I am a photo hog. There are few family photos of me, because I'm usually on the other side of the camera, squinting into the view finder. I used to keep reams of photographs in shoeboxes under my bed, or shoved haphazardly into albums, swearing that I'll organize them all probably "when I have the time." Going digital didn't really help with the organization: I used to have a lovely little website for friends and family, but that crashed and burned, taking all of my carefully crafted captions with it and leaving me too overwhelmed to even consider starting over.
But, as I write over at Work It, Mom!, it’s hard to take a walk down memory lane if your family photographs are out of reach. If your organization system consists of several large envelopes on a shelf somewhere, read on!
1.) Do it slowly. Five years’ worth of photos can be intimidating, but you can breeze through an envelope-full in next to no time.
2.) Keep everything digital. If you plan to share photos exclusively online -- but don’t want other people to be able to download, imbed, or copy your snaps -- consider Smug Mug. Power- and Pro-level subscribers can customize their displays, flash slideshows can be made any size, and the Google Maps feature (which allows you to display exactly where your shot was taken) is really cool. Are you an artist? Smug Mug can make a poster-size print mounted on canvas for you.
3.) Upload them and make prints of only the ones you really want. Kodak Gallery offers an easy way to store your photographs online. You can sync your account with your computer using their free software, share your albums with friends, or create slideshows, and since your photos are stored at full resolution, there’s no loss of quality. Prints are only 15 cents each, and new members get 20 of them for free.
4.) Upgrade your print storage system. Replace those ratty shoeboxes with fun and funky designs, or organize events by assigning each a color. The Container Store sells photo boxes by Semikolon (pictured, above) in several soft colors for $9 to $12 each. A small window lets you display your favorite print, and the boxes are pretty enough to stay in plain sight.
5.) Make a bunch of brag books. Every adventure in your family’s life is worth bragging about. Make each one into it’s own 5-by-7 brag book at Shutterfly. A 20-page soft-cover book takes minutes to make and costs just $12.99.
6.) Make a hard-cover book. At Blurb, you can have your photos printed, with your own text, in a professional-looking hard- or soft-cover book. A 40 page, 8-inch by 12-inch hardcover with dustjacket costs $29.95, and there are many other options from which to choose. Create a customized love story with your own photos for a fabulous wedding gift. (Looking for a way to archive your kids' artwork? Artimus Art can make it into a gorgeous book -- and they do all the work, you just choose the art and mail it in.)
7.) Share an online scrapbook. No time to cut and paste and decorate? Do it online at Scrapblog. Pick a customizable kit, upload your photos, drag and drop them into place, and add digital stickers before sharing each page with friends and family.
8.) Burn them to CD. If you’re still developing film and taking prints home, order a CD of your prints at the same time. Most Walgreens stores will do this for about $7 a disc.
9.) Create a 3-D collage -- or several. Make a three-dimensional collage of your favorite prints with pre-assembled frames from Michael’s or other craft stores. Swap out the photos as you see fit, or group the collections together for a stunning display.
10.) Don’t be afraid to throw prints away. I did this recently with a bunch of old outtakes from the disposible cameras we handed out at our wedding and I have to admit it felt wonderful. Take a look at your photos -- a good look. Do you have duplicates? Seven shots of the same birthday cake? A handful of photos of the same subject, taken at the same time, but from slightly different angles? Choose your favorites and pitch the rest. It’s OK. We won’t tell.