What to Do with That Box of Memorabilia Sitting in Your Closet

What to Do with That Box of Memorabilia Sitting in Your Closet

Most of us have little piles (or giant collections) of memorabilia tucked away in our closets.

Your memorabilia box might include:

  • Your children’s (or grandchildren’s) artwork or schoolwork.
  • Family keepsakes that have been handed down through generations.
  • Ticket stubs, trip itineraries, or other evidence of your travels over the years.
  • Letters from loved ones.
  • Anything that has special significance to you.

No matter what your collection includes, it can be difficult to decide what to do with these items.

The Save Your Photos blog has this important message about memorabilia:

“Documents, report cards, certificates, awards, trophies, newspaper articles, invitations, letters and other similar items contain dates and information that may contribute to your family timeline and unlock some of your photo mysteries. So be a detective.”

Your memorabilia may be connected to your to photos and family stories, so it’s a good idea to keep it organized and only keep the pieces that important to you.

In this post, we’ve gathered some tips for bringing order to your collection of family memorabilia, including suggestions on how to decide what to keep and how to digitize, store, and display your special memories..

How to Decide What Memorabilia to Keep (and What Needs to Be Tossed)

What’s the best way to figure out what to keep in your memorabilia box, especially when every piece might seem like it’s worth keeping?

The goal here is to give yourself some breathing room when it comes to your memorabilia. If you’ve got a smaller and more manageable collection, you’ll be considerably more likely to keep it organized and digitized.

During this stage, go through every item in your collection. As you look through each piece, toss any duplicate items or pieces you can’t remember, and keep the things that mean the most to you based on your own criteria.

Need help? Let the process we described in this blog post serve as a guide to help to evaluate your items and decide what to keep, so you can whittle down your collection to the things that are the most special to you.

The Next Important Step: Digitizing Your Memorabilia

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you won’t be surprised to hear that I recommend digitizing and archiving the items in your memorabilia collection.

Scan paper and prints, then file the images in categorized memorabilia folders on your computer.

Have three-dimensional items in your collection (like the homemade bowl your child crafted for you in second grade)? You can photograph these items inside a SHOTBOX. The SHOTBOX is a collapsable, hard-shelled light box that acts as a wonderful, well-lit “stage” for your item.

When you’re done with the digitizing process, you can also combine scanned images with photos in a scrapbook. This educational blog has great scanning and scrapbooking tips.

As always, make sure your photos are backed up by using Picture This Organized’s best photo backup practices.

You may find at this point that you don’t need to keep some of the original piece of memorabilia. Unless they are historic documents (like original birth certificates, etc.) or keepsakes, you may want to toss the originals and just keep the digitized versions. 

How to Store Your Memorabilia

Once you’ve digitized your collection, you need to figure out how to store your memorabilia.

Using a keepsake box is a safe and a clutter-free way to store your collection, and the Internet is full of do-it-yourself instructions to help you make your own. Decorate a shoebox, or if you’re ambitious and handy, make a wooden box.

Local craft stores also sell storage boxes. If you want the box to be archival quality, check to be sure they are lignin free.

Prefer to buy your keepsake box? Try one of these Savor storage boxes with built-in options for filing your items. Amazon also has a large selection of Keepsake boxes, including some boxes that similar to Savor’s.

Some Innovative Ideas for Displaying Your Memorabilia

You may decide you’d like to display some of the items in your memorabilia, like your child’s artwork.

Check out this post from our archive for ideas of displaying your budding Picasso’s work. You can also consider these ideas:

1. Take a look at this mom’s ingenious idea of using a selection of empty frames on the wall to display her kids’ artwork (you can use this for other types of memorabilia, too!)

2. If you want to frame pieces of homemade artwork, but you’ve discovered the pieces are too large for your frames, this creativity blog shows you how to resize an item on your home printer.

If technology is your thing, try Keepy, an app available for Apple iOS and Android that lets you archive your child’s artwork with phone or tablet. Your child can describe the piece in their own words in a recording you attach to the image, and loved ones can become “Fans” and leave recorded comments as well.

Making Managing Memorabilia Less Overwhelming

If you’re facing the prospect of sifting through and digitizing a lifetime of memorabilia, it can seem daunting.

Our best advice is to break up the work into smaller increments of one to two hours, rather than tackle the whole project over the course of a weekend.

When you’re working in stages, you’ll be more likely to stay focused and motivated, and you’ll be able to give your memorabilia the time and attention it deserves. By going through this process slowly and carefully, you’ll be able to tell a story that lasts for generations.

A Photo Organizer’s Best Tips for Dealing with Difficult Photos

A Photo Organizer's Best Tips for Dealing with Difficult Photos

Most of us have a few photos in our collection that are difficult to look at.

They could be photos of a former spouse or partner, a friend you’ve drifted away from, or even a house that held painful memories for you.

Photos are a vital part of your life story – your entire life story, even the difficult parts.

Your photos may include faces, spaces, or events you don’t want to view – yet those same images tell your story, at that particular a moment in time. That includes your hairstyle, the size and shape of glasses, your beloved dog, or how you wore your shirt tucked into jeans that sat way, way above your waistline.

But inevitably, you’ll come across photos in a frame, on your computer, or on your phone that are no longer relevant or are just too painful to keep.

What do you do with those pictures? Here are a couple of crucial guidelines for those times when you’re trying to decide what to do with difficult photos.

Three Critical Guidelines to Think About When You’re Dealing with Difficult Photos

Guideline #1: Give Yourself Time to Decide.

Before you throw away or delete a photo, take a breath. Give yourself some time to contemplate, instead of making a quick decision.

Never get rid of a photo in anger, when your feelings are hurt, or just after someone has died. Once you delete or throw away a photo, you can’t get it back, so put some space between you and the photo if you’re feeling tempted.

Guideline #2: Create a Holding Spot for Your Photos.

I recommend creating a holding spot for difficult photos. Buy an archival box for physical photos, or a create a folder on your computer to act as a photo “vault” that you can come back to at some point.

You can scan all your physical photos, and just keep a digital copy in your “vault,” if you have a scanner.

You can also export your entire vault file out of your regular photo library, so you don’t have to deal with it on a regular basis or see it pop up on a screensaver slideshow.

Guideline #3: Once you’re ready to decide, sort your images into piles.

You can make your decisions easier by separating your difficult images into categories, according to the quality of the photo.

We recommend using our A/B/C system to sort images into three piles:

The “A” Pile: These are items that are of the highest quality, or are originals.

The “B” Pile: These items are of second-highest quality. They might be nearly an exact duplicate of something you already have, but these items are probably still good enough to keep.

The “C” Pile: These are poor quality items. They may be exact duplicates of other items, or they could be blurry. These items have no storytelling value.

Once you’re done sorting, you can toss (or delete) everything in the “C” pile.

How to Decide Whether or Not to Keep a Difficult Photo

Now you’ve done your prep work, and you’re ready to start the decision-making process. How do you decide whether or not to keep a photo that is brings up complicated emotions for you?

You may want to consider keeping a difficult photo in your collection if:

The image includes other family members or friends you want to keep a record of. If you want to include the photo in an album or slideshow, you can remove a person or object by cropping or adjusting the position of the photo.

The photo makes you smile, instead of upsetting you. With each photo, ask yourself: “Does looking at this make me smile, or does it upset me?” If the answer is the former, you may want to keep it.

You think you should keep the photo for historical reasons. Perhaps the image features a friend or extended family member whom you’ve grown apart from, or an event you didn’t attend. If you think you should hang onto the photo because it’s a critical part of your story or history, I recommend hanging on to just one or two images from that moment in time. Then you can toss the rest. You can also delete or throw away images that only feature people whose names you no longer remember.

Your child may want the photo. Is it possible your child might want the photo? In the case of divorce where children are involved, be sure to scan all photos that the children would want, and give your kids a copy before deleting or throwing away the originals. If you’re creating a graduation album for your child, for example, that album will need to include photos of both parents.

Another friend or family member wants the photo. Check with the friends or family members who know that person or attended that event, and ask if they want a copy of the photo. If so, make a digital copy and give the file to everyone who wants it.

If your photo meets any of the criteria above, you may want to consider keeping it or creating copies for people who may want the image.

After you’ve filtered out all the images you believe you should keep, give yourself permission to toss or delete photos you’d like to get rid of. Remember – don’t make this decision rashly! You can’t undo it after you’ve deleted or tossed a photo.

Special Tips for Deleting Difficult Photos on Social Media

There may come a time when you want to delete difficult photos from your social media accounts. Here are some tips regarding the two main photo-sharing social sites:

If you’re deleting photos from Facebook, keep in mind that once a photo is deleted, you won’t be able to get it back.

To remove a photo from Facebook:

  1. Click the photo to open it.
  2. Click “Options” on the menu bar below the photo.
  3. Select “Delete This Photo,” then click “Delete.”

Note: You can only delete photos that you have uploaded to your account. If you want someone else’s photo removed from Facebook, ask the person who posted it to take it down. You can also remove a tag from a photo you’re tagged in.

It is possible to delete a photo without deleting the entire post associated with that photo.

The person in the photo won’t be notified if you remove a tag or delete the image. Notifications are only sent when you tag someone in a photo, NOT if you remove the tag or delete the photo.

If you want to remove a photo from Instagram, you can delete the image by tapping on the three small dots in the top right corner above your Instagram post. Choose “Delete” from the menu.

NOTE: if you have “Save Original Photos” turned on in your settings, every photo you post on Instagram will also be saved to your phone’s photo library.

Getting Rid of Difficult Photos Can Be Empowering

The process of deleting or throwing away photos that bring up painful emotions can be hard, but it can also serve as a way of coping with grief.

Taking the first steps to change the photos in your frames, take images off your computer, or move painful photos to a storage box can give you the power to keep moving forward with the life you have now, and make you the owner of your own special memories.

I encourage you to follow these steps, filter out any photos you need to keep, and delete the photos that bring up painful memories or emotions. You might be surprised how powerful this process can be!

How to Create a Meaningful Memorial Tribute Video

How to Create a Meaningful Memorial Tribute Video

Memorial tribute videos are a beautiful and meaningful way to say goodbye to a friend or family member.

Tribute videos can help you illustrate how a person lived and honor that person’s memory. They’ll also a great opportunity for people to get to know a different side of a loved one, through the story of the photos you share.

Most importantly, working on a memorial video can be a healing part of the grieving process.

Grieving families might get overwhelmed by this process, though. If you’re not sure what tool to use, how to choose the right photos, how many images to include, or how to add music to the video, creating a tribute video can seem like an insurmountable project at a very tough time.

Creating memorial tribute videos is a service we offer here at Picture This Organized, but we wanted to give a quick explanation, for anyone who would like to create their own video for a friend or loved one.

How Will Your Video Be Used?

The first thing to consider is how the video is going to be shared. How the tribute is viewed actually determines the style and length of the video, so answering this question can make the entire process easier.

If you’ll be sharing your tribute video during a memorial service, we recommend:

  • Including photos and songs.
  • Limiting the length to 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Using around 80 to 100 photos.

If you plan on sharing the video during the reception after the memorial service, we recommend:

  • Including only photos (no music), and playing the video on a loop in the background at the reception.
  • Making the video 10 to 15 minutes long.
  • Using around 100 to 120 photos.

How to Choose the Photos for Your Tribute Video

When you’re sitting in front of a mountain of photo albums or digital images, you might feel like narrowing down thousands of pictures is impossible. Selecting your photos will be easier if you keep these guidelines in mind.

Consider your loved one’s life, and the themes that honor and represent that person. Each photo selected should reflect one of these themes. Need some examples? Think about photos that:

  • Show the person’s hobbies, passions, and interests.
  • Illustrate your loved one’s personality.
  • Include that person’s childhood. A lot of the people in the room won’t be familiar with these photos, and they’re a wonderful way to spotlight a new side of the person.
  • Showcase relationships with family, friends, or other community.
  • Highlight special moments and memories, including graduations, holidays, weddings, and births.
  • Include vacations and favorite travel destinations.

When we help a client create a memorial tribute video, we interview the family to make sure we have a full understanding of their loved one, and what that person’s life was about. Then we review the photos the family has selected, to make sure they tell a engaging story and show the full spectrum of that person’s life.

Keep in mind, there will be guests at the service who know your loved one from many different areas of that person’s life, so it’s a good idea to have pictures representing each of the person’s unique communities. The tribute video can be a way for them to get better acquainted with a side of the person’s life that they didn’t know much about.

Choose a Tool to Create Your Video

There are a number of easy-to-use tools you can use to create a slideshow video for your tribute.

If you’re a Mac user, you can use Apple’s iMovie, which allows you to create your own transitions, effects and titles, and add your own audio clips or songs. Check out this article for details on creating your video with iMovie.

You can also use Apple’s Photos program to create your slideshow video. You can drag and drop photos to reorder them, add text to your slides, and choose from some of their pre-made themes. Apple Photos has fewer features than iMovie, but it’s still a great (and simple) way to create a professional-looking video. Here’s a quick tutorial on creating a slideshow video in Apple Photos.

In both iMovie and Photos, you can import photos directly from your photo library, and use songs from iTunes library.

If you’re a PC user, you can use Animoto to create a slideshow video. Animoto is a very user-friendly program that includes animated templates with different backgrounds and effects. You can download different sizes of your finished video, share it to social media, or link to your video in an email or other document.

The cost for a personal Animoto account is $8 a month, but you can sign up for a free trial. With the free trial, however, the Animoto watermark will show at the end of the video.

Unfortunately, adding captions or title slides to Animoto is not as easy as it is with other programs, so be aware that it might take you a little longer to figure that out.

You can view a sample memorial slideshow to see what Animoto can do, or check out this article to get a tutorial.

How to Start Designing Your Tribute Video

Once you’ve got your images selected and your tool picked out, you’ll need to order your photos and think about the transitions between each image.

Ordering your photos is pretty straightforward: You can show your images in chronological or random order, or grouped by life events.

Typically you want to be able to linger on each photo for one to two seconds, at most, with transitions of less than one second transition between each photo – so we recommend using the settings as the default on your video.

You can customize those transition times, though, for individual photos. For example, if you want to spend more time viewing a particular photo, like a large group or event shot, you can either lengthen the time that the photo shows in the video, or increase the transition time between that photo and the next one in the queue.

Depending on the program you use, you may also be able to choose automatic transitions that change the photos in time with your music.

Choosing the Songs for Your Memorial Tribute Video

Select a couple of songs that represent your loved one, to accompany your video. If you’re stuck for ideas, ask other family members or friends for suggestions.

If you’ll be adding music to your video (to play at the service), your video will be somewhere between 6 and 8 minutes long. The easiest way to avoid having to edit the audio is to select two songs that are each 3 to 4 minutes long.

You can also edit the length of the song(s). We recommend making sure that the first song starts immediately at the beginning of the video, so there isn’t a long gap between the first slide and the start of the first song.

It’s a good idea to fade the sound between the end of the first song and the beginning of the next one so there isn’t an abrupt transition from tune to tune. With most slideshow programs, you can adjust and edit this transition.

After you’ve added your songs and edited your transitions, you can finish your video and get it ready to share with the funeral home, church, or venue where the service or reception will be held.

Sharing and Backing Up the Video

Typically, your memorial venue will need your video delivered on a flash drive or DVD. The funeral home or church will have guidelines for the storage type they prefer, so just ask what they need.

You can also share your video with people who can’t make the service, or with folks who want to see the slideshow again.

Here at Picture This Organized, we like to use Vimeo to upload and share videos. You can share your video publicly, or create a password to allow access only to friends and family members.

You can also upload it to Dropbox or Google, and simply share the link to the file.

With all of this options, people just view the video using a link, rather than having to download a huge file (video files are often pretty big). You can also share the link to the video via social media or email.

As always, we recommend backing up the video to your backup drive, to keep in the family archives.

Creating Your Own Memorial Tribute Video

Memorial tribute videos can be a beautiful, meaningful, and moving way to help people honor and remember their loved ones. They can also be an important part of the grieving process – particularly for the people who create the video!

Have questions about this process, or the tools we recommended? Let us know in the comments below.

The 4-Step Process for Creating a Beautiful Travel Album

The 4-Step Process for Creating a Beautiful Travel Album

St. Augustine once said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

Travel makes our lives better. When we see and experience other cultures and get to know people in other places, it deepens our worldview, teaches us flexibility, shows us the beauty of other cultures, and lets us rest and recharge.

Sharing our travel experiences through a photo album helps keep our memories vivid, provides a record of the people and places we’ve seen, documents the experiences we’ve had, and provides a legacy of stories to pass on to our family members.

The problem is that when we come back from our trips, our photos often get digitally buried with the rest of our day-to-day images. You may not know how to translate the images you’ve taken on your trip into an attractive album that documents your experience.

If you need some guidance on how create your own travel album, we’re here to help! This post will give you advice on how to take helpful notes during your trip, show you how to get organized before you create your album, and give you the technical tools and advice you’ll need to create your album.

Let’s dig in!

Documenting Your Travel Experience While You’re Still on the Road

To help keep your album organized and make the design process easier and more efficient, I recommend keeping a written record of your travel.

We gave some tips on this process in some of our previous posts, so you can check out these articles for help with your documentation efforts:

A little prep work while you’re still on the road can make your album creation process a lot easier…and I promise, it doesn’t have to take a long time or take away from the fun of your trip!

The 4-Step Process for Creating a Beautiful Travel Album

Step One: Do Your Prep Work

Once you’ve returned and settled back in, it’s time to do the prep work to create your album.

I recommend starting by creating a written list of the things you’d like to include in your album. Your list could include any (or all) of the following:

  • The places you visited.
  • Your favorite stories from the trip (including things that didn’t go according to plan!).
  • The people you traveling with, or met along the way.
  • The food you ate.
  • The activities and adventures of the trip.

Once you’ve created your list, it’s time to organize your photos. Start by selecting the very best photos for your album, then edit the images you’ve chosen to remove red eye, straighten the images, adjust angles, improve lighting, etc..

Be careful about the resolution size of your images when you’re working with your photos. In general, use the largest photo you can. If you use a small photo, you will be limited by how much the photo can be enlarged in the album tool.

Most album designing sites will alert you if your photo does not meet the required number of pixels for the finished size you want to include in the album. If you ignore the warning, you’re going to have a photo that is blurry or grainy in your album, because it was enlarged more that the resolution of the image could handle!

The 4-Step Process for Creating a Beautiful Travel Album

I also recommend adding memorabilia to your album! Printed plane, train or museum tickets are becoming obsolete in these days of electronic ticketing, so if you have them, include them in your album pages. You can also take photos or scan printed items, and use those in the album as reminders of the trip

Once you’ve got your photos and memorabilia picked out and edited, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Step Two: Pick Your Album Tool

You’ll need an online service to create and print your final album. Here are the ones I recommend for individuals who are creating their own albums:

  • Mixbook: Their books are a little on the pricier side, but they provide loads of options and the finish on the pages is high quality.
  • Shutterfly: Their software is easy to use, but some of their templates have varied spacing between photos. Be sure to choose a template with consistent spacing/gaps.
  • Apple Photo: If you’re a Mac user, you can create a photo album in your Photos App. To begin, Click File>Create>Book.
  • MPix: This service doesn’t offer quite as many album size options, but their print quality is excellent.

Once you’ve chosen the tool you’re going to work with, break up the project into manageable pieces so you can keep track of what you’ve already done, and work on a little bit at a time. I recommend creating a project folder on your computer, to copy your selected photos to. Then within that main folder, create sub-folders by theme and design one sub-folder at a time when you’re working on your album.

Step Three: Design Your Album

Now it’s time for the fun part: Designing your album! Here’s my recommended process for laying out your travel album:

Select your album size. Typical sizes for albums are 12×12, 10×10 or 11x 8. Choose a size that fits your trip, and fits the purpose of the album. Some online sites have limited size availability, so feel free to go back to Step Two if you need to pick a new tool.

Choose your paper and finish. Semi-gloss is my go-to paper finish for client projects, and it will work in most situations. Some sites offer premium finishes (like “Pearl”) for an additional fee.

You may also be able to also choose a “lay-flat” option for your album. When you choose this option, the album will get printed on sturdier, single sheet spreads that lay flat when the book is open, and your photos and text won’t get lost in the “gutters” of the pages.

Pick a template. The online sites listed above all offer a variety of design templates. You need to make sure your template doesn’t overwhelm your photos and stories, so I recommend choosing one with a simple background without embellishments, or creating a blank book and adding a muted background color.

When you go with a simple template, it also keeps the look timeless, ensuring that your album won’t look dated in a few years.

Group your photos together and start laying out your album. Go through the photos you chose in Step One, and group events together on the same “spread.”

When you view an album with photos on both the left and right side, that’s called a spread. It’s more cohesive to design spreads with a single theme, versus one theme on the left side and a different one on the right side.

If you want to limit the album to a certain number of pages, then combining themes on a spread is okay. In that case, I recommend having a clear separation between each theme, so the navigation is obvious to the viewer.

When you’re designing your album, remember that less is more. Don’t repeat photos of the same item or event, unless those photos are part of a series that tells a story (like a sunset, time lapse, moving item, or a reaction to a moment).

The 4-Step Process for Creating a Beautiful Travel Album

Choose the photos that tell a story. A chronological timeline is most common for travel albums (meaning you start at the beginning of your trip on the first page of your album, and end with the last part of your trip). You can also organized the album based on events, locations or architecture.

Here are some quick tech tips to help with the album layout process:

  • Keep events together on the same spread.
  • Limit the number of photos in a spread to 8 to 10 (depending on your album and spread size).
  • If a picture extends over the center seam, adjust the placement so the page crease doesn’t run through a person’s face (whenever possible).
  • If you modify photo frames, make sure the gaps between photos stay consistent. Most album software tools will allow you to customize templates, so you can modify a template or create your own. If they do that, they’ll need to make sure the photos are aligned within the frame. Check to be sure the gaps between photos are consistent, and take a look at the margins (including top, bottom, left, right margins, and the space between sides in the spread). Any inconsistencies will become an undesired focal point in your album.

The 4-Step Process for Creating a Beautiful Travel Album

Keep it interesting and personal. If possible, Include candid photos of people experiencing something new or different. Buildings can be interesting to put in albums – especially when the architecture is unique – but sometimes a lot of photos of objects can make your album feel less personal. It helps to include shots of people in front of buildings every now and then, to break things up and keep your album interesting.

Of course, if the theme of your album is architecture or animals, that’s different!  For example, in this Africa trip, this series of gorilla shots gives you a sense of the experience of being among a gorilla family.

The 4-Step Process for Creating a Beautiful Travel Album

Add captions or story text blocks. You want to make sure your album tells a story, especially for future generations, so include captions and stories in your album. This includes first and last names of the people in your photos!

Keep your font type and point size consistent throughout the entire album, and be careful not to put text over the center of a photo or across someone’s face.

Step Four: Print Your Album

When you are ready to print, I recommend previewing the album just to be sure it’s 100% ready to go.

Look for spelling mistakes, inconsistent photo alignment, margins, gaps between photos, point size on captions and titles. Also make sure there aren’t any resolution warnings of photos that need to be adjusted.

With so many things to check, I recommend checking for one at a time. For example, first check the album for text problems, and fix any issues you spot. Then go through the album again, focusing on alignment of photos and text. Finally, check that the template is centered within the spread, so that top and bottom margins are the same, and left and right margins are the same. When you focus on checking one thing at a time, you (hopefully) won’t getting distracted and miss problems.

For example, the photo below shows a spread with a date heading, narrative, labels and 9 photos. Everything is lined up and centered, so your eye isn’t distracted by a misaligned photo edge. The labels of the animals or locations are lined up across each line of photos, and they are in white to make them easily readable. There’s a lot on this spread to check, which is why I recommend going through and checking one element at a time when you do your final look before printing.

The 4-Step Process for Creating a Beautiful Travel Album

Everything You Need to Create an Album You Can Enjoy Today and Pass On Tomorrow

Here’s my most important tip for creating your own travel photo album: Have fun with this process!

Creating your own travel should be fun, not stressful. Take things a little bit at a time, if that feels easier, and use this process to help you revisit the best memories of your trip.

If you decide you’d like some help with an album, we frequently create them for our clients. You can see how we create albums and view some samples of our albums right here. We would be happy to discuss album design and print options with you – contact us for your free, no-obligation consultation.

How to Meet Your Photo Organization Goals in the New Year

How to Meet Your Photo Organization Goals in the New Year

It’s the time of year to look back on the previous 12 months, and look ahead to all the new possibilities to come.

We may even write down a list of New Year’s Resolutions to help give life a sense of balance and renewal after the busy holiday season.

Is getting your photos organized on your list of 2018 resolutions?

Or do you want to create a photo album, get all your home movies digitized, or “rescue” the album of one of your older relatives?

The best way to make sure you actually stick with your resolutions is to make sure you set small, specific, measurable goals.

Let’s talk about some simple ways you can include photo organization in your plans for 2018.

Organizing Your 2017: Dealing With What You Have

One place to start your photo organization goal setting is to take a look at the photos and albums you already have.

Make a list of what you’d like to accomplish, with your photo organization. Once you’ve set your goal(s), check out these posts in our blog archive to help you with the practical steps:

Tips for Keeping Your Digital Photos Organized in 2018

When the ball drops and the new year begins, I encourage you to make a vow to take control of the new photos and videos that come into your life.

Here are some ideas for keeping you digitally organized in the new year:

1. Choose the best images and videos to keep. The best thing you can do to stay organized in 2018 is review the photos and videos on your phone as you go. Decide which photos and videos are the best, and only keep those.

For example, I take multiple videos of my two Goldendoodle puppies. Rather than keep all of them on my phone, I try to go through all the videos right away, choose the best one, and delete the rest.

2. Edit your best photos right away. You can do all kinds of photo edits – including eliminating red eye, rotating the image, and using lighting and filters – right on your phone. You can get our best photo editing tips right here.

3. Categorize your photos as you go by creating “Albums” in your Photos app. You’ll stand a better chance of keeping your photos organized if you do a bit of sorting as you go. Add the photos you take to your Albums, so you’ll be able to find them more easily later.

For example, I created an called “Hairstyles, and when I take screenshots or download photos of hairstyles I like from the internet, I add the images to that album.

You can create Albums using titles that suit your projects, interests, and events, like Christmas 2017, Vacations, Kids’ School Plays, Graduations, Weddings, or Pets.

These Albums will also come in handy if you decide to share them (see more information on sharing photos in the section below).

Organizing Your Prints in the New Year

Most of my clients still deal with a lot of photo prints, so if your goal is to get your prints organized this year, here are quick tips:

1. If you have the equipment and want to scan photos yourself, keep track of what you’ve scanning as you go, and make a box for photos that have already been scanned. Scanning all your photos is a time-consuming process, and staying organized will keep you from wasting time scanning photos twice, or accidentally skipping some images when you’re scanning.

2. Consider taking digital pictures of your prints. Most of us find that taking photos of prints and pieces of memorabilia is a helpful way to keep a digital record. If you’re going to do this, I recommend reviewing, editing, naming, and categorizing your digital pictures as you go, to streamline the process and keep you organized. Examples of categories could be:

  • Printed family photos.
  • Vintage and/or historic photos.
  • Photo and memory albums.
  • Ephemera (tickets, pamphlets, programs, letters, greeting cards, etc.).
  • Memorabilia (posters, kids’ artwork, trophies, ribbons, etc.).

3. If you’re taking pictures of your prints, record that you’ve taken a picture of the item, so you don’t have to try to remember if you’ve already done it on another occasion. You could create a record by:

  • Creating a list that catalogues the items and photo names.
  • Writing on the back of the photo.
  • Labeling the item.
  • Creating and labeling boxes in which to store items and photos.

Make Sharing Photos a Simpler, Smoother Process

Finding and saving the photos other people send you via text and email can get confusing and cumbersome, and sharing your own photos one by one with your friends and family can be really inefficient and time-consuming.

The best way to share photos is by using the cloud. Once you have it set up, it’s fast, easy, and incredibly simple!

iPhone users can share directly with people who are (physically) nearby using AirDrop.

You can also create a Shared Album, so others can download your photos directly. There are some tips for setting up shared albums in our previous blog post.

Make Photo Backup a Priority in 2018

Regular readers of this blog know that I always encourage people to back up their photo collections. Nothing is sadder than photos getting lost because of computer failure, theft, or loss.

If you’re not currently backing up your photos, make safety a priority in the new year, and resolve to back up to the cloud, or to an external hard drive (or both).

Here are a few quick tips about backing up:

  • Apple devices can be set to automatically back up your photos to iCloud. Turn on iCloud Backup in your phone settings, and make sure you’ve got enough available space in iCloud to complete your backup. Check out this post for other tips and suggestions.
  • For Android phones, the Google Photos app can automatically back up your photos and make them available to all devices.
  • To back up your computer, I recommend setting up an online backup system like Backblaze, which will alert you that it’s time to back up.

You get more information about the backup process in our previous blog post, Which Cloud Sharing Site Is the Best Option for Backing Up My Photos?

Happy New Year from the Entire Picture This Organized Team

We hope that the ideas and resources in this post will help you meet your photo organization goals for 2018.

If you run into roadblocks or resistance, or just discover that you’d like to get some extra help on a project, we’d love to assist! Reach out to us here to schedule your free consultation.

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!