Organizing Our Family Photos

Previously, I have shared how I backup our family photos to keep them safe. That is the first step in managing our photos. The second step is organizing them in such a way that they can be enjoyed and shared.

Have you ever run across an old photo and wondered who it is a picture of? Maybe you turned the photo over hoping to see some writing that would help you, but there is none. Or found a baby photo in an album, and wondered if it was your husband or his brother, because they looked very similar when they were babies?

Those are the types of situations I am hoping to avoid for our family and future generations. Here is how I do it.

For many years I have used Lightroom to organize our photos. It is by Adobe, so I am pretty confident the software will be around long term, but even if Lightoom disappeared tomorrow, my organization would still be in place. Let me explain why that is important.

Years ago,  I organized my digital scrapbooking supplies with a different software program. All my supplies were in one major folder on my computer, but I used the software’s tagging system to label papers, ribbons, stickers, frames, etc. I spent many hours doing that. Wasted time.  The next time the software upgraded, there was a glitch and I lost ALL THOSE TAGS.

It was a hard lesson to learn, but an important one. From that point on, I used folders on my computer instead of proprietary software to organize my supplies.

Now, back to our photos and how this applies. On my computer, I have a Master Photos folder, and inside are individual folders for each month of a year from April 1996 (the month we got married) all the way to January 2018. The basic structure of my photos is built not in Lightroom, but on my computer. The folder names are like this, so they stay chronological within the main folder:  1996-04-April  to  2018-01-Janaury.

Then my photos get imported into Lightroom by folder, so the structure within Lightroom is the same, but if Lightroom crashed or went away tomorrow, my photos aren’t a jumbled mess of dates.

The next step in Lightroom is to apply some basic keywords, to larger batches of photos I see as I am importing. For example, if I am working with a group of photos from May, there might be several from Mother’s Day. I will tag those because I like having holiday photos tagged. I will also do this for things like 4-H activities or photos from church. If someone else has shared a photo with me, the photo gets tag with who it is from. Within our immediate family, I also like to tag when there is a photo of all 3 of us together, or a photo with our daughter and one of us. This has come in handy on a couple of occasions when looking for a photo for a project or gift. Here is an example of what a photo of my daughter and I from Mother’s Day 2002 looks like in Lightroom:


The labels on this photo are: Becki, Becki and Katie < 1 Our Immediate Family, Katie, Mother’s Day, photos by MomW.

Those labels mean that I could access that photo using ANY of those words. If I looked up all the photos that my mother in law has shared with me, it’s there. If I look up all photos tagged with Mother’s Day, its there. If I look up all photos with me in them, it’s there. If I look in the May 2002 folder, it’s there.

There is one other way that it is searchable as well, and that is by date. Even though this is a scanned photo, that was scanned in September of 2017, I have changed the creation date of the photo in Lightroom to be the actual date the photo was taken, as shown on the photo: May 12, 2002. So I can also search by date.

And the joy of all this is that Lightoom writes all this information directly in the file. So you do not need Lightroom or Photoshop to see this information. This is huge, because I want all the time that I spend inputting this information to be beneficial for many years to come, and for anyone I choose to share my photos with.

The creation date, keywords, any notes I enter in the caption area, are all visible to anyone I share the photo with, and it doesn’t matter if you are a Mac or a Windows person.

Here is a photo from my husband. He went on a Tiger Cruise with his uncle who was in the Navy in 1983. They were on the USS Eisenhower. Let’s imagine my daughter finds this photo as she is looking at family photos in the cloud someday. (remember my back ups? ) She sees this picture and wonders “What is this all about?”

All she has to do is look at the file info:

And by searching for more photos of the keywords Tiger Cruise, she will find photos of her Dad and great uncle labeled with their names so she can piece the story together a bit.

Now let me share with you a couple of ways this system has benefited us recently. At Christmas time, we hosted the gathering for my husband’s side of the family this year. I was able to quickly put together a slideshow of previous Christmas gatherings dating back to 1995 that we showed on the TV as people were arriving and getting settled. So fun and so easy, and because of a little bit of organization I was able to put my finger on just the photos I needed.

Another example, in November of last year, my aunt passed away and I was able to find some favorite photos of I have of her and share them with our family so they were included in the slideshow at her funeral. Times like that are stressful, so to be able to access treasured photos easily is a blessing.

Our photos should be doing more than just sitting on our phones and hard drives, (and backed up to the cloud). We should be sharing them, displaying them, making gifts with them. If they are easy to find, we are more apt to do so. I encourage you to begin organizing your photos so you can do the same.

Creating a photo backup system


On Tuesdays, I am going to share something to help you in your digital life. I might recommend an app, share a skill you can use on your Amazon Echo or Google Home device, or a safety or organizational tip.

Today, I am going to share with everyone a little bit about how I back up and organize our family photos. On the 1st of each month I regularly encourage my Facebook friends to make sure that their photos from the previous month are backed up and to clear their memory cards and phones. Today we will take a look about what that process looks like for me.

My first form of backup is a cloud service that I pay for monthly, Crash Plan. Our family photos are precious, and something that we place enough importance on to put in our budget each month. It runs in the background and backs up the folders on my computer that I have selected, and stores them safely in the cloud. Four years ago, I had BOTH of my hard drives die within days of each other, and I was SO grateful that we had this system in place.

But knowing that no system is completely safe, I choose to backup our photos in other ways as well. I also use Dropbox. Dropbox works a little bit differently, it stores your files on your computer, and in the cloud. We have the Dropbox app on our smartphones, and have the app set to automatically upload all of our phone photos. This not only gives me piece of mind knowing our photos are safe in the cloud, but it also gives me access on my computer to all of our photos, so they are there for me to share with family and friends, or scrapbook with. Our daughter in college also has her photos set to backup to our Dropbox account, so we never have to worry about missing photos if her phone were to be lost or stolen.

And just for added peace of mind, I also have our phone photos set to automatically backup to Google Photos. In my settings I have chosen High Quality (not original quality) to take advantage of Googles unlimited free storage option. Google Photos is also an easy way to share photos with our family and friends.

At the start of this new year, I hope you will make it a priority to back up your photos, especially your phone photos. With such easy, and even free ways to do so, it just makes sense.

Multi Media Scrapbook Layouts

If you know me, you know I am pretty serious about taking photos and preserving our family history. For years we have also been taking video with our cameras and phones, but with really no good way to archive and share them. We have just continued to record things in the hope that video editing software would become more affordable, and waiting to see how technology would advance.

Then yesterday, as I was reading a Project Life blog post, one of the Creative Team Members, Jennifer Woodbury, shared about printing out  QR codes and including them in her layouts. The codes, which are linked to a website URL, are scanned using a barcode scanner on a smart phone. The user is then taken to the web page (ie  You Tube) and the corresponding video is played on the phone.

I flipped out over this, it is ALMOST exactly what I have been waiting for. Check out the layout below. We have 2 not so great quality photos of Katie singing in a church service when she was 4 years old. I remember this day- she was quite exuberant in her singing. Her cousin Lilly- not so much. A fun memory. But check it out- you can scan the QR code and totally relive the moment complete with singing and a little dancing  🙂

Click on photos to enlarge

And here is one more,  (a 2 page layout) showcasing the penguins playing at the St Louis Zoo

The great thing about this for me as a digital scrapbooker is that I can just include the QR code directly in my layout, so no extra printing is necessary.

But remember when I said this was ALMOST what I was looking for? Well there are 2 small problems, one which I was able to fix, the other which at this point in time at least, will cost money.


Hosting your video on a website such as You Tube requires you to set your preferences as to who can view your videos. On You Tube, you have the option to set your videos to Private, but that setting will not work with the QR codes on the layouts. Thankfully, all your videos do not have to be public though, the Unlisted option (which allows only those who have the direct link to see your videos) works fine. By the way, this is a great option for sharing your videos on Facebook as well.


While totally amazing, the QR codes are kind of ugly, lol. So I set out to find another option. The first I found, has been used in the digital photography world for several years. It is called Digimarc, and they began as a digital watermarking service. Pro photogs use it to protect their copyright in print and proper usage online. Digimarc has since expanded to provide “invisible QR codes” that allow users to scan printed content to connect to expanded digital media (think magazines).  Exactly what I need for my layouts right?  Currently this is a paid subscription service, but who knows where this technology will go, and in a few short years there may be a free option available. Another subscription service is called  Moodstocks, I am looking into the pricing for their service.

Until then, I will use a free QR code generator, like Kaywa.  I tried a different one, but Kaywa seemed to create the cleanest, most easily scanned code.

***A scanning tip for you- scanners seem to work best in landscape mode.****

Because I know the speed at which technology is advancing, I am keeping multiple copies of my layouts with QR codes on them. While I am pretty confident that You Tube will be around for a while, I am also confident that I will not always want scrapbook layouts with ugly QR codes on them. So I am keeping them editable, so they can advance with technology.

I am pretty excited about this new way to preserve our memories. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments about my multi media layouts.





Today we are home from church, Katie has a yucky cold, and even though she is always a trooper when she is sick, out of courtesy to our church friends, she and I stayed home. Something on Facebook caught my eye about “on this day” and it reminded me of a series of posts Cathy Zeilske did:  “On this day in Zeilske history“.

So I started going back in our photos to see if we had any good ones from this date. I realized that Feb/March are traditionally lean months for photo taking in the Wright home. I was reminded that this date is the birthday of a family friend who has gone to be with the Lord. And that we have been sick with colds on this date before.

And I re-discovered this:

On this date in 2009, I took Katie’s 11 year portraits. And while this is not the pose I chose to send to family and friends,  if I had it to do over again, I would. This is why I never delete photos- I never know how the passage of time (and technological advances) will effect how I look at my photos.



Back Up Time!

It’s the first of the month, and that means it’s time to get last month’s photos backed up. Let me show you what this process looks like for me:


1. Get all photos off every memory card (including my husband and I’s phones).

2. Download them to a folder labeled with the month and year on my computer’s hard drive.

3. Tag them with keywords according to people in the photo, events, and activities.  i.e.  Katie, birthday, CoCo Key Water Park.

4.  Rate the best photos for the month to go into rotation on my digital frame.

5.  Burn the entire months photos with keywords and ratings to a DVD.

6.  Back the same photos up to a off site location. I really like Flickr.

7. LASTLY, once each of these steps is complete, format your cards and start taking photos in the new month.


I know this seems like a lot, but if you get in the habit of adding keywords each time you get photos off your memory card (which I hope is several times through out the month), the process is much quicker.

Another tip is to set your photos to burn to DVD, or upload to a backup site during a time you will be away from your computer.

A huge wish come true….

In honor of my ***SIX YEAR digi-versary, I have an announcement that has nothing to do with me, other than making me very happy, 😀


The back story:

I was in a couple of chats (scrapbooking) featuring my VERY FAVORITE scrapbooker in the entire universe, Cathy Zielske, a few weeks ago, it was SO much fun!  Not only is she a wonderful designer, she is incredibly funny.
Several of us were encouraging her to take the leap to the dark side, and share her wonderful design style with the digital world. She hinted that she was really interested, and was learning Photoshop (being a graphic designer she works mostly in In Design.)
And a couple of weeks later, we have the joyous news the CZ has joined Designer Digitals and will be selling Photoshop templates!!!!
Can you tell I am just a little tiny bit excited?  Check out all the goodness right HERE.

*** I have been digitally scrapbooking since October 2003- WOOT!


Liz of Paislee Press, one of my favorite designers, said this on her blog today, and I could not agree more.

I love the ordinary, candid and everyday-ness of this photo because it captures the essence of us at the time – learning how to be a family of four. I didn’t realize how meaningful this photo was on the day it was taken. That’s the challenge of the ordinary and everyday occurrences. At least for me it is a challenge. Sometimes I need the passage of time to see.
~liz tamanaha


This Day in Katie History

Cathy Zielske has been doing a fun little thing on her blog lately. She posts a photo of a family member taken on that exact day a couple of years ago. She also has a great tutorial for creating photo overlays, like the one I used here.

Here’s a fun pic I found of K, taken 4 years ago. Look how little she looks!!!