This past week, I sat down to fill out a little birthday book for Jack. It was a gift from a friend at my baby shower– and it’s darling: a little binder to fill in photos from your child’s birthday (from their “birth day” through eighteen). I had a ton of photos printed and sat down to cull the photos from Jack’s first birthday and the day I had him. It was special and got me thinking even more about something that’s been on my mind lately.
Since we can snap photos (and videos) all day long with our phones, it’s so easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of photos. It’s a lot. Whether or not you have kids, your phone is probably filled to the brim with thousands of photos. Some you want, some you love, some you simply never need to look at again. But the thought of going through it all can seem daunting.
I’ve actually come up with a bit of a system to help deal with the photo overwhelm and while vacationing this year had a bit of a “come to Jesus” moment when it came to the pressure to capture photos. I’ve talked about my system before, but it’s the addition of my epiphany that felt like it was worth revisiting.
MY DELETING SYSTEM:
At some point during the day, I go into my phone’s camera roll and search the day (excluding the year). This pulls up every photo and video you’ve ever taken on that day. (Now it also pulls in text that includes the date, but that doesn’t bother me since it usually helps me eliminate easy screenshots.) I scroll through the photos and delete all the sh!t I have on my phone but don’t need. Screenshots, random photos of dinners, blurry photos, duplicate photos, ugly photos, random photos I’ve saved to my phone.
I don’t really have a rules with this, but I do have a major guideline…. which is, if I’m struggling to narrow things down, I tell myself I can revisit it next year. I find that I’m much more judicious when it comes to older photos and then struggle with more recent years. If there is a series of photos where I took a hundred in a row, I do try to go through, favorite the good ones worth keeping, and delete the others.
Even this can sound daunting, but it goes by quickly and since you’re only focusing on one day at a time, it’s a bite sized task. I’ve been doing this for so long that I’ve circled back to dates I’ve already worked on and it’s even easier.
The key is just to make it a part of your everyday routine! I look forward to it every day because it’s satisfying to tackle an annoying task and I get to revisit some good memories, too.
MY SAVING SYSTEM:
The deleting system helps me keep the photo overwhelm down and the saving system helps me stay on top of the “best of memories.” I’ve only been doing this for photos of Jack, but you could apply this to anything from your personal life to romantic life to pets’ lives.
On the first of every month, I go back through the previous month’s photos (again, I use the search feature and look up the month + year). I go through favoriting the best photos, it usually is about 25-30 photos for the entire month– I try not to go over 30! I pick photos where Jack is doing his favorite activities I don’t want to forget, cute faces he’s pulled, and photos where he’s pictured with loved ones. Then I edit that group of photos and save those to my phone. I end up Airdropping all the edited photos to my computer where I save them to folders on my hard drive and my Dropbox. (PS I made Chatbooks of the 30 monthly photos for Jack’s first year, super super cute!)
This helps so much and I feel like I have a cute batch of the “best of” photos!
The epiphany I had is in regards to the pressure to take photos (which is also helping me “let go” of some photos). I kind of feel like I might have hoarding tendencies when it comes to photos. Like does it matter if I have 100,000 or 200,000 photos on my phone? It’s harmless. But that photo overwhelm actually does impact me a little.
I love photos. My sister and I have an arsenal of amazing photos my parents took throughout our childhood. We are always flipping through the photo books and it’s just the best to see everything documented. I know there are people who are firmly in the camp of living in the moment and not documenting anything, to which I say, good for you, not for me. It is important to me to document life via photographs, particularly my child’s. I want Jack to have beautiful photos and memories to look back on.
But part of this mission is not to hand over some hard drive of 200,000 photos and say, “here’s your childhood!” There is an element of curation involved. I have had this in the back of my mind for a while. It’s where my “saving system” came into play. Now it’s continuing into my photo taking process.
Instead of feeling this crazy pressure to capture every minute… I try to think in terms of capturing iconic photos. It’s not one a day and it may not even be one a month… I really have taken pressure off of myself here because I think it’s more about the quality than the quantity.
When I think about the photos my sister and I have of our childhood, we have thousands. I’m glad we have them all, honestly, but there are a few from every year that feel “iconic” for lack of a better word. My sister trying to lick my mom’s face, me putting on makeup in my mom’s bathroom, my sister sleeping on my lap after a moped ride in Bermuda.
That is basically what I’m thinking about without having to pay a professional.
Truly since coming to this realization, I feel like I’m living in the moment more and also more aware of thinking about the special moments (even if it happens in everyday life). I want photos of Jack and Mike scrambling eggs in the morning more than I need another photo of Jack at a random gymnastics class. I try to think about what the photo says about the moment. Does it capture a particular bit of Jack’s personality that I love? Or a special relationship with someone in his life? Is it an adorable phase he’s in that I never want to forget? Does it just capture the essence of a beautiful family memory?
As I sat down to fill out the birthday book, I realized how easy it was to narrow down the hundreds of photos I had from August 12, 2021 and 2022. There were a handful for each day (about four each) that perfectly encapsulated the days. I wasn’t room for a hundred and there certainly wasn’t the need for hundreds! The ones I picked to tape into the book were perfect on their own!