Digital photo nightmare

By: 
Wade Young, wade@montgomerymnnews.com

I love organization. When I need something and find it where it’s supposed to be, I am a happy camper.
When I have to search for something that’s been misplaced, my blood pressure rises and my mood sours. That’s when the swearing starts.
Over the weekend, my wife Bonnie was upset because our family’s digital photos are everywhere. It’s important to note that she is a scrapbooker. She LIVES for family photos. It’s how she creates her beautiful pages.
“I just want all of my photos in one place,” she said.
The request seems simple and reasonable. However, granting it will probably create a scrapbook page called, “Wade’s funeral” with a photo of me crying in front of a computer.
Our family’s digital photo storage system is a mess.
No, our digital photo storage system is a nuclear disaster.
A generation ago when we stopped using film, which made our lives sooo much easier, and digital photography took over, we have failed to remain organized. As technology and devices changed, our photos have fallen into the digital junk drawer of hell.
Our photos are EVERYWHERE:
• On Samsung phones, which are backed up to our Google accounts, because Google used to be free. (More on that later.)
• On our Apple Computers, which used external hard drives that are not compatible with our newest computer. If our recent photos make it to the computer, they are backed up to our Apple iCloud accounts - plural because Bonnie’s computer and my laptop each need their own account.
• On tiny digital disks from outdated digital cameras. (At least these are all contained in a bowl on the office desk.)
• On thumb drives we used years ago when we tried to organize our digital life. (Also in the previously-mentioned bowl)
• On our Kindle devices, which are Amazon products.
• We also have photos from Snapchat and other social media accounts. I don’t know where they are. I just hit “save” when I see something I may want to view later. (I never view it later.)
Life was so much simpler before cell phones when we used film and were forced to choose which photo to take. Remember the days we went to events and had to EDIT our picture choices before hitting the shutter button? Once you’d taken 36 photos, you were done!
Today we take 10 photos of a toddler blowing out birthday candles because we want to capture the PERFECT image.
We need a photo-organization method that saves time — and allows us to essentially throw out the need to sort and tag our enormous photo sprawl.
Hindsight being what it is, I should have stuck to one storage format (Google, Apple) when we entered the digital age because then all would be in one place. However, who knew so many options would pop up?
It is a real-world dilemma: the drive(s) in our computers will eventually fail; local external drives could also fail - or be stolen or lost in a fire. Cloud services, which most charge a fee, will 100 percent raise their prices over time.
Case in point: Many people jumped on the Google Photos bandwagon when the search giant announced free, unlimited photo uploads a couple of years ago. Since June 1, 2021, that deal is dead.
I searched online for my choices. When I typed in “digital photo management” I received 9.07 BILLION results, including Flickr, OneDrive by Microsoft, Apple iCloud, Amazon Photos, Adobe Lightroom, IDrive Photos … etc.
I guess we are not alone with this problem.
A consumer problem is these online options only last as long as you want to pay the subscription fee, and the service is offered. If it gets too expensive or they go out of business, what happens? Say “bye bye” to Lily and her doggie birthday party from 15 years ago. (A real life event for our dog, for which we don’t have any photographic proof - at least none that I can find.)
The idea of organizing the “mirror of my life” makes me want to smash the mirror. After all, who cares? Will I ever sort through 20,000 photos?
No.
Do I need something to do that for me?
That’s debatable, depending on whom you ask. Me? Nope. Bonnie? Yes.
Another problem evolves when you finally assemble all of the photos, then you have to try to assign “value” to each one. I am inclined to toss 19,800 of them because I will never take the time to look at them.
My wife, on the other hand, will search for the perfect photos for her beautiful pages, which I so very appreciate. They are fantastic and thoughtfully placed in beautiful books that are easy to view.
It’s a lot more fun passing around her scrapbooks to see the kids’ middle school pictures than it is spending 45 minutes of phone scrolling to find a photo from 6th grade.
So the answer to the question if we need a device to organize our digital lives would be yes. I love the scrapbooks and want to see those continue.
I also love my wife, and when we needs the photos organized, I will try to make it happen.
However, a more important lesson would be: At some point, we just need to let things go, put down our phones, look at each other, and enjoy the scenery.
But what if we MIGHT forget how pretty it is?
That will happen, so we better take a picture of it!

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