Unless you are a diligent scrapbooker, editing images is a skill most people don’t take time to learn. As a result, most of us have boxes full of printed images that never see the light of day. And with the advance of smartphone cameras, it’s even easier and cheaper to take hundreds of images. How many times have you seen a friend post 40 plus images of their trip on their Facebook page? I like to see travel images but I don’t need to see ALL of them. Quantity does not necessarily mean quality. To stay on top of our photo inventory, we need to learn how to ruthlessly edit our images so that the best ones can shine through.
Around the world, over 1 trillion digital pictures are taken every year. That’s a lot of images cluttering up phones, hard drives and cloud accounts. If you have limits to your cloud storage, not editing your images means you pay more each month. But even if you choose unlimited storage with Google Photos there are costs to having so many images. Not only do they take up precious space on your cell phone, all those images clutter your mind and suck up valuable time when you are trying to find a particular image. Getting used to editing and sorting your images into albums on a regular basis will make it much easier to share and create content and it may save you some money down the road.
Getting started is easy but first I should say that before you get into hardcore editing on your computer, it is good practice to back up your images to a temporary folder on your desktop. When you are finished editing and sorting the best images and are certain you have kept only the ones you want, you can delete the temporary folder.
If you are editing images on your iPhone, even if you delete them, Apple puts them into a Recently Deleted album for 30 days so you have a chance to change your mind. If you are certain that you don’t want to keep those images, you can go into the deleted photos album, select the images and delete them permanently. Or you can just wait the 30 days for the application to delete them automatically.
Get rid of all of the images that are too dark, too light and most important, out of focus. If you only look at your images on your phone you might not see that they are out of focus – the joys of a small screen. Zoom in to be sure. Or better yet, edit your images on your computer.
Get rid of the duplicates and research images. Often we will take many shots of a group of people to make sure that everybody in the shot is smiling. Pick the best one and DELETE the rest. If your camera takes an extra HDR image, pick the one you like and delete the copy. Same goes for Boost shots. I will often take pictures of products I am thinking of buying. Once a decision has been made, these images are deleted.
If you are editing your images on your computer, you can use software like PhotoSweeper for the MAC or Duplicate Photo Fixer for the PC to review your folders for duplicates. Of course, sorting the images into chronological or event-based folders makes this process much easier.
Separate the wheat from the chaff. Now you need to pick the best images, the ones that really express what you saw. This is of course, highly subjective. Some people think every image is important and that’s o.k. The point is to remove the images that are just taking up space and that will get in your way later on.
Depending on the software you use to review your images, you can move the lesser images into a separate folder or you can tag the best ones and change the view to sort by rating. It all depends on your personal work preferences and what you plan to do with the images in the long run.
As I mentioned in this post, understanding the WHY of picture taking makes it easier to manage them. Are you going to share them with friends and family? Are you going to make a travel book? Are you planning on printing and framing them or even make a movie? Essentially, will you want to look at that picture again in say, 5 years? Does it effectively express what was happening at that time?
In 2008 my husband and I visited Paris and we were quite shocked to realize that the grab and go coffee culture doesn’t exist there. Parisians love their coffee, but they like it at the bar, talking with friends, taking a moment in their busy morning before they head to work. Within two days we succumbed to the pressure and slowed down. It was an important part of our trip so we shot a video of the experience.
These are the things that you keep. The things that tell the story of that trip, of that day. They show where you were, who you were with and what you were feeling. Everything else is just filler or white noise.
Of the 20 or so pictures we took of the Jardin Luxembourg in Paris on that warm Spring day, the featured image for this post and these two images show perfectly not only the gardens but also how the Parisians love to enjoy the space.
The beautiful thing about reviewing your images is that the more you do it the more you will recognize the images that work and those that don’t. The next time you may think to try a different angle or to take more time to make sure the image is in focus. You may set up your group shots to make sure you can see everybody’s face, or you may include a close-up perspective to complement a wide-angle shot. Or maybe, you will remember to shoot video as well as stills.
However, editing does takes time and focus so you have to be committed and motivated. It’s kind of like exercise for a lot of people. Initially, you don’t want to do it but after, you are happy that you made the effort. And just like exercise, it works best if you put it into your schedule. As the award-winning photographer Chase Jarvis says, it’s not that you don’t have time, it’s just that you haven’t made it a priority.
Do you have a long commute? Reviewing your images on your phone while you sit on the bus is a good time saver. I like to do it while watching tv at the end of the day. Give yourself an hour a week to edit and back up your images so that when the time comes to share or organize them into a book or video, you will know exactly where to find them.
If you need a bit more inspiration, check out this post on procrastination. But if you are overwhelmed by how to start the process, you can contact me for a free initial consultation.
It all starts with a gasp. A tightening of the chest, prickly skin, perhaps even a cold sweat.
What happened to my images?
If you are like me, your smart phone is never far from hand and you take pictures daily. Sometimes it’s just a shot of a pretty flower or interesting shadow. Other times it’s of something you don’t want to miss, a reunion with friends, a child’s first step. Whatever the images on your phone, they are important, precious. What if your phone suddenly died? What if you no longer could view your images? It’s almost incomprehensible. Not to worry, there are simple ways to protect your images from loss.
The most important thing when it comes to your images is to make sure they are backed up to some device other than your phone. Phones get stolen, they get lost, and yes, they get dropped into toilets.
I have been a photographer since I was 15. I have taken many, many photos. You would think that I had my process down pat and that I was a paragon of virtue when it comes to backing up my images. Nope. I also get distracted by life and I put off the simple tasks well, because I would rather be out shooting. If you have been procrastinating about your photos, you may find this article useful.
If you are ready to move forward, as the diagram below shows, it starts with getting your images onto your computer and the cloud.
1.Make sure the images on your phone are backed up to either the cloud or your computer.
If you are uncertain what the cloud is, check out this article.
2.Collect all your digital images from SD cards, hard drives and old computers and put them on a primary reliable computer.
3. Scan all prints and slides from the era before digital and add the files to your primary computer.
4. Back up all your digital images to your cloud account.
5. Save a copy of all your digital files to one or two external hard drives. Regularly update these hard drives. Store a hard drive off site, either a bank vault or a friends place.
Get this done and all your photos will be protected. Whew!
But before you pull a Flaming Elmo or run away, keep in mind that the extent of your photo management process depends on how you take pictures.
I like to think that there are three different types of photographers. I call them the Socialite, the Adventurer, and the Pro.
The Socialite likes to record her social activities and share them on social media but she doesn’t use any other type of camera. She may have photo albums from the distant past when she used a film or digital camera.
For the Socialite, making sure her images are backed up to the cloud and keeping a copy on her computer is a good start. Scanning her historic images is something she can do over time.
The Adventurer takes pictures with her phone but she also has a digital camera and she travels with both. Sometimes she has hundreds if not thousands of images to deal with after her vacation. If she was organized in the past, she has many scrapbooks to show for her travels.
She needs to gather all of her images onto her computer. She needs to copy her SD cards and scan her historical images into digital format. Once all her images are in the same place she can rename and organize them. From there she should save a copy to the cloud as well as an external hard drive.
There are many types of Adventurers and that will determine what software they use to manage their photos and how many places they back up their files.
The Pro already knows what to do and isn’t reading this article. They are the Adventurer x10 and because they shoot for clients, there are legal and security protocols built into their process for managing photos.
Whatever type of photographer you are, the fundamentals don’t change when it comes to protecting your images. We all need to back up our photos to one or more places other than our phones to make sure they are safe.
All the tech giants say they are protecting your privacy but Apple has made it part of their corporate values. Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook has said that privacy is a “fundamental human right”. For those that are worried about the security of their data in the cloud and on their devices, this is music to their ears.
The two main places for the average user to store their documents in the cloud are Google Photos and Apple Photos. In this Photo Sharing Overview, I broke down a comparison of cloud software out there for people to consider. For ease of use, functionality and affordability, Google and Apple were at the top. I spoke about using Google Photos and their approach to privacy in this post. Now we need to look at Apple.
The essential difference between the two cloud services providers, besides Apple’s CEO’s passion for privacy, is how they make their money. Google makes money off of your data by selling target audience compilations to advertisers. Apple’s primary income comes from hardware.
The company’s main argument for why it’s a better steward of customers’ privacy is that it has no interest in collecting personal data across its browser or developer network. It simply doesn’t need to, because it doesn’t make its money off advertising.(1)
The data they do collect to improve your “experience” is not connected to your personal ID and is generalized. The data that is collected via Apple Pay, imessage or Facetime is encrypted and protected by “Secure Enclave” on the device. It is not saved to Apple servers or backed up to icloud. In their Transparency report that describes the requests for information they receive from government bodies they speak of how they don’t allow for any direct or back door access and that all requests must meet applicable laws and that apple only provides the narrowest possibly set of data.
As is true of most internet services, we gather some information automatically and store it in log files. This information includes Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, browser type and language, Internet service provider (ISP), referring and exit websites and applications, operating system, date/time stamp, and clickstream data.
We use this information to understand and analyze trends, to administer the site, to learn about user behavior on the site, to improve our product and services, and to gather demographic information about our user base as a whole. Apple may use this information in our marketing and advertising services.
Of course, no company is perfect and though, in light of the Facebook / Cambridge Analytics crisis this year, many companies, including Apple, are buckling down on how their privacy settings work, Apple still has its weaknesses.
The problem is with the apps that are developed for the apple devices. These may have access to your contact info and any sensitive information you have stored there. Apple says it forbids these companies from collecting, using or selling this information but it has no way of controlling it. Once it has approved an app there is little oversight. This is the same scenario that got Facebook in trouble. (4) Apple has said,
The relationship between the app developer and the user is direct, and it is the developer’s obligation to collect and use data responsibly.
So user beware. As with all things online, don’t assume anything. Make sure you understand what you are buying into. Check the settings of the apps you use to make sure you are not sharing your contacts with third parties. Unfortunately, any change to your settings now will not delete any information you may have already shared.
As a side note, it is a good idea not to use your social media passwords as sign in for other apps and websites. If you are concerned about information that is shared with third party apps, there are ways of shutting them down by going into your account information and clicking on Settings and then Apps. This works for Facebook and other social media sites.
Full disclosure, if you hadn’t guessed, I am a Mac user. I used PC devices most of my career and only moved to Mac reluctantly. However, I have become a convert to their ease of use if not their cost. As for Privacy, I like what Apple is saying. I like it way better than Google. Maybe that’s my age speaking but I see no reason to share my personal information with the world. I don’t need product suggestions or auto fill for my forms and searching. I don’t need to give up information for convenience. I want to think for myself. It takes more work but in the end I get to have more control over my environment. As Tim Cook says, the question comes down to what kind of world do we want to live in.
Technology is capable of doing great things. But it doesn’t want to do great things. It doesn’t want anything. That part takes all of us.(5)
Recently, when I have encouraged my friends to back up their smart phone images to the cloud I have met resistance. They are suspicious of this “cloud” thing. They don’t think their images will be secure. This resistance to the cloud could be the result of two things. News coverage of celebrities having their accounts hacked and a lack of understanding of what the cloud is and how it works.
First let’s address this ridiculous word “cloud”. A friend recently admitted that she couldn’t wrap her mind around this esoteric concept of her images floating around in space. The word doesn’t sell the concept very well. Even the origins of the use of the word are a bit vague. Essentially, the use of the word is the result of computer technicians trying to visually express what the “internet” would look like.
It has been used as a symbol in the Information Technology industry since the 60s but it didn’t really gain mainstream use until the late 90s with the advent of Salesforce and Amazon Web Services.(1)
So the “cloud” means the internet. But where are your images actually stored?
Simply put, when you save your images to the cloud, you use the internet to upload your images to a large room full of computers or servers. Those servers could be located near your home or anywhere a cloud services company such as Google, Amazon, or Apple has server farms or buildings on your continent. These servers hold thousands of terabytes of data from many companies and individuals around the world. They have incredibly sophisticated encryption and back up systems. They are many times more secure than your computer at home. Meaning, having your images stored on an offsite server would mean they would be very secure.
But what if those servers get hacked?
The famous story from 2014 where Apple was “hacked” and Jennifer Lawrence’s personal images were splashed around social media is still prominent in people’s minds. But the industry is addressing this issue.
Apple has stated that they were not hacked but that the accounts were accessed through a process called phishing whereby people are tricked into giving up their passwords via an email scam. In other words, a lack of understanding by the user is what allowed their security to be breached. Which brings us to the essential point.
Nothing in this world is 100% secure. You could save all your photos on your computer hard drive. But your computer could get a virus or have a hard drive failure, or your house could be broken into and your computer stolen. You could save your images to an external hard drive as well. If you keep that hard drive in your house it too could be subject to the same hazards – theft, fire, flooding. You could keep a second hard drive in a bank vault. A good idea but still, that bank is subject to the same risks as your house. Bottom line is there are risks to every place you physically store your precious items.
So when it comes to protecting your images, the cloud is just one of a few solutions. As they say, best not to store all your apples in one basket. We go into this in more detail in this article.
As for the cloud and anything else on the internet, the user must take some responsibility for the security of their data. Understanding the protocols of the cloud services company you use is essential. Yes, once your data is uploaded it is encrypted. But every company uses different standards for how that data is then stored and who has access to it. And simply put, what is free has the least security protocols.
Google and Apple both allow you to personalize your security settings. Amazon Web Services probably has the most customizable services but they will cost a bit more. Most importantly, almost every service now has two-factor authentication and I strongly urge you to set this up on your online accounts like Apple and Google. Two-factor authentication means you sign in with a strong password (not your birthday or your dog’s name) and then you enter a time sensitive number that is sent to your cell phone. It sounds a bit cumbersome but it guarantees that if someone steals your password, they still can’t access your account. And don’t trust any “official looking” emails asking for your passwords!
Insurance companies exist because of fear; fear of the worst case scenario. The question comes down to, how important are your photos to you? When given evacuation notices, one of the things people grab first are their photos. Everything can be replaced except memories.
I’m a photographer. My work is in my photos. But so is my life. I would hate to lose my images. So, I back up my smart phone and camera to my computer. I then make a duplicate of those images to a separate hard drive. That hard drive is held off site. Finally, I save my images to the cloud. It may seem excessive to some but it is peace of mind to me.
Your choice of provider depends on whether you want to view and share your images or just store them off-site. I created this document, Photo Sharing Overview where you can compare their services.
If you were born before 2000, you most likely have boxes or albums of old photos taking up space in your home. I personally had about 30 photo albums and 15 scrap books getting dusty on my shelves. On a rare occasion I would look at them but for the most part they sat there, lonely and neglected. Until recently.
What inspired me to really take the time and do something with my old prints and negatives was a request from my mother to help her go through her own collection of albums. After being inspired by the book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson, she and I have been working our way through her lifetime of possessions. The photos were a large, intimidating part of that process.
But by taking our time and going through the journey together, it turned out to be a lot of fun. Each album, including her parents scrapbooks, were full of memories. We enjoyed trying to figure out who was in the old black and white prints and where they fit into the family tree. We marvelled at the changes to our town, the strange clothes, and the stern faces. And we giggled over old scrap books of hers showing her at camp or her summer jobs. The stories she shared with me are priceless and I have learned so much about her life before I was born.
Looking at all the photos we needed to review however, was sometimes overwhelming. How were we to choose what to keep and what to discard? Should we just scan every thing? Who will want to look at these images later?
We chose to keep only the images that were important to us right here, right now. When we were going through the really old images we had one simple rule. If we didn’t know the person or their connection to our family was too distant, we put them in the discard pile. If the image was too small or too blurry, we didn’t keep it. But we made sure to keep the real gems; my grandfather’s first job, family portraits, the first car, and the travel photos. And for the scrapbooks where my mother drew cartoons and descriptions in the margins, we not only scanned individual images but I also recorded the pages as a whole. These images are invaluable.
And as part of the archiving process, we made sure all the photos we wanted to preserve were scanned or digitized. As a professional photographer, I have a scanner that does both prints and slides but due to the volume of photos, we chose to also send our images to a local scanning company, Digital Treasures. For about 25 cents an image, we were able to deal with a large selection of images. I dropped off the albums (pre Covid) and after a few months, they sent me a link to an online Dropbox so I could retrieve the images. I then downloaded the images to my computer and set about organizing them into files and folders.
The whole process was streamlined and simple and I would highly recommend it if you are ready to take on your photo archiving project.
But I know it is hard to get started on projects as large as this. Even me, a professional photographer, put it off for some time. It was actually the process of reliving all the old memories that inspired me to go through my own albums. I found pictures I had long since forgotten. I also feel much better now knowing that those memories are protected and backed up on hard drives, just in case. Next up? Creating simple slide shows so I can watch my home movies on my TV. As for my mother’s images, we have shared them with our family through Google Photos albums and on Facebook messenger.
If you are looking for a place to start with your old images, I would recommend bringing out a box or album each week and reviewing them while you watch TV. Separate out the ones you want to keep and the ones to pitch. If you do decide to scan the keepers, make sure you scan at a high enough resolution (300 dpi, 5×7 minimum) in case you want to print the image in future. If you don’t have the time or money to scan, a quick and easy option is to photograph the photograph with your camera or phone. There are a few apps on the market (Photomyne and Google Photo Scan) that are supposed to make this easier for you. I have tried them and they worked fine. I chose to go with a professional scanner because I wanted a higher resolution but that’s just me.
As a final note, there is the question of what to do with the images we have chosen to scan. Do we still keep the physical image? For how long? As someone who is trying to live sustainably or as zero waste as possible, the whole process of throwing out old images is painful. Some images can be sent to local archives, some can be given to schools for craft projects and I have kept a few for greeting cards but most will end up in the garbage now or later.
I challenge anyone to come up with a way to reuse or recycle photographs. We can send someone to the moon and spend a gazillion dollars on AI or going to Mars but no one has figured out how to keep millions of photographs out of landfills. At a minimum, I think I will hold on to the images I scanned. Maybe somebody will figure it out in my lifetime.