Spring cleaning in a digital world

We’ve all heard the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but what about a thousand pictures?   In this digital age it is easy to accumulate that many files as cameras get smaller and smaller and digital media holds more and more…  but what do all of those terabytes of data really say?  Are you someone that still likes the touch and feel of an actual printed photograph tucked safely into the plastic embrace of an album so that you can pick it up and thumb through it occasionally?  Perhaps you go a step further and scrapbook your memories, complete with bits of ribbon, brads and buttons, vellum and stickers.  Do you prefer to organize your digital files in online folders and slideshows and look at your images on a screen with a happy tune playing in the background?  Or are you like me – do you dump your image files off of your digital media on your computer somewhere, never to be seen again??

“If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug around a camera.” – Lewis Hine

I confessed in my last blog post the role my camera plays for me in experiencing the events in my life, but truth be told I still struggle with what to do with all of those files.  In my capacity as a professional photographer, I have a structured workflow and system for editing, printing, backing-up and storing the files created for my work.  But with the files that I create in my personal life, I find myself drowning in data – and I bet that I am not the only one.  So what to do with the mass of megabytes sitting on your hard drive right now?

1) Organize & Backup

Organize your files

First, time for a little hard drive spring cleaning.  Organizing your files into folders with dates and meaningful names will go a long way to getting those pics in a state where you can do something with them.  There are many software programs out there to help facilitate this task- your camera probably came with one if you ever bothered to install it.  If you are a Mac user, iPhoto is great; Picasa is another good one and it’s free.  Delete the garbage while you’re at it – if the image is so blurry that you can’t tell if the picture is from your vacation in Mexico or your neighbour’s backyard, trash it.  If you shot twenty-seven images of your Aunt Betty’s sofa to list on Kijiji, pick the best one or two and delete the rest.

Next step – backup your library.  You should actually do this every time you download new photos, but better late than never.  There are some great products that make this step as simple as plugging in a hard drive.  Many hard drives have preinstalled software that searches for new files and backs them up automatically.  If you want to be more cautious, keep two backup drives or create copies of your images on CD/DVD.  Don’t wait until you lose your son’s first birthday party pictures to start, (yup, happened to me) do it today.  Go!

2)  Photo books

Digital photo books are a great way to preserve your memories in an attractive coffee table-style book.  Using simple software you can select predesigned templates or customize your own layout and add your photos, as well as text and captions.

To see a detailed comparison of photo book creation websites, check out this site

Photo book website reviews

3) Digital scrapbooking

Digital scrapbooking is to digital photos what scrapbooking is to printed photos.  You can create scrapbook pages online using photo editing tools including almost limitless embellishments, colours, fonts, etc. and then just print the pages yourself to bind, or have them printed in a photobook format.

Advantages of digital scrapbooking over the traditional?

  • the ability to enhance/edit photos before adding them to your book (eg. convert to b&w, remove red eye, crop, etc.)
  • the ability to share pages with others digitally (so you and your siblings living in different provinces can create a scrapbook for mom)
  • the ability to undo mistakes (for those that make them…)
  • no mess or waste (no more dining room table covered in scraps of paper and photos for weeks)
  • the option to make multiple copies – one for every member of the family

4)  Wall collections and collages

Here is another crazy idea for what to do with those photos hanging around your hard drive – print them and hang them on your walls.  Depending on the resolution of your files, you may not be able to make life-size wall portraits of your children but canvas is a very forgiving medium and collages are another great option for creating an eclectic collection of your favourite moments.  So go ahead – print yourself some memories.

Canvas wall collection

“For me the printing process is part of the magic of photography. It’s that magic that can be exciting, disappointing, rewarding and frustrating all in the same few moments in the darkroom.” – John Sexton

16"x20" canvas collage

5) Slideshows

Another great way to enjoy the fruits of your photographic labour is to create a slideshow, whether you want the final result to be viewed on your computer screen, your television screen or even on a digital photo frame.  With the popularity of digital video, it is possible to combine video and still images, set the result to music and upload it to YouTube or Facebook for all the world to see.

Okay, time to do a little photo spring cleaning of my own!

All photos by Anita Woo.

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About anitawoo

A photographer & mom with a passion for capturing life's moments with my camera.
This entry was posted in Anita Woo, Photography and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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