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Your 5-Step Photo Workflow, from Smartphone to Scrapbook Page

Free registration for Photo Crush, the photo management challenge, is now open. The next session begins October 25th!

Photos are the foundation of any scrapbook, but the low cost and ease of taking pictures today has introduced new challenges. The hundreds of photo prints that could be filed away in a snap has morphed into thousands of digital files on multiple devices.

Fortunately, there are tools that can help automate and simplify how you handle your pictures. In this post I’m sharing how I use Adobe Lightroom, both on my phone and on my computer, to streamline photo management. However, you don’t have to use this software to adopt a similar workflow*.

* A workflow is the series of steps you take from the beginning to the end of a task, similar to a routine.

Your 5-Step Photo Workflow, from Smartphone to Scrapbook Page

Step 1: Shoot

I recently upgraded my older iPhone to a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Reviews of the camera were the deciding factor for me, despite feeling nervous about the operating system. I absolutely love it so far.

I’m using the the native camera, almost always entering through the icon on the lock screen (just as I did with the iPhone). Side-button shooting is helpful in certain scenarios and I’ve found the ability to shoot with voice commands helpful.

No matter what camera I’m using, I always pay attention to the light. Are there harsh shadows? Is my subject dark due to backlighting? Do I have enough light to freeze the motion? I certainly take a lot of not-so-great pictures, but awareness of light means more of them are good.

I also make sure to clean my lens often. My favorite tool is a microfiber pad that I use for both my glasses and my phone. Nothing saddens me more than seeing a lovely picture blurred by a smudgy phone lens.

I love my big camera, but let’s be honest here… my phone is the camera I always have on me!

Step 2: Curate

One of the reasons I’m writing this post is a recent change I made to my workflow. I noticed that photos were piling up in a staging area on my computer, a picture purgatory if you will. The automatic systems I set up were working fine, but the human component (i.e. me) wasn’t keeping pace.

So I began to look at exactly what was causing the pile-up: deleting photos. I don’t want my photo library full of random pictures of the brand of cat food we buy and 30 versions of the same selfie, so I delete liberally. But, this takes time.

In this season of life I’m spending more time outside of the home and office, including significant waiting-for-the-kid scenarios. More of my personal “computer” time is actually on my phone. However, because my photos were being automatically uploaded to Dropbox (see box in Step 3 below), there was little I could do from my phone.

Then, I decided to give Lightroom for mobile another try. Using the app (iPhone | iPad | Android), I can spend free moments picking photos with a swipe up and rejecting photos with a swipe down. It’s like Tinder for my pictures, and it has substantially reduced the backlog I face on the computer.

I will often use the filtered view to limit the photos I see to only those which are “unflagged”. These are the images that have not yet been touched and it’s oh-so-gratifying to bring that number down to zero with simple decision-making.

Alternate Method – You can also curate photos from your phone by using the native delete/trash function, and no additional app. In some case you may be able to multi-select images to delete in bulk. This works particularly well if you are manually uploading photos or using a cable to transfer them to your computer.

Step 3: Sync

Lightroom for mobile devices is a useful app on its own, but the automatic sync of images to my computer was the clincher. Now that everything is downloadable from the cloud, I rarely connect my phone to my computer. It’s a manual step that requires time and having the cable on hand at the right time, which I never do.

As you might have heard me mention, I’m a lazy scrapbooker. I don’t want to work any harder than I need to, which is why the Internet is just so magical for photo lovers like us! Lightroom sends each photo, including copies that I’ve edited in A Color Story, VSCO, or Instagram, to my computer. There’s only one small catch.

Lightroom for mobile import photos from your device to the app’s catalog when the app is open. Since I’m doing regular curation (see Step 2 above), that’s not a big deal at all. However, it’s important to understand how it works. If the app hasn’t been opened, new images won’t sync to your computer.

Alternate Method – You can also accomplish this step with Dropbox Camera Upload. By installing Dropbox on your smartphone and turning on this feature, your photos will automatically be copied to your Dropbox account. From there they can be moved (automatically or manually) into your photo library folders or your favorite software.

Step 4: Organize

Lightroom Mobile automatically creates a destination folder for your synced device that appears in Lightroom. I regularly move photos from that default location into my month folders, but the sync connection remains. In other words, any flagging, starring, or editing you perform in Lightroom on your computer will be synced back to Lightroom Mobile on your device.

With photos on my computer, I will complete any reject flagging (see Step 2) and delete all of the rejected images. Between Step 2 and Step 4, selecting the best images and deleting the rest represents the bulk of time I spend on photo management. At this stage I will also add stars to note images that particularly stand out. I tend to use 2 for “to scrapbook” and 4 for “to frame”. These will be changed to 3 and 5 stars, respectively, once edited.

Picking and rejecting photos with flags in Lightroom (on any device or computer) is the easiest way to know which images have been handled and which need to be deleted in bulk. This is the step where you can also add tags to your photos. While I can see the benefit for locating related images, it’s not a step I’ve successfully integrated into my process.

My library has a simple structure with top-level folders for years and then month folders underneath. Any flagging, starring, or additional metadata editing takes place in my month folders, where I’m only looking at a few hundred photos at a time. Lightroom catalogs photo files but does not house copies of your images. This is one reason I love Lightroom: my original files are organized exactly how I see them in the software.

Alternate Method – Well-organized folders on your hard drive or an external drive are the essential foundation of photo management. Software can be used on top of folders to help you find and edit photos more easily, but it’s not required. You can start now with a folder for 2016 and sub-folders for each month. As time allows, work backwards to bring older images into that framework, but don’t let prior disorganization stop you from taking care of new pictures.

Step 5: Edit + Print

Ease of editing, especially in batches, was the original reason I started using Lightroom. A few years ago I attempted to edit every photo I was saving. It quickly became impossible to keep up and I’ve given up on the goal. Instead, I will edit photos with a specific purpose in mind. Usually this is for scrapbooking, but I will also edit batches of photos for framing or sharing with family.

Note: I take a lot of pride in my photography, so it’s worth it to me to add a final polish to images that leave my computer. Your opinion might differ from mine and that’s OK. 

With my photos in Lightroom, I have a couple of different options for printing. Sometimes I will export a batch of photos to a folder and use Persnickety Prints to order my prints. Most often I print at home using my Canon PIXMA Pro-100. If I am printing a single image I will use the Canon Print Studio Pro plug-in directly from Lightroom. If I creating a collage of two or more images, I will save that as a JPG and then print from Photoshop using the Print Studio Pro plug-in.

Printing can be a complicated process, especially when you start talking about printer profiles and color spaces. Most importantly, you should continue using the printing approach you’re most comfortable with as long as you are happy with the results. If you’re not happy, then there is quite the array of options to consider for making improvements. That’s beyond the scope of this post, but a topic we can certainly discuss in the comments or on our Facebook page.

The big takeaway here is that I edit only a fraction of my photos and both editing and printing are as-needed tasks.

This article does not cover photo security, but I didn’t want to overlook the importance. My photos, along with my entire computer and attached external drive, are backed up automatically using Crash Plan and a second external drive. Choosing and implementing solutions for peace of mind are discussed in Photo Crush, my free photo management challenge. See below for details.

Free Photo Management Challenge

Let me guess what you’re thinking. This approach sounds worth a try, perhaps with a few tweaks to personalize, but what about the thousands of photos stranded on multiple devices, disks, and drives? I’ve got a solution for that, too!

Create a centralized photo library, eliminating duplicates in the process, with or without any software in this FREE challenge.

Photo Crush is a free, 7-day photo management challenge where you’ll create a centralized photo library, eliminating duplicates in the process, with or without any software! You’ll lay the groundwork for staying organized and printing more of your favorite photos.

The next session begins October 25th. Register now. (It’s free!)

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The Memory Keeper’s Guide to a Relaxing Vacation

As I lay on the pool float, I look up at the cloudless blue sky and quietly tell myself “relax”. Almost on cue my mind starts racing to all the things I could or should be doing, listening to the chatter both inside my head and in the world, interrupting this peaceful moment.

Relaxation is not my biggest strength and thus, I might be under-qualified to write this post. However, I’ve worked hard to let go of anxiety and mold my hobby to the life I desire. I’m relaxed about scrapbooking, even if I need to strive for that ease in other areas of my life.

The Memory Keeper's Guide to a Relaxing Vacation

In this post I want to help you feel more mellow about an upcoming adventure by ensuring that the least of your worries is memory keeping. Now I’m not suggesting that you stop capturing moments with your camera, but that you launch into vacation feeling ready.

Avoid these common photo dilemmas with a pre-vacation checklist.

While things can and likely will go wrong, you can use this list of challenges to reduce photo-related anxiety during and after your trip.

1. Your battery dies and you miss the moment. While battery life has always been a concern, the drain on our multi-function devices today makes it all the more important to have a plan.

  • Charge any devices or rechargeable batteries at least two days prior to leaving.
  • Pack needed charging cables and battery chargers, including portable chargers.

2. Your memory card is full. There’s nothing worse than running out of “film” half-way through a trip. Make sure to plan ahead for adequate space so you don’t get stuck.

  • Clear off devices and memory cards to maximize available space.
  • If applicable, bring an additional empty memory card.

3. You forget the names of people and places. Big trips don’t always get scrapbooked right away, but the details that seem so vivid right now will fade.

  • Bring a small notebook to write down key dates and facts to jog your memory later.
  • Use social media or your favorite photo storage site to document some of the details on the fly.

4. You break or lose your camera. The worst is possible, even if not likely, so extra insurance for your memories is worth the effort.

  • Use cloud-based syncing on phones, such as Dropbox Camera Upload or iCloud Photo Sharing, to ensure that a copy is automatically sent elsewhere.
  • If possible, ensure that someone else in your family (even a child) is also taking photos of your vacation with a separate camera.
  • If a laptop is taking the trip, consider making it a habit to offload photos each night.

5. You aren’t in any of the photos. As the family memory keeper, you’re likely taking most of the photos.

  • Consider bringing a tripod, shutter remote, and/or a selfie-stick to help you get into more of the photos.
  • Be conscious of your presence in the visual story, making sure to ask others to snap your picture.

6. You return home with more than 1,000 photos. When the sights are once-in-a-lifetime, it can feel tempting to make your memories from behind the lens.

  • Think about how you want to scrapbook this vacation, if at all. Having a high-level plan will boost your confidence in having “just enough” pictures.
  • Create a habit of taking a few photos and then putting your camera away to more deeply enjoy the experience.

Just an ounce of effort before your trip could prevent a pound of relaxation-interrupting frustration. And if you’re anything like me (i.e. wound a bit tight), you’ll take all the help you can get!

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How to Move Your Photos from Picasa to Other Software

Recently Google announced the retirement of Picasa, their popular-but-outdated free photo management application. Effective March 15 2016, Google will no longer update or support the desktop software.

During last week’s Photo Crush challenge, I created a video tutorial explaining how Picasa works and how to migrate from Picasa albums. I also show how to import photos into four other applications: Apple Photos, Adobe PSE Organizer, Adobe Lightroom, and Mylio.

The good news is that if you were using folders within Picasa, the exit strategy is only a matter of importing that structure into another tool.

Albums, however, are only virtual organization and require a little more leg work. There are two options to consider if your folders don’t match your albums:

1. Photos can be exported album by album to re-create the system used in Picasa. This approach would create duplicate copies, so care would need to be taken to remove the unorganized files.

2. Photos can also be tagged based on your albums if exporting would be difficult. The original files could then be imported into new software so that a software’s “smart” organization tools can help you create a new structure.

While Picasa was a simple, user-friendly tool it was not quite modernized. Today’s updated options are robust, affordable replacements to carry you forward with ease.

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Photo Library Confessions: A Peek Behind the Organization Curtain

Since 2008, one message I’ve consistently shared is that I’m in this with you. I’m your peer in fighting to stay organized and finding time to scrapbook, just as much as I am your guide.

And while I do employ a variety of tools and techniques to stay on track in life, business, and creativity, I don’t claim to have it all figured out. My photo library is one of those areas that’s loosely under control but far from being perfect.

In this post I’m sharing five confessions about what goes on (and doesn’t) inside of my Adobe Lightroom photo management software.

Photo Library Confessions: A Peek Behind the Organization Curtain

1. Being left-brained sometimes works against me. All of my photos get imported into holding area folders so that I can do deletions before sending the photos to their proper homes. This is a somewhat neurotic control issue I have, but it actually doesn’t work perfectly—or at all. I have thousands of photos still in these folders, some dating back to 2013. I need to fix this process, stat!

2. I love tagged photos, but I rarely add tags. I use the tags I do have to find related photos, but my library as a whole is woefully under-tagged. It’s something I personally value and promote, but I haven’t found a good workflow for it in Lightroom. This bums me out, but apparently not enough to ever make it a priority. The silver lining is that I often find something fun when I go digging for a photo.

3. Letting go is hard, but I’m making progress. In my ideal world every keeper photo would receive basic editing for proper exposure. Five years ago this was possible, but today it’s just not. Even with fairly rigorous deletions, there are simply too many photos. I’ve had to let go of having that expectation, but it’s still difficult for me to share batches of unedited images. They feel unfinished.

4. The first third of the year is more organized. More than a year ago I noticed that I always start strong in January and then it all falls apart in May. I correlate this to being outside more in the late spring and summer, which leads to both more photos and less time to manage them. I’m really glad that I understand this about myself, but I’m still working on the best strategies to correct the behavior.

5. Working with my photos always leads to scrapbooking. This may not be the case for everyone, but the #1 fool-proof way to get me to scrapbook is to sit me down with Lightroom. I love seeing relationships between images and noticing trends across time. Browsing my photo library reminds me why I scrapbook and helps me discover stories that are just waiting to be told.

Alright, now it’s your turn to share a photo library confession. We’re all friends here and this is a safe space. Share your confession in the comments below and how you might tackle it during the next Photo Crush organization challenge.

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How to Eliminate Duplicate Photos on a PC or Mac

During the last Photo Crush challenge, eliminating duplicate copies of photos was the most frequently-discussed topic. Not only are your photos in multiple locations, but you’ve got copies spread across numerous devices and drives.

In this post my aim is to provide a clear path out of the weeds for both PC and Mac users. With intentional action, you can consolidate your photo library and stop worrying about your memories getting lost in the clutter. Here’s how to begin:

How to Eliminate Duplicate Photos on a PC or Mac

Step 1.  Prevent New Duplicate Photos

It’s time to draw a line in the sand. Everything that came before may be in disarray (and take some time to sort), but from here forward you can do better.

Don’t wait until you’re totally organized to commit to more purposeful photo management. You can start where you are right now.

So what’s the secret to preventing duplicate copies? There are several:

* Your photos should have a clearly designated home. Your #1 objective should be to get your images from each camera or device to that home.

* The entire photo library should be backed up in at least one (ideally two) locations. Automated backup can reduce the anxiety that leads to duplicates.

* When transferring images, always check which photo was the last to be imported. Then, import only the new pictures to your photo home. Clear off your memory card once the newest images have been backed up.

* If you do make a copy (for whatever reason), delete the duplicate copy as soon as you feel assured the file transfer has completed. A spot-check is often sufficient.

Would you like my support and a guided plan for setting up a new duplicate-preventing system? I’d love to have you join me in the next session of Photo Crush, our FREE photo organizing challenge. Click here to register.

Step 2. Consolidate and Compare

Setting yourself up for future duplicate avoidance should feel like a big relief. With that zone under control, you can turn your focus to the photos you already have.

While there is duplicate-locating software for both Mac and PC, it’s not where I personally believe you should begin. Software is no substitute for good old-fashioned human eyeballs on the situation and can even make the progress more complicated that it needs to be.

I don’t recommend taking shortcuts when it comes to protecting your memories.

Remember the “home” I mentioned above? That’s where the master copy of every photo lives and where you’ll focus to eliminate duplicate files.

Start by creating a set of nested, chronological folders designated with years and months. If you have a particular subset of your photos that’s in the best shape, you can move just that subset into this folder structure. (If you don’t, that’s OK too.) This is your starting point.

Next, copy all batches of images to a location near that home. For example, create a “to sort” folder near your master photo library. Don’t worry about organization yet, simply copy every folder from every device into this location. You can label those incoming photos by location too, such as “photos from laptop”.

If you have a drive space issue, you can create multiple “to sort” folders or store your “to sort” folder on an external drive with sufficient space.

Note: The security of your photos is super important to me, so I am recommending making copies here. You might find it helpful to write down the original location of each folder you copy. Once this process is complete, you’ll be able to delete the originals.

So now you have a collection of folders within a “to sort” folder. They contain photos from multiple devices and you’re not sure which, if any, are already “home” in your master photo library.

Here’s the most important part: One sub-folder at a time, compare batches of photos to what’s in your home. The chronological structure will help you know where each image belongs. Using large icons or a preview pane can help, as can arranging your windows side-by-side.

Photos that already exist in the master photo library can be flagged for deletion by appending the folder name with “duplicate – to delete”. Photos that don’t exist in the master photo library can be moved into that structure.

While this process can take some time, it is the most straightforward approach. Folder by folder, you can determine which files are duplicates and which are not. And by being clear about which location is the master, you will avoid confusion.

Your goal is to move every non-duplicate image into the master photo library and be left with a “to sort” folder full of sub-folders flagged for deletion. With your master photo library newly-organized (even if only roughly), you can back it up in at least one location. This will leave you with the confidence to delete photos across your devices, eliminating duplicates once and for all.

Need a visual demonstration? Watch this video tutorial:

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