I posted a story on Instagram the other day about some “digital nesting” if you will, where I mentioned that I had officially completed Adeline’s photo books for her first two years and organized a bunch of other photos. I had a few people ask me for my tips and secrets, and I realized I’d never shared a post on the topic. (Not that I’m an expert by any means, but I do have a history with photos so I’d say I do have a pretty solid handle on the matter.)
My photos mean the world to me, and are some of my most precious belongings. I take them seriously because I so strongly believe in their importance and value. I may take way too many, but I’ve never regretted that. What I have regretted though is either not taking the shot, or not taking care of them after the fact. Technology can be our best friend or our worst enemy, and if you don’t have a plan to back them up, organize them, store them, and display them, it’s going to bite you in the butt.
The questions I received on this topic mainly revolved around how do I organize my photos, how did I have time to make all these photo books, and what do I use to back them up safely. I think a lot of it has to do with making it a priority, because once something is a priority you can always find time for it. I regularly backup my photos, and keep it a habit.
Here is my current setup, or routine for managing my ginormous library of photos, and hopefully it answers those questions!
Not pictured: Adeline 13-18 Months and Adeline Months 19-24. Just need to order them, woohoo!
External Physical Backups
If you’re even the slightest bit tech savvy, then you know that you should NEVER rely on your computer to safely store your photos. Your computer will fail eventually. And you will be very sad when it does and you realize you didn’t have your photos backed up anywhere else. It’s a sucky lesson to learn, but once you’ve been through that heartache you’ll forever have a solid backup plan! Our two primary methods for backing up photos physically are:
- NAS – Adam set up a family NAS on his computer that I can easily access from our network (our private WiFi). A NAS, or Network Attached Storage is a file-level computer data storage server connected to a network. Basically it’s like attaching an external hard drive to our network, which means it can be accessed from any of our devices, or from the internet, and backups can be run automatically. It’s very safe, stable, and keeps everything in one central place. Both of our computers are fully backed up on our NAS. We use a Synology DS418 which has an optional capacity of over 48 TERABYTES so we won’t be running out of space any time soon.
- External hard drives – I haven’t used an external hard drive in a long time, but I have several stored away from years past. External hard drives are the easiest, and simplest way to backup your photos from a device if a NAS drive is way over your head. External hard drives are helpful in that you can store your photos on them instead of keeping your photos stored say on your computer’s desktop. They can be plugged into a new device, and easily transported.
Ideally, you have your photos stored both on a physical backup and in a cloud. Cloud based storage is also very stable, safe, and so easy to use. Cloud storage basically just means it’s not physical – it’s living in a “cloud”, on a server somewhere. It’s all digital and once you upload your photos, you can always download them again. Things like Dropbox, Google Drive/Google Photos, Amazon Prime Photos, Flickr, iCloud, SmugMug, Shutterfly, OneDrive, are all considered cloud storage. I prefer:
- Google Photos – Backup for Phone – I use the Google Photos app the most routinely, and have it set to back up my phone’s photos automatically. I rarely do anything else with the app other than to simply back up my phone photos for peace of mind. Google Photos is super easy, and even makes fun things for you like gifs, collages, movies, and yearly flashbacks like Timehop. (Free)
- Shutterfly – Backup for Favorites Both High Res + Phone – Shutterfly is what I use the most routinely alongside Google Photos. Maybe even more actually, since it’s where I make all my photo books and stay the most organized. I use the online version to backup photos from my computer and the app version to backup my favorite phone photos. The difference I would say with me using Shutterfly versus any of these other sites is that with Shutterfly I’m the most picky. Meaning, I don’t backup everything to Shutterfly – only the photos I’m serious about keeping or plan to print. I would not consider Shutterfly to be my daily backup mechanism for that reason alone. It’s more so my library of favorites, if you will. (Free)
- Amazon Prime Photos – Additional/Occasional Backup for Favorites – I also use the Prime Photos app and online version, but not as regularly as Google Photos. (You really don’t need both, I just had Prime Photos before I discovered Google Photos.) This one sometimes falls by the wayside and I tend to forget to move things over to it but I love the format of it because it’s like one giant timeline. (Free + paid additional space)
- SmugMug – Backup for Important Professional Photos – This is a professional photo storage site that I pay for yearly to backup my client’s old photos. There’s a non-professional version as well though I believe. With SmugMug, you can order prints, create password protected albums, etc. etc. It’s very versatile, but expensive. I honestly don’t remember the last time I backed up a session on SmugMug because now I use Google Drive for clients. But, I have so many old client’s photos backed up on here that I continue to pay for it. (Paid)
- Google Drive – Backup by Default – This is separate from Google Photos, and is not specifically for photo storage. But, I do have lots of photos backed up technically on Google Drive just from emailing them to clients or myself. (Free)
- iCloud – Backup by Default – This is the most annoying one to me, and I honestly never, ever access it. I absolutely loathe Mac’s iPhoto application and never use it. I guess I use iCloud by default from being an iPhone user, but I don’t count it as one of my legit backup means. (Free + paid additional space)
Apps On My Phone
I already mentioned these for the most part, but the apps I use on my phone for photo storage and backups most regularly are:
- Google Photos
- Prime Photos (Have it, but I don’t remember the last time I actually opened it. 2017 sometime probably.)
Photo Books + Prints
First let me start by saying that I am not on board the Chatbooks train yet, mainly because I like to have more control over my books. I’m not opposed, but for now it’s just not the best solution for me. Once Baby #2 arrives, I might consider it, but I really prefer the ability to create longer, more in-depth books at the moment. Plus, I love Shutterfly’s quality and book size options.
Folders are life
For my photo books, I use Shutterfly. It’s where I keep my most favorite photos the most organized. I keep folders labeled and organized by month, and it seems to be the easiest way to then sort through them and transfer them into a book. Shutterfly has done a lot of upgrades over the past few years and I really love their interface because you can view your photos by album, or by timeline. Everything is dated for you, and once you upload, you still have the option to then download. (You didn’t always used to in Shutterfly!) So my albums are labeled by like, Adeline Month 1, Adeline Month 2, etc. etc. I also have albums for more specific photos and include the name of what they are and a date if needed. I Try to keep everything either in a month form or specific event. Basically I make a folder for EVERYTHING and LABEL IT CLEARLY.
Make a plan, pre-start books
I feel like making a photo book is kind of like going for a run. Starting it is literally the hardest step! So, to make things easier, if I know for sure I’m going to want a photo book of XYZ, I’ll go into My Projects and go ahead and START ONE. Label it, and get that first move under your belt so that as least when you DO find the time to start adding photos, the book itself has already been started. I do this with folders too and have already made folders for baby boy that I know I’m going to want to add to once he’s here.
I know that I’m a compulsive photo taker which means I always have way too many photos to weed through when it comes time to make a book. So, I try to keep the length of my books realistic. I know for a fact I could have never fit Adeline’s first year of life into ONE book, so I broke it out into 4 books, 3 months a piece. I made sure to complete one book by the time the next 3 months was over so I didn’t fall too behind.
Whether you’re using Shutterfly or another service to make your photo books and prints, you have to learn to be picky. There’s a difference between backing up ALL your photos for safe keeping, and organizing your favorite photos for print. As I upload photos into Shutterfly either from my phone or even into a book, I try to be extra picky and remember that I don’t need every single photo I’ve ever taken. This is why I love using Shutterfly as my ‘favorites library’ ONLY and not also as a full backup. I don’t want to be overwhelmed by everything, but instead want one place where I can keep my absolute favorite photos meticulously organized.
I still have tons of folders on my desktop, but I try to keep them as organized as possible, and color coded to help me remember what’s been backed up. That way, I can delete them once I know they’re safely stored elsewhere. All of my folders are clearly labeled, dated, and organized by year. I try to keep only jpgs on my desktop as they take up way less space than raw files, and am constantly moving old files to the trash to keep my storage open. Tip: there’s no reason to keep photos on your desktop that you don’t need on a regular basis.
- Figure out which backup plan works best for you. Pick one physical, and one cloud based.
- Set a time to backup your photos if you don’t have it set to auto. (For instance, every Sunday I pull my favorite phone photos into their proper folders on Shutterfly and double check google photos backed up my most recent mobile photos)
- Pre-start your photo books and make them realistic.
- Put everything in a folder, and label said folder clearly. I like to organize on a monthly basis.
- Be picky, but only in one place. Have one place where you keep everything narrowed down and selective. Everywhere else can be a full backup for peace of mind.
- Stick with it or you will fall behind and never make those books!
This may sound overwhelming to some of you, but hopefully it answers your questions!
How do you organize your photos? Where do you make your photo books?