What to Do with Your Digital Photos

Photo via Artifact Uprising

You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words? It’s really true: a great photo is a simple way to tell a story. Now that most smartphones are equipped with high-quality digital cameras, it’s easier than ever to preserve those stories on the fly. Only one question remains: what, exactly, are we supposed to do with them? It seems like all too often our most special memories end up sitting, unloved, on our devices. Just in time for summer, let’s take a look at some easy ways to get your collection into tip-top shape.

Facebook and Instagram are great places to post photos and videos, but that’s not exactly preserving them for posterity. Your grandkid’s grandkids clicking through your Facebook albums somehow doesn’t have that same special allure as discovering a shoebox filled with old photos in the attic.

Gone are the days when developing your pictures meant dropping off a canister of film at the drugstore for processing. But that mental block that kept you from organizing those piles of photos into perfect albums—that hasn’t gone anywhere. We put together this special Stories in Motion guide to get the ideas flowing and solve some common problems that people have when it comes to figuring out what to do with all those digital photos.

Get Organized

Good news: these days, most smartphones and digital cameras will do a lot of the hard work for you when it comes to getting organized. If you leave your GPS function on, metadata tags will automatically record critical info like where and when a photograph was taken. (This can be a lifesaver on a busy family vacation.) Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make sure that everything gets downloaded regularly to a centralized location like your desktop computer. You should also make it a habit to back up your data regularly, but you’re already doing that—right? Right?

The key here is the word “regularly.” At home, this may be a matter of making sure you sync your smartphone every week or month (which is a good practice even if you’re not taking photos). If you’re snapping a lot of shots on vacation, try to take care of this task every night, if you’re traveling with a laptop or some other device. Otherwise, put “download the photos” on your to-do list for when you get home, and make sure to take care of it within a day or two of your return.

Delete, Delete, Delete

We know the temptation to save every photograph ever taken all too well. But trust us, you’ll enjoy your collection so much more if you invest just a little bit of time in curating it. Those 14 shots of the Eiffel Tower you took? You can easily pare those down to one or two. Choose your best photographs from a large group of duplicates and delete the rest without remorse. Pro tip: if you do this on the device itself, the downloading process will be that much faster! Edit as you go. Taking the time to get the right shots in the right order will build a stronger story about your vacation (…or family reunion, or birthday party).

Don’t Turn It into a Big Deal

Not every photo collection needs to be a Martha Stewart-grade project; just order some snapshots and move on with your life. There are countless services that are easy to use on the Internet, and most of them charge pennies for a real live glossy photograph that you can hold in your hands. So satisfying. Send some to friends, stick them on the fridge, and switch them in and out of frames to your heart’s content. One service that we like is Groovebook, a simple app that, for a few dollars every month, will take your photos and turn them into a cheerful little booklet. If you make ordering prints into a habit instead of a special occasion, you’ll get a lot more joy out of your photographs.

Think Outside the Box

You probably knew that you can get a mug emblazoned with a photo of your dog, but in the year 2017, there are many, many other options. You can turn your photos into calendars, fine art prints, books of postcards, and even huge posters. We’re always inspired by the folks at Artifact Uprising, who have a nice array of tasteful options. Mosaic lets you tap 20 pictures in your phone and turns it into a unique book—no laborious layouts required. And we love Photojojo’s large-scale engineer prints, inspired by architects blueprints, which are an affordable way to decorate. They also have some colorful options that would work great in a kid’s room.

Digitizing Old Photos

Remember those old shoeboxes of photos we were talking about earlier? If you have one tucked away in a closet somewhere, we have some ideas for organizing those, too. The solution you’re looking for is digitization, which will take your old photos and compile them on a thumb drive (or sometimes a DVD). Digitizing your collection not only provides insurance for precious memories in case of a fire, but also makes it easier to share old pics with friends and family. There are a lot of different services out there. One we like is Legacybox, which makes it easy to mail in a collection of old-timey photographs of any size.

Stories in Motion is a regular feature in which ISC examines the fresh ways we see the power of storytelling at work in the world. For suggestions about how to take photographs that tell a great story, check out our Stories that Matter toolkit!