Digital Photo Organization Solutions
Some advice in time for the holidays
As a new mom, I had the best intentions. I could envision my daughter’s first-year scrapbook with every photo I snapped. But as one child turned into three, months turned into years, phones broke and technology changed, I lost all control.
I have photos on old phones, new phones, computers, jump drives and memory cards. Some are printed and a few made it into photo albums. But the truth is, our memories have become a big mess I’m not sure I can clean up.
I asked several of my friends how they organize their digital photos and the responses I received ranged from bemused wit — “If you figure it out, let me know!” — to beleaguered camaraderie — “Is there anyone who has a business of doing this, because I need them!”
One online search revealed that, of course, there are photo organization businesses. In fact, there is even an association: the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (appo.org), a professional membership organization that trains, supports and provides industry tools to members, who are known as Personal Photo Organizers. Those who are interested in joining can choose from professional memberships ($349 annually) or corporate memberships ($450 annually). APPO equips members with the skills to “rescue, manage, organize and save your photos — allowing you to easily find, preserve and share your stories.”
Chapel Hill mom and entrepreneur Amy Hoogervorst is an APPO member who is passionate about her work. “I started preserving my family’s history as a scrapbooker about 20 years ago and then I was a direct-sales scrapbook consultant, teaching people how to make albums for themselves,” Hoogervorst says. “When digital photography came along, I started showing people how to make digital albums.”
Before long, people were asking Hoogervorst for help and she began her own business: Photo Organize Me (photoorganize.me).
Create a System
Hoogervorst’s first tip to clients concerns methodology. “Create a system and stick with it. I think forming good habits is more important,” she says. “Consistency is key.”
That sort of advice might make busy parents shudder, but Raleigh mom and writer Jen Foster feels inspired by it.
“A few years ago I was in the exact same spot you are now,” she told me. “The first method I tried was buying a ‘photo computer.’ I was going to keep everything in that one spot. I spent days transferring and organizing all photos there.”
It wasn’t long, however, before Foster identified flaws in her plan. First, downloading pictures from her phone to her computer didn’t happen as consistently as she’d planned. Second, the only way she could search for photos was by the dates they had been taken. “I would have a picture in mind, but would have to go folder by folder because I couldn’t remember exactly when it was taken.” Last, and scariest of all, the computer flashed what she referred to as “the blue screen of death” one day.
Around that same time, Foster purchased a new smartphone. It was love at first download.
“I got the Google Pixel [smartphone] and it automatically downloads all the pictures I take into Google Photos,” she says.
She liked it so much, she transferred all of the photos from her “photo computer” to Google Photos as well. “It has become automatic. I can find photos easily and know I’ll always have them,” Foster says.
Other popular photo storage platforms include Shutterfly, Flickr, Prime Photos and Slidebox (see sidebar). Whether one of these or another of the platform options out there are right for you, Hoogervorst advises you take the process one step further. “Back [photos] up in more than one location,” she says. “Don’t rely solely on an outside vendor.”
Foster agrees. “My fear was, what if Google [Photos] goes away? It’s highly unlikely, but I hate having all my photos in one place that is owned by someone else,” she points out.
Hoogervorst says remembering what is at stake will keep you motivated.
“Your grandparents’ black-and-white photos stored in a shoebox under the bed are more likely to see the year 2050 than your daughter’s first birthday photos. That’s because hard drives fail,” she warns. “Cell phones die watery deaths in toilets and bathtubs, and technology changes. Take care to download and back up your priceless images. And print the ones you love the most. You’ll never regret the time you spend doing this, but you may regret not having done it.”
Popular Photo Storage Systems
Google Photos: Automatic upload options for smartphones make Google Photos a great choice for effortlessly backing up photos. Also, the platform’s search functionality allows you to search by name, face, location or date. Unlimited cloud storage space and cross-device syncing with minimal compression also makes this a great option for moms who never want to miss capturing a smile on camera.
Shutterfly: Founded in 1999, Shutterfly is still a fan favorite and leader in online digital photo storage solutions. Its greatest strength – and bread and butter – is photo sharing and printing. Shutterfly offers countless and frequently updated options for printing — from photo books to mugs.
Flickr: Offering 1 terabyte of free cloud storage to manage and organize mobile photos, Flickr has updated much of its functionality. You can turn on automatic uploading and smart search features so organization doesn’t depend on the process of tagging photos in the front end. The default camera view groups photos by date. Enhanced features allow users to easily share photos via social media platforms.
Prime Photos: A quickly growing contender in the photo organization industry is Prime Photos for Amazon Prime subscribers. Offering unlimited cloud storage of original resolution photos, as well as 5 gigabytes for video and document storage, the Prime Photos app automatically syncs with connected devices, so your photos can be accessed from any of them. Other than the incredible amount of storage offered, its strengths include artificial intelligence-assisted search features and family sharing.
Slidebox: Featuring a fun, Tinder-like approach to organizing photos on your phone, this interface presents your photos in a slideshow format. Swipe up to delete a photo, swipe down to mark it as a favorite or tap the album to sort photos into a file. There are also tools for comparing similar photos to determine the best of the 25 first-day-of-school pictures you took.
This article was originally published Dec. 19, 2017 and updated Dec. 18, 2018.
Mandy Howard is a freelance writer and mother of three in Raleigh. She won a Parenting Media Assocation Bronze award for this feature.