With digital cameras so inexpensive these days – and in many cases built right into our phones – we’re taking more pictures than ever before. But while having photography more readily available to everyone is great in many ways, it means the sheer volume of photos can be overwhelming at times. Throw in all those photo prints, negatives and slides sitting in boxes in attics and closets across the country and you’ve got an analog-to-digital mountain of memories.
That’s where a professional photo organizer comes in.
Professional photo organization can mean many things. It can range from an individual who simply helps someone sort through their photos to make them easier to find and share, or it can mean actually having a photo or memory book put together, or even help with preserving and archiving photos for future generations. “A photo organizer helps their clients find solutions for organizing, protecting, and enjoying their photos, videos and other important keepsakes and memorabilia,” said professional organizer Cathi Nelson. “By doing so we bring a sense of relief and reassurance to our client’s lives, as their feelings of guilt and anxiety are replaced by the satisfaction of knowing that their memories can be enjoyed and are safe-guarded.”
Another professional photo organizer, Michelle Nahom, expanded on that, noting that, “ Some of the services a photo organizer might offer is printed and digital photo organization, creating albums and wall art, photo restoration, converting outdated media to a current format that can be enjoyed, photo slide shows and more.”
The question many people might ask, though, is why pay for the services of an organizer when they can do the work themselves? The answer, both Nelson and Nahom agreed, is that most people today are simply overwhelmed with their own photos. We capture so many memories constantly, that when we sit down to remember events or share moments, finding the right images and making them tell the right story can be challenging. “I haven’t met a person yet that couldn’t use our services,” noted Nelson. “When you ask someone why they take photos the most common answer is to remember, and the way we do that today is through photos. But the next step is often overlooked: sorting, organizing and creating the story that goes with the photos. Over the years people become increasingly overwhelmed and frustrated and need someone to step in and offer assistance.”
“Right now I am working with a mom who is battling cancer, helping her to organize her printed and digital photos, as well as getting them into albums for her family to enjoy,” said Nahom. “I am digitizing another client’s father’s World War II photos and memorabilia, and creating an album of his father’s experiences for my client and his siblings.”
The price, said Nelson, is set by the individual organizer, and will usually be rated based on what the client needs. Nelson offers hourly packages in 10, 20 and 30 hour chunks, and Nahom noted that she will offer certain discounts if chunks of time are pre-purchased rather than tallied up and paid when the project is over. “It’s truly an honor to be entrusted with my clients’ precious memories and it’s a wonderful feeling when you see smiles or tears of joy,” said Nahom.
When it comes to organizing photos, there are a few tips to help keep it from becoming an overwhelming prospect. You might still want to use a professional organizer’s services, but this will cut down on the cost and time required.
First: organize photos as you take them. “What I find works for me is to download my photos within a day or so after the event when the pictures were taken,” said Nahom. “I also take a quick run through and delete the duplicates and the bad ones right away. That way it’s a bite sized chunk of work, versus waiting till I have a months worth of photos, which then becomes more of an overwhelming task.”
Nelson uses what she terms the ABC’S of photo organizing. “The A photos go into an Album, the B photos go back in a photo safe Box or are Backed Up , the C photos go in the “can or recycle bin” because they really aren’t necessary. How do you sort the gems from the garbage? That’s where the S comes in. “You chose the photos to keep based on the S, do they tell a story,” Nahom said.
Second: sort your photos by theme. Once you have the initial sort done, both women suggest organizing by theme, rather than by date. For example, a folder or box for travel photos, another for family get-togethers, etc.
Third: back up! Once you have everything organized – back it all up. More than once. “Computer hard drives, external hard drives and memory cards can all fail,” said Nahom. “We need to read the fine print on photo storage sites, because many sites require a minimum purchase every so often in exchange for storing your photos. Plus we need to keep up with technology changes and change our storage systems as needed.” She went on to note that the best backup for a photo remains a photo print, which can never accidentally be erased, or lost when a drive or server fails.
Finding the Time
At the end of the day, it all comes down to taking the time to organize photos, and creating a system that works for you. “Develop a system and set aside time,” said Nelson. “Nothing important gets done if you don’t schedule time to do it and managing our photos is something we all wish we did but often neglect.”
Nahom agreed, noting that, “There isn’t a magic answer here. The most important thing is to find a system that works for you – the same system won’t necessarily work for everyone. But the key component here is to be able to find your photos when you need them in a timely manner.”
If you’re interested in speaking with a professional organizer, you can find one through the Personal Photo Organizer association website. You can see our own tips for organizing your digital photos here.
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