Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Using and Organizing Your Photos

In this age of digitization, people sometimes are confused about how to use their photos. Remember when every photo you took was printed? Remember the plastic that held your negatives? Remember the old photo albums with the sticky pages? Now we need to look for new ways to organize. The variety of software on the market can be confusing. There are backups to consider and search terms to add. Where shall one begin?

Here's how I organize my photos. First, I transfer images from my camera to my computer's hard drive. Every image I take is reviewed. I do not save them all. It is much easier to delete a digital file than to cut a negative out of a strip. Next, I back up my images on a second hard drive AND onto a disk. Best practice (from an archivist's perspective) is to keep one copy of your photos off-site in the event of a disaster. (BTW, you should also do this with any important documents in your possession.) After my photos have been copies, I label them using ACDSee software, which I found after much research. I have found this software very helpful and easy to use for keep track of my images. I try to label images every month, but honestly it doesn't always work out that way. Use general keywords for labeling as well as names of people and places in your photos. Record any important information that will help jog your memory about the event. The camera should record a time stamp that is permanently affixed to the image's record so that you know when the photo was taken. It will also record your camera settings.

I edit my favorite photos using PaintShopPro, which is a scaled down version of Photoshop. It is much less expensive, but suits my purposes and surely would serve the needs of any amateur. Most photos require color tweaking and other adjustments. "Plugins" are available on the Internet -- some for free and some for a fee -- to allow you to do fancy things with your pictures. My favorite plugins are "Xero" and "Virtual Photographer," which are relatively inexpensive. I've yet to dabble with expensive add-ons.

You can put finished photos in albums, but be sure to use archival inks and papers for the photos themselves. I use the Epson Sylus Photo 2200 printer. The technology is a few years old now, but it is still considered one of the standard printers for professional photo printing. Use archival quality albums. Do not just pick up an album that says it is archival quality because like "all natural" products in the US, this term doesn't have a standard. Look for the terms "acid and lignin free" to help ensure your storage products are safe. To be super sure, use an accepted mail-order archival supplier such as Gaylord Brothers, Light Impressions, University Products, and Metal Edge. You also can put pictures in digital frames. They make great gifts! Photos can also be placed online for friends and family to see. Shutterfly, snapfish and Kodak are three well-known sites that let you place photos online.

Make the organization and preservation process part of your standard workflow. 1. Take picture 2. transfer to computer 3. backup 4. edit 5. print or put in photo album. The process is easy if you just treat it as a routine.

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