Archived Articles
 Archved Information
 Sinclairification by Grant Sinclair

Organizing Your Pictures When You Come Home

17 Aug 2008

Welcome home!  You’ve had a wonderful trip, seen a lot of things, done a lot of things, gotten home sick, got over it, missed your family, friends and pets, taken a lot of pictures and hopefully returned safely.

Now that you have unpacked, done your laundry, checked your E-mail, called your family and friends, had something to eat, had a nap and are unwinding, you have all those pictures to go through.

Hundreds and hundreds of pictures.

To start, if you’re reading this, you probably didn’t read this article.  Or you read it and decided to ignore it.  Now you’re back from your trip and your pictures from all over the place are, well, all over the place.  You went on a trip – that much is certain.  But for how long and where is still a bit of a mystery, at least as far as your pictures are concerned.

Before you try to share, print, save or enjoy your pictures, you’ll need to get organized.  How do you get organized and make sense of all those images?  With this article, that’s how.

For digital photographers:
The first step is to collect all your pictures.  Before you do anything else, check your memory cards.  Next, try to remember if you put pictures other places.  Did you upload anything to a photo sharing Web site?  Did you E-mail any pictures?  If so, did you copy yourself on the E-mail or save the E-mail in your Sent Mail folder?  Were any pictures uploaded to online storage?  Did you save any images to your iPod or other portable storage device?

Create a folder on your computer and call it “Pictures from the trip” or something similar, in which to store your pictures from the trip.

Sometimes pictures that are automatically labeled by the camera will have the same file name.  This usually happens with older cameras and even then only in succeeding flash cards.  If this is the case, you may find the computer asking you if you want to replace one picture with another.  For example: “Do you want to replace the file “CRSX0026.jpg” 3.31 MB with the file “CRSX0026.jpg” 3.80 MB?

Be sure to click “No,” otherwise you run the risk of losing pictures by copying over something you may want to keep.  Then put the second picture (the one that was going to replace what was already in the folder) in a different folder.

Just click No!  Screenshot © Microsoft

To keep things clean and neat, try the following:
1) Create a new folder for each set of photos.  A folder called “Pictures from memory card,” another folder called “Pictures from online storage,” a folder called “Pictures from E-mail”, etcetera.

2) COPY your images to your computer. DO NOT cut and paste!

3) If your photo program offers you the option to “Delete images from device after copying,” make sure the box is unchecked!

Make sure the "Delete pictures from my device after copying them" box is unchecked! Screenshot © Microsoft

The reason for the advice in numbers 2 and 3 is because should something go wrong with the photo transfer, like in the image after this paragrah, you’ll still have the pictures on the original source and you can re-download or re-copy them if you need to.

This image didn't transfer correctly from the camera to the computer.  I still had it on my memory card, so I was able to download it again.

This is the picture, re-downloaded.  I know it's not a great picture, but it proves my point.

Let’s take a short break for a second. 

I know that all this advice can be confusing.  I’m quite aware that most people keep all the photos from their trip on their memory cards until they get home, then copy the pictures to their computer without a problem.  These people usually take relatively few pictures, go on one trip to one place for a week or two, stay at the same hotel the whole time, then come home.

This advice is for them, sure, but it is mainly for people who travel to many places, stay in a variety of types of accommodation, do a lot of packing and unpacking, travel for a few weeks minimum, need to keep track of tickets, passports, money and other things.  You know, the backpack across a continent kind of people.  As a result, all the photos they have taken get stashed in various locations and they need to sort it all out when they get home.

That’s not to suggest they are unorganized, but while they travel, they probably have other things on their minds.  If you have ever traveled like that, you would understand.

Back to the article.

By now, hopefully you have accumulated all your photographs from all locations, sources and devices.  The pictures are all on your computer in folders.

Now you’re ready for the next step.

For Film Photographers:
Hopefully you’ve been taking notes and labeling rolls of film as you go.  If not, you won’t know what’s on each roll until you have the film processed.

When you have the prints made, get doubles of each set.  It usually won’t cost much more than one set of prints and it’s easier and less expensive to have doubles made than it is to go back to the photo lab and have more prints made, even in the cost of gas alone.

If the photo lab that is processing your film offers to scan your images to CD in a high-quality scan for a reasonable price, do it.  Having digital versions of your prints, especially if someone else makes them, saves you time and gives you the flexibility of digital imagery.  To save money, ask if they can scan more than one roll of film per disc.

Once your pictures are all processed, labeled and stored, you should be ready for the next step.

For Slide Photographers:
That’s right, we didn’t forget about you.  You probably don’t need our help, but we’re going to provide advice anyway.  It’ll be a good refresher or helpful to someone starting out shooting slides.

As with the film photographers, this advice assumes you haven’t been taking any notes or labeling film as you go.

Before you bring your film to a photo place, call ahead and ask if they provide E6 processing.  Most drug stores and big box supermarkets won’t have this capability, but proper photo processing labs should.  Because of the popularity of digital photography, finding a photo lab with E6 processing can be difficult.

When you find a location that suits your needs, don’t expect to get your slides back in an hour, like with digital or film prints.  Even when a place tells you they can handle sides, they usually don’t do the work in house, but rather send off your film to a lab.  This can take between three days and a week, depending on how many rolls you have, how much work the lab had and the geographic location of said lab.  Also, be sure to have your slides mounted in plastic.

If the photo lab that is processing your film offers to scan your images to CD in a high-quality scan for a reasonable price, do it.  Having digital versions of your prints, especially if someone else makes them, saves you time and gives you the flexibility of digital imagery.  To save money, ask if they can scan more than one roll of film per disc.

While you’re waiting for your slides to come back, you’re going to have to do some shopping.  All the items mentioned here are available at our store and at the bottom of this article through, so you don’t have to go very far to get what you need.

1) First, you’ll need to pick up some labels.  When you get the slides home, you’re probably going to want to label them.  Regardless of if you want to or not, do it anyway.  You’ll be happy you did.  We like the Avery labels, because printing out labels on your computer will be a lot faster and easier than writing everything by hand.

There isn’t a lot of information you need to put on a slide label; just the following should be fine: Location, date, photo information (Film ISO, F-stop, meter, etc).  There isn’t a lot of room on a ˝” x 1 ľ” label, so three lines of information should be plenty.

As far as location is concerned, to print a whole sheet of labels with the same location shouldn’t be a problem.  There should only be a few labels you won’t use.  However, printing a whole sheet of labels with the same date may be counter productive, unless you took 80 pictures that day (80 being the number of label per page).

A better way to enter date information for the label is to replace the date (day) information with a few underscores.  For example, instead of the date reading “26 September 2002”, it would read “____ September 2002”.  Later, you would then fill in the date that photograph was taken.  When you do this, write neatly, in pen and write while the label is on the sheet, NOT on the slide!  You could slip while writing and puncture the slide.

But how many labels to buy?  Easy, just buy one box of 8,000 labels (10 sheets of 80) for $28 and you won’t need to worry about it for a while.

2) Next, you’ll need something in which to put all these slides.  We like the transparent three ring binder slide pages by Avery.  The link to buy them through Amazon is at the bottom of this page and in the store.

When you are buying pages, you’ll need to know how many to buy. Simply, more is better.  Even if you don’t use all the pages for this project, they don’t expire and you can use them for slides you need to store in the future.

In any case, buying a few more than you think you need will save you time and money.  Be sure to label the pages.

3) Finally, you will need some place to store the transparent slide pages.  A simple, inexpensive three-ring binder should be all you need.  We recommend buying one binder for each trip.

While you shouldn’t spend a lot of money on something as common as a three-ring binder, at least buy one that’s strong enough to stand vertically.  Don’t get the 80 cent flimsy kind that’s just a folder.  You know what I mean.

Once your slides are all processed, labeled and stored, you should be ready for the next step.

For all photographers: Arrange your photos by date.  If you can’t remember the exact date the pictures were taken, grab a notebook, a pen and as many of the following items as are handy:  A calendar, your passport, airplane boarding passes, train or bus tickets, ticket stubs from museums and attractions, receipts, itineraries and whatever else you can find.

Digital photographers have an advantage here, because the computer should record the date the picture was taken, if the time and date settings in the camera were set properly.

Once the pictures have been arranged chronologically, there is some labeling to do.

Digital photographers: On Windows, select the pictures you need to label using Shift, then highlight the images LAST to FIRST.  Right-click the name of the first image, select “Rename” in the drop down menu and title the image.  You can also just use F2.

Film photographers: Label the envelopes with the prints.  If you want to label individual prints, you would better off using adhesive labels.  Write on the labels or print up information on the computer, but don’t write on the back of a print.

Slide photographers: Print up, mark and adhere the labels as outlined in your section of this article.

When naming an image, title it something like “Paris, France,26Jul09.”  The simple naming convention will help keep file names short and organized.

I encourage using both the city AND country in the file name, as well as the date, three letter abbreviation for the month, followed by the last two digits of the year, or DD/MMM/CC (Date, Month, Century).

When labeling a photo that takes place in the first nine days of the month, label 01, 02, 03, etcetera.

Once all the images are organized and labeled, burn them to CD or DVD (using as few discs as possible, but as many as necessary) while leaving the images on the computer.  Check the discs to make sure all the images have transferred correctly before you delete anything off your computer.

Now that the pictures are on CD or DVD, make sure that the disc is labeled and the ink is dry.  Then store the disc(s) in a safe place, like a DVD binder or jewel case.  Be sure to view the images on the disc to make sure everything burned properly.

Now all of your pictures are organized.  They have been labeled, printed, stored, protected, burned to disc and archived.

All the hard work is finished.  What are you going to do with all these pictures?

That, my friends, is an issue for another article.

© 2008

Thank you for reading.  If you have something to add to this article, please click here to go to the Contact page and select “Contributing to an article” from the drop down menu.  Please enter the article title in the message field so your addition goes to the correct article.  Thank you for your contribution!

Items featured in this article: