A new client hurried into my home for a workshop one afternoon, promptly announcing that she must show me something.
She approached with a small stack of photos in her hand.
When I was 7 years old, I found these photos in the trash. My parents had gotten divorced, and my mom decided she didn’t want these anymore.
They were wedding photos.
But I decided that these were my parents, and even if they didn’t love each other anymore, this was my history. So I snuck them out of the trash and hid them under my bed for years, hoping my mother wouldn’t find them.
And today, I’m going to put them in an album.
Can you believe the wisdom and foresight of that little girl?
The Power of Photos
Of all the stories I’ve heard and witnessed over the past 17 years, that one has stuck with me the most.
Photos have the power to transport us back in time, but they also have the ability to inspire our future.
And of course, as we know from sharing them on Instagram and Facebook, they bring joy to the present.
They’re also a source of guilt.
Do you have shoeboxes full of printed photos? Do you have a stash of memory cards? Have you held on to dead cellphones because they have images trapped inside?
How do you feel about those? Do you feel guilty? Or are you just overwhelmed?
An estimated 1 trillion photos were taken worldwide in 2015. Maybe you feel like half of them are yours.
What About the Future?
How many of these images will we be able to access in 20 years? Will today’s toddlers still be able to see their baby photos? Will they know their stories? Many of us still are not even sure how to download, back up, and print our images.
This is frightening, because cell phones die watery deaths. Computer drives crash. CDs lose their coating.
Your wedding photos? Your daughter’s high school graduation?
They’re only files.
If we refuse to do something with those files now, we’re essentially tossing them in the trash. But our children can’t just pluck them out of the crashed hard drives and broken phones, hiding them under their beds.
It’s up to us, and I mean that without any attempt to induce guilt. We’re a guilt-free zone here.
The One Goal You Can Achieve Today
Today, instead of looking at this task as one big Abominable Monster, let’s break it down and simply get those photos all in one place. That goal has three smaller pieces.
1. Make a list of where your photos are. Email accounts. Flash drives. Memory cards. CDs. Smart phones (may be on several depending on who in the family takes photos). Ignore the already-printed ones for now, or any negatives or slides. We’ll deal with those later. Let’s start with the digital images.
2. Decide where you want them to live primarily. Do you have or can you purchase a dedicated hard drive for them all? Note on your list where you decide your Digital Photo Hub will be. Is it the C: drive or the E: drive, or does it have a different name? Eventually, we’ll want them backed up at least one other place, too, plus backed up in the cloud. For now, let’s get them in one local location. I’d suggest starting with your hard drive, either on your computer or an external one.
3. Look at your list. Start downloading images from your email accounts. Put them in a folder on the drive you chose in step 2. Name the folder "images from emails." Do the same for any images you have stored on flash drives, memory cards and CDs that aren’t already on your hard drive. Name those “Images from flash drives” and “images from memory cards.” This is for starters.
Once you get this far, take some deep breaths! You’re doing it! Stay tuned for more steps to salvaging photos from the trash.
In a perfect world, how would your images and stories be preserved for future generations? What hinders you from doing that now? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.