ORGANIZE YOUR PHOTOS

Photo Credit: Joanna Kasinska

They say an image is worth a thousand words. So what does that make a thousand images? Probably a shitload of clutter.

While memories can fade, photographs can last forever. The problem is we end up taking so many photos that we overwhelm ourselves, and they become forgettable when left in bulk. With the advent of “burst mode,” we have the capability to take multiple photos for moments that maybe didn’t even need one.

As a photographer, I constantly struggle with culling my photos down to just the best few, choosing only those photos I feel are the perfect representation of that moment. However, I realized a long time ago that as photos capture memories, it’s also possible to develop memories of photos themselves. For example, we remember in our minds the pictures of our grandparents because they’re rare and we only ever saw a few of them or maybe only one. This makes them stand out. However, when you have ten or even a hundred of what appear to be pretty much the same image with only slight variations, there’s no one photo to remember. You might remember that “batch,” sure, but they all blur together in your mind.

It’s an internal struggle to select a photo and press the delete key. We feel like we’re deleting time, as if once it’s gone, that moment never happened. Even if I keep the photo where the subject is looking to the left, deleting the photo where they’re looking to the right just feels wrong. You have to be a bit ruthless in your selections and understand that making those difficult choices lets you fully appreciate the photos you keep.

The goal is to keep as few images as possible without losing that memory completely. Here are a few tricks that help…

  • Take fewer photos in the first place and try to enjoy moments as they happen.
  • Turn off “burst mode” and be intentional, trying only to capture photos you’d keep in the first place.
  • Don’t just snap and forget your images. Take the time to organize right away.
  • First, delete photos that are out of focus, have bad light, cut off the subject, or seem unfixable.
  • Next, try to place similar images next to each other and throw them into battle in your mind to decide which will survive. Remember, you can either sort of like lots of images or truly love the one you keep.

There’s no perfect ratio of “captures” to “keepers.” For me, I probably keep one for every 10–20 photos I take, but you can be damn sure I put a lot of thought into choosing that one, and it’ll stay with me as long as I live.

An excellent time to organize photos is in the mornings over coffee or after everyone goes to bed, but if you just spend 10 minutes a day processing your photo library, you’ll be far ahead of most people.

Before, during, and after organizing, be sure to back up your collection to an external hard drive and/or a cloud system like iCloud, Dropbox, Google, or Amazon. We want to narrow down, not lose it all.

When you’re done, don’t just let your images live on some drive with hopes of someday being looked at by human eyes. Do something with them. Print them and frame them on the wall. Have them made into a blanket as a gift. I’m partial to having them printed in book form. Whatever you choose, keep them alive by making them tangible.

If you think like a photographer when you break out your camera, take photos of a moment, and choose which of those images stick around, you’ll end up with a collection that you adore instead of “that messy photo library” or “that old box of photos” you’ll organize one day.

Honor those memories by loving their photos that keep them around.