Five Tips to Rescue your Best Summer Family Photos

by Barrett

Your family vacation is over. Now, you’ve got hundreds of photos to organize after you track in sand to your bedroom. Still feeling relaxed? Don’t burst your vacation bubble. It’s time to rescue your best photo memories!

Remember the Star Trek episode titled “The Trouble with Tribbles” where those cute furballs kept replicating like rabbits? Everyone loved them, but those darn tribbles quickly clogged up the Enterprise. At the end of the episode, the tribbles find their way into a poisoned storage bin of quadrotriticale (grain) destined for a hungry human colony. All the tribbles have a big feast and then get a huge stomach ache. (A lot of them actually starve surrounded by all that food, but I guess the AHA wasn’t on the set that day.)

What does this have to do with your digital photo collection from your summer fun?

Here’s today’s cautionary warning:
You too can starve with a computer full of amazing family photos.

The Quadrotriticale Paradox
We all want to share our best vacation moments with family and friends. But I’ve discovered an ironic phenomenon, which I’ll coin the
“Quadrotriticale Paradox.”

It suggests the more vacation pictures you bring home that clog up your computer, the smaller the chance you’ll actually share your best photos.
There is a clear inverse probability.

I just got back from a weeklong family beach vacation.
And I’ve been known to snap a photo or two. This time, it was more like 522.
We shared a beach house with another family. And they had their own ‘photoholic’ who took really great pictures. At the end of the trip, we swapped our respective photos through Dropbox.

Now, I was blessed with 692 photos!
That’s a whole lot of tribbles to manage, even for me.

Where do you start?
Well, many folks just upload their snapshots someplace where people can take a look.

I often watch with envy as some of my friends regularly share their photos on Facebook and other social platforms.
But, honestly, some of the photos seem a little half-baked. Not quite ready for prime time.

But who really cares?!
They’re not submitting their photos to an amateur photo competition.
My friends are successfully sharing their lives in the moment.
That’s the only point, and they’re getting the job done!

But if you’re a photoholic like me, you can’t do that.
Nobody wants to look at hundreds of your vacation photos (especially my dad).

And what about your best photos… your little magic gems?
You know, the ones where people say, “Wow, how did you get that?!”

The Curse of the DSLR
Capturing magic shots of your toddler requires the fine art of snapping away and waiting to get lucky. This is especially true using a DSLR. But you’re inevitably creating an excess of mediocre shots in search of the perfect photo.

So maybe you get fifty gems (not a bad catch).
But they’re all buried under hundreds of inferior versions.

Now what?

Tip #1 – You Must Sift through all your Photos to Find the Gems

There’s No Magic Bullet
You have to go through each photo to choose the best ones. Sorry.
I use a numbering system. 1 through 5.
Both iPhoto and Apple’s Aperture allow you to do this.

Here are my rating rules-

1- Total failure. Give it an immediate appointment with the trash bin.
2- Really bad photo. Trash it unless it’s the only shot of something special.
3- Just okay. Decide whether to trash it another time.
4- Good photo, but there’s a better version of it.
5- The better version or simply a great picture.

Once I’m done with this evaluation, I adjust the photo album to display in an ascending order based on the ratings I’ve just assigned the pictures.

Then, I review the 2’s again just to make sure I wasn’t too harsh before I delete them. Sometimes a few of them get a reprieve and get bumped up to a 3.

Then I move the 1’s and 2’s into the trash, and DELETE!
Your worst photos are now gone forever.
Now it’s time to focus on the pictures you want to show off.
And those are your 5’s.

Tip #2 – You Can’t Share Your Photos if You Lose Them

Preparing for the End of the Mayan Calendar
I occasionally take the 5’s and put them in a folder called “Best of 2012.” That folder is what I use for my end of year photo books as well as my “end of world” photo back-up strategy.

Sure, I’ve got Time Machine on an external Lacie hard drive for my iMac. But when you’re on vacation, does anyone else have nightmares about coming home to some disaster?

So to start my vacation with peace of mind on the photo archiving front, I do a second back up of all the 5’s to another portable hard drive, which I then pop into a small SentrySafe firebox.

I’m not sure if that will protect against an invasion of angry mutant tribbles.
But I always sleep a little sounder my first night away on vacation.
Don’t judge.

Tip #3 – Share Your Photos Quickly

Your Family Photos have an Expiration Date
I’ve learned a painful lesson capturing photos of my toddler over the past two years. Children grow up fast. No one is interested in last month’s photo. They want to see what he did yesterday!

Case in point…

On the Monday after I returned from vacation, I hadn’t yet had time to take the hour needed to do the prep I describe above.
All I could do was quickly choose three pictures that jumped out and print them to show off at the office. (Colleagues want to see!) I figured a few hard copies should cover it. I also downloaded the complete mass (mess) to my iPhone as part of my normal data syncing process.

So I almost got through the day…
But before I headed home, I went to get a haircut.
(I had gotten a little shaggy over vacation.)

As soon as I mentioned the beach trip to my hair stylist, she immediately demanded to see pictures. I warily pulled out my iPhone and flipped to the middle of the 692 where I knew there were a few good shots back to back. I thumbed through them and swiftly made my move to put my iPhone away, hoping I had satisfied her.

Not quite.

Instead, she took the phone out of my hand and kept flipping through what seemed like hundreds of number 3 photos. I was mortified.
These photos weren’t supposed to be seen! They were 3’s!!
Holy frak… that one was a 2!! Stop!!!
Time crawled to a halt.

Finally, she had her fill, and handed back my phone.
She was beaming. “You have such a beautiful family,” she said.
And my haircut continued. Perhaps I had overreacted.

But I decided I wasn’t going to get cornered unprepared again.

Tip #4 – Perfection of Process is Overrated

Throw Out the Handbook
Sometimes, when time is working against you, you’ve got to just get it done.
That means forget about Tip #1.

So that night, still without the requisite hour to whip my photos into shape, I quickly browsed again, found ten more photos, threw them into a folder, and synced them to my iPhone with the original three I had printed out.

The next day, I got pressed twice to give up the goods, but now I was ready. Having the hastily prepped photos ready to display on my iPhone was all it took to satisfy my paparazzi.

The lucky thirteen weren’t necessarily the best of my 692.
But in the moment, they did the job.

I suddenly feel the urge to offer a relevant quote from a movie-
“Fate rarely calls upon us at a moment of our choosing.”
(Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen)

You’re welcome.

I know I’m not saving the universe here, but in my little world…
Mission accomplished!

Tip #5 – Finish the Job and Tame the Beast

Show off your Photo Bling
After the firestorm of immediacy subsides, you may return to your regularly scheduled programming.
(And don’t forget to quickly share the baker’s dozen online or via email.)

So you’ve got your all your 5’s.
Time to buff out the gems to perfection. (color balance, brightness, crop, etc.)
This will take some time. But it’s worth it, because these are the pictures you’ll print and distribute, and use to create your photo books.

Remember, don’t wait too long to share or suffer the consequences of an indifferent audience.

The other downside to delaying this part of your photo organization is you’ll eventually develop such a backlog of pictures you’ll never catch up.
You’re always taking new shots, and the wild of your disorganized photo jungle will continue its creep!

Over the course of time, you’re easily managing many thousands of pictures.
It’s a beast that needs to be kept under control.

Or else.

Now go tame your jungle and hunt down your best summer pictures!

And if you come across a wild tribble or discover a way to stretch the fabric of time, please let me know!