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How-to: The best practices for managing digital photos, part 2

Part one covered the more common file formats for managing digital photos. You can read it here.

Talking about file formats was a little tech-heavy, this part is less techy (I think). We’ll talk about image resolution, where to store photos, how to digitize printed photos and how to share digital photos. Let’s jump right in!

What resolution should I use?

Here’s the easy answer: Shoot in the highest resolution your camera offers.

While it’s true that bigger isn’t always better, when talking about digital photos, bigger usually is better. The higher the resolution, the more detail you see. You can zoom in or crop the image tighter without loss of quality.

The higher the resolution, the bigger the file, but with cloud storage, you can quickly offload those images after taking them. If you use a DSLR camera, buy the largest capacity card your camera will allow; the same holds true if your phone has a micro SD card slot. If your phone does not have a card slot, buy one with enough storage, not only for photos but for everything else. Just a year or so ago, a phone with 32 gigabytes (GB) of storage was enough, but now I’d recommend a minimum of 64GB.

There may be circumstances where you want to lower the resolution. This usually has to do with how the image will be used, and many cameras quickly adapt for this. For example, if you want to post something to Instagram, you’re better off with a square size rather than the standard widescreen/rectangular size. This aspect change affects the resolution, but rather than having to go into settings and change the numbers, you simply select square (or rectangle) on screen, then take the picture.

Where should I store them?

At RootsTech earlier this year I attended a great presentation about storing and managing digital photos. It was an excellent class that covered all the essentials. One thing that was mentioned was the importance of having an external hard drive to back up all your photos. In talking to family historians and genealogists, this is mentioned as a critical component of photo (and document) management. You DO NOT want to have only one copy and lose it.

I’m going to disagree with them. In 2017, it is no longer necessary to have an external hard drive that all your photos are backed up to. It’s not necessary because there are several excellent could-based storage solutions that do a better job of backup, and they do it for free (in most cases). And they’re not going out of business. Here are some of the better options:

  • Google Drive and Google Photos. This is my preference.
  • Dropbox.
  • Microsoft OneDrive.
  • Apple iCloud. A good option if you are 100% invested in the Apple ecosystem.

Why are any of these better? I’ll give you a couple of reasons.

  1. They automatically back up. Once you sign in, they keep everything backed up. No more forgetting. No more duplicate files backed up.
  2. They are more secure. Those company data centers are secured against power outages, natural disaster, armed assault…they’re much more secure than your house.
  3. They use data redundancy. They backup the backups. Let’s pretend that the power was cut off at the same time a tornado, hurricane, tsunami, and terrorist group attacked the data center. As a result, that data center was destroyed. Your data would be safe because it would also be at another data center.
  4. Synchronization between your computer and phone. You take a picture, it is uploaded to the cloud, then you can remove it from your phone. It will still be viewable on your phone or computer, just not stored on your phone. Google Photos is especially great at this and it’s one of the reasons we recommend it.

How do I convert printed photos to digital?

This is a big one, mainly because it will require some time to convert everything. There are some great options, though, for converting – or digitizing – your printed images.

  1. Scan them with a flatbed scanner.
  2. Use an app on your phone, like Google PhotoScan.
  3. Hire a third party service to scan them for you.

We recommend PhotoScan. It’s free and uses your phone to digitize images. You can then share them right from the app. If you want to scan at high resolution and be able to zoom or crop photos, a flatbed scanner is your best bet.

How do I share them?

Another reason to use cloud-based storage like Google Drive or Photos is for the ease of sharing. You create albums, select who can view or even add photos, and an email is sent to them with a link to the photos. They don’t send the photo, so it is kept in one place, and it doesn’t clog everyone’s email. People can comment on the photos, and you can have one central place to share and view all your family photos.

If you don’t want to use a cloud service (though I’d strongly recommend you do), you can email people the images you want to share, or you can post them to your favorite social media site. For sharing old photos and gathering the stories behind them from family members, we recommend a terrific free app called weGather, by our friends at Save Family Photos.

That’s a wrap

Those are the most common questions we get about photos. What other questions do you have about photo management? Leave a question in the comments, or drop an email and ask.

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