PHOTO ORGANIZING SCOOP: MISSION TO SAVE PHOTOS AFTER DISASTER

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It has been awhile since I’ve posted a new blog, but I have a very good reason and it has to do with my passion for photos.  I am deviating on this one from my step-by-step process and I promise I’ll get back to it!!

Two days after Christmas 2015, a huge tornado went across many square miles in North Texas.  One of the towns hit the worst was Garland, Texas, which is my hometown.  I have family and friends that still live there.  I just went through training the year before with the National Disaster Photo Rescue (NDPR) organization and still live in the Dallas area, so I knew when I saw how bad the damage was, it was time for me and my team to do what we could.

As our NDPR team gathered to spend the day in the disaster zone, we really didn’t know what to expect.  In our heart, we so wanted to find a bunch of lost photos so we could do what we do and in the end return those precious memories to their owners.  Our hearts sunk because it became obvious very quickly — when you see houses totally destroyed, iron fences totally bent, cars on top of mailboxes, mattresses in trees, and metal pieces wadded up like pieces of paper, how in the world would a piece of paper like a photo even survive? 

Then we saw a house with no walls, but the front door standing with the Christmas wreath still intact, a house with one end completely gone but upstairs one wall of a closet still there with clothes still hanging in the closet, a church with no roof and few standing walls yet the huge cross that was on the roof was found unscathed across the highway, a house with no walls on front but a knick-knack shelf on an inner wall with all the knick-knacks still on it – then we knew!  There are photos that survived and they are out there!

20160111_150854We soon found out that our mission was more about getting the word out to everyone we could to rescue those photos as they found them and for them to know what to do with them.   We frantically copied the flyer we had at our first drop-off location so we would have something to hand out.  As we drove through the affected areas, we posted flyers on resource boards, left copies to temporary relief centers, and handed them to all the volunteers – companies, individuals, volunteers, city officials, and even homeowners.

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This tornado covered a lot of miles and we began getting calls from people all the way up to the Oklahoma border finding photos in their yards.  Lots of people affected of course didn’t have computers or even phones at this point, but if we get the word out to as many as we can that do, they would hear about it eventually and visit us later to see if any photos found belong to them.

Collection sites were set up, several more search-and-rescue trips were made, and photos began coming in.  In the spring, the NDPR team cleaned, scanned, and uploaded the LOST photos to our Facebook page (Lost Photos of Garland and Rowlett, TX Tornado) and people are finding their photos!  We just had our first “reunification” day and returned almost 100 photos to their owners.  It has been quite a year and very rewarding to be able to give back to victims who lost so much.

Through all this, it now seems even more important to me to have photos digitized (especially the very old ones of ancestors) and backed up off-site.  We love our hard copy prints and albums and as a photo organizer, I have been taught that your best backup are the physical prints; however, if a tornado wiped your house off its slab, your hard copies, your computer, your external drives — all of it — is gone.  I’ve seen it first-hand.  My Dad’s house is in Garland and he has all the very old family pictures.  His home wasn’t hit by the tornado, but it was really close.  My family would have lost them all.  I have made it a priority this year to scan all those photos to preserve them.

As I’ve said before, I know this is not something that can be accomplished easily or quickly.  That’s why I always stress to my clients to just get started.  Prioritize and break it down in small projects.  Maybe number one needs to be scanning and backing up those vintage pictures!

PHOTO ORGANIZING SCOOP: LET’S ORGANIZE ALL THOSE COLOR PRINTS THAT ARE IN ENVELOPES!

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IMG_3660After your general sort, you should have all the envelopes together that your pictures came in after printing — lots of envelopes with lots of 3×5 and 4×6 color prints of all kinds.

It would be great to have those photos in some kind of order, right?  How about your prints eventually looking like this?

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I realize you don’t have hours to spend and will be doing this in small steps so that’s how I’m mapping it out.

The next sort will be more detailed.  First, let’s break them down into categories.

CHRONOLOGICAL?  If you are the 2% of us who have their photos organized and labeled (yes, only 2% we are the weirdos!), you will for sure want to put them in order chronologically.  If you would like them chronological but do not have them dated, the best attempt is to do it by decades.  To help with the identifying, a big clue is just by the type of pictures themselves when the film was developed (the size, the finish), and of course by the envelopes they are in (lots of mine were in Skaggs-Alpha-Beta envelopes!).  You can even sometimes tell just by the hair-do’s and clothes!

THEME?  A good way to organize is by themes.  The themes will vary depending on what all you take pictures of.  You may have: VACATIONS, BIRTHDAYS, and HOLIDAYS.  Then for all those daily life snapshots, you may have PRE-CHILDREN, HOBBIES, CHILDREN, SCHOOL, SPORTS, PETS, FRIENDS. This is a great way to put them in order if you are thinking of doing themed-albums in the future.

At this point, you should be able to determine how many photo storage boxes you need just for the photo sets.  So…for now, get your small photo storage boxes for your small prints and go ahead and put them in the boxes in the old envelopes. Be sure to label the outside of the box with a post-it note so you won’t have to re-think it when you get ready to finalize the labeling.

As far as purchasing those storage boxes….there are many choices out there — from high-end archival boxes on-line (index divider tabs included), document boxes at The Container Store, or less expensive boxes at your local craft store (which by the way do not have index tabs included).

Even though we are not done with all the details, just having them in boxes categorized is a huge step at this point if they were all just in a bin or a box in a closet!

We’ll talk more about getting rid of the old envelopes, dividers and labeling the next time!

Photo Organizing Scoop: General Sort Done — Now What?

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You’ve taken that first step in getting your

hard-copy prints organized and the general

sort is done, photos in bins and temporarily

labeled in categories similar to these

(detailed in previous blog):

  • Vintage
  • Color prints
  • School photos / kid’s portraits
  • Miscellaneous
  • Newspaper clippings/paper memorabilia

In order to determine the next step, you must think about what your final goals are and then prioritize.

– Is it to have your heritage photos digitized?  ….for backup, to share with relatives, to create an album, make them larger so you can identify people….

– Is it just to get all the prints organized?  ….to get rid of duplicates, filed away and labeled in photo boxes, be able to find what you want when you want it….

– Is it to find photos for a coffee table book?  ….of your kids growing up, family vacations, milestone birthdays or anniversaries….

– Is it to digitize as much as possible?    ….to preserve, backup, have ready for projects down the road….

Getting your photos organized is not something you can accomplish quickly.  The key to getting it done is to break it down in smaller projects and stay focused before moving on to the next step.  So sit down, have a cup of coffee, and figure out your goal!

Photo Organizing Scoop: Prints Everywhere – Where Do I Start?

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2Before you can move forward with scanning or other projects, your hard-copy photos must be in some kind of order. This can be a little overwhelming. Of course, one of the easiest ways to do this is to hire someone like me, but you may be the type of person that wants to tackle it yourself….so let’s talk a little about how to get started.

If you are one of those people who has just thrown everything together in a box or a bin (or many boxes and bins), the first thing you need to do is a “general sort” in categories something like this:

Vintage
–  Heritage photos that were passed down from grandparents/parents

Color prints
–  Probably starting early 80’s and ending early 2000’s when the digital camera era began
–  Keep envelopes intact at this point

School photos / kid’s portraits
–  If you can do it quickly, go ahead and sort by child

Miscellaneous
–  Random, loose pictures (not family related, not that important)

Newspaper clippings/paper memorabilia
–  If you have stored paper keepsakes (programs, wedding invitations, newspaper articles, etc.) with your photos, these need to be separated

Be sure the boxes that have been sorted are labeled so when you are ready to come back to sort in more detail, you can easily tell what is what.

The next blog we will be diving in deeper!

Photo Organizing Scoop: Media Explosion — The Second Time Around

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I read an article the other day published by The Smithsonian Magazine.  It was all about how much media we see – in the digital format.  It gave all the staggering numbers of how much is produced, how much information we are bombarded with, and how we routinely cull through mainly social media.  We then pull out what we like and “collect” the items (e.g., Pinterest) and “share” our photos (e.g., Facebook).

We think the cutting and pasting of this information is relatively a new thing, but the actual attempt of dealing with all the information being thrown at us has occurred before.  Think back when printing of news was invented back in the early 1800’s.  In a very short period of time, there was an explosion of media and dozens of daily newspapers were being produced.  Photography was the new technology and people were overwhelmed in the same way we are digitally today.

So how did they cope with it?  There was way too much to read and newspapers were stacking up.  It was the scrapbook.  They would cut out what interests them and keep information that might be useful later on.  Sound familiar?  We do the same thing digitally today.

The digital age of pictures happened in the same way.  Just all of a sudden, we had hundreds (now thousands) of digital images to deal with and overwhelmed as to where to start.  Most of us are still trying to figure out the best way to manage it all.  It definitely has become more complex with so many devices, apps, and photos!!  Who would have ever imagined that a personal photo organizer would be a profession?

Photo Organizing Scoop: Welcome

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Just so you know where all this good information is coming from, let me introduce myself.  My name is Cita Sue Cox and yes, I am from Texas (if you can’t tell by my name)!  I am one of those 2% of the population that actually have my pictures organized.  Looking back, I don’t believe it was because I’m OCD or anything, I think it was just something I loved doing.  If I ever had a moment of spare time while raising my family, that’s what I was doing — writing on the back of each picture, filing the envelopes, and being sure copies were made to send to all the family members.  I even made copies of the best photos of my two sons together so that each of them would have a copy someday.  I remember thinking at some point how great it would be to do this for other people, but thought at the time there was no way anyone would pay someone to do that!  Little did I know how technology would change things and the profession of photo organizing would evolve.

I was blessed to be able to turn my passion into a business.  I am now a certified personal photo organizer and I am passionate about helping people get their memories in order so they can share, preserve, and enjoy them!  This is a fairly new profession that a lot of people don’t even know exists.  I decided to start this blog to inform people about the field of photo organizing.

The digital age has totally changed how we take pictures, the volume of how many we take, how we share them, how we organize them, and for sure how we preserve them!  It’s a wonderful thing, but has brought on the problem of dealing with so many photos in so many devices in so many places!  I’m hoping I can share some things that will bring insight and awareness and ideas to help you with your precious memories!

Photo Organizing Scoop: What’s the Problem?

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large_9465827613Here’s the process of getting our pictures before the digital age:
1) Purchase a roll of film and load it into the camera.
2) Take 24 pictures (or 36 for vacation) with care because you did not want to run out of film plus the more film you use the more it costs.
3) Take the film to your local grocery store or the local Fox photo booth (drive-thru) for developing.
4) Pick your printed pictures up when ready (you could get one-hour processing for a higher cost) and of course order doubles or triples to give to family or friends.

What’s the process now?
1) Pull your phone out of your pocket or purse — ready and accessible all the time.
2) Take as many as you want to get a good one (you can always go back and delete the extras).
3) Download photos off the device to your computer.
4) Once on the computer, organize them in folders.
5) Go through and delete the bad ones.
6) Share them (if you haven’t already) on social media or e-mail.
7) Figure out what to print and for what (to give to family, for back-up, digital photo book, etc.).
8) Send them off to get printed.
7) Back up.
I covered it loosely because it’s not as black-and-white as it used to be – but I think you get the picture!!


 

There are many more steps to organizing your photos today than in the past.  SO….the generation that only had to “develop and print” now has boxes and boxes of printed photos that probably need to be organized!  On the digital side, most of us do not get the photos off the device because we may not know how or never have the time, and the sense of urgency is not there since we have already seen the photo.

It turns into one of those things that then gets put in the “I’ll get to it later” category.  Life goes on and we continue taking pictures and then we are behind and before you know it, the task is overwhelming.

There is a stat that comes to my mind that I heard just a few months ago while attending a personal photo organizer conference (yes, there is such a thing).  The “develop and print” era spent one hour a month on their photos. The equivalent to that now is nine hours a month.  Wow!