I’m so glad you’re here! If you’re reading this article, that means that you care about documenting your family and getting those precious memories off of your computer and onto paper. This photographer highly approves!! 🙂
I know organizing and printing your images can seem like a daunting task, so I’ve broken it down into 7 steps for you. In this project, I’ll be working on organizing my iPhone snapshots, but you can apply these steps to any image files you want to print.
We’ll be using some paid programs that I highly recommend, but if you can knock out your project in 30 days or less, your total cost will only be $10. Not bad!
Programs you’ll need:
• Photo Mechanic (free for 30 days, $150 for full license)
• Lightroom – $10/month
• SmartAlbums (free for 30 days, $300 for full license)
Total cost if you complete everything within 30 days: a whopping $10
Alright…let’s jump right in!
Step 1: Decide how you want to organize your images.
I will just go ahead and say it: I am NOT a fan of iPhoto.
iPhoto drags all of your photos into a database and makes them really hard to organize outside of the program. All I’ve ever used to organize my images is Mac’s Finder program.
My personal images are sorted into folders by year, and then within each year are more folders for each event. I don’t have a ton of folders (remember that saying that the cobbler’s kid never has any shoes? yup, totally applies). But if you have more folders than I do, you could create sub-folders by month with event folders inside those.
Here’s what a sample year of personal photos looks like:
Back those files up!
My ENTIRE computer is stored on Dropbox, which constantly and automatically syncs to the cloud. This is awesome for peace of mind and easy access! However, I’m also a firm believer in creating multiple backups of anything digital, so I also have a hard drive backup AND a copy of that backup on another hard drive. Most people don’t know that hard drives only have an average life span of 4 years…crazy, right?!
My image folders are all images taken with my “big camera” except for the iPhone folder, which stores all of my cell phone snapshots. You might only take photos with your phone, which is totally OK! In that case, I would just start with ONE main iPhone folder and then sort those images into subfolders. That’s what we’ll be talking about next.
Step 2: Download all of your images using Image Capture.
This is the easiest way to get your images off of your phone if you’re using a Mac. You can find it in your applications folder:
Once you open Image Capture, you should see a window that looks like this:
You’ll want to check “Delete after import” so that you only have one copy of every image (otherwise organization turns into a nightmare because you’ll have duplicate files swimming around).
Choose the folder where you want your images to live, and then hit Import All on the right. Let Image Capture will work its magic. Then, you can open up your folder from Finder and your images will have magically appeared!
Step 3: Sort your phone files with Photo Mechanic.
I cannot say enough wonderful things about Photo Mechanic (and they aren’t paying me to say them, either)!! It has revolutionized my workflow by making it simple, easy, and FAST to organize and select which images I want to use. I can cull an entire client session (between 32 and 64 GB of raw images) in 15 minutes flat without bogging down my computer. Worth every single penny and then some.
If your phone photos are anything like mine, they’re a jumbled mess of saved Instagram stories, screenshots, movies, and original images. From only two months, I had 744 files in my iPhone folder…crazy! So first things first, let’s get those sorted out.
To open your image folder, just drag the folder icon over to the Photo Mechanic icon in your dock. Or, you can manually navigate to the folder within Photo Mechanic.
By default, images are usually sorted by capture time, but let’s sort them by type.
This will group all of your movie files together, so let’s now create a Movie subfolder. Shift-select all of your movie files, and then navigate to File –> Copy/Move Photos.
We’ll create a new folder and move them using these settings:
Let’s repeat the same step for PNG files, which are usually screenshot files.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be left with regular image files, and Instagram Stories files. Let’s sort the remaining images by width, since Instagram Stories are more narrow than default image files. Then we can move Stories into their own folder too!
As we’re making these new folders, you’ll notice that the changes are taking place in Finder as well. That’s because your image files always live in the same place when you stop using iPhoto! So much less frustrating!
We should now be left with only full-size images, which are the ones we’ll want for the album. To keep things organized, let’s move those into their own folder as well.
After you’ve created your 4 different folders, here’s what your Finder window should look like:
Step 4: Choose your favorite images for the album.
Now that your original images are in their own folder, let’s go ahead and select which ones we’re going to print.
Open “original images” in PhotoMechanic, and then double-click the first thumbnail to bring up the image browser.
Scroll through your images using the arrow keys, and press 1 for the images you love the most. You should see a little pink bubble next to your image name. Don’t worry about being too picky yet; we just want to do a quick first pass through. If you want to unmark an image, just press 0 to return to the default marking.
Once you’ve gone through all of your images, X out of the preview window to return to your image folder.
In the bottom right corner, hit the color black to hide all of your unmarked images and display only your pink images, which are your top picks.
If you’d like to narrow down your images even further, go back to the preview window and use #2, which will change your top picks to red. Then X out of the preview window and hide pink images, which will leave only your red images. If you have a ton of images and need to be ruthless, you can continue all the way up until #8 (gray).
Once you’re satisfied that you’re left with only the images you want to print, let’s move them into a subfolder so that you can easily located them in Finder. A simple subfolder called “best” will do the trick:
Step 5 (optional): Edit your chosen images in Lightroom.
If you’re not really picky, you can skip straight to step #6 and start designing your album! But if you’re like me and want to edit each image first, let’s open up your “best” folder in Lightroom and make some quick batch edits.
Let’s go to File –> Import Photos and Video. Choose “select source” in the top left corner, navigate to your “best” folder, and then hit “choose” in the bottom right. Make sure all your images are selected, then hit Import.
From here, we’ll quickly edit each of our images using the Develop tap at the top of your window. Here’s a look at a typical edit for a phone image (I don’t usually dive into the advanced features that I would use for clients, since the goal is just to get my personal images printed at all!). I also like to straighten each image.
Once all of your edits have been made, let’s go back to the Library panel, hit Cmd + A (select all) and then choose File –> Export. We’ll create and select a folder for our edited album images, then export our images to that folder.
…..aaaaand, TA-DA! We’ve now edited and culled your images and are ready for…
Step 6: Design your album!
You can definitely use whichever album printer you love, but for my own iPhone album, I’m going to be using Blurb. I love Blurb for my secondary album projects because they have higher page limits, and I have LOTS of images! For my really important and meaningful albums, I use my the same professional printer that I use for my clients’ albums, but Blurb is great for my cell phone images. I recommend splurging for the premium paper, which makes a world of difference in the image colors.
SmartAlbums is another program that I can’t recommend highly enough! I can design an entire album in 15 minutes flat. If you’ve ever wrestled with online design software, you know that it can be complicated, confusing, and slow. SmartAlbums is intuitive and the layouts are gorgeous and seemingly infinite.
To create a new album, let’s choose our album printer and size:
We’ll leave the default options on the next screen, and then save the album file in our Finder folder:
Now, let’s drag our edited images into SmartAlbums:
To create your first spread, just drag a few images onto the blank page and SmartAlbums will automatically lay them out for you. You can cycle through different designs using your up and down arrow keys, or by clicking the icon at the top of the album spread.
After you’ve used an image in your album, the thumbnail will appear grayed out so you don’t accidentally use it twice. You can also filter your view to only unused images.
Like many consumer printers, Blurb pages do have a gutter. This means they don’t lay flat and it’s harder to see the part of the image nearest the spine. Because of this, I usually don’t print full-page images so that nothing is lost in the middle of the book.
When your design is all ready to go, just choose File –> Export, then upload your finished album file to the printer’s website! Voila! That wasn’t so bad, was it??
But what if I don’t have time??
If you have your hands full and this printing guide left you feeling panicked that you’ll never print your images, let’s figure out another option! Here are two recommendations:
- Check out ChatBooks! This service connects straight to your Instagram account and uses a subscription model to send image books straight to your doorstep.
- Hire a professional photographer (you had to guess that was coming…ha!) You’ll be in your images instead of taking them, they’ll all be gorgeous and edited to perfection, and you can even order a handmade professional album that will look 10 times better than Shutterfly. You’ll get your life back AND you can flip through your new album with your kids and remember happy times. 🙂
However you choose to organize and print your family photos, I’m proud of you for taking the initiative to document your family’s memories! GO YOU!
I can’t wait to see what you create with this guide. If you love your finished album and care to share, I would love to see a photo! Send it my way: kate@kateLphotography.com.
Now go print to your heart’s content!!