If you heeded my advice in {Working With What You’ve Got} then you should have lots of beautiful pictures of your family, just waiting to be preserved!  The world of digital cameras has become a double-edged sword.  While it’s great to be able to capture every little thing your little ones do, you then have to find a way to properly store those images.  If you don’t have a good system for this, read on mama – this article is just for you!

Let’s start with me admitting when I first went digital, I learned very quickly how large digital image files are, and just how quickly those files can fill up a computer!  After a very short time, my computer reached max capacity, and I realized how important it is to delete, delete, delete.  After all, I was uploading about 1,000 pictures that were almost identical.  Pretty sure I won’t miss some of them.  So now, immediately after I upload, I purge and I don’t look back.

Once I am down to my absolutely-cannot-part-with photos, the next step is to get organized.

It is important to spend time organizing and archiving your digital photos for two simple reasons: You DO want to be able to use your photos, and you DON’T want to lose your photos, should tragedy strike.

Functional and Fun Freebies

There are a lot of software choices out there to help you complete this task, some of which may already be on your computer.  If you are on a mac, check out iphoto which can help you organize, and you can also use it for basic photo edits.

If you are on any other brand of computer, check out Picasa from Google, or Windows Live Photo Gallery.  Both of those programs are free to download, and provide organization and some photo editing capabilities including filters such as black and white, sepia tones, etc.  We’ll explore those details in {Oops! Now What?}.

There are many, many photo organizers out there, so if you already have one you know and love, stick with it!  No need to fix what isn’t broken.

Kick It Up A Notch

When you are ready to take your photo editing and storage to the next level, for less than $100 you can pick up Photoshop Elements.  I used Elements for years before I went pro, and there are many photo editing features that will make you dance a jig, but it will also help you store and organize your photos.  Elements is not the only show in town, but I mentioned them because I had such a good experience using it – plus it was easy for me to then transition into Photoshop CS3 (and now CS5).

Another handy-dandy feature of this software is it has face recognition built in – meaning when you label or tag people in your photos, this process will get significantly faster – because the software will start to recognize alike faces and with just a click of a button you can confirm the match.  Some of the free programs use this feature as well, but Elements does a pretty darn good job of separating out you, from your look-alike daughter.

Why is it important to tag photos?  I find it most useful when I am looking to create a project.  When I am creating a scrapbook for my mom, I don’t necessarily want a bunch of pictures of my mother-in-law, taking up precious page space.  So, once my photos are tagged, I can ask the software to only show me certain tags, and the perfect pictures are at my fingertips in just a matter of seconds.  Another click and they are all sent to my photo printer, and I am ready to start creating.

Also, be sure to rate and rank your photos as you tag them.  This will help you quickly determine which photos you consider frame-worthy, as well as weed out your not-so-favorite images when it’s time to reduce your file storage.

Lastly, don’t forget to label the events.  Most software programs will separate your photos based on the date and time they were captured, and by simply adding the event titles, you can supply another layer or organization for the built-in sorting and selection functions.

Disasterproof Your Photos

In addition to storing your photos in your photo organization tool, you should create and keep a hard back up copy in your fireproof safe.  This sounds daunting, but I promise it’s not.  Your digital images may be large in size, so burning them to a DVD is your best option.  If you only have a CD burner, you will be able to perform the same function, but you will either need significantly more CD’s or you will only be able to back up your absolute favorites.

Some of the organizational tools I mentioned above also provide online photo storage, giving you more options.  However, those accounts are typically limited in size and depending on your internet speed, uploading them all can become a long drawn, out process.

A Walk Down Memory Lane

One of the best things about having your photos organized and perfectly preserved is they are available to you when you want them.  Every year, for my kids birthdays I create a photo-movie of the last year in pictures.  It’s really something I just do to make the grandmothers cry 😉

This annual project is so simple thanks to photo tags.  I simply select the birthday boy or girl, click the dates I want to view, and voila! All the images that fall within my project guidelines pop up.  I can select the best pictures based on the rating system and import them right into the program I use to compile the movie.

This project is only easy-peasy because I spend a few minutes with each upload purging, tagging and labeling the events.

Hopefully, I have motivated and empowered you to organize your photos.   More importantly, I hope you see how invaluable proper back up and photograph storage is before disaster strikes, even when you are a mama on the go.  Don’t forget, taking just a few minutes really can get you Going From Mom, To Moment Master.

Now that your photos are perfectly preserved and organized, join me for our next article in the Going From Mom, To Moment Master series, titled {Oops! Now What?}, where we will discuss filters, balance and color correction … and other fun photo edits!