What Are You Doing With All Your Photos?

While visiting New York City I stood and saw nearly every person around me taking a photo. Not only with their phones and compact cameras but was astonished by the number of DSLR's. Clearly, people are serious about taking pictures. They've embraced the notion that they are now photographers and are enjoying the affordances of cheap failure. I kept wondering what would they do with these photos? I realized Facebook has now become the largest photo sharing site online, perhaps as many as 6 billion per month but I'm not convinced simply uploading them provides the value. I read last month about photo overload and it got me thinking about the value I have for my photos and why I don't feel overloaded with photos.

I've taken nearly around 13,000 photos over the past 6 years and most are housed on Flickr. I use flickr because:

  • It serves as a backup. My computer could be gone tomorrow and I wouldn't lose one photo
  • The paid version allows me virtually unlimited uploads and has no size restriction
  • I like the fact they automatically offer several sizes
  • I like the community
  • I can easily share sets and single images with a link (I have issues with uploading to Facebook��as many do but do share my photos there as well but only via flickr.)

I've done many workshops and presentations on the value of visual literacy and the power of photos but from a personal perspective I think it might be useful to share my own practice and preferences for what I do with my photos. This is not a list or a prescription but my own personal workflow and everyday uses for my photos.

Generally I download my photos once a day. I use iphoto and make quick decisions on which photos I keep and which I delete. Most times I rarely tweak them. I do spend time tagging them. This is a critical step in being able to find them later. I imagine many people can't find their photos when the want them or take forever finding them. I can find most photos in seconds. The tagging I use is usually with the names of my family or the event tag. I pretty much stick to the month as the event as opposed to creating specific events. This may be the single most important habit in order to make the most of your photos.

Join a community
First I've been taking a photo a day for over 4 years. That alone makes me intentional. Not only do I look at the world differently but by posting it to our flickr group, I engage in community around the notion of a photo a day. There are tons of flickr groups and I'd encourage folks to connect with these groups to share whatever your passion is. I also use ifttt.com to have my photos of the day posted to Facebook. Because this is automated, it's not extra work but shares my photos with those who aren't part of the flickr community

Occasionally, I'll have others use my photos since I've licensed them to do. I also take great pleasure, as well as find it fascinating to know my photos can be useful to others.

Re-purpose your photos
I also use my own photos in my presentations and blog posts as much as possible. Even when faced with a higher quality, better composed image, I'll opt for my own since I know the story and context. I feel the same when watching others presentations, I like seeing how they see the world.

Look at them everyday
I see many of my photos everyday. We've dedicated a wall in our home for vacation photos. To add some interest, each photo is black and white with a splash of color. My wife finds inexpensive frames and we simply print these out. In addition I have an Apple TV that runs my photos on a slideshow loop on our HD TV. It's interesting to watch friends and family members glance at the screen and often end up asking questions or making comments. Often on special occasions, like birthdays, I'll pull up the tag of a family member and use that as the slideshow for the week of their birthday.

What are you doing with your photos?