managing Your Text Conversations

Texting is really convenient, but you need to make sure text conversations don’t take up all the space on your phone, and that you’re following proper texting etiquette with your loved ones, coworkers, and clients.

You can free up storage space on your phone by deleting text conversations you no longer need.

Delete individual messages by pressing and holding your finger on the text until you see the “reactions” bubble at the top of your screen. The words “Copy” or “More” will appear under the “reactions” bubble.

When you see the “More…” option appear, tap on it, and you will see a blue checkmark appear next to that text message.

You can then tap the trash can in the lower left corner to delete any individual text messages that are checked.

Have you ever needed to scroll through a huge conversation, just to find a particular photo that someone sent you? There’s an easy shortcut you can use to find photos in texts easily. Tap the Information icon (an “i” inside a circle) in the top right corner of a text conversation. When the person’s information appears, scroll down to see (and click on) all the photos sent to you by that person.

If you need to have a conversation with a group of people, you can create a text group (find out how by clicking here). Just make sure you don’t use a text group to communicate with only one member of the group, or share information that isn’t relevant to everyone in the group. Create a subgroup if your conversation only applies to some of the group members.

Using Your Phone’s Clock and Timer

Every morning, my phone wakes up by playing a song from my playlist. It’s a great start to my day! To set this up on your phone, tap “Sound” when you’re setting your alarm time, then under the  “Songs” section, tap “Pick a Song.”

If you’d like to set music to play for a certain length of time (and then shut off), tap on Clock > Timer. Then tap on “When Timer Ends,” scroll down, then check “Stop Playing.”

Quick Shortcuts and Tips for Using Your Phone’s Camera

You can snap a still photo while you’re filming a video by taking the round white button that appears in the corner of the screen while you film. Each time you tap that button, your phone will snap a still image.

If you like playing with panoramic photos, try taking photos from right to left (instead of left to right). You can switch directions by tapping on the photo box while in Panoramic mode.

Once you take pictures, you can edit them in the Photos app. Read more about that in our recent blog post about editing tools.

What Are Your Favorite Smartphone Tips, Tricks, and Apps?

Want to know my last smartphone secret? I use the Starbucks app to order my latte with my phone, and it’s ready as soon I walk in the door! 😉

I’d love to know your favorite ways of using your phone (or those little tricks you’ve discovered that make your life easier). Share your ideas and favorites in the comments below.

The 3 Keys to Enjoying Your Holiday Traditions

The 3 Keys to Enjoying Your Holiday Traditions

Holiday traditions are one of the best things about the upcoming festive season. We only get to enjoy most our holiday traditions once a year, which must be why we look forward to them so eagerly!

During the holiday season, I love watching my favorite Christmas movies with my family. I particularly love Elf, Christmas Vacation, and A Christmas Story!

I also love listening to Christmas carols while we bake cookies, and driving around my local neighborhoods on Christmas Eve, looking for over-the-top lights and decorations – the gaudier, the better!

In one of our previous posts, The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions, we talked about how we lean on (and lean into) family traditions, especially around the holidays. Family traditions offer us comfort and safety, help us form our identities, give us long-lasting memories, and strengthen our family connections.

Family traditions are often fun and exciting! In this post, we’re going to give you some of our top tips for honoring and documenting your traditions this holiday season.

Including Food in Your Holiday Traditions

One tradition that has serious staying power is cooking and sharing food with family and friends. More often than not, gathering around the table (for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or late-night snacks) is included in most families’ holiday tradition list.

Sometime we get to dig into dishes and desserts that we only get to enjoy once a year (like the special green bean casserole your aunt makes every Christmas, or the incredible pumpkin pie your mom includes in the Thanksgiving meal every year).

The tradition of “holiday food” is important, because those recipes often represent our connections to our national heritage. For example, every year, Tom’s aunts send us cookies made with marzipan, which is a favorite of his German relatives.

Some dishes are family recipes passed down from generation to generation, and as recreate these dishes, it helps us honor our the relatives and say  “Thank you” to those who have come before us.

For many families, baking holiday cookies are an important part of their food-related traditions at this time of year.

In my family, we typically bake two or three varieties of cookies every December. When I was growing up, my mother honored this tradition, but didn’t really enjoy the process. Perhaps she didn’t enjoy it because she always chose to make gingerbread cookies, and as the dough got sticky, she’d add more flour. Because the dough got too tough to use, we never rolled-out cookies or made gingerbread houses!

Just like my mom, I never developed the patience for rolling out dough and decorating individual cookies, but we did buy pre-made dough so Tom and the kids could decorate cookies together.

Some of my friends gather every year for a full day holiday cookie bake-fest. They literally bake hundreds of cookies. I’m happy just to get a few dozen cookies made!

This holiday season, think about the ways that food fits into your family traditions, and make sure to document the cooking (and eating!) process.

Honoring Spiritual Beliefs During the Holidays

For some families, honoring spiritual traditions is an important part of their holiday celebrations.

In my family, our Christian faith is important to us, so celebrating Christmas wouldn’t be complete without attending church. Even if we are away from home and spending Christmas Day with one of our relatives, we always find a local church to attend.

What do your holiday spiritual traditions look like? Do you honor your faith during the holiday season, if you are religious?

Other spiritual traditions might include:

  • Advent celebrations with readings, candles, and chocolate calendars.
  • Lighting the menorah during Hanukkah.
  • Holding a Yule Log ceremony to celebrate the winter solstice.
  • Enjoying holiday music and movies that remind us of the significance of the season.
  • The simple acts of giving and serving.

Keeping the Traditions of Those We’ve Lost

Sometimes, we want to continue to honor holiday traditions that help us remember family members or friends who have passed away.

Here are some ideas to help honor and remember people we’ve lost:

  • Continue a tradition going that was near and dear to your loved one. Have a family member who loved caroling? Organize a group to carol in your neighborhood and sing some of that person’s favorite holiday songs.
  • Prepare your loved one’s favorite recipe, and share stories about that person while you’re eating the dish.
  • Display a loved one’s keepsake ornament, or holiday decor that has been handed down to you by that person.
  • Write a letter to your loved one during every holiday season, and keep the letters to hand down to the next generations. This practice might include putting these letters in an album.

Adding New Traditions to Your Holiday Routine

As our families grow and change, we may want to retire older traditions that are no longer practical or possible, and start some new ones. That’s completely okay! There’s no need to hang on to old traditions if they are no longer working.

Talk to your family about old traditions, and ask whether they’d like to add new traditions to the holiday festivities menu (both literally, and figuratively!)

We may not even realize we are creating a tradition until we repeat something a few times and everyone agrees, “Yes, let’s keep doing that!”

You can get ideas and suggestions for new holiday traditions, from Southern Living, SignUpGenius, and MyWedding (the last article is aimed at newlyweds, but there are great ideas on their list!)

When you’ve got a blended family, or your family includes in-laws and/or married children’s spouses, be aware that you’ll need to blend your family traditions to accommodate everyone’s needs and interests. You don’t need to look at this as a bad thing – these slightly more complex relationships can help us try new things and create different and special traditions!

The 3 Keys to Enjoying Successful Family Traditions

1. Be flexible. In our family, we try to keeping our focus on the most important part of our holiday tradition, which is being together, no matter where we are.

As our kids have grown up, moved away, and found significant others, we simply requested that we could be with at least one of the kids on the holidays, so we don’t have to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas without some immediate family around us. In many cases, this means Tom and I need to travel around the holidays, but that’s okay!

You may need to be flexible with your gift-giving, too, if that’s typically a part of your holiday traditions. As families grow into extended families and budgets are tight, consider different ways to exchange gifts: drawing names, buying personalized but inexpensive gifts, or giving charitable organizations in honor of a loved one.

2. Plan in advance. Anticipate where there may be problems or friction, and try to make plans to minimize or eliminate problems. For example, if you have a family member who wants to join in on a holiday tradition but can’t be present in person, plan to connect using technology (like Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom) so they can actually see and be part of the action! Planning in advance for this kind of tech-enabled connection can help you minimize frustration and delays on the day of your tradition.

3. Above all, communicate with your loved ones. Practically anything can work if you talk it out! Stay in touch, keep lines of communication open, and don’t bottle things up if something is bugging you.

Emotions are often close to the surface at the holidays, and juggling all the planning, shopping, planning can be stressful. If things are kept bottled up, it will likely add to the stress. When you you communicate what’s on your mind, it’s a great opportunity to work things out and grow closer with your family and friends.

Remember to Document Your Holiday Customs

Whatever you do to celebrate the holidays each year, remember to document your traditions, so you can look back on your treasured holiday time and remember the details!

One thing that helps many families is to designate a holiday photographer. Sometimes you’re too busy (or too “in the moment”) to capture the events of a holiday in photos or video, but having a designated photographer or videographer can help you make sure the moments can be captured, no matter what.

Your holiday photographer can simply be a member of the family who his or her their way around a camera or smartphone.

You can get ideas for chronicling your traditions from our previous post about documenting family reunions.

Savoring Your Traditions This Holiday Season

Hopefully these tips will help you plan and enjoy your holiday traditions this year.

We’d love to hear about your favorite holiday traditions. Let us know your favorites in the comments below.

Top Tips for Staying Sane As You Prepare for the Holidays

Top Tips for Staying Sane As You Prepare for the Holidays

We’re just barely put away the Halloween costumes, and already the big box stores are putting up Christmas decorations and starting to play holiday music over their sound systems.

If you’re feeling a bit rushed, you’re not alone.  

Holiday festivities are wonderful, but they can also skyrocket your stress level. This year, I wanted to give you some holiday preparation tips to help you slow down and savor these special moments with your family and friends.

Let’s dig in.

Try to Plan Ahead as Much as Possible

Nothing ratchets up stress levels like last-minute holiday preparations, so the best tip I can give you is to plan ahead as much as possible.

We’re currently at the beginning of November, but it’s not too late to plan ahead for this year!

I recommend deciding what your holiday plans will be in advance, and setting your budget for gifts, decor, entertaining, and meals.  

After that, start making lists!

I recommend using notes apps, like Evernote or Notes, to create and update your lists. Both programs have desktop and mobile apps, so your lists will sync automatically between the two platforms, and you’ll be able to keep everything at your fingertips on your phone or tablet while you are out and about.

There are also lots of terrific holiday planners online, including printable checklists, to simplify your holiday organizing. Click here for two of my favorites.

Another thing you can do to plan ahead is start decluttering early to make room for your guests, decorating efforts, and holiday cooking. Everything will be easier when you don’t have to wade through tons of clutter to get around! Here are some quick tips to help with the decluttering process:

  • Make room in your pantry by throwing away expired food, or donating items you know you’ll never use (like that can of kidney beans that has been sitting in your shelf for six months!)
  • Clean out your coat closet and donate gently used coats, hats, gloves and scarves to a local charity or homeless shelter.
  • Make room on your bookshelves by giving away books you don’t need. You can donate books to libraries, thrift shops, or bookworm friends.
  • Thin out your sheets and towels, and repurpose or donate the linens you’ll never use.
  • Clean out medicine cabinets and toss old or expired cosmetics, lotions, and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Go through any piles of stuff that might be accumulating on counters and tabletops, and sort things into a few small storage baskets that can be easily put away before guests arrive.

Preparing for Holiday Decorating

Pinterest is my favorite site for new holiday decorating ideas. If you don’t already have an account, it will only take 30 seconds to sign up!

Start checking out Pinterest early (or start brainstorming ideas) and decide what you’d like to do for your holiday decorating. Then, estimate approximately how long each part of the process will take (Christmas tree, outdoor lights, etc.). If you need to recruit extra help or gather special tools for any of your decorations, make sure to line that up in advance.

Looking for something additional, affordable ideas for decorating? A new home decor line called “Hearth & Hand” arrived at Target in November! This new inexpensive line was created by Chip & Joanna Gaines (from the HGTV television show Fixer Upper), and includes holiday decor. A portion of the proceeds from this line will also go to helping families in need.

Once you’ve got your house decorated, take pictures of your décor! Then you won’t have to wrack your brain to remember how you set everything up when you decorate next year.

Simplify Your Shopping Efforts

Gone are the days when family members gave you dog-eared copies of the Sears catalog as their Christmas wish lists. These days, we might get an email from a son or daughter with links items on Amazon, instead!

There’s often a lot of shopping involved in the holiday season (including groceries and gifts). Now there are several easy-to-use shopping apps can help you organize your Christmas shopping right on your phone.

Shopping apps let you import recipients, create wish lists and shopping lists, and set budgets and track spending for your lists.

We like Santa’s Bag and The Christmas Gift Lite (which are both available only for Apple devices) and Christmas Gift List (available only for Android).

We also discovered the Shopper app, which is available for Apple and Android devices. Using Shopper, you can:

  • Order your shopping list according to your pantry or the store aisles.
  • Sync your shopping lists with family and friends.
  • Store your own recipes, and find new recipes online – then transfer ingredients directly to your shopping list.
  • Save money with lists of coupons from top brands.
  • Scan barcode items directly onto your shopping list.
  • Track multiple lists & multiple stores (grocery stores, Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, etc.).

Making Sending Cards Easier

Now is the time to decide what you’d like to use for your family holiday card. Do you want to use a family photo? If you can’t get everyone together for a family photo, you can also use a collage of pictures from the year.

Do you want to include a family letter? If so, who will write the letter?

No matter what kind of card you’ll be sending, make sure to build time into your schedule for buying and signing cards, collecting addresses, and affixing postage.

Check out these two posts from our Picture This Organized archive, to help with this process.

How to Prepare for Overnight Guests

If you’re planning on hosting overnight guests during the holidays, consider hiring a cleaning service to help you prepare. This shortcut will save you time and energy – just make sure you book your cleaning service in advance, because many companies get busy during the holidays.

You can still host guests even if you don’t have a formal guest room. You can order an air mattress in advance, and stash it away in a closet when you’re not using it. We like the Insta-Bed air mattress/headboard combo.

Want to give your guests an extra special touch? Create a small gift basket of local items, or leave a photo frame with a pic of your guests for them to take when they leave. You can also stock the room with bottled water. You can order these items in advance, so you’re not scrambling for them two days before your guests arrive.

Tech Tools and Programs for an Easier Holiday Travel Experience

Holiday travel can be stressful, but there are a few shortcuts and tech tools that can help make it smoother and more pleasant. Here are a few ideas:

  • Access your boarding pass on your mobile phone, so you don’t have to fumble with paperwork when you get to the airport.
  • Sign up for TSA Pre-Check or CLEAR to speed up your airport experience and decrease the amount of time you spend going through security. If you want to sign up for either of these programs, start researching them early. They may require paperwork or a visit to the airport during the signup process.
  • Download the WAZE app (Android or Apple) on your phone to help you navigate road trips and traffic.
  • Simplify your packing PackPoint, a travel packing wizard that gives you a checklist of travel essentials based on the trip profile you enter.

With the right planning and tools, traveling away from home for the holidays be easier, so your family can focus on being together.

Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself!

Lastly, don’t forget to take care of yourself during this holiday season.

The best way to decrease your stress level during holiday entertaining is to emphasize present over perfect. Enjoying being together is far more important than every detail looking like it came straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting!

During the holidays, remember that you will need a little extra margin in your life. Richard Swenson, M.D. defines margin as “the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.”

Build a little extra margin in your life by making sure you don’t overschedule yourself or try to pack too many tasks into your days. Here are some excellent tips from Michael Hyatt about how to restore time reserves into our lives.

Take time to rest and rejuvenate, instead of going non-stop during the holidays. Settle into your recliner or couch with a good book, or treat yourself to a massage, manicure or pedicure.

If you plan ahead using the tips in this post, and take care of yourself during the holidays, our hope is that you have a nourishing, comforting celebratory season.

Happy holidays from all of us here at Picture This Organized!

How Photo Metadata Can Help You Preserve Your Family Stories

How Photo Metadata Can Help You Preserve Your Family Stories

It’s Halloween…and it’s the time of year when you’ll see spooky decorations and creepy costumes everywhere.

But to certain people (and you may be one of them)….what REALLY scares them is the term “metadata.” It sounds technical, confusing, and overwhelming.

And it’s true….metadata is a little technical. But when you find out more about metadata and how it works, you’ll probably end up appreciating what it can do for you and your family photo collection!

This post we will talk about about what metadata is (and how it can be helpful to you), then will give you some suggestions on how to get help when you’re working with metadata.

The Stories Behind Our Photos

You know that behind every photo, there’s a story. For example, if you’ve got a picture of your grandmother, there are details behind that photo about who took the photo, where it was taken, and what was happening when the picture was shot.

All those stories should be preserved, and if we’re only saving those details using a piece of paper (or information scrawled hurriedly on the back of a print) we’re limited by the person who wrote down that information, and their individual organizing system.

When photo details are saved with the image file, the stories are searchable – and to save information like that to a file (as we talked about in one of our previous posts), you need to understand and utilize metadata.

Editing metadata is the best way to pair the image with the story behind the image at all times.

What Is Metadata, and Why Is It Important?

Metadata is simply a set of data that describes and gives information about other data. Essentially, metadata is data about data!

When we’re working with photos, metadata is used to save the “who, what, where and when” of your photos, and that metadata travels with the photo file. That means when you save metadata correctly, the metadata will move with the image when you move a photo file from one location to another on your computer or when you share it with someone.

Storing information with an image’s metadata is a great way to make sure information about the photo doesn’t get lost, and it’s also really helpful when you’re trying to search for specific photos. When you’ve got up-to-date metadata saved with your images, your photos can be categorized, searched, and retrieved, much like the volumes in a library.

Metadata can include things like the:

  • Filename of the image.
  • Time and date the photo was created.
  • Settings of the camera used to take the photo.
  • Type of camera used to take the photo.
  • Location where the photo was taken.

When you’re using an SLR camera or a smartphone to take a photo, this information is automatically captured and saved in the file metadata.

Why You May Need to Change Your Images’ Metadata


Some metadata (like the location where the photo was taken) is recorded automatically in your image. But if this is missing because the originating camera doesn’t have built-in GPS, you can add this information to your photo’s metadata.

On the other hand, you may need to remove metadata from your images for security reasons. For example, when you’re sharing images on social media sites, you might not want the GPS location of your home in the photo’s file.  However, keep in mind that this information is useful later to identify the location of where a photo was taken.  To share a photo without the location identified, save a copy of the original, remove the location from the copy, then share the edited copy to social media.


You may want to correct the date and time that the photo was taken. If your camera clock wasn’t set for the time zone where the photo was taken or it wasn’t working correctly, you can adjust the date and time and save this to the metadata.

Keywords About the People in the Photos:

You can also add keywords to the image’s metadata. Keywords can be used to identify people, pets, or locations in the photo.

A Few Important Warnings About Editing Photo Metadata

Editing photo metadata can be a helpful way of capturing the stories behind your photos…but there are a few things you must be aware of, before you dig in.

1. The best way to edit the metadata of a photo is to save the metadata directly to the image, 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. The tools I recommend for editing metadata are Photo Mechanic or Adobe’s Lightroom.

2. If you use a library application, such as Apple Photos, to add metadata, you will NOT be saving your metadata directly to the image file, so you’ll only be able to utilize that metadata when you’re using that particular app or program. That means if you look at a photo outside Apple Photos, you won’t be able to search or view that photo’s metadata.

3. You can accidentally strip metadata out of your photo files by exporting them from certain programs, which means the technical information (date taken, camera settings, camera type) would get lost. That can mean a lot of work down the drain.

For further help understanding metadata, try this useful resource.

How to Get Help with Adding and Editing Metadata

The process of working with metadata can be tricky and technical, and there are places where you need to be careful – so many of our clients choose to hire a professional to handle working with their photos’ metadata.

Editing metadata and cataloging your photos is a service we offer at Picture This Organized. We are here to help uncover the stories that lie hidden in your photos’ metadata!

Get in touch with us today to set up a free consult to find out how we can help with this process.

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.


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!