6 Easy Steps to Create Your Photo Management Plan for Organizing Family Pictures

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Organizing family pictures can be an overwhelming project. The key is to create a personalized plan which then serves as a roadmap.

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Are you trying to get your family photo memories organized? Do you want to enjoy them now and leave a meaningful collection for future generations? Keep reading.

You may have not only printed photos, but also digital photos, slides, old home movies, videotapes and memorabilia. It’s overwhelming! You don’t know where to start, what to do first, and there’s tech involved.

Perhaps you searched for answers online. The only problem is that there is so much information there that it gets more confusing.

What I believe you need is a plan for organizing family pictures. A plan acts as a roadmap that you can use to guide you on this journey of photo management.

To make that plan, you will need to make some decisions. But you may feel you don’t have enough information or knowledge to make those decisions, or the best decisions, or the right decisions.

The purpose of this article is to help you make as many of those decisions as possible before embarking upon this big project. Not every decision has a single answer that is right or best. The answer depends on your goals and aspirations for your collection and what you are willing to spend money on or learn to do. (It’s always time vs. money, isn’t it?)

Let’s Make Your Plan for Organizing Family Pictures

Before we get into it, let’s pause for a minute. You might be reading this while waiting in line, enjoying a coffee, or anything else you’re used to multitasking at. But your photo management plan can’t be made on the fly like that. Go grab a notebook or a stack of paper. Or open a document on your computer. You are going to need to write things down. Go on. I’ll wait.

OK, let’s get started then, shall we?

1. Set Your Goals

Every good project management process starts with envisioning the end goal (or goals). This gives us a direction in which to head. It’s kind of like knowing where you are going on vacation. You know where you want to go, and then you make a plan to get there. And after that you figure out the details – where you’re going to stay, eat, shop, visit, etc.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you want to keep the printed photos after digitization?
  • How will you enjoy your photo memories once this is done?
  • What do I want to leave for future generations?

For example, you may want to downsize and get rid of the photos. You may want to make photo books and wall displays so you can enjoy your memories again. And you may want to leave an organized digital collection for your children and grandchildren.

This is just one (fictional) example. Write out ALL your goals for your photo memory collection, and be sure to use feeling words. This will sustain you when things get hard.

2. Choose Your Digital Photo Hub (DPH)

Your Digital Photo Hub is where ALL your digitized photo memories will live. This includes scanned photos, videos, heritage documents and more. It will be organized and easy to search (but don’t get ahead of yourself – that comes later). For now, you need to decide where it is going to live. You basically have three choices.

  • Your Computer
  • An External Hard Drive
  • Cloud storage

Your computer is a good choice if you have a lot of empty space on your drives. For most people this isn’t the best choice, but it comes down to what you have.

An external hard drive essentially is operated through your computer. And the quality matters. This is an area where you should not skimp. And know, too, that external hard drives should be replaced every 3-5 years. I do not recommend thumb drives as Digital Photo Hubs.

The ONLY cloud storage provider I recommend to use as a Digital Photo Hub is FOREVER. It is not a subscription plan, like all the others. In addition, your photos (as well as videos, audios and documents) are secure, full-resolution, and guaranteed for your lifetime plus 100 years. If you want to know how they can promise that, you can read about the FOREVER Guarantee here.

3. Choose Your Backup System

The Photo Managers and others in Digital Asset Management recommend a 3-2-1 Backup System. What this means is that you should have 3 copies of your data. The original set is the first copy (your Digital Photo Hub), and then there should be two identical copies to that. One of them can be in the same location (e.g. your home), but on another drive or device. The third copy should be kept offsite in case something happens to your home, and it takes out both of the copies there.

The BEST backup systems are automatic, continuous, and redundant, meaning they also have backups. iCloud is a syncing system, not a true backup system. Please do not rely on iCloud as your backup. It’s too easy to accidentally lose photos.

Some of the popular online photo storage sites, such as Amazon Photos and Dropbox, are fine for a backup copy. But I do not recommend you use them for your Digital Photo Hub. Neither one of these sites compress your photos, unlike many others. But there are problems with retaining metadata and, in addition, they are both subscription plans, unlike FOREVER. Once you stop paying for any reason, they are under no obligation to maintain your collection.

4. Take Inventory

Once you have completed the above-steps, you are ready to take an inventory of what you have. I like to break everything up into these 4 categories:

  • All your printed photos
  • All your digital photo photos & videos
  • All your recorded memories (think VHS, cassette tapes, etc.)
  • All your keepsakes (certificates, trophies, kids’ artwork, etc.)

You can either gather it all up into what will be your workspace, or take meticulous notes about what is kept where. You may also make notes about items that may be in the possession of other family members.

5. Choose Where to Start

Now it’s time to choose which category to start with. Best practice teaches starting with the digital photos when organizing family pictures. That way you’ll be setting up your Hub early on. When you scan your physical photos, they’ll have an organized home in which to settle. I STRONGLY recommend scanning everything as a backup, even if you plan to keep the printed photos.

However, you may have reasons you want to deal with your printed photos first. You may be preparing to downsize, or maybe your kids have told you they don’t want all your photos. Not to mention the boxes of memorabilia.

In that case, I think it’s fine to organize printed photos first. You can just as easily create your Digital Photo Hub from your scanned photos, and then add the digital ones later.

6. Commit

The last and most important step is to commit to the process of organizing family pictures. This means committing your time and your space to working on this project. So if you haven’t chosen your workspace yet, do that. Choose a place where you can spread things out a bit. Consider a spare bedroom, a table in the corner of the living room–just pick a space.

And then I encourage you to put your first three sessions on the calendar. It doesn’t matter if they are 15 minutes long or several hours. What matters is consistency and showing up on a regular basis in your workspace to make headway. Your photo memories did not get into this condition overnight. You won’t get them out of this condition in a weekend.

What’s Next?

Did you actually make your plan for organizing family pictures? Or did you just skim through the article thinking you’d get to it all later? I get it–you’re on the internet reading and learning. Not actually working on your photos yet.

In that case, may I suggest you take a look at Create Your Photo Management Plan. It’s the full version of what you just read, but with expanded explanations, worksheets, and helpful resources. It’s designed to support you in making those all-important decisions for your priceless and precious memories.

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