Help me not drown in photographs, and keep memories not clutter
January 15, 2019 7:49 AM   Subscribe

I have a one year old daughter and this year has been crazy in terms of picture taking. I've filled up my phone completely. I also have pictures on my camera, and my partner's phone, and videos. Now my phone is overflowing. What is a good solution to manage the ever increasing quantities of photographs one takes? I've thought of printing them and making albums, but its too time consuming and I never seem to keep up. I thought I'd upload them all to FLICKR at one point, but that seems a shakey long term solution. I'm interested in both technological ideas (apps, etc) as well as ideas about how organize their workflow.
posted by cacofonie to Computers & Internet (29 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Google photos is great for storing photos. If you have Amazon prime, they also give you space for your pictures. When you want prints and other stuff (grandparents gifts, cubicle decorations), you can use something like shutterfly, snapfish, walgreens, etc. Upload some favorites and get prints mailed to you.
As you have time to go through them, delete the out of focus ones and try to pare down duplicates. You don't have to print every good one. I like collage prints in my cube instead of trying to pin up ten different pictures.
posted by soelo at 7:57 AM on January 15, 2019 [8 favorites]

Always have at least two copies of any important file you put into the cloud. I put my pictures in 3 cloud services and 2 hard drives at home if I remove them from my phone.
posted by soelo at 7:58 AM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

I would second google photos. You can easily use it to create online albums to share if you want, and a photo can exist in any number of albums as you desire. It also does facial recognition, meaning it can give you quick access to e.g. all photos with baby, all photos with grandma, etc. It's also hooked into a photo printing thing, though I haven't used it.

Added bonus: you can have shared albums that multiple contributors add to. So, while I don't have children, my wife and I do have a "cat photos" album we both add to over time from our respective devices.
posted by tocts at 8:01 AM on January 15, 2019

I batch mine by kid and by year (e.g. folder KID 1, subfolder AGE 1) on a 1TB portable hard drive (backed up on a 2nd drive occasionally), and am making large Snapsfish books of my favorites at 5 year intervals for each kid. I'm selective, and probably only keep 1/10 of the photos I take or am sent.

When I want to share images, I put them in a shared folder on Google Drive, which I periodically clean out to preserve space.

I also give them human readable file names (e.g. KID_LOCATION_MONTH_YEAR), but this is pretty labor intensive.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:13 AM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

We use Google Photos for this as well. The facial recognition, etc., can be a little creepy and it will randomly give you things like "They Grow Up So Fast" collages of two photos showing how your kid aged which can be both heartbreaking (they *do* grow up so fast) and creepy. That said, all my pictures are in one place, not on my phone, accessible wherever, which I like enough to overcome the creepiness. I also have a Pixel so that sways me a bit in favor of the Google option.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:14 AM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Some more benefits of google photos:

Easy search. You can search for “ocean *kidname*” and will get back all the pics of your kid with the ocean.
Automatic syncing and google photo will ID photos you might want to archive on google photo so it doesn’t store all your screenshots
You can set permissions on a “face” album (all pics of a person) to share with others. So for example my husband and I each have done this with our daughters photos so we have each other’s photos as well as our own.
posted by CMcG at 8:19 AM on January 15, 2019

Yes, the automatic syncing on Google Photos has made it a killer app for me. Uploading to Flickr was never something I did enough. Not having to think about it and not having my phone fill up is great.

If you think the automatic features (I think they're called Assistant?) are creepy you can disable them, but I find them really delightful. The other day it made me a "Meow Movie," having recognized that I had a bunch of cat pictures, setting them to a silly meowy song. The "on this day" feature can be a little tear-making, though.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:36 AM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

The default on Google Photos is to compress your photos, so they're not quite archival quality. But you get an unlimited number of those for free* so that's nice. You can also upload photos in their original resolution, but you can run out of space and may want to pay for more. There are a few features that aren't available that the old PicasaWeb could do (you can't sort photos by filename) but it's pretty capable.

*until Google changes its mind
posted by BungaDunga at 8:43 AM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have 15 years of digital images and movies (about 2000-3000 per year, up to 25 Gb certain years), organized by year and month, with named subfolders when necessary. The "month" folders are named sequentially (01 - January - Grandparents). All of this is stored on a computer, with several external backups.
posted by elgilito at 8:44 AM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

I use Amazon Prime as the main to get everything in full-res, and then backup the backup to Google Photos for the bonus of being able to clear autoclear my phone of photos that have been uploaded to Google Photos.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:45 AM on January 15, 2019

What I've done for the past 6 years or so is in November, I take all the "best" pictures from the year and make an photo book using snapfish or a similar service that can import from flickr (which is my online backup). I print 3 copies, one for us and one for each set of grandparents. Backup complete.
Much as I like digital photos, one thing that has been perfectly clear from the start of digital archival is that it sucks. It just totally sucks in all forms. Cloud? Great until the service goes away. DVD roms? Maybe. Hard drive back ups? They only last so long. Flash? Don't trust it either. Storage format changes? Ugh. One form that hasn't gone obsolete is paper albums. Printed well, they will outlive your digital formats by a long shot and don't need power.
posted by plinth at 8:56 AM on January 15, 2019 [8 favorites]

I would not give up my child's or family's history to any non family entity. Just buy a couple of terabytes in a tower form and save to it. Separate by years or school years. Learn to detach somewhat, because your kid will have to pull free from history to become what their moments and years require. I am a photographer. When my kids left home they took no more than the smallest folder of pbotographs. I have hundreds of images and at least 50 pounds of family historical photos. NO ONE CARES ABOUT. But the tower works well, for saving high quality images in Tiff format, with a big jpeg that will do well in slide shows. I got one picture out of the big box, one, and gave it to my grandson. It was me in a snowsuit at age five, with a sled. He asked how old I was then, and I told him. He saved it somewhere. I had to make a smaller storage of important images personal to me, to look through on occasion. That occasion has not risen since 2006 or so. Going through the big box creates a paralyzing catharsis. I am just saying take a birthday image, first day of school, spring image, holiday image, maybe halloween, one family image. Any more than that overwhelms later on. Oh yeah, there are sticks now with huge storage. They travel well in case of disaster. I would make one or two of those as time goes by. So nice to stick the entire family history in your pocket, or keep it in the bank with your secure papers.
posted by Oyéah at 9:08 AM on January 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

I take all the "best" pictures from the year and make an photo book using snapfish or a similar service

We do this for events as well - vacations, graduation etc for our fav pics. i get a little ridiculus with it and arrange each page seperatelyand add captions but if you aren't that fiddly you can literally pick the pictures and the book and let them just stick the pictures in there.

snapfish has half price sales all the time.

no advice on what to do with the other pictures though.
posted by domino at 9:18 AM on January 15, 2019

In addition to the technological and printing solutions, CURATE. Delete every photo that isn't awesome, ideally the same day you take them. It only takes a few minutes to select only the best ones, and you'll thank yourself later when it's easy to find the best of the best, because there aren't thousands of bad-to-meh ones to sort through.
posted by metasarah at 9:21 AM on January 15, 2019 [10 favorites]

But...about deletion. Unless radical out of focus or blank image, don't delete from the camera viewer, give them the benefit of full screen, sometimes other factors background or pboto bombs make images even more memorable. Then delete.
posted by Oyéah at 10:02 AM on January 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

I do 3 things (my kid is 10):
- Both his other parent and I upload everything of him to Flickr, although I would not do this again, but it made sense a decade ago. Those are all high res and we pay for it.
- I backup all of my photos and videos (which includes screenshots and other stuff) in high res to Dropbox. I use Dropbox for all of my other files and it is pretty easy to set it to sync when I am on wifi. It is not very easy to browse them, but I feel good knowing that everything is in there.
- In the last couple of years I added Google Photos to this all. I have it set to upload as high res (not the default) and what I like about this is how searchable it is, even by face (for better or worse) and that there are some nice in-app editing tools and it makes little gifs and stuff. Another nice aspect of this is that other people can very easily share their photos or view the photos. And I believe that it is fairly easy to have a collaborative album. And everyone has a gmail account. If I was starting with a small child and my goal was to look at the photos, I'd make Google Photos my primary destination.

tl;dr, Google Photos in high res + some other automated cloud hosting solution as a backup.
posted by k8t at 10:28 AM on January 15, 2019

One thing to keep in mind. Your kids will be more interested as adults in seeing pictures of their parents, grandparents and other adult relatives than they will be in tons of their own baby pictures. Be sure you take pictures of the adults with the children. Having just gone through the vhs to digital transformation, I would definitely say print hard copy of the pictures you like. Formats change, hard copy doesn’t.
posted by Sunday Morning at 10:42 AM on January 15, 2019 [9 favorites]

The photos that my wife and I take by phone go into Google Photos. The stuff that we take with our cameras gets saved to a folder on my NAS that syncs with Google Drive. Photos in Google Drive are automatically made available in Google Photos so you get the ease of storing things in RAW format in your local file system in convenient folders (I do Year\Month\Day) but still accessible through Google Photos.

Periodically we'll go through a few months worth of photos to put in a "Best of 20XX" album so that when its time to make albums or print out photos we can just look in that album.

I make yearly backups of the photos on the NAS onto a portable hard drive that I keep in my office.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:43 AM on January 15, 2019

Like others have said above we do a mix of things.

At a device level - go through and pick the best 1 or 2 pictures out of every session. If I take 10 pictures of my kid playing with our dog I only keep a couple.

Backup the device to a cloud storage. We are using Microsoft's Onedrive. 1TB for $6.99 a month.

Backup to hard drive. Our last drive died and we just bought a new 1TB drive. We were able to retrieve all the data, but this is why you need cloud storage too.

It's super painful to label each picture, but I do go through occasionally and try to label the relatives or friends my kids might not recognize in 20 years. Like the picture with an Uncle they only see once a year is tagged with his name, whereas the many pictures of Uncle they see weekly aren't all tagged.
posted by MadMadam at 10:47 AM on January 15, 2019

"I've filled up my phone completely. I also have pictures on my camera, and my partner's phone"

Number one thing I want to say: even before you get your main strategy sorted out, please copy those to a computer somewhere. Phones and cameras are easily lost or broken. Don't lose your photos because you couldn't be bothered to find such-and-such cord to plug your device into your PC.

(that is, assuming you have a PC at home)

The main way I've handled my at-times massive photo stream is as said above: "CURATE. Delete every photo that isn't awesome" This is a necessity. I mean, when you've looked at a photo album of yourself as a kid have you ever thought, "Man I wish I knew what I was doing 30 seconds before this particular photo was taken, and also 30 seconds after"? No. Pick the best, and then go through and pick the best out of the best. Be ruthless and your future self will thank you.

(easy for me to say as I'm not dealing with a household with a child in it and therefore have time to curate)

Also here to confirm that "about deletion. Unless radical out of focus or blank image, don't delete from the camera viewer" is sage advice. Cameras are for taking photos. Computers are for deleting photos. Never delete from your camera lest you lose that image that turned out to be the winner for some reason.

I store everything on my hard drive, and on a backup HD attached to the computer 24/7, and on a backup HD that lives off-site and comes home weekly to be updated, and also on Amazon Glacier in the off chance that all three of those HDs somehow don't make it. I figure Glacier is fine because if all three HDs don't make it I probably have bigger problems than rapid photo retrieval.

But I do use Flickr to publicly post the best of the best of the best, because every now and then you want to hand a URL to someone to say "here are the good shots" and they don't want to see 1000 variations on the same image. You may even find yourself looking only at your Flickr [/ Google Photos / Amazon Prime / Smugmug / whatever] account because you too appreciate seeing only the best of the best.

Curate ruthlessly. Back up constantly.
posted by komara at 10:47 AM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am actually pulling together a presentation this today. The Library of Congress has some very helpful tips on their website for Personal Digital Archiving.

One thing I've discovered about Google Photos is that the metadata for people/subjects/pets that Google generates in the app is not embedded in the photo. If you export those photos out of Google Photo, that information doesn't come with it.

Unless you have access to photo metadata editing software, which Windows 10 provides in File Manager, you can't really add these cool tags like who is in the picture.

Logical file names are your friend.
posted by teleri025 at 11:03 AM on January 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

If you need to rename a bunch of files on a Windows PC, Bulk Rename Utility is great for that. You can easily take a whole folder of files named IMG001, IMG002... IMG078 and change them to Birthday 01, Birthday 02... Birthday78 in one step. It also lets you preview what your changes will look like before it makes the change. I generally add a topic and year to my filenames.
posted by soelo at 11:20 AM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have been using Google Photos, but struggling with how it forces together multiple individual photos that I took using the iPhone's burst function. I'm considering reverting entirely to iCloud basically for that reason. I also back up to a physical drive (when I can remember to) - I use WD's MyCloud system.
posted by prefpara at 11:54 AM on January 15, 2019

2nd-ing Sunday Morning's suggestion to take photos of the kid with parents, and especially with grandparents. Photos of baby!basalganglia with mom and dad are adorable or amusing (once upon a time my dad had hair!) but my absolute faves are the ones with my grandpa who died when I was 12. There is one totally ridiculous one of me age 2 with him and Frankenstein's Monster (halloween? amusement park? random stranger?) that gets me giggling every time.
posted by basalganglia at 12:08 PM on January 15, 2019

I use Chatbooks to create a printed backup of my photos every-so-often. I like chatbooks because it’s too damn simple - there are no layouts, no editing, and your options are 1) do you want to include the date and location this photo was taken? (automated from metadata) and 2) do you want to add a comment (optional). Print quality is good too.

I then backup everything to the cloud using google photos.
posted by samthemander at 12:41 PM on January 15, 2019

Once a month I download all our photos for that month onto a 1TB hard drive, which I also back up. That way I have a record of our photos by month.

Once a year, I make both a calendar and a book via Shutterfly documenting the best photos from the prior year, month by month. The calendars are very popular with the grandparents/aunts and make a good way to look back at "this month last year". The books have made a lovely collection that kiddo enjoys browsing through. Like a little library of his life.

I started with Google and Flickr as offline storage, but I've seen so many storage sites just vanish. I can upload things I want to upload from the hard drive at any time, and making a habit to clean up the phones once a month just helps with data storage in general.

Oh, and I use Picasa to browse the hard drive, but I'm not sure that's an option any more.
posted by anastasiav at 12:56 PM on January 15, 2019

A strategy for curation: we use a private photo sharing app called Cluster to upload the best pictures of our kid. So we are constantly curating - every or so weekend a few pictures get uploaded. Keeps us on top of the “millions of photo outakes” problem and the grandparents love it. Then at the end of the year I downloaded all my cluster photos and made a photo book. Would definitely recommend a bit by bit curation strategy so you aren’t drowning in photos. When my phone fills ups I just dump everything on a couple of hardrives.
posted by nanhey at 3:05 PM on January 15, 2019

The 'best of' curation folder works great for my wife and me - we have an 11-year-old.
Every year, my wife takes that 'best of' folder of images and creates a photo book which she has printed - formerly in Apple Photos, now in the app that replaced it for books - and then there are physical books floating around the house to be enjoyed instead of images on a computer or phone.
The grandparents all love the books as do our daughter and her friends.
posted by drinkmaildave at 4:34 PM on January 15, 2019

Have dealt with this now for 16+ years - bought the first digital camera a few days before child #1.

There are three main things: get the photos / videos off the devices, have a consistent and automated naming scheme backed up regularly, and spend the time once a year to do a 'highlight' video and photobook.

For the first item, yes with 256GB and even 512GB phone storage becoming available you need to regularly move all these photos and videos off the phones. Perhaps every three months or whatever works for you.

For the second, I've used a program called Picture Information Extractor which offers a nice EXIF extraction / naming scheme. So all the photos are labeled 20190115-110122 Scooterdog iPhone 7 Plus.jpg for a photo taken on 1/15/2019, at 11:01am and 22 ms. Scooterdog (name) helps with knowing who took the photo, and I include the device name for fun. (You can prepend or append whatever name on a given renaming 'batch'.) I then move the renamed photos to a folder named 2019 with subfolders 01January and 02February etc (so they sort correctly) by month.

The 'highlight' slideshow started with a photobook around year 3, and added a video slideshow (first with Windows MovieMaker - no longer offered nor supported by Microsoft, and a few years later on a Mac with a cool program called Fotomagico). I now have made a commitment (and expectation) of a holiday video, complete with photos and video highlight clips from the year. Yes the number of photos to cull from are immense - one month we had over 2,000 photos between the family members - but totally worth it. All the family members have little idea of what Pa was doing on that work trip overseas and had some extra time to visit that cool garden, or what Ma was up to when she visited that neat local museum.

Of course made DVDs of the finished movies (ended up being several 45- to 80-minute videos) for the parents and in-laws. Making a reduction of the highlight photos (much easier to have a few hundred photos in a video, have to cut it down a LOT for a reasonably-sized photo album) into a printed book, we now have a collection that is totally worth it.

A few other ideas: download a 'photo vault' (often masquerading as a calculator; on my iOS it is called 'Calculator+' but I cannot find the exact one I use for free from the App Store) and store your favorite photos by group in there. Great for those things you may want to show your friends on a whim, whether a group portrait, highlight snapshots from an awesome trip you took, and for me even work-related technical figures and whatnot.

Also another idea is to backup not only to the cloud but to a home NAS. I bought a Synology and have all photos there, and use an iOS app to access the NAS (along with all the photos / videos) remotely from the phone. Great for pulling up a photo after 14 years of a friend while visiting them 14 years later (actually happened).
posted by scooterdog at 3:28 AM on January 16, 2019

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