At Home with Tech

Figure out which consumer tech you need, the right gear to buy and how to use your new gadgets.

Tag: photo organization

One Way to Help You Reflect on the Past Decade

Happy New Decade

Have you taken a moment to think about your last ten years? What’s the story? Here is one technique to help figure it out.

Life always seems to have a way of moving so quickly. Like me, I’m sure that you’d sometimes like to slow it down to take a breath and reflect.

The good news is the end of every year is always the traditional time when you’re encouraged to look back at the past twelve months. That could take the form of a champagne toast or creating a photo book or even a cloud digital photo album to encapsulate the story of your past year.

But how should anyone begin to look back and gain a real understanding of their past decade? That’s a much bigger psychological exercise. Of course, anyone can easily pick out significant life events like marriage and kids being born, but those consist of just a few days over the course of several thousand.

Do you recall what was going on during most of those other days? Of course not. So how then are you supposed to begin putting together a point of view on this much bigger chunk of your life?

Well, here’s one tactic that I’ve used.

Photo Review
Simply take a couple of hours and walk down memory lane with your digital photo collection.

I mean really dig in.
My decade in 14 seconds
If it’s in any semblance of order, you should be able to expose yourself to a good percentage of your past decade’s activities that warranted a photo. Not that you can’t remember some of this on your own, but this exercise can really help to shake the branches on those ‘second-tier’ memories that also added to your overall experience from the decade.

Finding the Meaning
But here comes the hard part.

Which photos represent the pieces of your life that really tell your story? And which story are you actually trying to figure out? (Everyone’s life contains multiple stories.)

At this point, I recommend not stressing over the impulse to answer these questions. Simply enjoy the visual echoes from your past. Refresh your mind.

A New Photo Collection
That’s the gift to give yourself as you approach the end of the decade. How you process it is entirely an individual experience.

You can also throw the digital pics that stood out to you into a new folder on your computer. This specific collection can be for your eyes only, or if you choose, you can share them with your family and friends.

Remember
No, most lives are not neatly organized into ten-year chapters. So, looking to tie it all up in a bow is an entirely flawed exercise.

Still, this is one way to help remain present in living your life today, because you’ve got a better handle on your past through this little photo project refresher.

And if you happen to get a new photo collage out of the exercise, that always a bonus!

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…)

Flickr

  • 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.

How to Turn Your Smartphone into a Time Machine

If you’re getting bored snapping the same picture over and over again through the years, then you might be in for a pleasant surprise…

I expect you’ll agree that life serves up a fair number of repeatable sequences that are simply driven by the calendar, such as birthdays, holidays and certain vacations. And these moments often orbit family events at the same locations.

If you purposefully remember to snap similarly framed photos at these occasions every year… then, think about the mind-bending results.

Now, you’re capturing the passage of time with your smartphone, and you’ve effortlessly stepped into the role of photo historian. And in fact, you’ve created a time machine of sorts.
(How great is that?!)

Granted, this type of project is not for those with short attention spans. You’ve got to put years into it. Even decades.

It’s not difficult to do. You’ve just got to remember a few shots and keep repeating them.

You’ve Probably Already Started
I’ve found it’s better to go with posed shots that are easier to replicate over the course of time. But certain action shots can also be predictable (like blowing out birthday candles). And then it’s always great to connect them together across the years.

To this last point, you might already be collecting certain repeated photo moments. You’ve just got to find them… and then let the magic unveil itself!
(They don’t always have to be taken in the exact same space.)

For example, here’s a July 4th fireworks sequence covering the past few years that I quickly put together…

Pretty cool, right?

It’s All about the Journey
The truth is… this type of archival photo documentation never really ends. Assuming you’re printing these photos on quality photo paper, or you’ve figured out a way to ensure your JPEG files survive the passage of time, you should eventually hand off your project to ‘the next generation.’

At some point, we all think about our legacy. That you can hand off those series of images that succinctly represent the journey through life.

What a concept.

And it’s never too late to start.

It’s time to start building your ‘Guardian of Forever.’

%d bloggers like this: