My top New Year’s Resolution for 2016 was to organize my family’s photos. I had several years’ worth of photos on my computer, on random memory discs, on Facebook, and my phone. It was one of those tasks that I knew was so important, yet I never seemed to carve out the time to tackle it. By making it a Resolution, I nudged myself to put in the hard work, dig deep, and get it done.
I’m pleased to say that I accomplished my goal and feel really good about how it all turned out. It occurred to me I may have a number of readers interested in a similar goal for the year ahead, so I thought I’d break down exactly how I did it.
A few things I should tell you, before getting started.
- This project is going to take time. And quite possibly, a lot of it, depending on how many photos you take. Be prepared to put in the work.
- Done is better than perfect. I think what held me back for so long on this project is feeling like it had to all be done in a perfect, consistent way. I only made progress when I decided to release my expectations of having it be perfect.
- You won’t regret doing this. Over Thanksgiving, I was able to share my photo albums with family and I realized how proud I was of myself for completing this project. I also feel peace of mind knowing my family’s photos are stored in multiple locations now.
With that, let’s break down how I completed this goal.
Organizing your Photos
The first thing I decided to do was to organize my photos online. By sorting them there first, I knew I’d have an easier job of sorting the prints into albums later. This turned out to be a good choice!
I opted to save my photos to an external hard drive. Why? Well, I’ve had a laptop die on me before, and it was positively nerve-wracking wondering if the tech guys were going to be able to salve my photos.
I purchased the Toshiba Passport (1 TB). You can find this on Amazon for around $60 (give or take). Part of the process of organizing my photos turned into protecting my photos. I highly encourage you to think about this as you organize your photos. If you don’t want to opt for an external hard drive, think about uploading your photos to a cloud, or backing up your computer using a service like Crash Plan. Your future self may thank you!
With that in place, I decided to organize my family photos by year. I found it easiest to start with the current year and move backwards. I first started with images I already had on my computer. Then I worked my way through memory discs. Lastly, online platforms like Facebook.
Each year has its own folder, with subfolders of special days, events, and vacations that occurred during that year. The screenshot pictured above is my 2014 folder. I found that organizing my family photos into years has made it incredibly easy to retrieve photos and sort new ones that I come across. Honestly, this was likely the longest part of the entire process for me, but so well worth it!
Now that we’re into a brand new year, I already have my 2017 folder created. I imagine I’ll fill it with some of the same subfolders as prior years – 1st days of school, vacations, special outings, holidays.
Printing Your Photos
Once I had my photos organized, I knew I wanted to have them printed. But how? I love those pretty photo books you can make online, but I recognized early on they had some drawbacks for me. First, they can be time consuming to assemble. Second, they can be costly – particularly since I had about 7 years’ worth of photos to incorporate. Last, I wanted to come up with a system that would be easy to replicate in future years. Would I really want to do a photo book each year?
In the end, I decided to go back to what I grew up with: plain ol’ photo albums. You know, the kind you shove prints in! I remember my mom assembling these when I was a kid and they were always so fun to flip through. I didn’t care that my mom hadn’t added stickers, or scrapbooked favorite memories, or digitally enhanced the images. I just wanted to see the images.
After looking around, I decided on these awesome albums I found at Costco. They had them on sale in a 2-pack for $19.99 (but as low as $14.99 last fall!). I didn’t know how many I’d need, but I ended up buying (4) 2-packs. I think at the end of my project, I ended up with 1-2 leftover albums, which I can use for next year.
If you don’t have a Costco you can get to, and/or you can’t locate these at your Costco store, have no fear. I found a good selection of similar photo albums at Amazon, and the prices aren’t bad at all. Take a look.
These albums are fantastic and hold 300 photos each and even have a place for you to journal a few memories. Perfect. I also love that I can move things around a bit if I need to.
As far as prints go, I ended up taking advantage of a deal I found on Shutterfly where you can score unlimited free prints when you purchase through the app. As of this post, this offer is effective, but for a limited time only. In my experience, it tends to come and go.
A couple things to note if you’re considering this option: Shutterfly limits you to 250 prints per order (but you can make unlimited orders). Shipping tends to be very spendy, too. I paid about $23 per order. In the end, I placed about 8 orders, too – so you can see that this isn’t exactly “free.” When I did the math, it worked out to about $0.09 per print shipped, which I still feel is a solid offer, particularly for the quality of the prints. (While offers can come and go, I do recommend you keep an eye on Shutterfly as an option!)
Edited to add: I can’t believe I neglected to share this, but once I had my photos organized on my external hard drive, I created albums on Shutterfly for each year (2010, 2011, 2012, etc.). I then uploaded the photos to Shutterfly in their appropriate album. Note that if you’re uploading hi-res photos as I did, it may take quite a bit of time.
All told, I spent about $300 on this project between the hard drive, the photo albums, and shipping the prints, but I am happy with everything I got in exchange for my money. In doing some cost comparisons, I know I would’ve spent a lot more had I used other companies or gone the photo book route.
The Result of My Hard Work
In thinking about this project, I realize I actually achieved several important things:
- I organized my family’s photos – something that had been bothering me greatly for a few years.
- I protected my family’s photos – they are now stored on an external hard drive, at Shutterfly, and in print. I have peace of mind that if the photos were to get lost at one source, they are available in two additional places.
- I created an easy system for future photo organization. My plan is to continue to organize and upload my photos on an annual basis and then simply print and add them to a new album. Easy as pie!
To celebrate achieving this goal, I have booked a new family photo shoot for January!
Friends, I know this is something many of you need to do, too. I hope I’ve given you some encouragement and practical steps for making headway on this goal for the year ahead. Feel free to sound off with your questions or comments below!