We have all had the experience of coming across that old shoe box tucked away in a far corner of a closet, under the bed, or in a cedar chest, that is filled with faded photographs of cherished memories. We can spend hours as a family digging through this time capsule, carefully handling the bent corners as we look on the back of each photo, hoping to find a date, or maybe even a name to help identify the slightly familiar faces on the front. We look at the surrounding objects for clues and marvel at how times have changed.
Then, we get to the more recent photos, and even amaze our younger family members with stories about how we actually had to take film to be developed and didn't know what the pictures might look like for days. We find similarities from one generation to the next, and feel our hearts fill with memories of those who no longer grace the images in our current cameras. These are the times when we can pause and realize what has really been important in our lives. The parts of each picture that bring the biggest smiles and tugs at the heart are the people and their stories. Some of the best narratives from my family's past were shared because of the nostalgia emanating from a single photograph.
So, one has to wonder, how will our future generations have an opportunity to sift through the sands of time in the form of documented images? Will there still be shoe boxes full of faded photographs? How often do we bother printing our photos, today? How many images are stored in your phone right now that have no guarantee of ever being seen by anyone but you? Many of us take more pictures than we have time to manage and archive appropriately. This is why I feel it is so important to establish a system to save your precious memories with minimal effort.
There are many options out there for saving your digital images. Some people have been diligent and actually placed images in folders, labeled them, and stored them on flash drives or burned them on CDs. Kudos to all of you! Most people are like me, who let them sit wherever I saved them when the image was taken or downloaded. Yes, I am diligent about organizing and saving my portrait images for my clients, but I don't have time to manage my personal images in the same way.
There are several things to consider when deciding which method is best for you. Think about the amount of storage you might need. Image files can be large, depending on the source. Some services allow for a certain amount of storage, free of charge. I enjoyed this luxury for about six months and quickly had to upgrade to a higher memory plan at a cost to accommodate my growing number of image files. Most services allow for large amounts of memory at minimal cost. If you are prone to capturing video of special moments that you want to preserve, then additional storage will be a must.
Other major considerations are convenience and accessibility. Will you need to take time to upload images periodically? Is there an automated method for uploads to happen? Do you need to assign identifiers such as dates and/or locations for ease of later searches, or can this be automated, as well? Can you access these images from your home computer, your phone, your tablet? Can you share some or all of your images with others? Can you allow others to have access to your collection and add to it? Can you post these images directly to Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest? How you use your digital images will depend on which of these aspects are important to you.
As a professional photographer, I did the research and found Zenfolio to be the best fit for my needs. I have been using Zenfolio for over eight years and I have been so thankful that I made that decision. However, Zenfolio is rather expensive if you are just wanting to store, access, and share your photos. Zenfolio is designed for the professional photographer who can utilize the many business tools that are built into the service as a business hosting website.
For my personal photos, I have found Dropbox to be the best fit for my needs. I take lots of photos (shocker, right?) so I do pay a minimal fee for the additional storage. I love that there is a companion app for my phone that allows me to access everything in my Dropbox from any device. My favorite feature is that I can enable automatic uploading of any and all pictures taken on my phone. The reality is that I take pictures for my business with my trusty Nikon, but I take everything else on my phone. As much as I would like to claim that I would be diligent and manually save those iPhone pic treasures, I most likely will forget. The automatic upload feature ensures that those images in my iPhone photo library are safely archived in my Dropbox photo library. This allows me to delete photos from my phone to free up valuable storage space. I can still access all of them through the Dropbox app on my phone, or any other computer. In addition to photos and videos, I can store any other files and manage them in the same way.
Obviously, Dropbox is just one of many options that serve the same function in a similar way. This article from Fortune, The best photo storage services to suit your needs, highlights the ones that I consider to be the best options. I have tried some of the others on their list, but ended up moving everything to Dropbox for the reasons I already stated above.
So, let us imagine that future again. Your future generations are gathered around a laptop or smart TV and scrolling through thumbnails of images from the past. With any luck, they are organized by date, and maybe even have some key words as identifiers of people and places. They might even be organized in folders and labeled with titles of events. Certainly, there will be peels of laughter and tears welling up from memories that have stamped our minds and our hearts. The most important element here is that the sources and documentation of these memories are preserved and cherished.
Keep making memories and cherishing them. Remember that I am here to serve you when you would like professional portraits of those you cherish most.
Love and smiles,