Is it time to create your photo estate?

Is it time to create your photo estate?

Many of us have received photos, photo albums, boxes and/or scrapbooks from our parents and grandparents.  Back in first half of the 20th century not many pictures were taken and the ones that passed on were treasured, that is if you knew who was in the picture.  Fast forward to the present where we are taking pictures at breakneck speed.  The problem isn’t too few pictures, but too many. 

Look at your shelves of the dozens of albums or boxes of photos and think about what really is important to pass on to your loved ones that tells the story of your life.  Trust me, no one looks forward to inheriting 30 photo albums from their parents, however, they will cherish a smaller, curated collection.

Start thinking of our photo (and media) legacy now.  If you plan on passing on any of your photos, videos and film to our children or other relatives, I can guarantee they don’t want everything.  However, they do want something. 

My colleague, Mollie Bartelt defined a photo estate nicely in her book “A Simple Guide to Creating Your Photo Estate.

“A photo estate is a collection of photos, film, video, documents, and memorabilia organized in a manner that allows another person or person to view the photos, learn about the lives documented, and be impacted by the legacy of those people.”

 Don’t be overwhelmed by the term.  The concept of a photo estate or a legacy collection is simple, find the important stuff that tells your story, digitize or preserve it, and share it with your loved ones.

Gather everything together

Here are 8 steps to help you create your Photo Estate

  1. Gather together all of your media – including, photos, slides, videos, film, and memorabilia together.
  2. Organize your media.  This is a good time to eliminate duplicates and bad or unimportant photos and slides.
  3. Scan your important photos, slides and documents and convert video and film.  After conversion, you can also sort out bad video and films from the collection.
  4. Combine your scanned items with your existing digital collection (assuming that is organized).
  5. Add the stories to your photos and other media.  What is important about this photo or video?  This can be added to digitally to photos through the metadata saved to each picture.
  6. Back up your digital collection using  the 3-2-1- method
  7. Preserve your original media in archival storage containers. Yes, don’t throw photos and film away.
  8. Share your digital collection via a cloud service and/or create photos books of the most important photos to share with loved ones.

I will not tell you this will be easy or quick.  No doubt about it, this is a long-term project.  It also may be the most rewarding one you take on.

Assessing Amazon Photos

Assessing Amazon Photos

Did you know that Amazon Prime Members have access to unlimited photo storage?  Since many people already pay for Amazon Prime, I decided to download the service and check it out and see what it has to offer.  What does Amazon Photos storage include?  For Prime Members they will store unlimited photos at full resolutions and up to 5 GB of video files.

Part of my work as a photo organizer is to assess different photo organization storage systems.  The downside is that I have my photos in far too many locations, let’s just say they are pretty well backed up.

I do have a unique situation.  Our “Photo Hub” is actually a Network Attached Storage Drive (NAS).  It is running in a raid (two drives with the same information).  It is sort of a backup, but not a safe offsite backup which I recommend to clients.  I already run Backblaze to backup my entire computer.  This is a cloud backup service that is very reasonably priced.  Backblaze backs up my entire computer and will also backup attached external hard drives to the cloud.  The problem is a NAS is not the same as an external hard drive.  I discovered that cloud backups of NAS drives can be very expensive, primarily because they are often commercial products that hold large amounts of data.

I discovered that Amazon Photos will backup my photos directly from my NAS. Woo-hoo!

You will need to go to Amazon and install the Photos Desktop App that looks like this:

So, I got started.  My Photos folder on the NAS contained about 270 GB of data, mostly photos but also some videos.  It took about 3 days to upload the photos.  We just switched to Metronet that has much faster upload speeds than Comcast.  Expect it to take much longer with Comcast.  Also, if you are streaming a lot of movies this month, and who isn’t, you might go over your data limit.  That is part of the reason we got rid of Comcast was that I frequently had to upload and download photos from clients from the cloud.

I reached Amazon’s 5 GB video limit almost instantaneously.  I wasn’t surprised.  Anyone that has a smartphone and takes an average number of videos and has videos saved with their photos, will run into the same problem.

What to do?  This is where Amazon gets its extra money.  You can get 100 GB of video (and documents) storage for $19.99/year and 1 TB for $59.99/year.  They also offer larger plans.  I just finished a large conversion project with about 300 GB of video, so I needed to go with the larger plan.  I was able to add my about 260 GB of videos at a later date and they downloaded overnight!

Note that your files are getting uploaded to Amazon Drive that will be accessed by Amazon Photos.  This is what it looks like on Amazon Drive.  On the left sidebar, you can click on Amazon Photos to open up a Window for Amazon Photos.

Another feature is a Family Vault that allows up to 5 family members to share their photos to this library.  That can be a nice way to get photos from your family members.

You can also set up the app on your phone to automatically download your photos.  It will download to a directory on Amazon Drive and Photos will access the photos from there.  

When I open Amazon Photos, frankly it looks like every other automatic photo program.  You see a mass of images/videos on the page that are automatically organized by date and time. 

Here is the Home Screen for Amazon Photos.

If you scroll down the screen farther you can see how Photos categorizes photos, including a breakdown of year and month.

Organizing automatically by date and time can problem for many people. 

  • I have a meticulously organized collection organized by chronology and events.  Amazon Photos does not recognize any sort of folder structure you might have set up.
  • Anyone that has pre-digital photos and videos will see a big mess of files that are basically organized by the date they were digitized/converted unless someone had gone through the effort of changing the EXIF data in all the photos and videos.  Not likely.  Not even me.
  • If you have any digital pictures that were organized in a folder structure but had the wrong data in the metadata, they are also not going to end up where you want them.

However, you can go to the Amazon Drive Backup directory ( to see the existing photo structure.  These are two different applications, but one set of files.  You can’t see this in Amazon Photos.

What I like about Amazon Photos?

  • It backs up your photos at full resolution.  If you need to download them back from Amazon, they will be returned at full resolution and the metadata remains intact.  Google Photos compresses files and Apple Photos returns different resolutions based on how you share them.
  • You can access the photos anywhere you have access to the internet.
  • People tagging is easy and efficient.  None of these programs are perfect though, and many of my daughters’ pictures were mixed up.  You can fix it on each photo. This feature is proprietary and can only be used in the Photos program right now.
  • It also picks up “places and things”.  You can search for beach or Orlando or other places or things that Amazon detects in your photo.  It also lists the options on the sidebar.
  • The location information with a map showing when you click to get information is nice.  The picture below was taken from an airplane.  I had no idea where it was specifically taken, but my GPS was recorded in the image.  I love geotagging.

  • The search function is nice.  It will search the file name information as well as places and things and it does it quickly.
  • You can do basic photo editing in the program.  However, the changes will not go back to the original files on your computer.  When you edit it will ask you to save as a copy.
  • You can order prints or create projects directly from Photos.  I could see myself doing that.  You can create albums of photos for particular projects, you can either download the specific photos you want to use (without impacting originals or use their services to create projects.
Order Prints and Projects from Amazon

Other issues with Amazon Photos

  • If you make changes to the filenames in the folder it is watching for backup, it will create a duplicate file.  The program will only make additions to your backup folder.
  • I have found other duplicates that I can’t explain, especially from the phone download.  Amazon will use the same file name but add info in parentheses.  Some have suggested not using or disabling this feature for this reason.
  • It is possible to create albums based on Amazon Drive Folder Structure, but you have to do this one directory at a time.  It is probably not worth the effort.
  • I can’t see any metadata such as descriptions or keywords that I might have added to the photo.  You also can’t add any.
  • You can’t change file names and you can’t sort your photos by file name.  For those of us who put dates in the file name, especially for old files, this decreases the program’s functionality.  
  • It is possible to change the date and times of files.  However,  if you choose a grouping of files it will make all the dates and times identical.  Other programs offer the option of a time shift.  
  • Inability to make “smart albums.”  Other photo organizing software allow you to set parameters to create albums, this does not.

Final Thoughts

  • This is by no means a complete how-to for Amazon Photos, but I wanted to give you the feel of the program before you might want to commit time and effort to it.
  • The issues related to not being able to make changes to metadata or file names may be because Amazon Photos Backup sends files in only one direction – from your device to the cloud.  The Backup feature Photos is not Syncing like in DropBox or Google Photos.  That is not necessarily a bad thing though.  In this case, I want a backup. 
  • There is a syncing option in Photos/Drive that I have not addressed in this review.
  • Know that Amazon Drive and Amazon Photos are two different applications.  However, the photos you load into Amazon Drive will show up in Amazon Photos.  Photos you Backup into with Amazon Photos will show up in the Backup Directory on Amazon Drive.
  • If you want to use Photos for a backup, understand the folder structure won’t show up in Photos, only in Drive.
  • If all your photos are digital originals and don’t have date issues, this can be an effective way to backup files.
  • I would not use Amazon Photos to Organize your photos. 
  • It is a great way to access your photos from the cloud.  You can share them to a TV via Firestick and the Fire TV Amazon Photos app and you can post to social media from Photos.  If you have a Tablet, it can be a great way to access photos to show to others.
How to STOP Taking Live Photos

How to STOP Taking Live Photos

If you have an iPhone there is a pretty high chance that you have taken a Live photo by mistake.  What is a live photo?  Your iPhone not only takes a picture but also a 3-second video at the same time.  Why is this a problem?  Because most people don’t know that they are taking short videos it can quickly use up valuable storage with files you don’t need.  I have worked with clients that had thousands of unintended LIVE photos and it can be a real hassle to delete them. 
If you download your photos to your computer, this is what it will look like (Windows File Explorer)

You will have duplicate file names with one jpg (or HEIC) and one MOV file.  Often the MOV file is more than double the size of the jpg.  You can see that if every photo you take is a Live Photo, you will have lots of extra unneeded files and lots of storage space devoted to them.

The best thing we can do to manage this problem is to disable Live photos unless you specifically want to take one.  I have found that many people don’t know how they enabled them or how to disable them, so I am including step by step instructions with videos.

Open your iPhone and go to Camera Icon

Look at the top of the screen on your iPhone to see if you have Live Photos Activated.  If it is activated you will see a yellow circle/target on your phone.

Clicking on the yellow circle Icon will turn LIVE Photos off.  This is what it looks like.  When you open your camera application this is what you should see each time.  

You can take extra measures by going to your iPhone settings to help avoid LIVE photos from activating each time you start up your phone.  Here’s how:

Open Settings on your iPhone

Keep scrolling down to the sixth section where you will find the Camera App and select it

Select Preserve Settings

Make sure the Live Photo setting is on

Note that this setting saves whatever setting you left your camera app to – this means if you used the Live Photo function it will start with the Live Photo function activated the next time.  However,  you are much less likely to accidentally take Live Photos following these steps!

A Digital Photo Frame Can Be a Great Holiday Gift

A Digital Photo Frame Can Be a Great Holiday Gift

A digital photo frame can be a great gift for people who seem to have it all. As you know, digital photo frames aren’t new.  Many people may have already purchased one in the past where we needed to upload photos from a USB drive.  From my experience, those devices don’t get updated and they end up gathering dust.

For the past several years more digital frames have been developed where multiple people can remotely load photos onto another person’s photo frame from a computer and smartphones.  With texting and social media we often feel like we are sharing our photos all the time.  However,  many people, especially older adults may not have social media accounts or see your photos when you post them. Digital photo frames can be the answer to sharing more personal pictures with friends and family.  A few years ago we personally purchased a Nixplay for a family member.  Everyone in the family can upload pictures to their frame.  I have to admit I like going to their home and seeing the photos uploaded by other members of the family from around the country.  Many of those photos I might not have seen otherwise.

If you are interested in buying a new frame, prices range from $100-$300.  Look for the ability to upload from whatever devices you have.  I also like frames to have onboard memory on the device and motion detectors so they are not on all the time. Don’t forget your family member will need to connect most devices to wi-fi. 

Here are some links to recent reviews of different photo frames to help you with your decision:

Photo Frames for Grandparents

Best Digital Photo Frame

Tom’s Guide to Digital Photo Frames.

Why you should backup and PRINT your digital photos

Digital Photo Collage - Do you have a Photo Backup

Whenever I talk to a new client, one of the first questions I ask is whether they have a backup plan for their photos.  If they don’t, it will be the first thing we do.  Why? Digital media is very prone to have failures.  Here are a number of ways we can lose our photos:

  • Electricity spike fries hard drive or computer
  • We drop or phone, hard drive or laptop
  • Fires, floods and other natural disasters
  • Hard Drive Failure for no apparent reason
  • Corruption of individual files
  • Stolen phone, camera, computer

Here are examples of what files may look like once they have become corrupted. More likely though, you won’t be able to open the files at all.

Corrupt Photo File
Corrupt Photo File
Corrupt Photo File

This can happen and you won’t even know it.  But it will happen inevitably if you keep your photos on one device for a long period of time.  Unfortunately, it is not “if” it will happen, but when it will happen.

What can we do?  Photo Organizers will tell our clients to subscribe to the 3-2-1 system to for your photo backup.
3 – Copies of our photos
2 – Different media they are copied to
1 – Copy of the photos offsite
It sounds overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.

The first things we will do is get an onsite backup of your ENTIRE COMPUTER.  Don’t try to organize things first!  Purchase an external hard drive (EHD) that is at least twice the size of your computer’s hard drive to dedicate to backups.  You can find 2-4 TB Hard Drives locally from $50-$150.
Setup a backup to run frequently to this external hard drive.  For Macs you will use Time Machine and it will automatically want to set it up for backups.  For PCs using Windows you can use File History or a program like Genie Timeline to setup your backup.  Some EHD’s come with software installed to backup your computer.
With that done you now have your photos in two different places- but not two different media.

PRINT YOUR PHOTOS – this is also a photo backup
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you PRINT your photos.  Not all of them. Not all at once.  This will help protect you from any sort of technical failure.  In my personal collection I have had to re-scan photos from my albums that had become corrupt on my hard drive.  I wouldn’t have been able to do it had I not printed them on the first place

The easiest way for us to do this is to store your data in the cloud through the internet.  Yes, there are plenty of places we can safely store our photo backup.  I recommend a backup service for your entire computer such as Backblaze.  You can back up your computer and your EHDs with the service for about $50 a year.  Other options include Carbonite and Mozy.

Another option for offsite storage is to periodically back up your information and put in a safe deposit box or keep at friend or family member’s home.  This may not always work in a case of a natural disaster.

Go on now, get started. 


 ISO HELP??? 😢😓😫
90% of my photo albums are completely gone. Totally disappeared overnight!!
This was the fifth report I’ve submitted to Facebook with absolutely no response!!!
Those are the only copies of every picture I’ve taken from all my medical missions from 10
different countries.
Please help me find them, I have no idea where they went and they are extremely important to me!!! 😢 😤 😡 😫😩😢😭😤😠😡🤬🤯😰😥😓
Who knows how I can submit this directly to Facebook to get an answer???😫😫😫

First, I have to say my heart goes out to the woman who wrote this.  The tough lesson is that Facebook should never, ever be the primary storage for your photos.  It’s fine to use Facebook to show pictures to your friends and family but please don’t make the mistake that this person did and rely on Facebook to store your pictures.  

Here’s why:

  • Facebook compresses pictures dramatically so they are unprintable
  • Facebook renames pictures to a string of unrecognizable letters and numbers
  • Facebook strips all metadata from the image.  If you use Keyword, titles or captions and comments they will be lost.
  • Facebook strips date information from the file.  Every digital picture automatically records date information and is often the easiest way to find a picture.

This is the original photo uploaded to Facebook.

Full set of Metadata on Photo

Same Photo Downloaded from Facebook

Metadata stripped from photo downloaded from Facebook

Take a close look at the two graphics above.  The top graphic is the original image uploaded to Facebook.  The bottom graphic is what is downloaded from Facebook.  The file is compressed from 2.29 MB to 80.8 KB, All identifying information about the picture has been obliterated, from the file name, to date taken to added keywords and camera information.

So even if the woman in the Facebook post were to recover her pictures to they wouldn’t resemble what she uploaded.  She is relegated to thumbnail-sized pictures of her life.

Around 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook each and every day.  In order to keep a handle on storage space, files get compressed, image date is lost.  Facebook even has an option to upload a high quality image.  Unfortunately, you get the same tiny file on download.  

What is the moral of the story? 
Share photos on Facebook, do not store your photos on Facebook.  Also, do not consider your photo printing site such as Shutterfly or Walmart a place to store your pictures.  If you want a cloud solution to storing and backing up your photos, consider iCloud if you have an iPhone,  Dropbox, Google Photos or Drive, Amazon Prime Photos, OneDrive and Forever are also possible choices for all computer users.  All have varying degrees of automation and ability to save your file information (metadata).