Photo Organizing Tips

A few of you wrote to me after I posted about my new year's goals to ask how I sort my photos.  Apparently just about everyone in the universe has piles and piles of images on their phones and computers, and/or paper envelopes full of prints and negatives in boxes. It took me a while to figure out a system that worked for me, but since it does, I thought I'd share it. *Although I write here about digital files, the same process works for film.

A pile of photos

1.  Once a month I download all the photos from my phone and cameras onto my computer and into my photo software. I use a program called Adobe Lightroom to organize photos on my computer, but iPhotos or whatever program you currently have is fine if it works for you, and as long as you can rename your files and sort them into folders and subfolders.

2.  I download all those files into a folder I call “TO SORT”.  Creating this folder has helped enormously because I know exactly where stuff is that I haven’t looked through yet.  Here I weed through the images, getting rid of duplicates, etc.  If I have 5 photos of the same thing, I’ll pick the best one to keep (two if I can’t decide).  Then I delete the ones I’m not keeping.  Be ruthless!!!

3.  I've created a folder structure organized by year and month, with special trips & events having a folder of their own within that particular year.  I found this to be the simplest solution.  I thought of trying to group stuff by category: garden photos, flying photos, etc, but I liked having a chronological order instead.  I can always tag or label my images to reflect a category if I want to.  I put the number of the month in front of the name or they’ll arrange themselves alphabetically and, thus, out of order.

Photo Sorting Screenshot.jpeg

4.  Once my “TO SORT” folder of images is culled, I’ll add them to the proper month’s folder (eg, 04-April), and then rename the images once they're in the folder.  I name each image with the year, month, and then a sequence number: 201704-01, 201704-02, etc.  You should be able to automate this process within your photo software.

5.  After I've sorted & renamed files, I make sure to back up my hard drive and then I delete images I don't still want on my phone.

* The secret to making this work is to be diligent about setting aside time to do this.  Start NOW with the new system, and then just catch up with the rest slowly.  Yes, I am overwhelmed with years of a backlog, but now I just spend 10 minutes every morning going through photos.  Eventually they’ll get done. It’s amazing, too, how many photos I'm able to delete after some time has passed because I'm not as emotionally attached.  Also, because I’m so sick and tired of the mental energy required to hang on to everything forever, I’ve gotten kind of fired up about getting rid of anything that I don’t truly love.

* At the end of the year, I delete everything off my phone except my few favorites from past years.  If you take a ton of photos, try doing this more often :-)  I also look through & delete images from my phone when I have a few random minutes, say, waiting at the doctor's office or standing in line somewhere. It beats wasting time on social media.

* For those who have film and actual photographs, this system still works. Just use envelopes with the month/year system.

An older box of my photo envelopes

An older box of my photo envelopes

If you are feeling ambitious, you could get archival sleeves to store your negatives, and even have them scanned so that you can get them into your computer. (If you're local to Columbus, McAlister Photoworks does this, and if you're not getting giant pro-level scans, it's pretty inexpensive.)

Negative sleeves

Negative sleeves

I hope this helps!  If you have a different system that works for you, please share it... I'd love to know how others tackle this overwhelming task.

Instagram Round-up: Tucson

A few photo friends and I decided to meet in Tucson a couple weeks ago to talk shop, pick each other's brains, share new work, meet up with our photo mentor, and attend photographer Masao Yamamoto's lecture and exhibition opening at the Etherton Gallery. (And also do whatever else we felt like doing.) We created our own conference, and are already thinking about next year's plans to meet up again (all photo friends are invited!)  It was truly an inspiring week. Here is my short collection of Instagram images from the trip:

Our Lady of the Pinecones

Our Lady of the Pinecones.  This little backyard shrine was tucked into an alcove at our Airbnb. She wound up meaning a lot to me, coming to represent the guardian of all the new ideas and plans for my art projects that surfaced during this trip. I don't have to worry about a thing, because Our Lady's got my back. 

Fox on the mantel

This little guy was the first thing I noticed when I walked into the living room of our Airbnb.  He is the CUTEST.  

Backyard planter

Backyard greenery.  I loved this.  It took us forever to figure out that the building behind this planter was a garage.  We thought it was the host's house because it looked too pretty to be a garage, so we were extra quiet and didn't walk around the yard.  The house manual kept mentioning a garage though, and finally we went looking for it, only to discover that it was staring right at us the entire time.  Lol!

Swan's house

Swan's house.  Four years ago I took a photograph of this tree.  I thought I should take one this time too.  I loved spending the morning on Swan's back porch, soaking up all I learned during my photo consult and waiting for Elizabeth to finish hers.  (While eating delicious, fresh-out-of-the-oven vanilla poppyseed pound cake.) (And helping Catherine un-stick a cholla from her finger.  Those things are crazy!)

Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear cactus, photographed on the drive up to Phoenix.  We chose to go the long way that wasn't a highway, so that we could stop if we saw something interesting.  There wasn't all that much time in between leaving Tucson sprawl and entering Phoenix sprawl.  But oh well.

Tanoue Shinya 

We visited the Phoenix Art Museum, and got through it in a bit of a hurry as we were going to meet another friend of mine for lunch.  Even in a hurry, though, there is always something that makes you stop and really look.  I loved this sculpture by Tanoue Shinya. It reminds me of waves on a deserted island that's the texture of maple tree helicopter seeds.

Cornelia Parker, Mass (Colder Darker Matter)

I'm always drawn to big installation pieces, even if I don't understand what they're necessarily about. Things hanging from the ceiling, something that takes up an entire room, maybe video and sound and three-dimensional objects all combined into an experience.  This one was very straightforward and so beautiful: Mass (Colder Darker Matter) by Cornelia Parker. These were the charred remains of a church that was struck by lightning.  It even looks like it's in the middle of exploding. Mass. Science and religion in the same word.

lisa-sette-gallery-claudia-retter.jpg

The Lisa Sette Gallery.  After lunch in Phoenix, we popped in to see what exhibits were up and chat with Lisa a bit.  Of course, what do I photograph... ?  the doorway on the way out.

Orange patio table and chairs

Patio chairs and table at the Airbnb. This was my favorite place to sit.  Sunshine-y but shady, and big enough for us all to share our projects, drink tea (or Woodford, depending on when you stop by), and cheer each other on to do all the good work we want to do this year.

Kitt Peak

Kitt Peak, looking out from my favorite cliff.  I hemmed and hawed about whether to drive all the way out there or not, but after taking Elizabeth to the airport I just couldn't NOT turn west instead of north.  I hope it's in the cards this year to go back and stay for more than a couple hours.

Thank you, Tucson.  You never fail to deliver just the right mix of art, outdoors, great company, and a kick in the pants to get my work done!

2018 Goals

I liked having a list of goals last year. I wrote them down, hung them where I could see them every day, and tried to plan my week so that they were included somehow.  I didn't finish all of them, and some turned out to be not very realistic, so I took that into account when thinking about this year's list.  Here goes!:

Nanchang CJ6

 - PASS MY FLIGHT REVIEW and take a friend for a ride (or visit one). Yeah, "learn how to fly again" was a 2017 goal that was waylayed for all kinds of reasons (a broken airplane being one of them), but yes, it turns out I DO still want to be an active pilot, and this year I am going to make it happen, dammit.

Writing drafts folder

- BE A WRITER.  Since I've started blogging more often, I wonder about revisiting some of the pieces I've written.  Maybe they could be shaped into more polished, finished essays...?  Dunno.  But I want to shift how I think about writing so that it's not just something I do in service of another project. I want it to be something I am.  Or at least am becoming.  A writer.

My desk

- CREATE GOOD SCHEDULES, routines & systems. And make sure I take a "weekend". I love freelancing, but now that I have more projects I'm juggling at once, I really need to get organized. Not just with physical spaces (see my happy desk photo above), but with my time and daily routines, and with the steps I take to get a project done. I need a weekend too.  Two days that are somehow different from the rest of the work week.  I always seem to put off personal projects to work on "work," but then they just keep getting put off.  Maybe if I actually scheduled a weekend, I would look forward to that time and not feel guilty about not working. I guess it's a good thing to love what you do for work that the line between it and fun gets blurry. Any freelancers out there with advice? Let me know!

Mom and Dad and our family photo wall.

- SORT THROUGH MY BACKLOG OF PHOTOS.  I have YEARS of personal photographs that are sitting on my hard drives.  It's terrible, and I am DONE with that!! This year I'm going to sort through them all (or at least make a big dent) and then start making actual physical photo albums (remember those?) and prints to put in frames on the wall.  I grew up with a family photo wall  and I want one of my own.  (That's my Mom & Dad with our family wall, now split up between my brother and me.) This task completely overwhelms me, but if I do a little bit every day...

Ana Luisa, our ChildFund sponsor-ee.

- BE A GOOD PEN PAL.  My Mom and Dad sponsored children through the organization ChildFund ever since I can remember, and when they died, my brother and I decided to continue their sponsorship.  We send our monthly contributions and occasional cards, but I really want to write letters more often.  It feels a little frustrating sometimes because there's such a time lag between correspondence, but what a dumb excuse. So this year I want to do a better job of keeping in touch with our sponsored child, Ana Luisa.  My brother's not a big letter writer, but this is my chance to be a pen pal again. 

Reading on the couch

- READ DAILY, AND NOT JUST AT BEDTIME.  Last year my goal was to read 25 books.  I got through that and a few more, but I found out that I feel guilty sitting down to just read during the day.  I wind up waiting until bedtime, and then I'm sleepy and can't always keep my eyes open.  Why do I feel guilty taking time out to read? I think part of it is that it doesn't feel "productive."  But I don't feel that way if I sit down to watch tv, so what's up with that?  A friend finally pointed out: "Writers read." Enough said!

Ohana tenor ukulele

- DAILY UKULELE.  By the end of the year I want to get through my lesson book and be able to play the Spanish guitar pieces that are at the back of it. I will get farther along if I practice even a tiny bit every day than if I lump it all into long sessions not as often.  It's really about creating a new habit: slow and steady wins the race!

- LEARN SOMETHING NEW.  My friend Kathleen is taking a stilt-walking class and it's inspired me to think about what I want to learn this year.  There are a handful of things I'd like to try: baking bread, learning Italian, etching & monoprint, crochet or knitting, sign language... ? 

Miss Kid with my fabric pattern pieces.

- FINISH 12 SEWING PROJECTS.  One of last year's goals was to sew through my stash of fabric, but I think in the end it wasn't really what I wanted to do. I decided that instead of keeping it all in a box in the closet, I am going to give it visible shelf space in my studio, where I can be inspired by the colors and textures every day. Kinda like keeping your paints and canvas out where you can see them.  My new goal for the year:  12 projects. That's one a month.  I think I can handle that (especially now that I will schedule a real weekend every week.)

Bicycle wheel and tires

- FIX MY BICYCLE.  While I mean this literally (I sooo miss having a working bicycle and I didn't get around to fixing it last year), I realize it's also a metaphor for keeping my body moving and eating well. 

Whoa there!

Whoa there!

- FINISH CLEARING THE HOUSE and finally have a housewarming party.  This was on my goal list last year and, no, I didn't complete it. I did a few bits and pieces and then all of a sudden it was December and my brother was going to come up for a visit. The guest room could no longer serve as a storage unit!  Panic!  I worked like crazy to get it done, and then my brother couldn't come after all.  Although I was sad I wouldn't see him, I was SO PROUD of finishing that room!  "See? You CAN get sh*t done when you put your mind to it." On New Year's day I walked around the house with a clipboard and came up with a list of 48 projects that also include things like "organize laptop files" and "sew up the hole in your coat."  Yikes. But I've finished 7 things so far!

Maybe it's my vagabond heart that makes me keep things in boxes forever. I've moved so often that maybe I don't trust anywhere to be really be HOME for more than a few years. Or maybe it's that going through old stuff is just hard sometimes. And also time consuming.  Regardless, stuff is literally standing in the way of my creativity. (see photo of my studio closet above... how am I supposed to get to my printer?!)  After finishing the guest room, I feel like I can tackle pretty much anything, so I'm going to unpack boxes, get rid of stuff I don't need, hang up artwork, and then celebrate with a -- FINALLY! -- housewarming party.  You're invited!

Artwork displayed on the wall

I hope your January is going well so far!

2017: This Year I...

Traveled to Seoul, Venice & Vienna, and a handful of places in the U.S., like this fire tower on top of Bays Mountain in Kingsport, Tennessee. 

Bays Mountain fire tower

I read at least 27 books (plus a few cookbooks) before I lost the piece of paper where I was keeping track.  Airplanes are my favorite places to read!

Reading on the airplane

Bought a chaise and spent sooo much time in my magical fairy land (aka the front patio).

Patio garden

Celebrated a year of sewing by buying a new sewing machine.  No, I did not sew through my fabric stash (as was my goal) but that's okay.  I did make a few dresses...

Handmade dress

Started unpacking boxes and hanging up artwork. The guest room is no longer a storage unit, so if you'd like to come visit and stay awhile, please do!

Artwork on the wall

Took a walk almost every day.  Griggs Reservoir is beautiful no matter the weather or season.

Griggs Reservoir at sunset

Gave a few more Flying Adventures readings & artist talks, taught a class at the Ohio State School for the Blind, AND already have more on the calendar for 2018, including two museum exhibits and a workshop at CCAD's Summer Educator's Studio.

The audience for my artist talk

Took a solar plate etching class at Phoenix Rising printmaking co-op and know that this is how I want to print my next body of work. I became an associate member, so now I have no excuse.

Inked solar plate
Solar plate etching

Received a Greater Columbus Arts Council grant for a one-on-one book binding workshop at Cloverleaf Studio in Austin, Texas. I finished the first copy of the new edition of Flying Adventures (thanks, Jace Graf!).  Stayed in this amazingly cute Scotty camper Airbnb while there.

Scotty camper
Assembling the new edition of Flying Adventures

Got my first few website design jobs! Woo-hoo! This was an very DIY sign I made while at a conference.

Homemade sign

Went on some new flying adventures with John, and figured out that, yes, I do want to get my butt back in the front seat, pass my flight review, and be able to call myself a proper pilot again.

Nanchang CJ6

Spent Thanksgiving week with my family in the mountains outside Asheville, NC, in the same house we used to rent with my Mom and Dad.  Ahhh the fireplace! and the hot tub beneath shooting stars.

Fairview mountains, North Carolina
Ding room table

Sang! I put my red velvet back on and finally got to work with Columbus superstar Colin Lazarski. I don't think there's anything I love more than singing holiday jazz at the Westcott House in Springfield.

Singing jazz

Spent 24 days of December opening advent gifts from my brother. We made calendars for each other in honor of my Mom, who used to make them for us.

Advent calendar

Finished the year with a visit to Pittsburgh. The Carnegie Museum is always an inspiration.

The Carnegie Museum

Best of all, there was snow...

Pittsburgh snowscape