Apple Photos Housekeeping Tips

apple photo tips

Taking pictures is easy with Apple iPhone or iPad. The ability to keep snapping away with little thought to what’s happening behind the scenes is exactly how Apple intended it. You don’t need to worry about how photos are being managed. Apple does this for you. But a few helpful tips about the Apple Photos app might keep you out of trouble.

Be aware of your storage capacity

By default on the free plan Apple gives us 5 GB of iCloud storage space. If you take a lot of pictures, this space can fill up very quickly, forcing you to upgrade to a larger storage plan and a monthly subscription fee. Sure, the dollar amount is nominal in the big scheme of things. But it seems like everyone has an online monthly subscription for their apps and subscription fees can start to add up if you aren’t aware of how many you have, why you have them and what they are actually doing for you. 

To find out how much iCloud storage you have (free) or paid, on your Apple device go to: Settings>Your Name>iCloud. The amount of storage you have will show there and the apps the storage is dedicated to will be outlined: Photos, Docs, Backups etc. If you click on “Manage Storage” you will be shown by line item how much storage is dedicated to Photos along with other items. Music tends to be the next storage hog. You can go up to 2TB of storage on the Apple monthly subscription plan which is a lot of storage, so you may be saying, “This is irrelevant to me, I can do what I want.” Maybe. You may not care about actively managing your storage on iCloud, but you should at least know where to find it and how much you are signed up for. So be aware. For the people who want to have control of their storage consumption, read on. 

Understand how iCloud sync works

iCloud is primarily a syncing function, not a photo backup. By default, iCloud backs up your photos in the event something happens to your iPhone or iPad, but primarily iCloud is meant to sync (all the same photos) to all of your devices. The backup part is a nice side feature if you aren’t exercising your rights to backup your photos in other ways. 

But be aware, relying solely on iCloud Photo Library for photo backup can be risky if something out of the norm happens. For example, you forget to turn on iCloud Photo Library and you aren’t sending up any data to the cloud and you drop your phone. Ooops! In the event, you turn off iCloud photos on one of your devices, that device is operating no differently than a stand alone 35mm camera does without any backup. If you drop that device and it becomes toast, you have lost those photos because they aren’t syncing up to iCloud ensuring you have a default backup copy. Understand that iCloud Photo Library is about syncing to other devices, not necessarily about backing up. Additional photo back up workflows are recommended. Other cloud apps like Google Photos or Dropbox Camera Uploads can work nicely as an insurance policy. 

What’s your camera input quality set at?

Your devices are synced to your iCloud Photos Library and everything is going great. You’re taking pictures like crazy and all of a sudden your iPhone pops up a message that your storage is running out. What’s going on? Well, you’re running out of storage space on your iPhone and there a few factors to address:

The first thing to check is the Camera Capture setting on your iPhone. Go to Settings>Camera>Formats. You should have 2 options: High Efficiency or Most Compatible. If you want to reduce your photo file size at the capture step, then make sure you have High Efficiency selected. Your photos will be captured using the HEIF/HEVC file format and the file sizes will be smaller. This is a proprietary format that has smaller file sizes without a reduction in quality. If you aren’t sure about HEIF/HEVC format, stay on Most Compatible and images will be captured using JPG file format but they may be slightly larger files. Larger file sizes take up more space. For screen viewing, especially small screen viewing like iPhones, you will probably see little quality differences between the two photo formats but it might start to impact your iPhone storage.

iCloud Photo Library means high resolution files

Every photo that syncs up to iCloud does so at the highest original resolution it was captured at. This means that all iCloud Photo Library photos are high resolution files. High resolution files are big. So if you’re storing big high resolution photo files on your iPhone, those big files are eating up your device storage.

On your iPhone or iPad you can choose what quality of photo you want to store on your device. Go to: Settings>Your Name>iCloud>Photos>Optimize iPhone Storage (a low res version of the image will be sent down from iCloud to be stored on the device so that it takes up less space on your phone. If you choose “Download and Keep Originals” (the high resolution original version will remain on your device taking up lots of valuable storage space on your iPhone or iPad.)

Why is this important?
When you keep your high res originals on your device you can quickly run out of storage space on the device itself enabling your iPhone useless eventually. Remember, if you are syncing to iCloud Photo Library, you always have the high resolution version of the photo in the cloud in the event you need it for enlargements or other purposes.

When you select “Optimize iPhone Storage” to save device storage, Apple will effectively start managing your photo workflow for you. iCloud Photo Library will only send the low res versions to your iPhone creating more device storage for you and Apple will start managing the photo workflow so you don’t have to by eliminating photos as needed to keep your iPhone or iPad up and running. All original photos will still be in your iCloud Photo Library if you have it syncing but you might not have access to every single photo on your iPhone. 

Optimize Phone Storage to keep going

When using Apple devices, I recommend thinking about a workflow related to storage capacity for your Apple photos. If you have a MacBook or an Apple iMac with lots of storage, you may think about keeping the high resolution originals from iCloud Photo Library on your computer or better yet on an external hard drive so you don’t clog up your computer. Set up your iPhone and iPad to maximize device storage by only keeping the low res versions on them by selecting “Optimize Phone Storage.”

Next month we’ll continue on with these Apple Photo tips. If you have 50,000 photos or more in one library or are in excess of 80GB of photo data in your iCloud, we will be encouraging you to start thinking about your photo content differently and to start developing some other photo workflows to make life easier. Stay tuned!

Genealogy: Make future generations care

Shoebox filled with black and white vintage photographs in disarray.

As a family curator or genealogist researching your family history, don’t you want to make sure that your research is valued and secure for the future? Don’t let your family research end up in the next generation’s trash.

Research or just gathering stuff?
We can get caught up in the research, making copious quantities of notes and saving every scrap of paper. But the question we should be asking is “What content will make future generations care about my story?” Stuff gathers and collections grow, but what’s the point? Do you have a clear intention of crafting a story for the grand kids that can be told over and over again or just gathering stuff? People are visual and family photographs top the list of objects that have the ability to connect with people’s emotions. Use them wisely.

Don’t assume your research will be preserved
We all want to believe that if our research and family photographs are important to us then they will be important to others. Sorry, but it’s just not the case. Often adult children end up clearing out Mom and Dad’s house and when they come across boxes and boxes of family research or photos they often don’t know what to do with it. Adult children with busy lives and families of their own have their own stuff. They don’t have the room to store more uncatalogued material and they may not care enough to bother saving it.

“A sense of obligation or guilt may keep your research around for awhile but it’s not a sure plan for the future. Even if research is safe for a little while, the stories may not be being shared. Guilt usually lasts for one generation. People only keep what is important to them. Families need to care in order to move the family story forward.” Rootstech 2018 presentation: How Not to Leave Your Genealogy Behind by Amy Johnson Crow and Curt Witcher

Metadata: Get future generations to care
The more metadata (data about each photo) your photos have, the more valuable they become to the next generation. Be wise and organize your photos with personal data in the form of metadata. You’re intimate with your research but take the point of view of a person who has never interacted with it before. Make your research intuitive. Your data should be so clear that someone from a different country or language can look at it for five minutes and know what’s in there and why it’s important.

Organizing digital files
If you can’t find stuff, neither will any one else. Part of the challenge is the identification of what’s inside your digital photo file. DSC_024.jpg or family.jpg doesn’t cut it. If it’s not labeled properly you won’t know and the chances of someone opening up thousands of photos to find out is remote. A basic step for digital photos is to create a folder structure on your computer with meaningful names that hold context for the viewer. Taking the next step to more advanced organization is about metadata. Adding metadata to digital photo files actually helps the end user understand what is inside the photo file before having to open it. Metadata is embedded in the file and will create a level of organization so you and others can find the important stuff later.

Keys to success
1. Don’t just be organized, be intentional
Apply a non-genealogical context right away with your current photos and documents and get them into a location that’s accessible right now. If you wait until you have time to organize for others, it probably won’t happen. The first time you come in contact with your photos should be the first step in your photo organization work flow. Even if it’s a small step and the only one you take, it’s better than nothing. If we aren’t being deliberate and intentional with our photos and family research, they won’t make it to the next generation.

2. Preserve family stories and photos of people
It’s the stories and people shots that your family will care about in the future. Write your story in your own words. Anything you can do to make ancestors seem human goes a long way for future generations. Pull out stories and discoveries into non-genealogical terms. Keep your stories short in the form of captions that can be included as metadata for each photo. Keeping captions and descriptions short and clear will give your story more impact than a novel length narrative that is a work in progress.

3. Research for end results
What are you doing with all that research? Have an objective for your message. This is a big aspect to preserving the family story and moving it forward. Decide intentionally what to preserve—don’t just keep everything. Bring forward your conclusions. What was this family all about anyway and why was it important? If you don’t decide, then later on down the line, someone else will. And they may decide your research is trash. Do it now, while you have control. Start today.

Learn more about Digital Photo Organization that includes Metadata and our Digital Archive solutions for future generations.

Will your photos be there for your grandchildren?

Little girl looking at a photo album with her sibling

In the chaos of the musty basement storage unit or the computer that has no back up, will your photos make it to the next generation? The desire to connect with our past is a growing trend and a real human need. Baby boomers are looking for a way to leave their families a sense of familial lineage. Genealogy is one of the fastest growing hobbies in North America with websites to find long lost family roots and DNA kits tracing family heritage.

Photo Organizers are part of the solution
No one wants to get caught asking:

  • “Who was that in that old photograph?”
  • “Why didn’t I ask my parents or grandparents while they were still alive?”
  • “Where did our family come from?”

Your gift of family stories
Organizing your family photo collection can unearth your most precious memories and impact future generations by bringing to life family stories, meaningful traditions and life lessons. The next generation won’t value what you owned or the contents of your curio cabinet as much as they will value knowing how you lived, how you came to be and in turn how they came to be. It’s the family stories that make the undertaking of organizing your family photo collection worth the effort and expense.

Pass it down to future generations
We live in a disposable world. If it breaks get a new one. If you don’t like it, throw it out. If they don’t have it, find it on the internet and get it shipped. Believe it or not, the age old concept of passing down treasured objects and family history is becoming valued again in our disposable world.

Downsize with purpose
Many baby boomers are getting ready to pass their family photo collections down to the next generation. Through the downsizing process you may need help reducing the amount of memorabilia you have, highlighting the important photos, removing the unnecessary stuff, and polishing up the collection with the family story. If this is you, we can help.

Learn more about the current trend and expanding hobby of genealogy and contact us for more information about digital family archives.

Love Your Photos

Mom and daughter looking through a photo album together smiling and happy

Find Harmony. Create Order. Maximize Time.

Between the overwhelming numbers of digital photos we take — to all of our historical print photographs, photo albums and negatives in the basement— we’re all overwhelmed with photo clutter. What’s stopping you from organizing all this chaos so you can find the memories that matter most and share them to make connections with family? It’s not technology, although it can be a barrier. It’s the fact that photo organization is emotional business.

Stress doesn’t come from clutter itself. Anxiety builds from not knowing what to do with the clutter. Even if we can bring ourselves to start the enormous task of sorting through our photos, we often get sidetracked by reminiscing and then stop  completely because we don’t know what to do with all of our saved memorabilia.

What’s stopping you from loving your photos?

Common excuses to not get organized:
1. It won’t make a difference
2. I have more important things to do
3. I know where everything is
4. It won’t stay organized

Excuse #1: It won’t make a difference
Organizing does make a difference. Time spent now, is time saved later. If you have a clear vision of the value of being organized, you will be more accepting that you can do this (with our help) and you will be more willing to make the time and investment that will benefit you in the end.

After our service, you’ll be able to:

  • Find or reference a photo that comes to mind quickly through your digital family photo hub without endless hours of searching
  • Share your favourite memories with family through a custom website, third-party photo sharing app, or a custom photo book
  • Preserve important family stories that contribute to passing on your family legacy to the next generation
  • Sleep easier knowing you have an organizational system that is scalable for your future needs

Excuse #2: I have more important things to do
Actually, you  probably do. That’s why our service exists. Photo organizing is what we love to do. Sorting through stacks and stacks of photos is labour intensive. Photo organization projects often fall to the bottom of the list in today’s demands for our time. Let us help you get a plan together and execute on it. Trust us, it will get done.

Excuse #3: I know where everything is
You probably do. But does everyone else? The benefit of having an organizational system is that anyone can come in and access the photos they need, when they need them. If something happens to you or you forget, precious memories that are being saved for your children and their kids, may be lost. It’s a risk. Don’t take it.

Excuse #4: It won’t stay organized
Our solutions are designed to be scalable — which means that your organizational solution is designed to grow with you and your needs. We can train you in the workflow of your system so that you can maintain it yourself or you can retain us with a customized maintenance plan that works for you. There isn’t much use to invest in an organizational system that only works for a brief period of time and then becomes a mess again.

So forget your excuses and let’s get going. Get clear on the vision for your family photos — take our online questionnaire.

We want you to love your photos!

Already organized? You still need us…

Man sitting back in a chair with arms behind his head looking up into the sky at all his organized photos

Don’t just organize—make good decisions

You don’t have to be disorganized to need our service. We love clients who are organized. It means we can get right into the rationalization step of organizing your family photo collection. When we work together to rationalize your photo collection, we evaluate it based on your true budget and your end goals.

The value of keeping memorabilia
Unfortunately, like any service, there is expense associated with scanning original materials. Psychologically, we often justify our monetary spends based on the personal value we attach to the item. Ask yourself this question – “How important are these photographs to me if they are lost forever? How much do I need this?”

Priceless or just clutter
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to put a price on irreplaceable photographic material, but if there is sentimental value attached to your photos then that photo means something to you. Most people don’t consider their photographic materials as just media in isolation, they associate them with a time period that was reminiscent of their life’s experiences. So we ask you, how much is it worth to you to save your memories? Only you know.

Why are you doing this?
A true budget is a real number that exists to create an organizational strategy around. Your end goal is your ideal outcome from us working together. How do you want to feel once your photos are organized and what do you want to do with them? Digitizing everything as a default is not always feasible nor is it even advisable.

Save the old stuff
We recommend as a first step to evaluate your collection based on the risk of catastrophic deterioration. We are experts in consulting on how photographic materials deteriorate. The film or prints older than 50 years and materials stored poorly will benefit from being digitized if you want to preserve them. If you don’t care about the old or damaged stuff, then let’s start talking about the memories you do care about.

Define your priorities
Do you want to:

  • Create a family legacy – Tell the stories and save the photos to show future generations
  • Reduce Clutter – reduce the amount of physical materials due to lack of space or storage
  • Secure and Protect – create a layer of protection against loss
  • Downsize – you need to move but what do you do with the family photo collection?
  • Reduce Stress & Anxiety – there’s stress and anxiety associated with chaotic spaces and the knowledge that things could be better organized and in better condition—but aren’t
  • Find your memories – if you can’t find it, you can’t share it. Knowing you take a ton of photos but can’t refer back to them when you want is frustrating
  • Highlight special moments – photo books, photo gifts, posters, calendars and framing pictures are great ways to commemorate a special occasion
  • Share memories and make connections – Remember when? Reminiscing about the good or bad times can be fulfilling and healing. It connects us with others and provides meaning to our experiences.

In our 2 hour Discovery Session we will:

  • Review the contents of your family photo collection
  • Understand your ideal outcomes for us working together
  • Recommend improvements to photo storage
  • Help you to define your budget
  • Determine a strategy based on your goals

Contact us for a 20 minute complimentary phone session to learn more about how you can benefit from photo organization services and get a Discovery Session booked.

Are your photos disaster proof?

Woman at her laptop browsing through digital photos

Protect your family legacy

Most people and families invest in insurance to protect their home, businesses, belongings and vehicles from loss. In contrast, on average, families invest very little time or money to ensure their family photo collection is safe. When interviewed most would agree that their family photos are priceless and irreplaceable. So where’s the disconnect?

Often after some kind of catastrophic loss, we often hear people regretfully say, “And the worst thing is…I lost all of my family photos.” And yet, so many of our family photo collections sit unorganized, deteriorating and inaccessible in cardboard boxes in the attic or basement.

Don’t wait until disaster strikes. If you live in a place where uncertain weather events come up or even if you don’t, the unexpected can happen. House fires, basement floods, computer crashes and theft can destroy your family photos and steal your memories.

How to start
What happens if your prints and photo albums get damaged? Do you have backups? Are your photos digitized and preserved for the future? Scanning prints is acceptable if no other original exists but using the film (also known as the negative) is best practice to scan from and will yield the best quality reproduction.

Best practice suggests you should have at least two backups of your digital photos excluding the copy on your local computer. Three backups is better. Install at least one if not two external hard drives on your main computer system and have some form of cloud storage depending on how your photo work flow is set up. If you have to evacuate your home quickly, just grab the external hard drive (s) and go. It’s that easy.

What’s a photo workflow?
A photo workflow is a system or a routine that you perform to consolidate, organize and store your digital photos. The Family Photo Fix process starts with the creation of a Family Photo Hub on your local computer (backed up by at least one or two external hard drives plus the cloud). The Family Photo Hub is a main archive where all of your consolidated digital photos reside in a hierarchical folder structure labeled either by chronological date or event. Files are renamed with naming conventions that give context to the image contained inside for increased find-ability. If you can’t find your photos, you can’t enjoy them with others. The value in preserving family photos comes from the joy felt later when you can share the memories they represent with others and know those memories are secure.

Our photos are everywhere
If the memories your photos contain mean anything to you—then you probably want to preserve them. Consolidation of your family photo collection into a digital
archive is the first step. We know that the volume of photos alone can be overwhelming, but that’s why we do what we do.

Step 1: Consolidate and Gather
Where are your photos?

  • Loose camera SD cards
  • Tablets
  • Mobile phones
  • Digital Cameras
  • Other folders on your computer
  • Laptop
  • The cloud
  • Original prints with no other original
  • Photo albums
  • Framed photos hanging on the wall
  • Loose photos in boxes and envelopes
  • Social Media accounts

Contact us to find out how we can help disaster proof your family photo collection.


On the road again? Have a back up plan.

Image of a family watching their travel photos on a television screen on the wall

Don’t get caught

The other day I discovered some beautiful and unique photos from my trip to Italy on my tablet. But, before I could get them downloaded, my device prompted me to update the software. Yikes! The software update didn’t work and my tablet needed to be restored back to factory settings. Lucky for me, the guy at the Genius Bar was able to save it. I almost lost the last few pictures I took on my one and only 25th anniversary trip. I pride myself on being organized and technically savvy, but let’s face it—things get missed and stuff happens to everyone. Including me.

A good majority of people don’t have an organizational system for their digital photos. The riskiest offenders take photos using their phones without even backing up to the cloud. If your phone slips out of your hand or you click the wrong button—you lose precious memories. That’s all it takes. I recently heard a tragic story. A young couple had saved up to take their first trip to Europe. An expensive 35 mm SLR camera was purchased for all the memories they wanted to capture together. Unfortunately, the expensive camera along with all the SD cards and some belongings in a back pack got stolen right at the end of the trip on their way home while they were at the airport. Sadly, this couple didn’t know about backing up photos while on the road. All their photos were lost. Heart-breaking.

Back up when traveling
Buy a small portable inexpensive laptop you can take with you on trips for quick photo backup. Dump photos from mobile devices, tablets and digital cameras into one main Pictures folder on the computer and organize it later when you get home. I do this nightly when on the road. My recently lost tablet photos were taken on the last day of my trip just before I put the device in my backpack to get to the airport, otherwise they would have made it into my nightly photo back up process.

While traveling, if you have Internet access or Wifi, back up the best photos to the cloud too — if you can. Large file sizes, connection speed and space are an issue always but they will become absolute deterrents to backing up photos when encountering spotty internet connections while traveling. Don’t rely solely on the cloud for photo back up of mobile phone photos either, especially while traveling outside of North America. If you’re shooting 35 mm digital raw camera files you can’t rely on cloud back up at all. Get a laptop and use it for back up.

USB keys help you sleep at night
Bring at least one if not two high-quality, reliable 128 GB USB keys with you. Create an identical copy of your entire Pictures folder from your travel laptop where you’ve been dumping photos and copy it to both USB keys. Do this on a regular basis (nightly works well) but especially after special shooting events. Give one USB key to your partner or travel buddy. Now you’re covered. You won’t be sorry.

Back up best practices
In general, we recommend at least 2 or more backup’s of your original digital photo files at home.
This means:

  • Two external hard drives in addition to the original copy on your local computer
  • Some form of cloud back up

Be proactive about backing up your photos whether you’re at home or on the road. Learn more about our Disaster Protect Package , which includes a full back up strategy and minimize your risk of photo loss.