Thousands and thousands of photos later, we think we have seen it all with photo chaos. Pictures in closets, baggies, yucky old albums, envelopes, downstairs in the basement, upstairs in the attic, in golf club bags, ruined from water damage, hanging on walls . . . the list will never end to the possible places our clients stash their printed photos, slides and (sigh) negatives. There is one commonality that we do see with the many clients we help each year with photo organization – they typically have no idea, absolutely no idea where to start. Sometimes, clients get started, then stop . . . packing away semi-organized groupings of photos for another five years until something motivates (usually a graduation, wedding or funeral) to pull the photos out again when it seems even more overwhelming.
At Pixologie, we have developed the Three Stage Cycle of Photo Management to help us identify where our clients are at in terms of their desire to organize photos. With this, we can better talk our clients through the photo organization process, both for short term goals and for long term goals. With this cycle, there is an ultimate goal, an intangible center nicknamed “photo nirvana” and that means something different for each of us. Let’s explain this cycle in more detail. Some people are just stuck in one stage, sometimes for a very long time. Others actually do repeat the cycle over and over (kind of like a hamster in a wheel) where they finish small photo projects and then repeat, but never really reaching their ultimate goal.
The Ultimate Goal could be a variety of results depending upon the person’s situation:
- A passing of the printed family photos down to the next generation
- Complete photo management including proper backup
- Simple – I can find the photo I want, when I want it with minimal stress and tears
Here’s a breakdown of our stages. Please keep in mind, there is no judgment here, the stages are simply describing where a person might fall in the cycle.
Okay, avoid is a strong word, but let’s be real. We avoid those things which can devour our time, resources and sanity. Too frequently, we have met people in this stage where they put off, postpone, delay or otherwise leave their photos in some state of disorganization. Here are some typical responses that we categorize as “avoiding” a photo mess:
- I’m too overwhelmed to start
- I’m waiting to get a new computer
- I’d rather clean my bathrooms than figure out what to do with my photos
- There’s no problem here
- I have no time now, maybe when I retire
Again, no judgment, just observations, and sometimes, cost is a factor that prohibits getting help. There may come a time when a picture matters more and the people who are in this stage will be motivated to do something with their photos.
People in this stage have realized they need to do something with their photos and they are ready to take action or are in the process of taking action. Examples of this include people who might say:
- It’s time to get my photos off my phone. Where’s the USB cord?
- I will use an external hard drive to create a backup of the photos on my computer
- Once a year, I create a year-in-review family digital photo book
- My family sees all my photos because I share them every month through my Flickr account.
The amount of time in this stage can vary from a short time to months. In the first two examples, you can see the intent is there but the actual completion is not evident. You almost can move these people back into the Avoidance stage if they don’t take action soon. The last two examples are of people who realize the importance of sharing their photos through books and online. They actually have embraced their tasks and made it a habit to continue. However, their photo management could be considered incomplete if they haven’t dealt with proper photo back up and old printed photos and media.
It’s fun to see when people complete something with their photos and emotions can include relief, joy and amazement. We hope our clients feel empowered to do something else with their photos – to help tell and preserve their story. Here are some situations where we have seen people happy to have accomplished something with their photos.
- Finally, my photos are off that old phone.
- The family slides are digitized and each of my children got a DVD copy of the pictures
- I am so relieved my photos are backed up in my iCloud account
- My mother loved the photo book I made of her family’s history
Fortunately for our business, once a client has accomplished a photo project, they usually have more – unless they are never taking a picture again! So, the cycle carries on.
Pixologie’s Ultimate Goal and Photo Nirvana
We have found the majority of people we meet are actually stuck in the “Avoidance” stage with occasional forays into the “Acceptance” and “Accomplishment” stages. For instance, to transfer family VHS tapes to a digital file or to have a photo book created – these are one-off projects that solve an immediate need but not the problem of long-term photo management.
Pixologie recommends that the ultimate goal (for those who want some direction on the topic) is to have all photos in one place, typically the home computer or laptop, and backed up in at least two other places – one in the home and one outside the home, typically an external hard drive and/or online storage.
We’d love to be a resource for you if you have questions on how to help your clients with photo dilemmas.
Mollie Bartelt – email@example.com
Ann Matuszak – firstname.lastname@example.org
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