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Tag: photos

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.


My Life in 10 Seconds

We snap birthday pictures to celebrate the passage of time. So why not string together all of those birthday photos to create a visual story of your ongoing life? And then how about creating a fast video sequence that captures it all in 10 seconds? Would that actually work? I decided to find out…

I had this crazy idea a few decades back that I would pose for a photo on every birthday and hold up my fingers to identify each new age I was sporting. And then at some point, I would stitch together all of these pictures into a blistering fast video montage.

Decades of my life to date in 10 seconds. Whoa! How cool is that?!
Well, it’s my birthday. And this year, I’ve decided to give it a go…

Are you ready? Here it is…
Barrett's Birthdays
So, first off… while collecting my photos for this sequence, I realized that I didn’t have access to many of my pictures from before Y2K. The ones I could locate were hidden in buried photo albums and photo boxes… in the attic… in the basement. Many more are still in my father’s apartment in New York City.

And if you think I’ve complained about digital photo organization, my jaw has been hanging open at the disarray of my analog-only photo prints.
(I switched to digital photography in 2000.)

Sure, my mom created some great photo albums when I was a kid, but I haven’t yet digitized most of those pics.
(That’s going to be quite the project!)

All this said, I feel somewhat satisfied that I was able to pull together all of my birthday pictures from 30 years old on and a few from my earlier years.

And I’ve come to the realization…
…that my little visual opus is actually not as interesting as I had anticipated.

Birthdays are for the Moment
Experiencing birthdays can be exhilarating, because they’re your special day. I remember how important those early parties that my parents threw for me felt. Even the birthdays I’ve had as an adult have been lots of fun.

But looking at this montage just doesn’t capture any of that energy.

Perhaps once I get all of the years together… Version 2 may take on a more time-travel-like quality. But the reality is many of my birthdays took place at home. Cozy, but hardly revealing of anything more.

At best, you get you see my aging process. And that I can count on my fingers.
(Actually in some years, I reversed the numbers on my hands.)

This sequence doesn’t tell the story of my life.
At all.

What’s the Background?
I thought a bit and realized that the missing ingredient is context. Each of these pics only represent me at the same moment year after year, but they don’t say much else.

A series of the photos that captures my various ‘adventures’ should reveal multiple chapters in a larger story.
(Where am I? What am I doing?)

So, I turned to my Adobe Lightroom photo library and poked around to pull together a separate set of pictures from my adult years, and this is what I came up with…
Barrett over the years
Well, this certainly provides a lot more visual depth, but which photos to choose can become a mind-boggling process, even if you had organized access to every photo ever taken of you.

And the time it takes to intentionally pick only a few from the hundreds of choices…
To do this thoroughly, it could take someone a whole lot of time to do.
(So, let’s regard this as an early draft.)

But before moving forward to properly complete this multi-decade project, I still felt the design was not complete. There was something else missing.

It’s Not Only About You
Anyone’s life is defined by the people around them. You need to include your own personal community to build out your visual story with any sense of authenticity!

So, I went back again to Lightroom and pulled together a third set of photos that didn’t really focus on me, but on some of the people in my life…
Family and Friends
I know it’s mostly a blur with way too many faces to focus on.

At best this version provides just a feeling. An impression of a life to date. Of the many folks who’ve been on the journey with me at different points in time.
(And this version is absolutely incomplete with lots of missing family and friends)

But I think this third design has the most potential…

Which one do you like the best?
(Perhaps a combination of all three?)

Look Back Before Looking Forward
So clearly, I still have more work to do on my “life in photos” project.

But you might be asking yourself why you should also commit to such a complex archival endeavor.

Well, first off… I think a photo sequence housed in video or animated GIF form (especially if it’s slowed down a bit) can be an amazing way to organize and share your most important pictures.
(My 10-second exercise can easily be adapted into a more leisurely pace.)

If you want to find a way to tell your story, this is absolutely one method to use!
And if you’re not sure about your story, this can be a great process to figure it out.

The truth is anyone’s story is constantly evolving, and a little context is always helpful. And this type of project forces you to evaluate your journey on an ongoing basis.
(Or at least every year)

I think it’s always important as you look forward to take some time to look back.
You might remember a few things… a few people… a few moments.

It can help remind you who you really are.
…Who you’ve always been
And who you will be…

And isn’t that the best birthday present you can give to yourself?

Two Reasons Why You’re Failing as the Family Photographer

It’s not difficult to snap a picture. In fact, it’s never been easier. But if you don’t follow a photo library management plan, you’ll quickly be in a world of hurt. I’ve got seven steps that should help make your day…

No matter how hard I try, I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle as the family photographer. Sound familiar? The good news is you’re probably doing just fine taking the pictures.
(I snap a few winners here and there.)

The problem is what comes after…

Sure, you can quickly flip a photo or two out to your world from your smartphone, but if you’re like me, I like to bring my photos home for review, grading and improvements.

I have a five-point numbering system when I go through my pictures in
Adobe Lightroom:

5 = Great
4 = Good
3 = Okay
2 = Not very good
1 = Terrible

I immediately throw the 1’s and 2’s into the trash, because they’re the stinkers. But then I hold onto everything else. But after years of following this practice, I’ve discovered a severe flaw.

Only Keep Your Best Photos
My plan has allowed me to retain pictures that I just don’t need. More importantly, the sheer mass of accumulating photos clogs up my computer’s hard drive, and they simply take too long to catalog.

The 5’s are the only ones I should be focusing on.
(Sometimes, I also highlight a few of the 5’s as ‘extra special’ by making them a ‘pick.’)

If I’ve nailed the shot as a 5, why would I need to save a version of it as a 3 or 4?

New rule:
When you’re done cataloging all of your 5’s, go through everything else with the intent of deleting them. All of them!

Question why you need to save your 3’s and 4’s.

There are No Shortcuts
For me, the underlying problem in my faulty photo management process is committing enough time to do the job right.

That means taking the time to correctly ID your 5’s on the first round of review.

And at the back end, you’ve got to do the ‘clean up’ phase and not leave around a lot of useless 3’s and 4’s you’ll never use again.

Because years will go by, and you’ll realize you’re holding onto way too many pictures.
(Like thousands of them)

Sure, I know I’m a big supporter of taking ‘multiple’ shots of a particular moment to ensure you actually get what you want. But that means you need to choose the best one and then delete everything else!

You Must Find the Time
Second new rule:
This all takes discipline and a daily commitment of thirty minutes of digital photo management.

I know that can be hard to fit in to a busy schedule. So I try to carve out the time first thing after I wake up in the morning with my cup of Joe.
(Yes, you probably need to set your alarm earlier to generate these precious minutes. I do.)

Without this regimen, your system will break down in a number of ways:

  • If you don’t share your photos quickly, their value drops off over time.
    (Who wants to see last year’s photos? Your family and friends want yesterday’s pictures!)
  • Your computer’s hard drive will fill up. Or you’ll have to shell out for cloud storage.
  • You’re never going to create those photo books, as that’s usually the last step in a photo organization plan.

Keep It Simple
I just finished up a few days of ‘staycation’ expecting I would be able to catch up on all of this. Guess what?
Not possible.

If you’re months behind, the only solution is to chip away it.

Thirty minutes.
Every day.

Delete all of your 3’s and most of your 4’s.

Remember, you only need a handful of pictures to tell a story.
Less is more.

You’ve just got to take the time to figure out which ones they are…


Seven Steps to Success
So let’s review my updated rules for effective digital photo library management:

  1. Don’t let your pictures languish on your camera’s memory card or computer.
  2. Stop grading a group of photos on a five-point scale. Find your 5’s. And that’s it. Really everything else should be deleted.
  3. Proceed with the ‘tweaking phase’ to improve your remaining ‘best photos.’
    (Cropping, color balance, exposure)
  4. Then, go find the four or five best 5’s. Those are your ‘uber 5’s.’ Share those. Family and friends rarely want to see more.
  5. Email your photos to your family and friends within the week!
  6. Don’t forget to copy your 5’s into the appropriate ‘theme’ albums or collections you’ve set up.
  7. Commit half an hour every day to your life-long photo management project as the family photographer.

Thirty minutes.
Every day.
Promise me.

Now, promise yourself.

It’s not a snap, but it’s the answer.

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