Creative Way to Use Your Photos



Let’s Go Caps!

Our family played hooky last week and attended the Championship Parade in DC along with 250,000 of our closest friends. We made our way to what would be our “spot” for the afternoon. As the parade drew closer, the sea of red crowds got more excited and they all seemed to grow 6 inches taller right in front of me. So the only way I was going to get any pictures was to prop myself on top of the giant planter where the rest of my family was perched. I hoisted myself up there and teetered with my family and practiced my balance. I snapped some pics and hoped for the best.
Several days later as I sifted through my photos from the day, I was trying to come up with something original for Father’s Day. We aren’t really a tie-wearing family. So as I poured through my images of the day, I found a pretty good picture of Ovi and the Cup and the idea was born. A custom shirt. I started my research, found a shirt company that seemed like a good fit and got to work. The beauty of this project is that I was able to use a picture that was not perfect, add a little Photoshop magic and come up with something pretty cool. I really enjoyed the process and now can’t stop thinking about other designs using some of my other photos.  Because we are a t-shirt wearing kind of family.
Although it wasn’t done in time for for Father’s Day, when I gave it to him this week, he got a little teary. So I guess I did ok! I bet you’ve got some photos in your collection that could be used for a “limited edition” gift! Let’s Go Caps!  #backtoback

Custom Caps T-Shirt


One Step You Can Take Today to Protect Your Pictures


This post seems so obvious and for that I apologize, but I often hear people say things like “I really need to backup my computer some day soon.” Are you one of those folks who has you been procrastinating implementing a backup solution? Are you telling yourself you’ll get organized first?

If getting your pictures organized and backing up your computer was a New Year’s Resolution, I’m here to tell you it’s July and you need to get on it! If nothing else, just get backed up.

As a photo organizer, I can appreciate your desire to be organized, and I know you want to rid yourself of all the duplicates, but it important to take this first step. If you are not backing up your digital photo collection, they are at higher risk of loss than your printed photos. It can all happen in the blink of an eye. Not something you really want to think about but hard drives fail, computers and phones are stolen, and ransomeware and viruses can infiltrate your computer. Many procrastinate because it can be overwhelming to find the right solution. The options can be daunting out there on The Internet of Things.

When it comes to backing up computers, I’ve frequently recommended Carbonite as well as a few other companies to clients and friends. Carbonite is the one that I have continued to come back to most often. I’ve found it to be one of the simplest and most straightforward options, and you can set it and forget it (mostly). It’s what they do, and they have been around since 2005. They even have live humans that will answer the phone! I’ve been with another vendor for many years but have recently had the opportunity to reevaluate my own options. Along with performance, the option to back up an external hard drive, I can save hundreds of dollars a year using Carbonite over my old solution. I currently backup about 665 GB of data! No matter who you chose, backing up 665GB is not a fast feat. It will be days of it running in the background. That is partially why I’ve personally waited so long to make the switch. I’ve chosen them as part of my personal backup solution as well as to officially partner with them as a solution that I can implement with my clients. No matter what backup solution you choose, it will adjust to any future de-duping and organization. So you can always get back to that after getting backed up. In the event you never really get to the organizing part of your resolution, at least your photos and videos are protected.
“So what does it cost to back up my computer,” you ask? For just under $150 a year, you can backup your computer and external hard drive and have a hard drive shipped to your home in the event of a computer calamity. There are also plans as lows as $60 a month. So the real question should be what is your piece of mind worth?

If you have questions about what might be the best plan for your scenario, all you need to do is ask. As an official Carbonite partner, I do receive payment for those that purchase through my link; however, I will help you implement a solution no matter who you choose. It doesn’t have to be Carbonite, just do it! It’s important.


How to Crush the Selfie


RachelJenkinsI’ve always resisted embracing the selfie. They’ll junk up my photo library, and mine never look good. You’ll rarely see one of me posted anywhere unless it’s to document a moment with a friend or family member. In my world of keeping the photo collection under control, the selfie is not my friend.

If you’ve never had professional photos done other than your long-ago school portraits, you really should treat yourself to the experience at least once. I recently decided it was time to update my professional portraits for my website and other social media sites. In my search for the perfect pro, fate led me to Mary Gardella and her website. All I had to do was see Mary’s work, and I knew she was my photographer! She shoots from a beautiful natural-light studio where your inner self can shine through. She and her staff are efficient, kind and talented. It takes a village you know..

Even if the photos had been terrible, the experience was a much needed break for me and an opportunity to work on my business branding and not just another day working on the tactical. The photos were nothing short of amazing, and I had a difficult time selecting my favorites. It’s not too often that I can say that about pictures of myself and I hear many of my photo organizing clients say the same. Mary’s got the secret sauce and I highly recommend you try it out. Mary empowered me and lifted me up, and RachelJenkins-5I’m so thankful for getting to know her. She crushed my selfie! What do you think?

To see more of Mary’s amazing creations, check out her website at  Mary Gardella


My Job Stinks But I Love It – Part 1


churchI love my job. I love the people with whom I get to work and I love the variety that comes with the territory of family photos, but sometimes my job really stinks. The people that hire someone like me to help them organize their lifetime of photos and memorabilia are rarely unfriendly or unlikeable. They are folks that share my passion. We find comfort and a sense of belonging by caring for the photos and the stories that they document. Storytelling is the new buzz word in the advertising industry, but storytelling is far from being a new concept. It’s so much more than the latest marketing lingo. Storytelling connect us, and I am here to tell you that even if if those stories aren’t your own, they can bind you to the person telling them. Sometimes that really stinks..I tell myself, “Don’t get attached.” Good luck with all that.

Funerals stink. I know that’s not very politically correct, but who likes a funeral? You don’t have to dig deep to realize it’s not really the funeral that stinks but the fact that the person you’ve grown close to is no longer on this earth.  The fact, that the last time you said good bye or that you kissed her cheek was the last time. Yes, I know, she’ll always be with me in “spirit,” but that doesn’t make it hurt any less right now. Yes, I know she’s in a “better” place, but the selfish me wanted to see her one more time and tell her personally that what we started together I will finish. More importantly, I wish I had found the courage to tell her what she meant to me over the last few years. I wanted to tell her that she will leave a lasting mark on me and that I have the utmost respect for her and the grace with which she handled the last months of her life despite what I’m sure was unbearable pain and discomfort. I wanted to tell her I will miss her, but I didn’t because I knew she was dealing with enough already, and she didn’t need my selfish burden. If I can be half the woman she was, I’ll be a great woman. I will miss you.

My job stinks because sometimes I have to put myself out there and be vulnerable…So this is my chance to tell you, my “clients,” what I’ve not had the courage to say or made the opportunity to say. I want to tell you that you have left a lasting impression on me. I am evolving as a person because of the opportunity that I’ve been granted to spend time with someone like you. You know who you are. We’ve sifted thru boxes of photos and albums together. We’ve laughed over crazy family stories (both yours and mine). We’ve shed a few tears together although we try to be “tough.” I’ve tried to not get “too attached” to you, but you make it impossible. For that, I am thankful. Thank you for never making me feel like the hired help. You invite me into your homes, allow me to handle and see your most treasured moments, and you honor me with your voice and priceless stories. You trust me to help you put those stories into a form that you will pass onto your family. You write “thank you” on my invoices when you pay them or send me Christmas cards of your families. Please know that those small acts remind me why I love doing what I do. I’ve got the best “job” in the world and whether you like it or not, I consider you my friend.


Choosing the Photo Book to Tell Your Family Stories


One of mBlog photo book-013y favorite things to create for both my clients and myself is the photo book. A photo book or scrapbook full of family photos and stories is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your family.

There are many options out there available to the consumer, and it can be hard to choose where to spend your time and money when picking a photo book company. Begin with making a list of the must haves and work from there. Every company is just a little bit different and knowing your own priorities will help you make the best choice. These are a few of the things I consider when choosing a photo book option for my project:

  1. Do you want to start from a blank page and build your own or do you prefer a simple drag and drop template that you can either leave as is or tweak?Blog photo book-017
  2. Do you want built-in content (backgrounds and embellishments) or do you want to pick your own content from another source? Studio Girls Scrapbookgraphics is one of my favorite sources for content. I could get lost on their site.
  3. Do you want to be able to collaborate with another person on the project and does your choice have that capability?
  4. How many pages will you need? Most companies have a maximum number of pages and it’s important to know that before you begin. If you’re looking for the Lay Flat binding most companies max out around 100 pages.
  5. Do you want to be able to work without internet access?

You may need to do a little trial and error to find what works for you. My personal process is a combination and it varies slightly depending on whether I’m creating a book for myself or for my clients. If I’m creating a book for a client, I generally use my Artisan software, content that is for commercial or scrap4hire use, and finish by uploading jpg or pdf images to my printer.

I really like the Artisan photo book design software. It’s a robust piece of software that is easy to use, has great options for templates and content, and you can even print straight to the Panstoria Print Shop which makes the process very easy. For Lay Flat bindings, I like being able to create 2-page layouts vs individual pages. I can do that in both Artisan and using Mixbook templates. With Artisan, you don’t need internet access until you’re ready to upload and print a final bound book. You do need a PC or a Mac using parallels to run Artisan.

Blog photo book-014If I’m creating a book for my own family, I might create the book directly from an online photo book company such as I love their final product. I created my 2012 annual book using Mixbook. It was a 12×12 hardcover book with lay flat binding, and I love the pages and cover texture. I was also pleasantly surprised by the gift box it arrived in. Working directly in Mixbook (or any online photo book printer) keeps me from “over tweaking” which helps get my book done (I may have some perfectionist tendencies). Frankly, that’s what it’s about for me these days when it comes to my personal projects. I want them to be nice, but I want them to be done! I’ve also created my books in Artisan and then downloaded my completed pages to my printer. It just depends on the book and how creative I want to be. Artisan allows me to use whatever content I want. With online companies I’m limited to their content selections. Seriously though, most online companies have beautiful content, and it’s not hard to find one to meet my needs. Additionally, the online companies will frequently offer discounts. I love those 40% off coupons!

I am a fan of both these products which is why I chose to become an affiliate. It’s important to me that I recommend products and processes that I myself believe in and use. I know there are many great products out there and everyone has to find their own work flow. These just happen to be my favorites and after printing many photo books for my own family and clients, I like to think that I come from a place of experience.

Let me know your thoughts and if you need any direction for a combination that might work for you and your projects, feel free to contact me and I will do the best I can to help guide you.


Are You Prepared or Scared of the Digital Dark Age?


Have you been introduced to the concept of The Digital Dark Age? If not, check out this NPR Article and then come back for my thoughts. I’m not into the scare tactics and I don’t think that’s what they’re trying to do here. Vint Cerf comes from a place of authority, so it’s worth a second thought. I, like most digital consumers, want make sure that I don’t lose any valuable family data. So before you freak out about “going dark,” know that there are some pretty simple steps you can take to keep your digital assets and family history safe.

It’s all about balance. Just like your diet, you can’t eat all junk and you have to eat your vegetables. You also need to balance your backup plan by using technology and print. I’m reasonably confident that I’ve got a solution in place that keeps my photos backed up in case of a catastrophic event in my home, and I’ve also got my favorite photos printed in case there’s some sort of digital migration problem. As long as those two things don’t collide, I think I’ll be ok. If they do happen at the same time, we’ve got a whole other set of issues to handle.

First off, don’t just scan and toss. Sure, toss the paper and pictures that won’t burn you if you ever need it and can’t get it digitally.  Keep copies of your taxes, favorite photos, and other important personal documents.

Next up, print your favorite photos. Set up a schedule of downloading your pictures to your computer and rating them. Then print out your highest rated photos on a regular basis. Printing your photos is one of the best ways to “backup.” Use easy slip and slide albums or archival boxes for storage. It doesn’t have to be a fancy scrapbook. No technology required to page through your albums, so no technology failure to keep you from enjoying your photos. Those pictures in albums kept in a stable environment, can last upwards of 100 years. Those camera cards and DVD’s full of photos…not so much.

My final thought is that less is sometimes more. So to manage the printing and album process, don’t print everything. Pick your best and print. If you print everything you’ll quickly become overwhelmed and then you’ll stop, and you’ll be right back where you started. Print the ones that really matter.  Your future generations will thank you.


Our Valentines Project

DSC_7175So this post has nothing to do with photo organizing, but it’s just about as relevant. We’ve all got photos, and if you’ve got elementary-aged kids, you’ll be tasked with Valentines.  I’m no Martha Stewart, but this year I decided that we were going to make our Valentines.  Not because I wanted to prove I was creative, but more because I was trying to utilize things that we already have around the house.   Not typically being the most efficient planner when it comes to these types of projects, I knew I needed to start working on this more than 2 days before their school Valentine’s parties.

DSC_7147First, I rounded up the class lists and the extra goodies from our previous years stash.  Happily I was able to come up with enough to cover both classes.   Then I did the Pinterest search (and got sidetracked by a few other things of course) and found some cute ideas. My original plan was to put the Cricut to good use but that’s a whole other story.  Basically, my goal to hook up my Cricut to use Cricut Craft Room didn’t work out and never will with my particular machine.  I didn’t have any cartridges that could make paper boxes and holding to my no-spending rule for this project, I wasn’t going to buy one.  So back to Pinterest to find a template I can print onto paper and hand cut.  Alone in my office chasing after ideas that just weren’t coming together and I was beginning to feel a bit frustrated.  Then someone who had no idea how frustrated I was said “they are still at the age where it’s fun.”  Thanks Sheila, you pulled me back off the ledge…Duh…..I don’t need to do all the cutting, I don’t need to be alone in my office, and they don’t need to be perfectly cut by the Cricut.  The kids magically appeared, and I put them to work. And you know what, we had fun!



Not sure I was very efficient and they definitely don’t look like Martha Stewart helped out, but we got it done and we had our own little messy, sticky assembly line. The added benefit was that as a scrapbooker, I was able to use up some of my paper stash.  My scrapper wives would be so proud…you know who you are…are you jealous?

These are the links to the ideas and templates I used.
Owl Template – I can’t even draw an owl body without a template..
Thanks to the folks that took the time to document and provide the templates and ideas…I couldn’t have done it alone.  It takes a village…

Backup Your Online Backup Plan


iStock_000035509846SmallIf you’re looking to put an online backup plan in place soon, I’ve got a few thoughts for you. First the facts: redundancy is king and hard drives will fail. That being said, it’s smart to put a multi-level solution in place. I’m going to start with some thoughts on on-line backup solutions. Maybe a future post on hard drives…

Every couple of months I spend time reviewing on-line backup solutions. Not because I particularly enjoy it, but because I have clients that need a solution. I’m reluctant to just throw out that last solution I used because they all regularly tweak their features. When looking at a solution there are a few things that you should consider before you invest the time and money. Basically you have to decide what’s important to you and everyone has different needs…

  • How long have they been around and are there adequate positive reviews for the products?
  • Is the process automated once you get set up? Most are, but be sure. If it’s not, it makes it too easy to put off till tomorrow…
  • Do you have to sign up for the whole year or can you pay month by month? Free trials are great, but once you’ve done that initial backup, which takes a long time, you may not want to do that again any time soon….
  • What level of files are you looking to backup and how much control do you have within the folders. Do you have to back up the entire folder or can you select files within the folder? Does that matter to you?
  • What type of support does the company have? Can you contact them via phone if you need help or do you have to work through on-line chat or email?
  • Do you want the ability to access those files on multiple devices or do you just want a secure backup for when you need it? There’s a distinct difference between on-line backup and on-line storage.
  • How many GB or TB do you need for backup and how much will it cost?
  • Will it backup your music as well as your photos and other documents?
  • What is the process to restore when you need to?

Know up front that pretty much any one of the on-line solutions will take quite a bit of time to do your initial backup. Sometimes many days. Turn off the “power save mode” during that period and it will go a little smoother. After the initial backup, subsequent backups should go relatively unnoticed except for a message advising you that it completed successfully.

My biggest piece of advise is to make the list of your must-have features and do your research.

There are a lot of things to consider and it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. I guess that’s a good enough reason to have lots of options. Believe me there are many.