Recently I’ve been sharing our Blurb yearbooks over on Instagram, and I’ve been getting so many questions about how I take our photos and keep them organized. I’ve been thinking a lot about this as we prepare to welcome our baby girl next month (it’s totally a photographer’s version of nesting), so I thought it would be fun to share my game plan for documenting our family memories in case it’s helpful for anyone else!
Obviously it’s MUCH easier to keep up with this system while I’m home and not working during COVID, but my goal is to make everything as simple as possible so that once baby is here and I’m busy juggling a million other tasks, I can still keep up with documenting our family. I’ll come back to update this post later and let you know how the system is working out. 🙂
How I photograph the images
I’m not great about using my “big girl camera” outside of client work, but I want to use it way more often to document our baby! My plan is to keep the camera out on the counter at all times so that it’s easy to grab when I want to capture a fun moment. I’m using two memory cards to swap out so that when one card is in the card reader, the other is ready to go in the camera. This will keep me from missing moments while searching for an empty card.
So far, having the camera out on the counter has inspired me to pick it up a lot more often! For now I’ve been downloading and editing new images immediately after taking them, but once baby is here, it seems like a more realistic goal to catch up with edits once a month if I get behind.
The best camera is the one that you have with you – which means a lot of our snapshots get captured with my phone! I’m sure that will continue to be the case once baby arrives. If it’s not enjoyable or convenient to bring my DSLR along (i.e. long walks or places where it might get stolen), it’s just not worth the hassle.
How I store the files
I don’t use any special photo organization software (like Mac’s Photos app) – I actually prefer to use the simple Finder image folders. Photo software can feel a bit clunky/bloated, and I find it much easier to keep everything organized and backed up using a simple folder system.
I use the following software all the time:
- Photo Mechanic for viewing images and choosing favorites (if you have Adobe Bridge, that also works)
- Lightroom for editing
- SmartAlbums for designing photo albums (more about this process in my yearbook post!)
Within the main Photos folder on my computer:
- I keep a separate folder and Lightroom catalog for every year (2018, 2019, etc.)
- Within each year, I have a sub-folder for DSLR images and a sub-folder for iPhone images.
- For the DSLR folder: Every event gets stored in its own sub-folder with the date and a simple description (i.e. “33 week bump”) so that I can find it through search later. The finished/edited folders are labeled purple so that I can easily spot which folders I still need to edit. Within each event folder, I separate the files into RAWs and JPGs.
- For the iPhone folder: Generally my phone snapshots only get printed in the yearbooks, so I don’t worry about organizing them as much. I download these to my computer in giant batches and then sort them into monthly folders. I choose favorites from each monthly folder when it’s time to work on the yearbook.
I made a little video to show you the folder structure since it’s easier to understand:
How I back everything up
I’m a fan of automatic backup methods that allow you to set it and forget it! That way there’s less room for human error (aka my forgetful brain!)
- My iPhone is automatically backed up to an iCloud plan at all times in case I lose or break my phone
- My entire computer is backed up to Dropbox at all times (all 4 TB!)
- In addition to digital backups, I print our photos regularly – the best backup is one that doesn’t rely on technology! If the worst case scenario ever happened and both my computer and my cloud backups failed, I would still have our printed albums at home.
How I print & share the images
Just for us:
- Professional portrait sessions get their own album (maternity photos, newborn photos, etc.)
- International trips get their own album (even though we’re not planning any more of these anytime soon, ha!)
- Literally everything else (DSLR and iPhone photos combined) goes into our Blurb family yearbooks. These are a catch-all for everything I want to document and remember. I share a TON about these books over in my Blurb post if you want more info! I chose to title these by year instead of by child so that if/when we have another baby, it won’t get super complicated trying to keep different books for each child. We’ll just have the one family yearbook each year. 🙂
Our family yearbooks (just finished 2018 & 2019 recently!)
Our travel albums (the colorful spines)
The albums covered in shades of white are professional portrait sessions. I don’t label these on the spine, but there’s an image window on the front of each one so I can tell what’s inside.
Sharing with family & friends:
- Chatbooks: Our families live far away (Texas and Kansas) so they love it when we share photos with them. To help them feel included, I created a private Instagram account just for the grandparents. That way, they can see photos in real time instead of waiting for me to get my yearbook printed at the end of the year. My mom hooked up the Instagram account to a Chatbooks subscription so that she receives a printed book every 60 photos. We’ve been testing it out this summer and she’s a HUGE fan of her little photo books! And I’m a fan too because the system is soooo easy!
- Instagram: I don’t want to completely overload my professional Instagram with baby photos, so I made another account specifically for baby spam. This one is just for fun / whenever I feel like sharing something. No pressure!
- Prints: When I download/edit the DSLR photos every month, I’ll upload favorites to an online gallery so that family can make single prints of any images they love. I use and recommend Mpix!
Other ways I’m documenting our family
I started journaling at the very beginning of this pregnancy using an app called Day One, and I write about once or twice a week. This season is so fleeting and I want to remember all the sweet, funny, and ridiculous details! Although I love the idea of handwritten journals, I knew I just wouldn’t keep up with one that way. With the app, I can just pull out my phone whenever I feel like writing something down. The journal automatically syncs to the cloud, and the app allows you to easily create a printed book once you’re finished.
I haven’t committed to keeping up with journaling once the baby is here, since I think it might be too much. I might open it up once in awhile to jot down little things I want to remember…we’ll see!
Although I can’t keep up with an entire handwritten journal, I do really want to keep an “old school” baby book, complete with scribbled notes and pasted photos. I think these are so sweet and sentimental. My photographer friend recommended Mushybooks, and I absolutely love ours! It has thoughtful prompts, but it’s not so complicated or long that I can’t keep up. I can’t wait to fill this out and give it to baby girl someday.
Video of baby’s first year
I think video captures magic in a different way than still photos. I’m an absolute beginner at video, but I plan to take a few 10-second video clips with my DSLR each month and compile them into a short year-in-review video for baby’s first birthday. You can see one of my first attempts in this post!
Finding a Balance
As excited as I am to document baby’s first year, I also want to fully experience motherhood and be present with our girl. I want to capture sweet moments, but I also think it will be healthy to put away the camera and the phone sometimes so I can enjoy life as it happens. I’m sure this will always be a work in progress!
(for an interesting read, check out this article about how taking photos affects how you enjoy experiences)
That wraps up my game plan for documenting our family! I’m sure I’ll need to adapt it a bit once I have a better idea of what parenthood is like. But for now, I love having a plan in place so that I can spend more time photographing and less time organizing. 🙂