This week is all about photos. You can read about what to do with old photos here and how to pare down your digital photo collection here.
When I was back in Vancouver recently I asked my sister if her boyfriend was still using the old PC laptop we had given him. I wanted to pull some photos off of it that I hadn’t transferred over to my Mac when I got it four years ago.
Unfortunately the PC had died and taken my photos with it. We were leaving Vancouver a few days later and I didn’t think to remove the hard drive from the laptop to see if anything was salvageable.
So I’m now missing a chunk of photos, mostly from my honeymoon and 2007/2008. I have an inkling that some of them are in a half finished photo album on Shutterfly under my old email address. Some investigative work is needed.
More photos are now lost to hard drive crashes than fire and flood.
We need to start being diligent. We need to start backing up. Backing up isn’t for nerds or the ultra organized. Backing up is for everyone.
Store your digital photos in three places.
Current computer or laptop. Easy, right? You’ve already done this.
External hard drive or USB drive. We have a Mac Time Capsule. My laptop updates to it automatically using a software program called Time Machine. If you don’t have a lot of photos you could get an external USB drive and back them up to that manually.
Online. NOT FACEBOOK. If you are using Facebook as your photo back-up please stop. Facebook isn’t photo storage. They make no claim to keep your photos or store your photos or not lose your photos. Choose Flikr, Picasa or another online storage solution.
Back up. Regularly. Our Time Capsule automates the back up of files so that’s easy. My online storage isn’t automated and it means I need to remember to manually update my photos that are stored there. I am considering buying online storage with Apple to simplify things.
Anyone else have a digital photo storage system they can tell us about?
Let’s be clear: digital photos haven’t made life that much easier. Yes, it’s easy to share photos online but if you’re like me organizing and culling digital photos is a lot of work.
It’s too easy to take photos now. There was something handy about having to pay for prints and film. It made you selective.
Now we just snap, snap, snap, snap and tell ourselves we’ll pick the best from the bunch and delete the rest. When we get around to it.
My digital downsizing of photos is an ongoing project. I still have lots of work to do in my archive of photos. It’s too big a project for me to set a deadline for so when I find a bit of time, usually just after uploading new photos to my computer, I go through and delete digital photos.
The first rule of paring down digital photos: upload fewer photos.
I’m much better about deleting photos off of my camera before I upload them now. I have a point and shoot Canon Digital camera and it’s easy to look at the photos on it and delete the ones that are obviously not keepers right away.
Then, after I have uploaded my photos to my computer, I take another look at them and delete a few more.
Here’s my other tactic: I take fewer photos. One of the reasons I take fewer photos is that I no longer have an iPhone. I have to remember to bring my camera along with me to document events. The other reason is that I want to enjoy the moment instead of being behind a camera documenting it.
Compared to most parents my age I don’t have a lot of photos of my son. Compared to parents a generation ago, I have a lot of photos of my son.
Less can be more for childhood photos in the digital age. Can you imagine your child at the age of 30 trying to sort through 20,000 photos of her childhood? Yuck.
I also think that having photographic evidence of absolutely everything can impact story telling. Story telling is such an important part of family memories. Growing up in a large single parent household without a lot of money meant that from the age of five to fifteen (when I started buying disposable film cameras) I didn’t have a lot of photos taken of me. There are large gaps of no photos of Christmas or sporting events. That’s okay. When I’m with my siblings we can reminisce and tell stories about our odd childhood all evening. No photos needed.
So maybe I won’t have a video or 100 photos of my son’s first soccer/football goal. Maybe I’ll just have a photo of him in his uniform and he’ll know the story of the goal.
On our recent trip to the Dominican Republic I took roughly fifty photos which I then edited down to 20. I also took two short videos of Henry in a little musical number that they put on with the kids.
While viewing one of the videos, the one where he spotted Chris and I in the audience and started yelling “Mommy!” and trying to run off the stage, I accidentally deleted the video. I was really upset about this but have since realized it’s not a complete loss. When we were talking to family about the trip we got to tell them the story of Henry’s first time on stage. And how he saw us in the audience and wanted to run to us. Sure, they could have seen it on Facebook if I still had an account and hadn’t deleted the video. But telling the story was more fun than getting some likes and comments on it.
This week will be all about photos: culling, saving, storing and sharing.Today’s post is about what to do with your old photos.
Before paring down my hard copy photo collection my photos sat in a photo storage box and three photo albums. The box came with little index cards to separate and identify stacks of photos but at some point I gave up and they were all jumbled up.
The photo albums were a set. They had plastic sleeves for three 4 x 6 photos to a page. The third photo album was only half full. I stopped doing much with photo albums once I had my own digital camera in 2002.
In some ways the digital age saved me on this project. I am turning 35 this year. My big photo milestones – baby, marriage – have been captured digitally and stored on a hard drive.
What I’m saying is: if you have a lot of hard copy photos paring them down will take some time. Don’t worry. My digital photos have also been a lot of work to pare down. So we’re even. More about digital photos later this week.
How to declutter hard copy photographs:
Organize your photos in a timeline. I did mine in stacks like this:
Note:I also included some newspaper clippings and other paper mementos in my stacks. You can too if you’re scanning them or creating a storage system.
Cull like crazy. I had to laugh at how many terrible photos I kept. Terrible photos that really had no significance and didn’t help tell a story. At the time it was really important to me to take a photo of the classroom we slept in at the 1993 BC Summer Games. But years later that photo told me nothing. It was the photos of my teammates and friends, laughing, racing, swimming in a lake, those were the ones I wanted to see again. Of course, terrible photos can also be charming and remind you of a different time. Just that fact that we have terrible photos says something. Nowadays bad photos are deleted before anyone can see them.
Honour your past but don’t cling to it. What story do you want to tell your grandchildren, your children or your friends and relatives with these photos? It’s a morbid thought but thinking about a relative of mine going through my photos once I am gone has helped me let go of a lot of photos. Maybe a few dozen photos from your youth are enough. I know when I look through my mother’s photos from her childhood I enjoy how precious the photos are. There aren’t that many so each one is studied with care; the photo of her at the age of two on a ship headed to the far east and the one of her as a teenager hugging her father in their garden.
Decide if you want to digitize. I recommend getting digital copies of old photos for many reasons. First, it’s a great way to share them. Who doesn’t enjoy getting an email with a blast from the past photo? When I was sorting my photos I took pictures of some of them and sent them to friends. Every friend emailed me back saying they’d really enjoyed the photo. Second, digitizing is a great way to store photos. I’m not one to worry about floods and fires too much but it’s nice to know that I have photos securely stored away digitally in a few spots. I’ll talk about digital photo storage options later this week.
Scan or take photographs of your old photos. After putting in some time at the scanner I decided to pay to have my photos scanned. The service was quite reasonable and I am happy with the result. One thing I am not happy about is that the service still hasn’t sent me my photos back. There were a few odd challenges and a postal strike but really, no excuse. It’s been almost a year. Your other option is to photograph your photographs. Once you’ve set up your photo station it’s pretty quick. Here is a tutorial on how to photograph or scan old photos.
Decide if you want to keep all of your hard copy photos. I didn’t. So I haven’t been too wrecked about the scanning service not getting my photos back to me. I do have a small collection of loose photos at the moment. They are mostly photos that family have printed off and given me. Yes, people still print photos. They are all copies of photos that I already have the digital file of. It’s okay to keep your photos or toss them once you have stored the digital copies in a few places for safekeeping.
Display and share your old photos. Now that you’ve gone to the trouble of organizing, culling and scanning your photos give them their due. Display them in photo albums that are easily accessible in your home. Take the album with you the next time you visit a family member. If you’re going to keep things use them.
One of the reasons I decided I didn’t need most of my hard copy photos was that I wasn’t looking at them much. I have photos in frames around the house and we use our television as a photo album. We don’t have cable so our television is connected to an Apple TV box. I set up a photo album for the Apple TV and it rotates through the photos when the tv is on but nothing is playing. It’s been a great way to share photos with friends when they visit and remind Henry of his family in Canada.
Has anyone done something interesting with old photos? Mural? Decoupage? Turned them into postcards?
What do you call a personal hero that eventually became an acquaintance?
Marnie McBean is a big deal in Canadian sport. She has a bunch of Olympic medals. She’s now retired from sport and is a public speaker, mentor and now, author. Her book, The Power of More, has just been released.
When I was 14 I took a learn to row course at the Vancouver Rowing Club. It was 1992. Canada has just won a shed load of medals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Marnie was one of those rowers. In my complete love and geekery over the sport I spent days at the library reading books about rowing and looking up newspaper articles. I was hooked. I knew all the names of the women on the 1992 Olympic team, I knew their hometowns and how tall they were. I idolized them.
A few years later I was a promising junior rower and started training at Burnaby Lake with the well known (in Canadian rowing) coach Dick McLure. Dick had coached on the national team and had coached a few of the women from the 1992 Olympic team. My training sessions were filled with lessons and stories from all of these amazing rowers, their technical strengths and weaknesses, how they prepared for races along with lots of fun and inspiring anecdotes.
When I went to my first National Team training camp in 1997 I got to meet some of these athletes in person. Most of them were nice if distant. I was a small fry, an insignificant development athlete. I wasn’t surprised that few of them took the time to learn my name.
I was surprised when Marnie McBean walked right up to me, introduced herself, asked me my name and shook my hand.
Marnie is everything I hoped an Olympic gold medalist would be: gregarious, charming, inspiring and kind. She worked very hard. Very, very hard. But she also gave her time to newbies like me, even if it was just for a quick hello. That hello often made my day as I struggled to learn the ins and outs of the training centre. It was something good to report to my mom on the phone at night. Yes, I got my ass handed to me in the workout but Marnie McBean acknowledged my presence.
Over the years I got to know Marnie a bit better. She retired in 2000 but always made time to visit the national training centre and give us pep talks. She is a fantastic speaker. Goose bumps, tears, laughter. She has it all.
In the lead up to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics I was lucky to run into Marnie a few times at sport events. She has created a wonderful career for herself post-rowing and is an inspiration to me as I pursue a writing career.
Really? More? I’m so focused on less in my life, how could more be powerful?
I took a look through the first chapters that are available for preview online and was happy to read this:
It’s not about having more – it’s about being able to do more. – Marnie McBean
The more Marnie is referring to isn’t stuff. It’s actually what I write about here: losing the unneeded to you can focus, and find more of, what you really want.
Some of the section heads really spoke to me. From The Power of More:
Simple beginnings can lead to incredible things.
Normal people doing special things.
The book title also made me think about simplicity and minimalism in another light.
Embrace more of what nourishes and inspires you.
I’ve read a few comments here and on the blog Facebook page from people beat down by getting rid of things. They empty out closets and sell things but it never seems to end. They feel like the path to less is never ending.
So, maybe instead of focusing on getting rid of things, focus on bringing more of what you want into your life. More reading so you shop online less. More sleep so you need less coffee. More relaxed family time and less rushed weekends with multiple commitments all over town.
I read a story once about a woman that was trying to lose weight. Instead of focusing on all the foods she couldn’t eat she set a goal to eat more fruits and vegetables. Every week she added another cup of fruit and vegetables to her daily diet. Eventually she hit the tipping point of having so much good stuff in her diet that she didn’t have room for any junk food.
There is a power to having more if it’s more of what you really want and need.
The Minimalist Year Donated a car load of stuff including dozens of mini muffin cups for the mini muffin pan she never owned.
Rethinking The Dream Sold their big house and moved into a two bedroom apartment. Now they’re able to travel more and have more family time with a shorter commute.
Not Buying Anything Pony Rider sent me to this blog (thanks!). Radical living without buying anything except groceries and guitar strings and not selling anything. We’re not aiming for this style of living but I applaud their efforts.