building in Paris, Jardin de Luxembourg

How to Ruthlessly Edit Your Photos

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.

Step 1:

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.

Step 2:

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.

Step 3:

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.

Still life of lock on photo album

How to Protect Your Images

It all starts with a gasp. A tightening of the chest, prickly skin, perhaps even a cold sweat.

No!

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. 

Graphic showing how to back up images

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

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

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

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.

Screen shot of camera roll on smart phone

How To Free Up Space on Your Phone

We’ve all been there. That moment of sheer panic when we realize we are witnessing something spectacular: the first step of a child, that perfect sunset, or the off chance meeting of a celebrity and NO! Our smart phone is full. No more storage left. No more images can be taken. We desperately try to delete an image or two to make space but how do we choose?

Our smart phones can be our life lines to everything: they are calendars, contacts, game centres, music hubs, social media connections, cameras, oh, and phones. As a result they hold a lot of information that can suck back all that precious storage you paid for when you bought the thing. To avoid the desperation described above, we need to keep our smartphones lean and mean with regular maintenance and cleaning house.

There are some basic steps for freeing up space on your phone:

Delete any downloaded music

I like to have a copy of my favourite playlists on my phone so I am not always using data to listen to music. However, tastes change and maybe there are lists you don’t listen to any more.

Get rid of all those apps you don't use or haven't used in months

The data stored with a lot of apps can take up a lot of storage. Be merciless. You probably only use about 10-20 apps on a daily basis anyway. On the iPhone there is an option to see how your storage is being used (Settings/General/Storage). You can offload apps – this keeps the app but deletes the data associated with the app, or you can just delete the app.

Clear out the Recently Deleted Album

Just because you have deleted a photo doesn’t make it go away. Apple, for example, gives you a 30-day grace to change your mind and stores the image in the Deleted Photos Album. If you need to free up space you have to go into the Album, select all the images and hit delete again.

Speaking of deleted photos, in this post, I talk about how necessary it is to regularly and ruthlessly edit your photos. This is the first step to good photo management and to avoiding the panic and frustration mentioned above. It is so easy now to take thousands of pictures but mixed in with the gems are some really lousy shots just cluttering up your phone. You need to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Whenever you are waiting in line, on the bus, or ignoring that annoying person who won’t stop talking, stop dredging through Facebook or Instagram and start deleting. To stay on top of all the images you take, you need to get rid of those useless extra images that you took by mistake in Burst mode, the video you shot when you meant to take a still, the out of focus shots, and the unflattering images where someone is talking, eating or stuck in that horrible half blink.

By getting rid of the images we don’t need we free up space for better images down the road. But another good practice of photo management is to make sure your images are being backed up to the Cloud through either Google Photos, iCloud or other providers.

These wonderful services can be set up to back up your images any time you are on wifi, without you having to think or worry about it. The fees for this vary with Google,  Apple and Amazon so you need to find the best option for you and your family. The fees change regularly but you can get an overview from this document to get a breakdown of what each provider offers.

If you do delete an image off one device, say your phone, it won’t delete it off the cloud so if you are getting rid of those bad images you will have to do it in both places. That’s why it’s a great practice to delete them off your phone BEFORE you back up to the cloud.

Final Step to Free Up Space

Both Google Photos and iCloud allow you to reduce the amount of space your images take up on your phone.

In Google Photos, it’s a setting called simply “Free Up Space” (In the app, click on the icon in upper right).

On an iPhone, Google will actually delete images in your Photos folder that are older than 30 days off your phone. The images remain in your Google Photos account and you can see them through the Google Photos app on your phone when you are online. The images themselves are moved to the Recently Deleted album in the Photos app. The images will stay in that folder for 30 days unless you delete them right away. If you really need to free up space immediately, you have to go into the Albums section and scroll down to the Recently Deleted album. Select all the images and delete them permanently off your phone. Of course, you wouldn’t want to do this until you are certain you have backed up all your photos to the cloud successfully.

With Apple Photos or iCloud Photos, there is an Optimize Storage setting (Settings / scroll down to Photos app) that converts images older than 30 days to a lower resolution format on your phone, reducing the amount of space they take up. This can help temporarily, but if you really have limited storage, you are going to run out of space again pretty soon. Make sure your images are backed up to icloud and delete them permanently off you phone.

So before things get scary, follow the Photo Management Best Practices
  1. Ruthlessly edit your images on a daily basis
  2. Back up to the cloud – whatever service suits your style and budget
  3. Back up your images to your computer or external hard drive. (Always good to have another backup option.)
  4. Select Free up space or Optimize Storage
  5. Delete any images you have saved to other places off your phone.

Yes, photo management takes time and thought. It all comes down to what you want to do with your images. If preserving memories is important to you, then you need to take steps to make sure your images are in a safe place. Carve off a little bit of time each week, put on a pot of coffee, cue up your favourite tunes and take care of your images

Still life of digital cameras

How to Choose Your Photo Management Provider

One of the essential steps in the process of protecting your photos is to make sure you are saving a back up of your images to the cloud or off site storage. But choosing the right photo management provider can be challenging. Here are a few tips to get you started.

The advance of smartphone cameras has allowed all of us to take as many pictures as we like virtually for free. But at some point, your phone will run out of space and the time will come to move the images into some form of backup system.

A lot of the confusion about putting images in the cloud is around the difference between a sharing platform and a backup storage platform. Facebook is a sharing platform and should never be used as a backup of your photos. Same goes for Flickr. Google, Apple and Amazon and storage platforms that also allow you to share.

People have probably told you to save your images to some form of storage platform. But as smartphone technology continues to develop and the providers continue to change their offerings, it’s hard to keep up. Our kids laugh at our ignorance but the reality is we just don’t have the time to stay on top of who’s providing the best backup services. There are jobs to do, mortgages to pay, lives to live. 

Your choice of provider really comes down to the type of smartphone you and your family members use, how many and how big your files are, and finally, your budget.

Type of Phone

As we all know, the world of digital photography has totally exploded in the past 15 years. My first digital camera was 3MP. When Apple introduced a smartphone in 2007 it was 2MP. The latest iphone has 12MP and three lenses. Huawei’s smartphone camera can shoot 40MP. The technology keeps getting smaller, more refined and more powerful.

Even with all the advances, one thing has remained the same. Are a you a Mac or a PC? It’s not that Macs and PCs don’t like each other, it’s just that in the world of bites and bytes, like prefers to talk like to like. So, if everyone in your family prefers the iPhone and they have iPads and Macbooks, it can be easier to stick with the Apple platform and use Apple Photos as your provider. The same goes for Pixel smartphones and Google. This is not a hard and fast rule, just something to keep in mind.

Number of and Size of Your Images

Understanding your storage needs can get a little confusing. Most people simply shoot images and a little video with their smartphones. Others like to ramp up their video production and create high resolution movies. Some providers put limitations on video size and image type so knowing what you and your family like to shoot is important.

When it comes to knowing the size of your files, there are two numbers to keep in mind. The resolution of your images and the size of your images. Your smartphone camera resolution is defined in MegaPixels. That is how many millions of pixels there are in one image and the amount is determined by multiplying the number of horizontal and vertical pixels.

My iphone shoots 12MP. The image size is 4032×3024 pixels.  Which means each image has 12,192,768 pixels. We then say that the image (divided by 1 million or a mega) would be a 12.1 MP image.

However, that is not the file size of the image only it’s resolution. The resolution of an image is its quality, the more pixels in an image the smoother the lines, the better the colour and depth. But the higher the resolution of an image, the larger the image will be.

The size of an image is defined in MegaBytes or MB or (10,000 Bytes).

Basically, to create a colour digital image, the sensor uses 3 colours per pixel. Each colour is defined as a byte.

So to determine the size of our image we need to multiple 12,192,768 by 3 which would be 36,578,304 bytes.

But that is too big to really talk about so we divide it by approximately 1000 (1024) to turn it into kilobytes (1000 bytes) and then divide again by approximately 1000 (1024) to get MegaBytes.

We then end up with a 34 MegaByte or 34MB uncompressed image.

But smartphones almost always shoot in a JPEG format which is compressed to save on space. So in actual fact the images on my 12MP phone average 3-5MB in size.

In terms of online storage space, Apple offers the first 5GB or GigaBytes (1000 MegaBytes) for free. So you would have to store up to 1000 images to reach that total.

Google offers the first 15GB  (15,000 MegaBytes) for free. That would be up to 3000 images for free.

But as I said, most people shoot images and video so the number and size of your videos will affect how much storage space you will need.

The size of video depends on resolution and how long the video is. Most providers will limit free storage to video that is shot at 1080p but many smartphones can now shoot at the much higher resolution of 4K. Google will compress your video to fit their requirements which could really affect your project.

In addition, all the providers allow you to back up more than just your images. Documents, music, and email can be included in the backup process and will add to your total count for storage. You can choose what you want to back up in the settings but it’s a good idea to back up all the files that are important to you. If you wanted to save money, you could just save your other files with a different provider or to a personal hard drive.

Apple Photos

If you are a Mac user then you will most likely prefer to use Apple Photos because it syncs so well across all the Mac devices, iPhone, iPad, MacBook etc. But what else is good about Apple Photos.

  • First 5GB free
  • Auto upload with wifi from your phone or iPad. Synced with your computer when signed into iCloud
  • Store images in the cloud and keep a smaller version on your phone to free up space
  • If all members of your family have iPhones you can create a family plan for about $4 a month/200GB
  • Share private photo albums with friends and family who have an apple id
  • Can create albums to organize your images and view them on both your phone and computer
  • Edits to images are synced across devices
  • Can view images on your devices through airplay and Apple TV
  • Apple One account allows you to upload photos, documents and more
  • Third Party printing options available through iCloud on your computer
  • Fees

How To Set It Up

Go to Settings on the Phone / Click on ID at the top / Click on iCloud / Turn it on and customize

Google Photos

Google Photos is a natural choice if you use an android device but it also works quite well with any device.

What has separated Google from the rest in the past was the free unlimited storage of your images. For the trigger happy photographer it was the best deal, so long as you only shot jpegs (what all smartphone cameras shoot) and were willing to keep the image size constrained to their specifications (less than 16MP – what most smartphone cameras shoot).

However, all of that will change as of June 2021 when they will no longer offer free unlimited storage. There rates will most likely be similar if not lower than Apple but it is something to keep in mind. Pixel 1-5 phone owners are exempt from this change.

  • First 15GB free
  • Need a Google account to upload images (free, comes with Gmail address if you have one)
  • Upload images easily through an app on your phone and wifi.
  • Available for PC and Mac users
  • Free up space on your phone by deleting images out of the proprietary photos app but you can always view them through the Google Photos app and wifi
  • Can upload images from your computer too through HTTPs://photos.google.com
  • You can share albums with anyone by sending out a link but that link is not necessarily private
  • Organize your images on the phone or computer with albums
  • Excellent face recognition, pretty good object recognition to help with organizing
  • No real printing options from the software
  • Google One is the family option – one payment for multiple accounts. Plans start at around $2 for 100GB. Any type of file, including gmail accounts, documents can be uploaded but all count toward your quota.
  • Fees

How To Set It Up

  • Download the Google Photos App
  • Sign in with Google account.
  • App has to be open on your phone for automatic backups to the cloud

Amazon Prime Photos

We’ve included Amazon in this list because if you are an Amazon Prime member you get free unlimited photo storage and 5GB for other types of document storage. However, unlike Apple and Google photos, the sharing options are limited.

An Amazon Prime membership is around $79 CDN a year but you get the movie and music streaming services and deals on shipping from Amazon.ca as well.

  • Best for people already paying for Prime and have family members who need to back up images too. Also best for just cloud storage not actual viewing, sorting, or editing
  • Back up on phone is automatic with Amazon Photos app. On the computer you have to use the Amazon Drive desktop app but you can set it up to auto backup at certain times.
  • Available for both PC and Mac users
  • Organize photos by date or album
  • Share files only through social media
  • Files are private unless you share a link to them
  • Viewing and organizing images once they are uploaded is awkward
  • Printing is available through Amazon Prints but only in the US
  • Fees
  • More Info

In Conclusion

Once you decide on the best photo management provider for your needs, the set up is pretty straight forward. However, if you do hit some bumps along the road, feel free to contact me for advice. The first consultation is always free.

Happy Backing Up!

Graphic showing how to back up images