Pocket Scrapbooking with Project Life

Cultivate a good life and record it.



project photo rescue – toni’s digital hot mess

One might assume that if you work at Becky Higgins, you’re surely in a state of organizational bliss and completely caught up on all your scrapbooks.

Ha! That’s funnnny.

Friends, we’re very real around here, and I would never pretend that I have a perfect or complete memory-keeping system. Nor does anyone on our team. We are working parents with families and busy lifestyles and much responsibility … and thousands upon thousands of pictures. Every single one of us. Sound familiar? This is exactly why I’ve been feeling inspired to develop Project Photo Rescue, which is a way of helping others get a handle on the bigger picture of all things photos and memory keeping.

I am right there with everyone else — figuring out what makes the most sense for me personally — and so is everyone on our team! We ALL relate to the feelings of being overwhelmed with the tremendous amount of pictures we have respectively, and I have a burning desire to help each of us feel way better about it all.

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Toni, our shop manager, has graciously allowed us to make her our next Project Photo Rescue “victim” and we’re working with her in two main phases. The first phase? All of her DIGITAL photos. This blog post is all about that. The second phase will be when I go into Toni’s home and assess all of her physical stuff.

Now … we actually did phase one LIVE recently! We jumped on Facebook Live (me, Toni, and my brother / tech guru Kevin Allgaier) and addressed Toni’s “reality.” Kevin really was the hero in phase one, offering her solid advice on how to organize, store, and back up all of those digital photos. If you didn’t catch that on Facebook, you can now see the recorded broadcast on YouTube.

I’m now passing the rest of this post over to Kevin, who will outline his advice and tips here in written format, for your convenience.

As many, many people feel, Toni has (what she thinks) is a digital disaster. She is overwhelmed and feels physically anxious about what she has ahead of her in order to get her memory keeping under control! She has so many pictures – digital and in boxes at home.

We determined that her digital photos are all over the place: on thumb drives, SD cards, and on external hard drives and disks. Toni mentioned that she also has a ton of photos that are blurry or out of focus, and the task of going through all of these photos is causing her a ton a stress! The good news is she doesn’t have to feel stressed anymore. I have a simple plan that will take some time, but once she implements it, she will feel a huge weight off her shoulders.

The Plan:

1 – Get your head in the game – psychologically prepare yourself!

2 – Get all your photos in one place. Find all of your disks / hard drives / thumb drives / SD cards / etc. and get your photos all together! This will give you such huge piece of mind.

3 – Figure out how you want to organize your photos and make a plan. Chronological usually makes the most sense. I like to create a folder for each year. For example, I have a folder for 2015, 2014, 2013, etc., and all of my photos and videos go into their yearly folder. You could also break the folders down into months if you have so many photos that it’s overwhelming. In general, women tend to overthink everything. There’s really no need for a million subfolders. The simpler, the better. Go in with an open mind.

Every file has metadata attached to it. Data includes date and time stamp information, GPS coordinates, ISO settings, etc. This metadata is infomation about the file. When you import the photos into something like photos (on a Mac), all of that info will transfer with the photo (because it’s part of the file). Once the files are in the Photos app, you can now create “Smart Albums” that are based on that metadata, to find exactly what it is you are looking for. For example, you can create a Smart Album that will show you every photo taken 1) on your iPhone 6s, 2) between January 01, 2015 and January 31, 2015, and 3) when the flash was used. Yes, you can!! And there are many more bits of data (contained in metadata) that you can use to filter your results.

Now that you have ALL of your photos in Photos, you may find that you have a ton of duplicates. You’re not alone! There are free programs you can install and run on your computer such as (Duplicate Photo Finder). These apps will not only identify your duplicate photos but work with you to delete them!

Delete photos when going through them, but don’t let the deleting of photos hold you up. If that is overwhelming, then don’t worry about it — get them organized first!

4 – Archive – I keep between one and two years’ worth of photos in my Photos app on my computer. If you keep all of your photos forever, you will eat up so much space on your computer. Anything older than that should be archived onto a cloud storage system like Dropbox, Google Photos, OneDrive, etc….

Once a year, I go through an exercise of archiving photos that are more than a year old. For example, on January 01, 2017, I will archive all photos taken in 2015 to Dropbox. This allows me to recover that space by moving it to the cloud and off of my laptop, but still allows me to keep a year’s worth of photos in my Photos app (not to mention all pre-2015 photos on Dropbox). It’s a really good idea to have one additional backup somewhere else. An external hard drive is a good idea, kept at someone else’s house. The nice thing about Dropbox is that they have multiple data centers all over the world, so it is still protected even if something happens to one of their data centers.

5 – Accountability – Set a goal for how long it will take you and just do it! It may seem overwhelming now, but once you get in a routine, it is so easy to go through them once a year, or monthly, or whatever routine makes sense to you.

Most importantly, don’t forget to PRINT PHOTOS! You need to do something with them!

Becky again.

Pretty straightforward, right? What Kevin advised Toni to do made perfect sense to her and she is well under way in following these steps … and feeling terrific about her progress! Stay tuned and we’ll be on Facebook Live again (probably in the coming weeks) as we dive into Toni’s drawers and closets, to uncover all of her photos and memorabilia. Feel free to leave a comment with something that YOU are doing to organize your digital pictures! I believe that photo organization isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing, and we love when the inspiration goes around and around.

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15 Responses

  1. Kim kern says:

    Is there a way to create these “smart albums” if you don’t have Photos, I have a non Apple computer and I use Photoshop Elements 13?

    Thank You, Kim

  2. Karen says:

    Kevin, Any suggestions for programs that clear photos for Windows 10?

  3. Alexia says:

    Love this! What about organizing in categories such as pets, events, holidays and so on? How could that be done efficiently?

  4. Shana says:

    I have all mt digital photos on my iMac. I backup using iCloud & as well as an external hard drive & have tons & tons of duplicate files from my pc (recovery) days, ugh. Duplicates, blurry, edited & re-edited, named & re-named, it’s a “hot-mess” for sure! After watching your FB live segment, I started cleaning up my digital mess. I used the Photo Sweeper App ($9.99 iTunes) & it saved me a TON of time BUT it didn’t catch all thw duplicate files. Year-by-year I’m scrolling through files, deleting more dups. It’s tedious work, but it feels good to get it done, FINALLY! Thank you, Becky, Toni & Kevin for the inspiration!

  5. Mary says:

    I’m still confused about deleting photos from my iPad. I know that my photos automatically link over to my MacBook ( and iPhone) and are saved in the iCloud Photo Library. When I want to delete photos from my iPad, I get a message that tells me the photo will be deleted from all devices. How can I ensure that the original photo will remain on my MacBook? Do I need to save the photos in the Photos app?

  6. Alison says:

    Oh my goodness. So many emotions watching this. I am Toni lol.
    Thank you Toni for being brave and sharing. I too have digital pictures everywhere (current MacBook, iPad, iPhone, old computers, DVDs, sd cards etc) and feel so anxious about it all. It is overwhelming to know how to even start. Whenever I have tried It takes so long yo get anywhere I give up after hours with nothing to show. This video was helpful-thank you- but I still have some concerns/ qus….

    1. I have a fear of digital storage like Dropbox. It freaks me out that all your photos can be online . What about digital footprint. Is it safe having kids photos “out there”. Privacy is very important to me. I know companies like Dropbox have privacy regulations but can’t that change.? It just freaks me out. And therefore I am stuck because I have no where else to store that many pictures and like kevin said, it takes up too much memory on one device. I don’t use iCloud for same reason lol.

    2. Another problem I have is that technology is always evolving. So I had a heap of pictures and videos on a windows laptop and backed up to external hard drive but when the computer started struggling and we got a new Apple MacBook I found compatibility issues and also different photo programs created issues . Eg on the old computer I used picasa and then iPhoto. And now I upgraded software on MacBook and iPhoto disappeared and photos app began. Does that mean all my photos from iPhoto are duplicated in photos app?

    3. For some reason when I uploaded photos from other devices to my current MacBook the metadata was not accurate. It put the upload date as date photos were taken. Devastating. Suddenly photos from like 2003 are all over place and I am so overwhelmed to know how to even begin finding them and figuring out actual dates.

    Yep, I’m a mess. Hopefully I make you feel better Toni lol. And Kevin I know your are a super busy guy but if you were able to answer even one of these questions I’d be grateful!

    Becky I have been a huge fan and followed you since beginning and have a cupboard full of project life products and half completed albums, and a whole bucketload of inspiration and eagerness but I feel so stuck so I am grateful for your many attempts to encourage us to move forward and I hope to join Toni in letting go of that overwhelmingness and moving forward to cultivate a good life and record it -stress free 😀😉

    • Marie says:

      Hi Alison,

      I can so relate to every issue you adress in your message. Fear of digital storage, technology always evolving, compatibility problems when you go from PC to Mac (external hard drives formatted differently), and metadata not occurate when uploading from other devices to Photos… So overwhelming… But I’m not giving up. :-)

    • Mary says:

      I am with you on not really like cloud storage. The file names change, the folder structure of my EHD is not preserved and it is a nightmare trying to find a single specific photo from the cloud when you need it.

      One way to manage storage without the cloud is to never keep them on your computer’s hard drive. Use external hard drives instead. You can get a 3TB EHD under $100 at Amazon. Buy two. Or even three.

      Keep one as your primary source for photos. Make a duplicate of the drive on the other two. Keep one tucked away at home like in a closet and one at a offsite location like work. Once a month clone to your main EHD to the two back ups. To be super cautious, store the backup EHDs in antistatic bags.

      I still like using DVDs as storage in addition to EHD. They don’t take up much space and its easy to put a month of photos on one (two if you want an offsite copy.) If in a few years, DVDs are extinct the way people are worried, then just copy over the DVDs to the new hot media of the day. Just like old home movies went from 8mm to VHS to DVD.

      The key is to make sure that all the backups exactly match your primary source.

    • Alison says:

      Thanks everyone for your replies. I’d love to hear Kevin’s thoughts too if possible?

  7. Alison says:

    Thanks for reply Marnie. Good to know I’m not alone :) we can do it! ;)

  8. Alison says:

    *marie. Sorry!

  9. Heidi says:

    I am Toni x 4 kids and 16 years of marriage and seven moves and millions of pictures scattered on every device, in drawers, boxes, cupboards, etc etc !! Thank you for once again seeing MY exact need, addressing it, and helping me get through it!!

  10. Sarah M Bisel says:

    So, I get the basic idea of this, but I would like some actual nuts and bolts explanation…I wonder if this is found somewhere on the website.

    Anyway, logistically, how do you initially upload the photos? Do you use the Photos app, or do you organize it into folders, and then import those photos into the Photos app?

    And now…my photos are all just in the photos app. But, when I look for Photos they are in the pictures folder, but just under the app. Where are the physical photo folders? What’s the best way to set this up. (I mean details here, ….specificity is awesome for me.)

    Thanks! I appreciate the help.

  11. Hazel Poole says:

    Hi, just found this article through the Simple Scrapper and am very disappointed that none of the comments have been answered by anyone other than other viewers. Like Alison I have a digital nightmare and iPhoto now photos is not the easiest of programs to access with anything but apple programs. a true failing of apple over the years.

    I had hoped for so much more.

  12. Andrea says:

    What do you suggested for Windows users? I hope this gets answered. I see the other questions remain unanswered. I’ve watched the videos a few times and I’m ready to start. I just wonder what I can use?