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Get That Shoebox of Photos Online

Photo Lover. Photo Taker. New Dad. Team Photographer. Family Historian. Shutterbug. iPhonographer. Documenter of Dinners Out.

Whatever you are, we bet that your photos are scattered among multiple devices and social media sites, photo albums of actual prints and shoeboxes of heirloom photos.

Organizing, categorizing,  even finding them all seems like a task more daunting than climbing Mount Everest. So to help, we've put together this handy checklist of things to consider when you've finally decided to tackle that problem. 

Before You Begin

Start by thinking about what you want to accomplish. Identifying your goal will lead the way in picking the right tools for the job, from the organizational hierarchy through to the final resting place for your photo archive.

Document your child's growth on a beautiful site organized by year.

Document your child's growth on a beautiful site organized by year.


Example of an international family legacy site.

Example of an international family legacy site.


1. Define Your Goal

What do you want to do?

• Sort, categorize or file your photos and important documents. Get them all to a single location that's easy to refer to and find the thing you want.

•Archive up your photos and important documents. Is a backup via an external hard drive enough? Would you rather use a cloud-based service in case that hard drive fails?

•Tell a story with your photos. Are you the keeper of the whole family tree? Are you sharing a legacy or starting one that you want to share with your family one day?


2. Choose How You'll Sort

Will you organize your files:

•By year? Each year could be subdivided by month, or by events like birthdays and holidays.

•By family member? Each family member's history could be broken down by year, or by significant life milestone.

 •By event? Perhaps your starting this journey to track your own travels, trials and tribulations.Your goals should help you map out the best hierarchy to use for your final project. 


3. Digitize!

If your photo archive is already in digital format, you can skip this step. But most of us still have yet to turn that pile of paper into pixels, so here are the things you need to consider to get the job done:

•Will you be scanning documents and large-sized prints as well as prints, slides or negatives? This will help you decide which type of scanner to buy.

•Will you, or those you share with, want to make further prints from the scanned items?  Many scanners let you vary the resolution that you scan at, and resolution affects the speed that the scanner works.

•Do you have the time to scan everything? If not, there are services that can be hired to do the scanning for you. You'll typically send your documents to them and they'll ship them back to you with a CD or DVD. 

Additional tips

As you go about digitizing, be sure that you also:

• put the files into the correct bucket as defined by your organizational scheme.

•save the files with meaningful names that will help you, and who ever you share these files with, identify and keep track of them. 

4. Your Options for Archiving

External Hard Drives:

If your goal is to organize and back up your files, then a simple external hard drive may be just what you need. These are a very affordable way to archive your files and have them close at hand. Having more than one drive and a copy of each file on each drive is a good start for archiving your content. But be aware that all drives fail, eventually! Additionally, hard drives on your desktop don't protect your files in the event of a disaster in your home, like hurricanes, fire or theft.

Cloud Based Storage Solutions:

This solution provides you with the same benefit of an external hard drive: a place for safe keeping of your files. It has the advantage of being accessible from anywhere in the world, and it provides you with security against disaster because your data remains in multiple locations outside of your home. To compare services, consider cost (usually based on amount of storage) and any additional fees uploading/downloading your files, their policies for lapsed accounts and other details of the terms of service. The disadvantage of cloud storage is that sharing photos, and being able to easy tell your story, isn't usually a part of the package. 

Photo Website Solution:

Like SmugMug! This option gives you the best of both worlds. You get the security of cloud-based storage plus the ability to share your photos with the people you trust. Key things to consider when comparing website services are ease of use, cost, storage limits, accepted file types, privacy settings, whether they truly archive your original (as compared to compressing or resizing your files), and the terms of service regarding lapsed accounts. 


5. Tell Your Story

SmugMug provides you with beautiful, out-of-the-box websites that come with all of the tools that you need to tell your story, share precious moments of your growing family with relatives around the globe, reminisce with friends about that last beer you shared, share your passion for nature or showcase your budding business.  All while safely (and automatically) archiving your private photos and documents.


FAQs About Archiving on SmugMug

How do you manage two types of content (personal and business) on one SmugMug site?

 It's very easy to design a different look and use different privacy settings at the Folder, Gallery and Page level at SmugMug so segregating different types of content is straight forward. Using different design for different parts of your site is one way to create a sense of separation. 

The example below are from a single site using different design elements, as well as passwords, on the genealogy pages that separate them from the rest of the website.

What are the best practices for labeling vintage photos?

Use Keywords and Captions. These can be added prior to upload in photo editing software, or after upload using the SmugMug caption and Keyword tool.  

How does SmugMug handle metadata? 

Any keywords, captions and descriptions added prior to upload become part of the file meta data and stay with that file. SmugMug will display these captions and keywords, too. 

How do I integrate SmugMug into my Lightroom workflow?

We've got great tips to get you started here. We love Lightroom!

What file types can I upload?

SmugMug accepts JPG, PNG, GIF for images, and video files of all types.

What resolution do I need to use when scanning prints?

The answer really depends on the end use of the image. If there is any possibility that the scanned image will be printed, then scanning at 240 ppi is recommended. The minimum resolutions for our print sizes can be found here

How do you upload Video?

Check our pointers here.

Can I use SmugMug to blog?

Yes, you can! 

Can I upload everything into a single gallery and then sort from there?

You sure can! You can use the organizer to move images after you've uploaded them. Or make use of your keywords and set up Smart Galleries to do this for you! 

Can I use GPS data in the photo to create a map?

Yes, you can do that too

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