Today’s memory keeping Q&A deals with photos, cameras, photo storage, etc.
I have to tell you that the process of working through all these questions has really made me re-think about my own personal processes for my photos once again. There are definitely things I want to do differently and continue to evolve as I move forward. One thing you’ll notice as you read through my responses is that I don’t have it all figured out in regards to dealing with my photos and I’m on the same path as most of you – figuring it out (or attempting to) as I go along.
If you asked a question relating to photos and you don’t see it below it’s likely I will cover it in an upcoming post under a different topic heading – I’ve been working on getting them to flow with the overall topic. Thanks for understanding!
THE GLOBAL ISSUE OF PHOTOS
MAUREEN | Where are you now with the relationship between your digital photos and your scrapbooking? I am wondering about a more global view to taking hundreds of pictures a month, and scrapbooking a small percentage of them. While I am enjoying scrapping random things with a small percentage of my photos, I am also feeling a tug towards my entire photo catalog and how I want to edit (as in reduce, not process) organize, annotate and preserve these files for the future. Is this something that you think about?
AE | I definitely think about this and I don’t have an answer. I’m not sure I’ll ever have an answer and I think that maybe I’m ok with that.
Some days I think I’m going to get it all in order and have a system and other days I think that I do enough already with our photos and memories and that maybe that’s good enough.
I love how Noell at Paperclipping is using the metadata area to include information about her photos (Don’t know what that is? Don’t be intimidated – go read about it). I think that’s really a great simple way to include stories and additional information about stories related to the photos.
Sometimes, actually a little more than sometimes, I get really tired of the constant demand to find the “best” solution for all our stuff. This includes photos, supplies, toys, etc. There’s a lot of energy that goes into trying to think it all through let alone implement and then keep up with whatever new system has been put in place.
Maybe it’s just enough to take the photos and archive/back them up so that they don’t get “eaten” or lost with the crash of a hard-drive or the progression of technology.
Maybe my kids will love that they can have a library of photos on their own phones/computers/etc rather than printed picture albums (neither have a phone/computer yet). Maybe that’s the way they will share their past with their friends and family in the future. Maybe instead of a box of photo albums or scrapbooks they’ll get a hard-drive with photos and images of scrapbook pages.
So yes, I think about it often. Lately, especially though putting this post together, I’ve mainly been asking myself what I want most from my photos.
What I really want is for them to be accessible to me in somewhat of an organized manner. I want to not spend a ton of time dealing with them. I want them to be available to my kids in the future just like the images from my childhood have been available to me – available might just be on a computer or phone screen – I don’t know yet.
JESSICA | I was wondering about your cameras. I know you have a DSLR and something a little fancier. But, do you ever use a point and shoot? I am thinking of investing in a ‘fancy’ camera, but I really love how easy it is to throw my point and shoot in my purse. So, I was just wondering your theories or thoughts on using cameras.
BIRGIT | I am looking for a an easy to use point and shoot camera – I love the zoom on ours. Any recommendations?
AE | I do have, and use, both a DSLR and a point and shoot (along with a couple other cameras I’ll talk about below). My preference – almost always – is for my DSLR. These days I’m using a Canon 5D and it’s what I almost always grab. Before the 5D I had the Canon Digital Rebel and it is a great camera. We have a smaller Canon Powershot point and shoot that is fine, but I have to be honest and say that I’m usually disappointed in the images that come back from that camera when compared to the images that come from my DSLR – they are just not as crisp (I’m sure there’s a more technical way to say that).
That said, I’m one of those people that enjoys playing with all sorts of cameras including an Instax, the camera on my iPhone (3GS – I’m looking forward to upgrading soon as I think the camera is better on iPhone4 – the ones that come from my 3GS seem super grainy), and the camera on my computer. I know when using any of these cameras that what I’m going for is simply a capture.
My iphone camera has really replaced our point and shoot in terms of convenience and portability.
Overall, the way I see it most often is that the best camera is on the one you have with you. Use what you have and use it often.
I also have to tell you that I live with my big camera – it goes in the car, in my bag (not a camera bag just whatever bag I’m carrying), on the table, to the restaurant, the swimming pool, the beach, etc. I probably don’t treat it with the respect it deserves.
TARA | I was wondering if you are still liking your fuji cameras and which one you find yourself using more….the vertical or horizontal one…I am leaning towards getting the one that takes the vertical pics but I am still not sure.
AE | Love it. Love it. Love it. I think these sorts of instant cameras are a great addition to your photo-taking toolbox. I think that I love the vertical one (mini 7S) the best – at least right now – but the horizontal one (210) is definitely getting used. I just got these great plastic photo holders (pictured above) from Photojojo.com for displaying some of my favorite mini 7S shots (these ones are all from Greece).
MEFI | Do you photoshop most of your pictures before posting or are they straight from the camera? Any books or blogs you can suggest to improve on photographic skills?
SHARON | I love to take photos, I’m just not very good. Any recommendations on how to become a better photographer and not be so scared of my camera? Any decent on-line classes you can recommend?
AE | Recently I’d say that most of the photos I post here or print for my projects are lightened a bit using Levels in Photoshop. Just a touch.
I don’t know a lot about the technical side about photography. I find I’m more interested in emotion and essence and trial and error with a pinch of acceptance thrown in for good measure. I gain knowledge in fits and starts (that’s often how I learn) and when I want/need to learn something I go searching on google. I play a lot. I take a lot of photos – most are ok, some aren’t, and a few have been magic.
As I was working on this post I came across this sentiment from photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson via Shutter Sisters: “Technique is important only insofar as you must master it in order to communicate what you see. . . In any case, people think far too much about techniques and not enough about seeing.”
I love that quote. I definitely use my camera as a tool to see my world.
My guess is that the best way to become a “better” photographer (that definition is going to be different for each person who reads it) is to take more photos, allow yourself to experiment, and take the time to immerse yourself in learning more – one shot at a time. Another idea is to identify one specific thing you want to learn and master that. Then move on to the next. And the next.
Here’s a few places I go for inspiration, education, and tips:
- Shutter Sisters | daily concept inspiration
- Susannah Conway’s Unravelling Courses (Ways of Seeing Myself registration opened May 7th). I haven’t actually taken a class from Susannah yet but I’m signing up for this next course.
- Katrina Kennedy teaches online photo classes at Get It Scrapped. Katrina’s classes can be viewed here (The Very Basics and Your Kids: Captured Through The Lens). Her new site, which includes photo inspiration for daily photo projects, is CaptureYour365.com.
- My friend Liz Ness recently started a new photo site Great Photos +. You’ll find tutorials, classes, tips, and all kids of photo inspiration there. I love her photo walkabout concept (I get to do one with her later this summer and I’m super excited about it).
- Karen Russell has an excellent online class called The Photographers Workshop. I’ve known Karen for a number of years and she is one of the most hardworking, authentic, photography-loving people I know. Her workshop always has a waiting list and it’s not cheap, but it’s really hard to beat.
- Tracey Clark’s Picture This series at Big Picture Classes. The current class is Picture Color. I had a chance to chat with Tracey on the phone yesterday – she’s so great at talking about photography in a real-world sort of way. I’m such a fan.
DIGITAL BACK UP SERVICE
CHRISTINE | I am looking for a digital photo backup service. Any recommendations? I current have my photos on a second computer and a portable hard drive but I am looking into an outside service.
LISEL | I would also like to know if you have an update/any recommendations regarding an off-site backup solution (I read your blog post on Mozy from a while back). I looked into Carbonite, but they restrict bandwidth speeds after 35GB. I decided to try CrashPlan, but after I downloaded the free trial and they analyzed my data, they said it would take more than 1 year to backup my files (sheesh!). I have an EHD, but would like my files to be backed up somewhere other than home… just in case.
AE | Mozy is the backup service I’ve been using for the last year or so. They’ve recently announced they are changing their rate structure so I’ll be switching around the time my current contract with them ends. I’m looking at either CrashPlan or BackBlaze based on recommendations from people on Twitter and Facebook. Carbonite, another online backup option, is not on my list because they don’t back up external hard-drives which is a must for me.
I currently backup close to 500GB of data – photos, videos, music, work stuff. The Mozy increase for me would be going from $103 to $659. Yikes. My renewal is set to happen in 2012 so I’ve got a bit of time to decide which other service I want to go with.
Lisel – I know that with CrashPlan you can have them send you a drive that you upload to and then send back to them (pretty sure that’s how it works). You might want to look into that vs. the time listed to back up your data.
ALICIA | How often do you print your pictures? Do you print them all or just the ones you’re about to scrap? Do you have a system to stay on top of it?
AE | I tend to be a print-by-the-project person. That means I don’t regularly print out all the photos I’ve taken over a given period of time. For layouts, Project Life, mini-books, etc I usually print here at home using my HP Photosmart B8550. It’s nothing fancy but it works great. I’ve been happy with using HP printers for the last few years.
When I do a large photo printing (like the photo you see above) I most often use Scrapbookpictures.com.
I go through phases where I think I’m going to print monthly and then put the photos into albums or drawers (a la Stacy Julian – an approach I love), but it hasn’t happened for me.
Right now what works best for me is simply organizing my photos in Aperture by month (if I was using iPhoto I’d do the same thing) with a few additional folders for work projects or vacations (or other events where I take obscene amounts of photos).
Just yesterday I was listening to this Paperclipping episode (a scrapbooking podcast) where Stacy Julian talks about her photo process and her upcoming Finding Photo Freedom online class (starts June 2). What I love about the way she approaches her photo organization is that it all comes back the the stories. It’s a story-based approach.
KRIS | Have you used your Espon photo printer lately and like it any better?
AE | I ended up giving it to a friend. The fact that it didn’t print full-size 4×6 photos was a deal-breaker for me because I primarily wanted to use it for printing photos for Project Life.
BETH | I have Photoshop Elements 7.0 and I love it but it really messes up the colors if I print from there. I have been printing photos from windows or larger ones from Microsoft Publisher after saving them as a jpeg in Photoshop & reopening them in Publisher and the colors are just fine. I would love to save myself the time and hassle of the extra steps. Do you know what I am doing wrong in Photoshop?
AE | Hmmmm. I don’t have a great answer for you. Do the colors look fine when you view them in Photoshop? It sounds like there might be a “miscommunication” between your printer and Photoshop – especially if you are only having that issue when you print from Photoshop. You might want to contact Adobe or your printer manufacturer (or google both names at the same time and something like “messed up colors” and see what comes up).
MARISA | Do you also have just photo albums for some photos?
AE | I do have a few simple photo books that are just for photos (see image above). These are called Space Savers and they are made by Pioneer. Most of the photos in there are from the times when I’ve done a really big 4×6 printing: big vacations, events, heritage photos.
I don’t have any plans to print all my photos and put them in albums in addition to my scrapbooks.
DEALING WITH OLD PHOTOS
JEN | I am curious how you and others out there handle your physical prints from the past. I have boxes of photos (childhood, high school, college + my husbands) and I am not planning (right now) to scrap them but I want to keep them for when I do get to that project one day or just to flip through. How do you decide what to keep (questions/process you ask yourself)? what to part with? how do you organize and store? I feel like there is a lot of focus out in blogland on digital which is valuable but I struggle with those prints from the past.
AE | Hi Jen – to be honest this is a whole class/book/concept in and of itself and I don’t think I’ll be able to do justice to your answer in this space here today. That said, here’s a look at how my older printed photos are currently dealt with:
- Printed photos of me as a child are either in Space Savers albums (see photo above) or still in the large photo albums that came from my parents (I’ve been in the process of removing photos from those albums – there are around 20 for a few years). I’ve pulled out many of these photos to use in layouts over the years. They are organized by year because that’s how my Mom gave them to me.
- Heritage photos are also in Space Savers albums and some are in page protectors in 8.5×11 binders. These are copies of the originals that were scanned and printed (some are so small that a bunch of them were printed on one 8.5×11 sheet). They are not organized by date but my parents did go through and jot down notes about who was in the photos if they knew.
- My older photos from college, early married years, when Simon was born, are currently in photo boxes. These are all photos that either I or Chris have taken. Many of those photos have been used in my scrapbook layouts over the years and there are not duplicate prints of those in the boxes – there’s really not that many – maybe four or five before I moved to a digital camera. I do, however, have many of the negatives that I had transferred to digital files last year (read more about that below).
In an ideal world I would love to have all of the above in a more cohesive system rather than broken up into separate storage areas.
You might also be interested in checking out Stacy Julian’s Finding Photo Freedom online class. In addition to giving you a road map (of sorts) for organizing all those photos, what she’s really great at getting you to think about how they can work together to tell entirely different stories that link generations. It’s a more global approach to storytelling and organizing which I think is just awesome (especially for people who have access to older photos).
Also, later this year I’ll be releasing my class Yesterday & Today (it ran twice at Big Picture) as either a self-paced download class or as a book (still working that all out). That class includes a bunch of information about dealing with old photos including more information on how I store/deal with mine and how I choose stories to tell.
AMY | I am sitting on about 3000 slides my father took over a 40 year period of traveling the world. It’s amazing to think about the places he has been and he was quite a good photographer. He even wrote notes on each and every slide!!! I want to cull the images, send them off to be scanned and digitized, and get them in a photobook. The project is so daunting I’m not sure where to start.
AE | How exciting! I love that he wrote on every slide. I think I’d start by picking a specific day/weekend and dedicating it to go through the slides (it sounds like you want to do that). Do you have a slide viewer? Maybe you can rent one to view the slides one by one and make a pile for the ones you want to print and the ones you don’t care to print. I think that would actually be an awesome way to spend the day/weekend!
From there I’d send them in (read below for more information) if you can swing it and have someone else take care of the scanning. My Dad is currently scanning a ton of heritage slides one at a time (he’s retired and he loves it) and it really takes quite awhile to do it yourself.
JESSICA | We were given two large bags of old family photos. Some of these photos are from the early 1900s. There are so many that it would be overwhelming to scan them myself. Can you recommend where to send these photos for high quality scanning or even an idea of how to start the search for a local business that could do this?
AE | Last year I sent a ton (as in hundreds – actually three small notebooks full) of negatives to Scan Digital. The experience was great (it was also expensive) but I was able to get all my pre-digital negatives scanned. I sent in three small notebooks (you can see the inside of one above) in a box to them and a few weeks later (if I remember right on the timing – they keep you updated via email for the whole process) they all came back along with two DVD’s of all the images. I’m currently backing those disks up to one of my external hard-drives as well.
I’ve also had good experience talking with people from ScanCafe, and have heard good feedback from people who have used them) but I have not personally used their services. Looks like they also have a promotion running through the end of May: 10% off regular scanning – use code 10SPRING (Restrictions Apply) Expires 5/31/11.
My cousin used Kinko’s to scan in a bunch of our grandparents photos. Those turned out just fine as well.
If you want to do something local I’d definitely check with a local photo shop if you have one in your town. I’d bet they might have a recommendation (or a non-recommendation) for someone offering services like this in your city.
SIMPLY TAKING PHOTOS
ANNA | Do you have a list of photos you take often or like to take? Ex: Things around your house, Kids playing, Dinner, Etc. I would love a list of photos to get in the habit of taking to better document my stories.
AE | Love this question. I don’t have a specific list. I go so much by gut reactions to wanting to freeze something I’m seeing in time – but here’s some things I do love to regularly capture (I’ve linked to examples when I could find them):
- Kids sitting at the dining room table eating or doing activities.
- The view into a kids room from out in the hallway (the whole idea of “looking in”) – usually in these shots the kid is doing something in their bedroom. Example here.
- Relationships. Photos that show Simon and Anna interacting – doing something together. I like photos that show them in our environment, doing the things we do, vs. having them pose for a photo.
- Myself (with or without others) in mirrors.
- The way the seasons change and what that looks like both inside and outside our house.
- Foods we are eating and cooking.
- Everyday stuff from different views – getting down low or up high and taking photos that way vs. the regular straight-on shot.
Really I just take so many photos of normal everyday stuff. That’s what it’s all about for me – that’s what I love.
Have you done my Week In The Life project yet? If not you might want to join in this year – it’s a really great exercise and opportunity to force yourself into the process of taking photos. I think it’s through a process project like that that you really SEE what you love and what you’d like to capture more of in the future.
You can also check out many more of my photos on Flickr.
MELISSA | How do you get yourself out of a non-photo-taking rut? In other words, how do you make yourself pick up the camera again and shoot? I only have one child and he’s 13. He doesn’t participate in a ton of activities (band at school and church youth group) and I find it very difficult to find new things to take photos of. I work full time (but only for another month as the Army has decided to move us yet again) and I find it difficult to pick up the camera and shoot day in and day out. (Get up, breakfast, make lunches, put son on bus, clean up from breakfast, take shower, go to work, come home, make dinner, clean up, do some housework and/or laundry, sit down, watch TV, read blogs, sort photos on computer from the weekend, go to bed). It blows my mind (in a good way) that you take photos every day. But I don’t know how to get myself excited about taking photos day after day. And take pictures of what?????
AE | I know what that rut feels like. I’ve been there. Most of the time I try to adjust my thinking and just look at it from the perspective that I probably need a break or something else needs my attention. I also know that eventually I’ll get inspired and excited about taking photos again – it always comes back.
As I was reading your question (and especially after I’d just gone looking for examples for the previous question) one thing that struck me is this: all those things you mentioned – getting up, breakfast, tv, blogs, bus, work, make dinner, laundry, etc – those are all things that I LOVE to take photos of (most of the images I linked there came from my Week In The Life 2010 project). Those pieces of everyday life are the bulk of all the photos I’ve taken over the years. Some of them are silly and not great and some of them are magic – but they all came about because I was using my camera to capture the basic stuff of our lives.
I don’t always take a photo everyday. Some days I just don’t feel like it. But almost everyday I see something in my life – in my own house – that I want to capture with my camera. It becomes is a shift in how you see your life. All those little things are what I want to capture – they are things I want to remember.
When I think back over my own life the things I’d personally love to have photos of are the simple little everyday stuff from when I was growing up – favorite toys, what my room looked like, favorite foods, daily routines, etc. That perspective informs the images I choose to take pictures of today.
Some things to think about: What do you love about your life? What places in your home do you love? What do you cook regularly (and if you don’t who does and how can you capture that piece). What do you love about your work? What’s your son into right now?
SIZING PHOTOS FOR ONLINE VIEWING
SUZ | I would love to know your work flow for resizing pics to post on your blog or on various galleries online. Some have size requirements and it’s frustrating at times to have to keep resizing them just to post them. I have quit shooting in RAW so that the pic size isn’t so large AND tried to save at medium rather than high quality setting. It would just be so nice to simply upload a pic without having to resize. SO inefficient with time usage, KWIM?
AE | I totally get what you’re talking about. I’m not sure that my personal process is streamlined, efficient or even simple (actually I don’t think it’s any of those right now), but here’s what I’ve been doing for years.
- Open photo in Aperture (or iPhoto in the past) – this is my photo organizing program where all my photos live.
- Drag photo to open in Photoshop.
- Adjust levels/curves/color if necessary.
- Resize image for blog to 800 pixels wide at 72 dpi (that’s my preferred size even though on screen you see it as 500 pixels – this way if people click on the image they can see it larger in a new window).
- “Save as” to my desktop.
- Upload into blog post from my desktop.
- Place image from desktop into garbage (it’s now stored in my blog program’s archives).
Something new I’m trying (and thinking about using more regularly) is to send my photo straight from Aperture to Flickr at full resolution using the Export command. Some people I know (like Jennifer at Simple Scrapper and Katie the Scrapbook Lady) both use Flickr as their online photo backup and I’m interested in that idea – especially since you can make some photos public and some private. You can listen to Jennifer and Katie talk about using Flickr for just about everything in this episode of Paperclipping Roundtable: Years Of Mediocre Layouts. From there I grab the html code to add it to my blog (I’ve got that set to adjust to 500 pixels wide) – the image above is an example of grabbing the code. From Flickr I can also send to Twitter, Facebook, email, etc.
This post is part of a 2011 Memory Keeping Q&A series. Additional posts in this series will be listed below as they are posted. Past Q&A posts are available via the Category Archives here.