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Tag: family photography

Why I Chose Amazon Photos to Archive my Family Photos in the Cloud

Good photo organization means having a plan that allows you to quickly and easily access your most important photos from anywhere. Here’s why I chose Amazon to help me out…

I’ve talked about how important it is to maintain your most important pictures in cloud-based photo albums that you can access from anywhere, including your smartphone. These are the photos that reflect back on your life’s big moments… not necessarily the best few pics from your recent family vacation.
(Your smartphone’s local photo app and your index finger can handle that.)

If you sit down for a few minutes and think about which groups of pictures you’ll always want available at a moment’s notice, you’ll probably come up a short list of categories.

I decided to create this group of cloud photo albums that I can also share with my wife:

  • Our son’s first day of school each year and his annual school portraits
  • Our boy’s birthdays
  • A sampling from our best vacation photos
  • My mom’s photo archive
  • My dad’s photo archive
  • My photo archive of me growing up
  • Our wedding
  • Other weddings
  • Group shots at big family events

These nine photo albums will hopefully cover most moments when I’m talking with family or friends, and I want to magically access a photo from my life to support the conversation using my iPhone.

But there’s one important technical detail you’ve also got to have in place to ensure your cloud photo albums grow properly over time. And I must admit, I forgot about this piece until I realized it wasn’t there…

Retaining the Constant of Time
Your photos in each cloud folder still need to be sortable by date. That will allow you to keep the chronology of a photo group in order when you add other pictures to the album that are out of sequence.

This may seem like a minor detail, but believe me, it isn’t. The natural order of any group of archival pics is the constant of time. Without that, you’ll eventually end up with what appears to be a random group of photos.

Sure if you start this project when you’re five years old and keep going in perfect order until you’re ninety nine, you’ll be fine. But I’m still sorting through my family photos from many years back.
(I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how much time it takes to keep up with all of your life’s incoming pics.)

Some photos inevitably get integrated into long-term storage faster than others. And the last thing you want to worry about is having to process them in the order in which you took them.

iCloud Photo Streams aren’t the Answer
I thought I was all set using Apple’s tools when I began creating shared iCloud photo albums through Photos to handle this archival need. But then I realized these sharable photo albums were essentially just sharable photo streams. The photos simply positioned themselves in the order in which I uploaded them.

I quickly decided that this wasn’t going to work as I build out these albums over time.
(For the record, Apple does provide a solution if you decide to sync your entire Photos library to iCloud. But that would immediately eat up my 5GB of free iCloud storage.)

So, I set out to explore other cloud photo-album solutions with the ability sort the photos by date…

Photo Archiving for Free
There are lots of choices out there, and some have certain limits or costs. So, I decided to first see if I could get the job done without adding a new monthly fee to my digital life.

And in fact, I could!

Three top choices quickly immediately emerged…

Google Photos

  • Free and unlimited storage as long as you’re willing to let Google compress your photos to a max size of 16MB. (Unless you’re processing huge RAW photos, that shouldn’t be a problem…)


  • Free, but only up to 1,000 photos.
  • This limit is a little tight for any long-term plan, although if you’re really talking about the most impactful pictures to represent an entire life, who’s really going to want to look at more than 1,000 pics?

Amazon Photos

  • Free and unlimited storage. Period.
  • The big catch is you’ve got to be an Amazon Prime member.
  • And I suppose that means you’re intending to be an Amazon Prime member… for the rest of your life. (Well, you could migrate your photos somewhere else when a better option comes along.)
  • Amazon offers a solid app for smartphone use.

Primed to Use Prime
I gave Amazon Photos a try a few weeks back, mostly because I already live in the Prime ecosystem. Also, the ‘limitless,’ and ‘no-compression’ structure was appealing.

And though, I am, in fact, paying for Amazon Photos, it’s money I’m already spending on Amazon Prime. And that’s, of course, just another way to make Amazon Prime more than just ‘free shipping.’

I found it really easy and quick to create my cloud albums and upload my photos to them, and the Amazon Photos app works great on my iPhone.

So far… I’m really happy with Amazon Photos.

I’m sure the other options would get the job done as well. The critical element is simply putting a cloud-based solution in place where you can best archive and easily sort through your photos that tell your ongoing life’s story.

Leave the Stream Behind
Ensuring your pictures show up in the right order is essential to the plan. And using the linear nature of time as your organizing principal needs to remain in place.

Cloud-based photo streams simply don’t provide that basic level of functionality.

4 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your GoPro

I’ve enjoyed carrying my GoPro around in my pocket on vacation to capture the moments my other cameras wouldn’t be ready for. Here are a few tips I’ve discovered to help ensure your GoPro gets it done!

I recently returned from a week’s vacation on Cape Cod where I put my new GoPro HERO6 Black to work documenting my family’s beach and lake adventures. I especially enjoyed capturing my 8-year-old boy underwater.






But there was one problem…
A crack somehow showed up on the back LCD screen!
(There was no moment of impact that I was aware of.)

Previously, I had attached a plastic screen protector to the LCD in anticipation of this kind of unsettling moment.

The question was whether the top-to-bottom crack was on the plastic protector…
…or on the screen.













Protect Your LCD
I think it clearly makes sense that if you’re going to put your GoPro in harm’s way, you have to give it some additional ‘armor.’
(They’re not tanks.)

I originally went with a lens and LCD protection kit made by GoPole. It comes with a lens cap and two clear covers for the lens and LCD. These near-invisible shields are made out of ‘shatterproof, tempered glass.’

But, clearly, they’re not ‘crack proof.’

Not that anything is… but I still decided to choose a different manufacturer for my second attempt at GoPro protection.

I landed on a similar kit made by Deyard.






It’s received good reviews on Amazon and costs less than half of the GoPole kit. Plus, it comes with two sets of screen and lens protectors and two lens caps.

$8.99 on Amazon






The Deyard protection plan may not necessarily be any better than GoPole’s. The fact that there are backup items in the Deyard kit perhaps reflects the reality that any screen protector is not impervious to in-the-field abuse.

As for having multiple lens caps… that’s a super idea, because lens caps have their own special way of disappearing…

If you want to avoid risking unnecessary damage to the glass on your GoPro, you’ll probably need to spend a few bucks every so often replacing these protectors, no matter which manufacturer you go with…

Minimize Ghosting by Turning Off HDR
In a portion of my vacation photos showing people, I ran into the problem of ghosting, where certain body parts displayed echoes. It was as if my GoPro had trouble locking in the action.






It’s so weird, because this happened in bright sunlight where most cameras don’t have this kind of problem.

So, I had originally turned on the HDR mode when I set up my GoPro. I figured… “Why not?”
HDR quickly takes several photos at different exposures and stitches them all together to create the best image possible.

But that extended sequence can lead to the ghosting problem… which makes total sense.

So, turn off HDR if you’re having issues freezing the action in your GoPro photos.
(And don’t forget to hold the camera steady!)

If you continue to use HDR, you’ve also got to pay attention to whether you’re moving!

Did I mention you might want to turn off HDR?

Keep People Towards the Center of Your Shot
I’ve previously mentioned my infatuation with my GoPro’s wide angle lens and how it reveals so much more of an image’s story.

The challenge is keeping your subjects out of the distorted fringes of the wide angle. Otherwise, they’ll look like aliens with warped heads.

This can be especially challenging when you’re snapping a photo with multiple people crammed in. Those on the ends will be at risk.

The good news is the wide angle lens should naturally provide plenty of safe space around everyone in your shot unless you intentionally try to fill the frame by walking up really close.

Even if you’re going for a group selfie, you should be fine as long as you keep the shot centered.

Download a QuikStory Video
I’ve also talked about how impressed I am with GoPro’s QuikStories video-editing smartphone app, which quickly throws together and shares a short music video using your GoPro’s action videos and photos.

The only glitch you may experience when sending out web links of your Quikstories to your family and friends is that they may not know how to ‘save’ them.

Your videos will play back online embedded in a GoPro web page, which I believe will eventually disappear when you delete the specific QuikStory project from your smartphone.

So, the web link is not forever…
Some folks may want to save your video file for their ‘happiness’ archive.

To do that, they need to click on three really tiny dots on the bottom right of the page with the video. Doing that will reveal the download option.

Not that all of your GoPro QuikStories are forever masterpieces… but it could be important for someone to know how to save one of them…

The Human Factor Still Matters
My GoPro HERO6 Black has proven it has many tricks up its sleeve. But like any piece of tech, it’s not magic.
(Nor indestructible)

A little human care and operating knowledge can really make all the difference when you take it on your next family adventure!

How to Tell Your Story with a Photo Playlist

Music playlists are everywhere. But what about photo playlists? Not sure what I’m talking about? Great! This is really how you can put your digital photos to work. And it involves using digital photo frames…

I’m a fan of digital photo frames for how they unlock the countless pictures you’d otherwise not be sharing with your family and friends. Sure, you can post your pics to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and online family photo folders, but those are one-offs, individual images that describe a moment in your life. And you’ve got to hope that nobody misses any of your photos as they fly through their social feeds.

That’s not at all the same as a larger grouping of photos you can control on a digital photo frame that you’ve given out. These always-available images rotate through to tell a larger and every-changing story about your family and its ongoing adventures.

And if you think that digital photo frames are a pain to update, you’re behind the times. Many models can pull their pics from the cloud via WiFi, and you can update your displayed images anytime from any location in the world.

The Photo Playlist of Your Life
But I think the opportunity to maintain an ever-changing photographic ‘playlist’ is the big “aha moment” that lots of folks still haven’t discovered. Do you want to rotate through photos from your past vacation? Maybe your last few weeks of weekend fun? How about some family archival photos? It’s all as easy as a few clicks away…

Whatever the topic, photo playlists give you the opportunity to display a much richer story.

Everyone makes photo books, right? But these books often just sit on a shelf. Why not use those same images to add to your life’s photo playlist that’s always rotating through on a digital photo frame?
(If you’re twitching about the idea of ‘always,’ don’t worry… These frames have sleep modes.)

Loving Nixplay’s Dynamic Playlist Feature
I’ve been using Nixplay digital photo frames for the past few years. Originally, I uploaded my pics to Nixplay’s cloud and then synced the photos to my frames from there. Truthfully, it was a bit cumbersome. So, when Nixplay began linking to cloud services like Instagram, Flickr and Dropbox, that was the upgrade that made moving my photo files to my Nixplay frames almost effortless.

Here’s why…

I simply created a Dropbox photo folder on my iMac’s desktop. I linked that folder to my Nixplay online account and digital frame. Then, I simply drop my photo files into the folder to add to the frame’s playlist.

Just as importantly, I regularly delete older photos in the folder to keep the frame’s content fresh. This is how I maintain my “dynamic playlist.”
(You can have as many playlists or dynamic playlists as you want.)

I know I’ve said this before, but you absolutely don’t want to keep older pictures hanging around when you’ve got fresh content to share. There will be exceptions, but I find this rule generally holds.

How Illuminating is Skylight?
If you’re in the market to pick up one of these visual portals to your recent past, congratulations! Is Nixplay the only choice out there? Not at all…

In fact, a friend asked me the other day about digital photo frames made by Skylight. I did some research, and here’s what I found…

Skylight’s big trick is you can upload photos its frames it via email. No cloud storage. And no extra steps to slow you down. Operationally, viewers manage all of the photos locally on the frame and delete them when they want.

That may sound easy, but consider this… If you give out Skylight frames to relatives, you can’t manage the photo playlist from your own computer once you email the pics out.

For me, that’s a deal breaker.
(I need more control.)

That said, Skylight’s one really cool feature is its touch screen. Your viewers can swipe through your photos and ‘heart’ them much like they would on a smartphone.
(And you get an email informing you of the ‘heart’)

The Skylight frame even displays a “New Photos Have Arrived” button. That can be especially useful to give your viewers a heads-up.

The only model is the Skylight 10″ Plus frame, and it costs $159.00, which is in line with the competition.

I appreciate that Skylight originated from a Kickstarter campaign through the Harvard Innovation Lab, but the design doesn’t give me the kind of control I’m looking for to maintain my playlists.

So, I recommend you check out Nixplay…

Sticking with Nixplay
My ongoing relationship with my Nixplay frames hasn’t exactly been perfect. I’ve occasionally had delayed syncing problems, but Nixplay has ultimately come through for me.

  • Again, I really love Nixplay’s dynamic playlist feature through Dropbox. Nixplay also gives you 10 GB of free online storage. (You can pay for more.)
  • And the Nixplay ecosystem keeps getting better. Now there’s a mobile app, which give you on-the-go control of your frames. Plus, you can snap a photo with your smartphone and almost instantly add it to your photo frames. (Sorry, Skylight.)

There are a variety of Nixplay digital photo frames and sizes to choose from:

Nixplay Seeds are WiFi-only frames, which is just fine with me. But if you also want the old-school ability to upload pictures via SD cards, there’s the Nixplay Edge model.

Use this Visual Storytelling Strategy
I’ve talked previously about ways to maintain your public brand online.

But you also have a personal brand to feed that’s uniquely positioned for your family and friends.

And with distance often challenging the continuity of extended family units, displaying your photo playlists on WiFi digital photo frames is a wonderful way to communicate your family’s ongoing story.


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