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Holiday how-to: 5 steps for fewer photos with more meaning

Overwhelmed with the countless holiday photos you’ve snapped already? What about the dozens or even hundreds more you’re going to take on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning? How do you manage and enjoy them instead of drowning in what are supposed to be happy memories?

That was the subject of our first-ever “live” video broadcast on Facebook and Instagram. In case you missed it, here are the highlights.

I’m a picture-taker. You probably are, too. Especially during the holidays. With our smartphones, it is so simple to snap and snap away.

I’m not a photographer. But I am a storyteller.

We want to capture the memories, but often end up with overwhelm instead of enjoyment. Do you ever look back years later and wish you had done something with those photos from Christmas, but now you don’t remember the details?

Don’t get bogged down by the sheer volume of pictures on your devices. You took them because you want to remember and relive these great times, so here are some helps and hints to do just that. (For more detail, check out our series of posts to help you organize and manage your family memories.)


  1. Sync

Set up your phone to automatically backup pictures.

You may already know that we are big fans of Google Photos, as it’s a free and easy way to automatically backup, store and curate your precious photo memories. It has some robust organizing and sharing features, also, but that’s another topic! There are other great backup options also: Dropbox, Shutterfly, OneDrive. At a recent conference, Ben gave a presentation with some great tutorials and links if you need help.decorating Christmas cookies 2007

If you set your phone to only sync when you’re connected to WiFi, you’ll save on data usage. Plus I like that it gives me time to delete rubbish pics (see below) while I’m out and about before returning home where they get automatically backed up.


2. Trash

Delete pictures as you go.

If you’re like me, you take a bunch of pictures of the same scene. I do this because- for sundry reasons- it’s tough to get a great shot of everyone facing forward, smiling, etc. So go ahead and snap away… that’s the beauty of digital photos! But then DELETE!

Note that if you delete from within your phone camera before they auto-backup, then you’re done. If you’re taking pictures at home or they automatically backup before you get your “film roll” cleaned up, you can always delete from within your backup system. If you delete from within Google Photos, it will notify you that it is deleting all copies of that photo across devices.

DON’T let all those pictures build up from the entire holiday season. Each day (maybe while relaxing right before bed, or perhaps while you’re waiting in line or in the car somewhere- not while you’re driving!), scroll through the shots from your day and delete, delete, delete! Delete duplicates. Delete blurry shots. When you take several of the exact same scene, delete all but the best ONE (or two, if there’s a really compelling reason!). This takes just a few minutes if you stay on top of it every day, and you will be so glad you did! Trust me, those few minutes each day are well spent to prevent an overload of hundreds to go through after you crash from the holiday highs.


3. ShareBig Brother & Little Sister Christmas 2011

Social media postings help.

After you’ve deleted all the rubbish shots, you’ve located your favorites. Share them! And share the story or memory or amazing experience or tradition with the photo. When you post a picture on Instagram or Facebook, make sure you write about it. That information “in the moment” will jog your memory and provide some of the detail you may otherwise forget. Also take advantage of the location tagging feature if you might not remember where a picture was taken. Sharing is also a great way to let your friends and family know what you’re up to this holiday season. If they were with you in the picture, you can tag them and ask them to add their version of the memory or story. Use your own posts as well as their additions as you capture these memories in more detail in journals or photobooks.

Did you take video that you want to save and share? Check out our post on curating family video.


4. Record

Curate as much as possible as soon as possible.

While social media postings on the fly can be a great outline to documenting your Christmas, I always recommend that you flesh it out with more detail. Journal during the holidays. You may be out of routine and have some time off, so take advantage of the change in schedule to schedule some writing time. Write about where you went, what you did together, new experiences, scary, funny, even sad happenings. Write about foods and shopping and outings and adventures. Write down special moments and memories. Pictures are rich, but the stories behind them are richer. Combined, they are a powerful record of important memories you want to remember and relive.

You may choose to record the memories in a journal, baby book, in a family letter or email. You may want to make a photobook commemorating the holidays or the entire year. However you record, make sure you focus on the memories and experiences and feelings that you want to remember and that you want to share with loved ones. If they were viewing your Christmas photos after you are gone, what message would you want told with them? What would you want them to know about your experiences together and the irreplaceable memories made?


Hilarie with Little Sister Christmas 2009

5. Celebrate

Enjoy the holidays and special moments with your loved ones. Don’t be so busy documenting that you miss out on living.

That should be self explanatory. While preserving and sharing your memories is good, actually enjoying them with those you love is better.

Don’t be so busy behind the camera or posting those great shots on social media that you miss embracing the moments as they happen.

You’ll never have this Christmas back, with your kids or grandkids at this stage. Live first. Re-live later.


What tips do you have for managing the overload of holiday photos? How do you curate Christmas memories? I’d love your ideas- please comment below.

You make memories. We make them last.

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