Break Out of the Boring Photo Rut

Do you feel like you take the same pictures over and over again?  Formal occasion: pose in front of the fireplace.  Group picture: stand shoulder to shoulder.  It can get a little boring unless you mix it up.

There are many places online you can read about photography tips.  Some of the articles and blogs are focused on the professional, but they can remind you of ways to change up your picture-taking to make more interesting shots.  Little changes that make a big impact include changing your angle (standing on something and shooting down or crouching down and shooting up – like I did with the cat on the ladder in the main picture), using a bench to vary the height of your group of subjects, and seeking out new locations for your pictures.


Everyone touching and heads together make a great pose.


In group shots, make sure everyone is touching.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be with their hands or arms, but the closer together your subjects, the better the result.  I often say, “Pretend you like each other!”  Also, figure out who the goofball is and ask them to do something silly.  Everyone else will react naturally.

For a close-up portrait, look for an interesting background.  That beige wall is nice and not distracting, but maybe a wood grain door, a modern painting, or a bush in bloom does a better job of filling in the space behind the face.  Also – don’t let your subject stand right up against something.  A little depth looks better.


Don’t wait for a pose – catch the interaction!


Take candid shots.  Hang back a little and snap away as grandpa greets his grandchild.  Sneak up behind kids having a serious discussion.  Watch how someone at the table reacts to a story being told.  All your pictures won’t be winners, but it’s easy to delete in this digital age.  You might just catch something magical when people aren’t posing for the camera.

Before your next event, create a list of ideas for photos you want to try.  Consult your list to make sure you are actually using those ideas.  With a little practice, you will soon have a variety of different pictures to enjoy.

Take Time Now to Get the Story

Do you ever wish you could spend a little more time with someone who’s gone?  Ask a few more questions?  If you can, spend some time on Father’s Day getting more information from your dad, stepdad, grandfather, uncle, or other father figure.  As I’ve said before, stories are important.

As I digitized my family photos, I saw another side of both my dad and my grandfather.  They were people before I knew them, with their hobbies, vacations, and personalities that came before “dad” and “grandpa” roles.  They wore clothes that fit another time, posed in front of vehicles that belong in museums today, and often showed sillier, younger sides of their personalities.

What kinds of questions should you ask?  Here are a few ideas:

  • What was a typical summer day like for you as a kid?
  • What was your favorite meal as a kid?
  • What was your first job?  Did you work there long?
  • Did you go to school dances or sporting events?
  • Where was your favorite place to vacation when you were young?
  • What did you like about the woman you asked to marry you?
  • How did you feel when you were expecting your first child?
  • Where was your favorite place to work?  Or didn’t you ever enjoy your job?
  • What kinds of pets have you had throughout your life?
  • What was your favorite car?

As conversation flows, keep asking questions.  Imagine you are hearing a story from the author who will provide answers to all your questions.  Be creative!

You can set aside specific time to talk to a person, or you can casually work questions into your regular conversation.  You can record them (audio or video) or jot notes down to write up later.  The important thing is to ask!

And, of course, photographs make perfect prompts for your conversation.  Dig out those old pictures and see how many questions you now have to ask your subject.  You never know what might surprise you in those old albums.

Organize Your Digital Photos

How do you find a photo on your computer?  Do you confidently do a search for IMG_8473?  Do you open and close a dozen file folders skimming the thumbnails?

Think of your computer files like an actual physical file cabinet.  If you were looking for your proof of ownership of your car, you would open the drawer, look for the hanging file with your car on the tab, and find the file for ownership papers.  You apply the same principle to naming your photos.

Whether you organize photos by date or by subject, you start with a larger file, have a subfolder, and then find individual files (photos) within that folder.  For example: to find a picture of my nephew from his last birthday party, I would go to the 2016 folder, then the September folder, then the Birthday_Branden folder.

The folder structure is useful, but your individual photos should also have this information.  If you use the photo (share it, save it to an external drive, etc.), that information will all stay with the photo.  If someone e-mailed a picture named 2016_09_30_Birthday_Branden_11.jpg to you, there would be little doubt about what kind of picture you were about to open.  It is also going to retrieve this picture if you do a search of all of your photos for the word “birthday” since it is part of the name of the photo.

Create a system that works for you, then stick with it.  These are your pictures, so create a naming structure that makes sense to you!  You might find that same picture by going to the Birthday folder, then Branden, then 2016.  Set it up the way you think you’ll want to find the pictures next month, next year, or in ten years.

Here are some tips for naming conventions:

  • Watch out for special characters.  Computers don’t always handle spaces and symbols well.  I like to use capitalization (09SeptemberBirthdayBranden) or underscore (09September_Birthday_Branden) in file names.
  • Year should always be a four-digit number.  You don’t want a historical photo from 1920 next to a modern photo from 2020.
  • Use the number of the month (followed by the month if you want to clarify).  Why?  The files and folders will sort alphabetically or numerically.  Using only the name results in an order of April, August, December, February, etc.  Using 01January, 02February, 03March keeps your months in order.
  • Abbreviate where it makes sense to shorten the length of the file name.  For example: 09Sept_Bday_Branden.  Again, be consistent and always use 09Sept for the month in this case.
  • Structure should go from general to specific.  This includes using last name before first name if you are using that level of detail.  It will help sort like with like.  Example:  YYYY_MM_DD_occasion_lastname_firstname

Take Advantage of Free Education

We live in remarkable times.  When I was a kid, I had to go to the library (or sit in a classroom) to learn about something.  Today, people who want to know anything have the world’s brainpower at their fingertips.  Whether you want to learn by reading, by watching, or by listening, you can find someone to teach you – often for free.



Most conferences are expensive and cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.  However, corporate sponsors sometimes participate in a conference to help educate a certain group of people.  I spent part of every day last week at Detroit Startup Week, a local conference for entrepreneurs.  I went from session to session learning about marketing, social media, identifying customers and more – all at no cost to me.  Even the parking was free!  With a little research, you may find a conference that fits with something you want to learn.



Your community might have adult education classes on a variety of topics at a low cost.  Don’t forget to look at offerings from libraries, local city groups and associations, too!  Last week, I taught overviews of photo organizing and preserving at a local senior center and a public library.  Attendees were welcome to listen and ask questions during the hour for free, and now have a contact for future questions on the topic.  Most libraries bring in speakers on a variety of topics from financial planning to local history.  Take advantage of the free information!



As a librarian, I have to start with a warning to understand who has posted information online before you trust what you see.  You don’t want to take medical advice from someone with no qualifications!  However, people who know what they’re talking about write blogs, post instructional videos, and write encyclopedia entries all over the internet.  Where have you seen that actor before?  Go to IMDB and get lost in the actor’s list of appearances.  How do you properly fold a t-shirt?  Go to YouTube and pick your favorite method after watching a few different videos.  No matter what you’re looking for, you can be sure someone has posted about it online.

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”
― Socrates

Learning about new things has always been important to personal growth.  Look for opportunities to pursue your passion and keep getting excited about the knowledge you acquire.  It’s yours for the taking!

Get In the Picture, Moms

Growing up, it was my mom who was behind the camera.  Like her father, she had ideas for the pictures she wanted to take.  My mom’s big rule was that you don’t take pictures of things unless there’s a person in the picture alongside them.  I laugh at how many pictures there are of me as a little girl next to a vase of flowers or a pretty birthday cake (not necessarily mine but sometimes one she made for someone else).

Unfortunately, the family photographer (often mom) ends up not being in photos themselves.  They direct others to pose or snap on the sly with the camera always close at hand, so others don’t worry about taking pictures knowing it’s handled.  When you look at a family’s photos over the years, you can usually figure out who loved taking the pictures by the lack of their presence in the family photo album.

My beautiful picture
Yes, your photo can turn out like this, but you still need to hand off the camera and get in the shot!


Start training backup photographers while they’re young.


This Mother’s Day, and at all your gatherings this spring and summer, make sure the photographer gets in the picture.  If you are the photographer, ask someone to take a few pictures for you.  They may not do as good of a job (ha!) but give them a chance.  If you are not usually the photographer, make an offer to turn the camera around on the photo-taker.  They may object at first, but tell them it’s important to be part of the memories of the event.

Next year, you can have me put together a photo book with all the wonderful new pictures that represent everybody!  Wouldn’t that make a nice Mother’s Day gift?

The ABCs of Weeding Photos

My name is Cheri, and I’m a photo hoarder.  It’s tough to admit when my job is to tell people not to hold onto every photo that ever came into their possession, but I have a hard time weeding photos myself.  Becoming a professional photo organizer has taught me that to truly appreciate your photos, you should only have pictures that make you happy and/or tell your story.

It’s so easy to take tons of pictures when you have a phone with a camera built in at your fingertips most of your waking hours.  If you search my digital pictures for my cats’ names, you will find an embarrassing number of photos because they look so cute when they’re sleeping.

My digital SLR camera is just as at fault for my overwhelming number of photos.  Why not keep clicking at that lacrosse game or birthday party on the chance you will get a truly great photo?  The problem is ending up with 20 pictures of the birthday kid opening gifts where only the wrapping paper changes.

Photo organizers use a very easy-to-understand method to categorize photos.  There are pictures you want to display or use in photo books, pictures you want to keep because they tell part of the story, and pictures you need to toss because they just get in the way of the good ones.  Here is a real-life example from a family trip to Las Vegas:

A = Album

In this A photo, we are all dressed up for my grandmother’s birthday dinner.  My sisters and I are sitting with our grandma and smiling for the camera.  We are in the lobby of Caesars Palace, the hotel we all stayed in.  This is a picture I would put in a frame and definitely include in a family photo album or a photo book about the trip.

B = Box

This B photo looks a mess at first glance, since nobody is looking at the camera.  However, it tells a very important part of the story when you see the custom t-shirts with my grandma’s face in the Queen of Hearts.  We surprised her by all wearing these shirts to breakfast on her birthday.  My grandma is pointing at my sister’s shirt and asking her sister (my great-aunt) if she saw the t-shirts.  I love this photo and wouldn’t want to lose it, but it would never go in a frame.

C = Can (garbage can, that is)

My C photo is of the Luxor hotel on the strip.  There are no people in the photo.  There are orange construction flags.  We did not stay at this hotel or even eat a meal here.  If I want a photo of the Luxor, I can go online and find a dozen better than this one.  Why do I still have this picture?  Both print and digital versions can be tossed.

Like any other clutter, photo clutter can get in the way of you enjoying the things you value the most.  Make a pass through your print and digital photos and use the ABC method to decide which ones are actually worth keeping.  It will be easier to enjoy the good photos if you don’t have to flip through the bad ones to see them.

Use a Professional or Do It Yourself?

I got a new logo this week!  As a small business owner, I try to do as much as I can for myself.  I am not exactly artistic, but I’ve learned to design posts with the help of computer software.  However, something as important as an image to represent my brand was too big for this amateur to tackle.  I trusted a graphic designer to bring my vision to reality.

There are many times you automatically turn to a professional for help.  If you need a doctor or attorney, you find one to do the work you cannot do for yourself.  You know that a level of training and certification is needed to perform certain tasks.

Then there are professionals you may go to right away, but others know enough about the subject to perform the task themselves.  Hairdressers, auto mechanics, plumbers and painters are all very useful for me to call when I need them.  On the other hand, I know people who do many of these things themselves with enough know-how to get the task done.

Another level of service professionals are available to help with knowledge, abilities and time you may not have yourself.  This can include photo organizers, home organizers, house cleaners and estate sale professionals.  We come in to help with things that overwhelm you.  We often have training and certification to handle large jobs that you keep putting aside.  We know the industry standards and accepted products to use and our experience makes us efficient at the tasks.

Are you ready to hire the person who can organize your print and digital photos, make sure your stories are preserved, and create photo books to treasure?  If you keep thinking you’ll get around to it sometime, it may be time to give the job to a professional.  Call Cherish Your Photos today!

Ready for Anything

Springtime can mean beautiful flowers, blooming trees and warm temperatures.  It can also mean severe weather as unstable air creates thunderstorms and tornadoes.  There are other disastrous reasons you might need to leave your home quickly, too.  As you prepare an emergency kit, consider how you will protect your photos and important documents.

Imagine you only have five minutes to get out of the house in an emergency.  Assuming your loved ones and pets are safe, what do you grab to take with you?  You should have important papers, cash, and personal treasures in locations that are easy to get to in a hurry.

One way to make this easier is to digitize your most important photos and documents and have a copy stored offsite.  Everything from your birth certificate and deed to your house to your grandparents’ wedding photo and pictures from your special trip can be preserved in the cloud or on a hard drive or USB drive in a location away from your home.  When you know you’ll be able to access these items, you can concentrate on getting yourself to safety.

It is also a good idea to let someone else know how to get to these documents.  Whether you ask them to hold onto your USB drive or give them the password to where the documents are online, a backup person is part of your disaster plan.  There are many emergency reasons besides volatile weather that make having a trusted friend or relative know where to find your information so important.

What information do you need to have protected offsite?  Consider the following as a starting checklist:

  • List of bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts
  • Proof of insurance policies (health, home, auto)
  • Passports, drivers licenses, social security cards (ID in any legal form)
  • Birth and marriage certificates, military discharge papers
  • List of medications and contact numbers for pharmacies you use
  • Proof of major purchases (home, car, etc.)
  • Power of attorney/living will documents and attorney contact info
  • Most important photos (historical and current)
  • Household inventory list – with photos

A photo organizer may be able to help you scan and protect your important documents as well as your photos.  It’s worth the time and investment now to ease the worry in case a disaster occurs later.

There’s Not a Cloud in the Sky

At some point in the rapid advance of technology, we started hearing about the cloud.  “Where is this cloud?  What can it do for me?,” you may wonder.

The cloud uses a shared pool of computing resources.  This network of data centers allows information to be stored and retrieved quickly and inexpensively.  Think of it like an electrical grid: you don’t know exactly where it comes from, but you can draw from it when you need it.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that you need to back up your photos in more than one location.  If there’s a disaster in your home, having your content offsite means you can retrieve it and important things are not lost.  The cloud seems like a great solution for backup and for saving and showing off pictures when you’re away from home, but you need to be aware of some drawbacks to this method.

I don’t know about you, but I have never read every word of the agreements I agree to when I join a new website.  Sure, I skim over the sections and maybe read certain parts, but those things are long!  When you’re turning over your precious photos to a cloud storage site, it’s important to know what you’re allowing them to do.


You may think that because you took the picture, you are the owner (copyright holder).  Unfortunately, some websites claim to own anything on their site, no matter who uploaded the content.  Be aware of ownership statements that supersede the original ownership.


What happens if the cloud site shuts down or the company goes out of business?  Will they give you a chance to retrieve and move your content, or do you just lose everything at the site?  How easy is it for your heir or estate manager to retrieve your pictures if something happens to you?  Look for wording that provides guidance for “what if” situations that may occur by either you or the storage site.


Do you want anyone on the planet to be able to see your photos?  There are varying levels of privacy on cloud storage sites.  Are you storing content behind strong passwords that are required to get back to the content?  Are the photos “kind of” hidden, but anyone might be able to stumble upon them if they get lucky?  Or are they posted publicly right from the start?  And who can download them to their own computer?  Understand just how the storage site protects your uploads.


Some cloud storage solutions will compress your pictures to save on the amount of space they take up.  The picture will still look great on the computer screen, but if you download it and try to make a print enlargement, the quality can be compromised.  Look for a site that will upload your full file (all 10MB per photo if you took them that way) so that you have full functionality when you retrieve the photo from the cloud.

Popular Cloud Storage Sites

Amazon Photos  –  Apple iCloud  –  Carbonite  –  Dropbox  –  Flickr  –  Google Photos  –  Microsoft OneDrive  –  SmugMug

Cloud storage may be a wonderful solution, but take the time to understand the agreement before you upload your photos to any of the sites.  The solution may not be worth the benefit.


Picture This Event

There are events where people take lots of photos, events where photos are displayed, and events where photo gifts are given.  While we are taking tons of everyday pictures now, the camera was often put away until a big occasion in the not-so-distant past.  For what events do you have your camera, photo display or photo gift on hand?

Taking Pictures

Most people have pictures from holidays, vacations, religious ceremonies, weddings, birthdays and graduations.  These big events are recorded by guests, professionals, or the people taking part.  When you go through your family’s historical photos, it is these occasions you are most likely to see.

Make sure your camera is charged with plenty of memory available before a big event.  Consider hiring a photographer (professional or amateur) to get posed and informal shots of the people in attendance.  You often have generations or old friends together in one place just a few times a year, if that.  Record these momentous days!


Displaying Pictures

When you have a large gathering of people, it has become popular to display photos for guests to look at.  You see photo boards, framed photos and unique ways to display the honoree.  At weddings, show pictures of the couple taken throughout their courtship.  Baby showers are a chance to show what the parents-to-be looked like when they were tots.  Graduation parties allow families to highlight twelve years of schooling and activities.  Finally, funerals and celebrations of life call for a lifetime of photos to honor the reason you’re gathered together.


Photo Gifts

My last blog post ( pointed out the vast array of gifts you can now purchase that incorporate photos.  Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, milestone birthdays, and anniversaries are all occasions where one photo, old or new, can personalize a gift for the recipient.  Even framing one special photo can mean so much.

Photo books are the ultimate photo gift and take the most time to put together.  What better way to honor achievements, longevity, or a special event than by gathering up years of photos and telling their story in a book to be treasured forever?  A photo organizer can help you create a special photo book if you don’t have the time to do it yourself.

As your next big event approaches, consider all the ways you can use photos to make the event even more special.