Whether you're a resolution-maker or not, a new year is an ideal time to start doing something with your pictures since it's a nice and tidy demarcation of time. Here are some ways to set yourself up so that in a couple weeks you're ready to go.
Collect your photos in one place.
Decide on one place to keep all your photos, how you'll set up your organization structure, and how often you'll ensure you're up-to-date. This is essential to avoiding the dreadful pressure of a full phone and pictures that are in variously named folders all over the cloud and your computers. First, consider where your pictures come from. For most, this will be their phone, possibly family members' phones as well, and a camera. Next, consider where you want your pictures to be, in the sense of collecting them in one spot (we'll talk about backup in a minute). This could simply be a folder on your laptop. Now, how are the pictures going to get there? Consider this question for each device you need pictures from. For phones, you could do automatic uploads into a shared pictures folder in Dropbox. For a camera, you could decide to upload photos from your SD card once a week, once a month, once after every important event, whatever works for you.
Organize folders according to how you'll search for them later.
I personally organize my computer's picture folder structure according to date. I have a folder for each year and then for each month within the yearly folders. But this is how my brain works. I tend to remember dates and when things happened. If that would drive you batty, organize folders according to event and then maybe also have a folder per month to corral your miscellaneous images. The important thing is to think through your folder's organization structure beforehand so that you have a place for everything when it comes time to upload — and when it comes time to find a picture you want.
Stay current with a schedule.
Decide on a regular time to take care of your photos so that it never becomes a huge mountain to climb. For instance, as soon as the month ends, clear off your memory card and transfer automatic uploads from your phone from the Dropbox "collection" folder to your picture folder on your hard drive. A small investment of time regularly beats a jumbled mess of photos and the hours it takes to locate and organize them later.
Backup backup backup.
Losing treasured, irreplaceable photos can happen to anyone and it's heartbreaking. The pictures of my wedding guests that they took as they signed in at the reception table accidentally got deleted (on our honeymoon, no less). And a close friend lost all her pregnancy and newborn photos due to a computer crash. Backup your photos. This means storing them in a place that does not get used, that's simply for storage. Because I'm paranoid, I back ours up in two places: on a dedicated external drive and also online at Smugmug. I backup once a month on Smugmug and then once a year on the external drive.
What will you do with your photos?
Thinking about what you may want to do with your photos will help inform your photo organization and even your picture-taking, and will also motivate you to stay up-to-date on uploading. Some suggestions:
- Make Chatbooks with Instagram photos. I love this idea because photos you've shared on IG are already culled. I like Chatbooks because they include your captions, which to me are a huge part of the fun of IG. And ordering automatically put-together books straight from your phone — it couldn't be simpler.
- Make photobooks. Many companies, such as Snapfish, Shutterfly, Costco, Artifact Uprising, Mixbook, and more offer templates that you can customize. Waiting until the end of the year allows you to make a yearbook that's an overview of your whole year. Or you could make photobooks of special trips or occasions. Photobookgirl.com is an outstanding resource for reviews and coupons.
- If you prefer printed photos over photos printed in a book, decide what you will do with them and only print the best so you don't end up with tons of photos stuck in boxes. I print my photos out weekly and put them in a pocket-system scrapbook album called Project Life. It's a creative outlet for me, and definitely not for everyone, but what a treasure when we look back on them.