Clearing photo clutter: Practical tips for managing digital snapshots

photo clutter, organizing
Are digital photos cluttering your life? Here are a few ways to deal with the onslaught. Photo courtesy of Haley McMackin.

When you flip through your phone or glance at your computer, are you overwhelmed by the number of photographs saved in storage?

Technology makes it easy to keep clicking those milestone moments of your kids at soccer games, birthday parties and special events. But how many of these memories do you revisit? More importantly, years from now, will you be able to locate these treasured moments?

Photo clutter doesn’t have to be intimidating. Phoenix photographer Haley McMackin offers practical tips that are easy to implement.

Organize digital photos baby flower
Be judicious with photos you take. Photo courtesy of Haley McMackin.

1. Don’t document every moment. McMackin encourages people to limit the number of clicks on their cameras. “Not every moment needs to be captured with a photo,” she says.

“Endless clicking all day long leaves you with too many photos that end up having less meaning in the long run, as well as contributing to the ‘pile’ of clutter,” McMackin says.

McMackin reminds us digital photos are sometimes lost because hard drives crash and phones get lost. Plus, the sheer number of digital images piling up makes printing them an overwhelming task.

The next time you find yourself taking photos, ask yourself: Do you really need to take this picture? Is it one you think you are going to revisit? Integrating mindfulness in picture taking will help you enjoy the moment and decrease your photo clutter.

“Preserve clicks for just a few choice moments, and you’ll have happy family members and a much more manageable pile of photos to organize,” McMackin says.

2. Download your photos. It’s easy to keep your photos on your phone or camera without downloading them. McMackin recommends starting a consistent routine for downloading photos and setting up a photos folder with subfolders organized by date or event on your computer.

It’s also important to back up photos on a hard drive or cloud-based storage service. McMackin says a 1TB hard drive provides plenty of storage for most families and costs $50-$150. She uses cloud-based iDrive for her photos, where 5GB of storage is free and 1 TB of storage is about $50 annually. “Well worth it for peace of mind if you ask me!” she says.

3. Print your photos. Printing photographs isn’t complicated. McMackin explains there are “so many companies that offer digital uploading and delivery right to your door.” She urges people to print photos, “or else the endless abyss of digital files will just get deeper.”

She recommends buying photo albums and spending 20 minutes on the couch periodically putting the photos into the albums. Keep the albums accessible on your coffee table or bookshelf as a reminder. It’s a great way to enjoy your photos as well as “preventing newly delivered photos from piling up just the same way the digital ones do,” McMackin says.

costa rica book
Make photo books with your digital images. Photo courtesy of Haley McMackin.

4. Make photo books. Making photo books is a great way to clear the digital clutter. “It is more time consuming,” McMackin admits. “But (they) can be fun to assemble and make great presents.”

Photo books — she likes the online bookmaker Shutterfly — allow you “to create intricate stories by assembling the layout yourself and adding personalized text to the pages, or you can choose a simpler form and have the software auto enter and place the photos, for a layout much like a photo album.” McMackin suggests that you commit to assembling a photo book once or twice a year.

The next time you eye that priceless photograph on your iPhone, remember to implement some of these tips.

Your future self will thank you.


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