Tower Bridge - London vacation - copyright Stephany Wiestling - All rights reserved.
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Tips on How to Organize Family Vacation Photos

Tower Bridge - London vacation - copyright Stephany Wiestling - All rights reserved.
Tower Bridge – London vacation – copyright Stephany Wiestling – All rights reserved.

You’re back from your family vacation and everyone took tons of great pictures from your trip.  Meaning, you have possibly hundreds of pictures from different cameras, different phones, a video camera, maybe even more!  How do you organize them into something you can work with?

This summer, I concocted a method that I want to duplicate for our future trips, so I’m documenting it here.  Hopefully, this will help some of you organize your family vacation photos, too!

First, make sure all cameras have synchronized time settings before you go.

If you didn’t do this beforehand (I didn’t so I’m reminding myself to check for next time!) you can figure out the time differences by taking a new photo with each camera and comparing the time stamps.  (This really only works with digital cameras I’m assuming, and most digital cameras have a clock on them.  Even if you’ve never set the clock, it gives a time stamp to your photos.  You’ll have to check your camera manual (many have help tips online, too) on how to set your clock since there are WAY too many camera models to even try to explain it.)

In my case, my husband had properly set the clock on his DSLR camera, so I took a picture with each of our cameras, including his, and figured out that my camera was an hour and 15 minutes behind his, and my son’s was only 20 minutes behind his.  So I had to do a LOT of math that I would like to avoid doing next time. 😉

Next, import everyone’s photos and videos to the same folder on one computer and sort them by date and time.  Here’s how:

1.  Import all photos and videos from all sources into one master folder like, “London 2013”.  You may need to go into a separate “photo stream” folder to find the ones from the phone and drag them over.

2.  Once inside this folder and all photos and videos are here, make new folders (inside this master one) for each day of your trip.  Label these sub-folders by date and day like this:  7-20-13 Saturday – London,  etc.

3. Rename each photo with the date and time the photo was taken… this is easiest if you use military time. For example, if you took a photo on July 20th, 2013 at 1:06 pm, you would  name the photo 072013 – 1306. If you snapped a bunch in a row, so they have the same time stamp, just give them a (1), (2) after each like this: 072013 -1213 (1), 072013 -1213 (2).  Keep track of your spaces and dashes, too.  Meaning, if you do 072013(space)-(space)1306, be sure to do that spacing for ALL your photos throughout your folders.

“Where do I find the time stamp??”

In Windows 7, you find this time stamp info by clicking on each photo once to bring up the properties at the bottom of the screen.  There’s a spot that says “Date taken: 7/20/2013 12:13 PM”  Mine also shows an editable subject and title line as well as a comments and author section.  If you want to fill all that in for further sorting later on, you certainly can do that now while you’re in here. If you have a Mac or another version of windows, I’m not entirely sure how you find this, but you might try right-clicking on the photo to find “properties” (probably at the bottom of the pop-up menu) then the “details” tab for the “date taken” info.

Fair warning, you still might have to do some math if you have pictures from mobile phones and you vacationed in another time zone.  The phones will likely have changed their clocks to local time and your digital cameras are likely still on home time.  Sorry, this one is unavoidable.

Now you have them in chronological order regardless of which device they were taken with.  Just looking at them in this order helps you relive those memories with fresh eyes.  Plus, it’s fun to see what everyone finds photo-worthy when it’s time to build the scrapbook or find the perfect holiday card photo.  You can further sort them into folders for the different places you went or activities, but I find that just breaking them out by day is enough.  Adding a subject or tags could also help with further sorting if you like.

ps.  I know this is totally type-A, especially if you didn’t set your camera clocks beforehand, but I can testify that after spending the time to do this, I enjoy my photos so much and can now very quickly find the ones I’m looking for!

Do you have any photo organizing tips?  Please share them in the comments below!!

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