Memorabilia mishmash, Part I: Photos

Weekend Wanderlust

Jamie Hazlett
Feb. 15, 2011

Virtually everyone has a stack of muddled vacation mementos lying around in their house: the photos you just never had time to sort through, the programs and maps that you kept perfectly pressed in your suitcase right up until the moment you got home, the weird little tchotchkes that were just so darling in the store window but look ridiculous on your bookshelf.  Every time you see them, you vow to go through it all soon, and yet it keeps not happening.  With each trip you take, the pile looms higher, and now Hawaii is mixed in with Niagara Falls, and who has the energy to sort that mess out?

As with any monumental organizing task, the hardest part is getting started.  The tower of papers seems unassailable, right?  Then start small.  Spend a couple hours just sorting your pictures, be they printed or digital, into the right stacks – Grand Canyon over here, Mexico over there, etc.  Sound too main-stream for you?  Break your shots up based on whether or not the focal point is a living thing, divide them based on the most dominant color, or categorize them off of what time of day it was.  Some people will have a pile of pictures from various weddings they’ve attended, while someone else will have a shoebox full of shots they snapped from the summits of all the 13,000-footers they’ve climbed (pro tip: shoeboxes are a great tool when you’re doing preliminary photo organizing).  The point is to stop putting it off. Believe it or not, you can watch ‘Glee’ and sort photos at the same time.

Next comes the pruning stage.  Even professionals often take many so-so or just plain bad shots, so don’t feel bad if you delete or toss a lot of pictures.  Before posting your album to Facebook or buying a 50-page album, turn an editorial eye on all those grand vistas and goofy grins and get rid of the ones that don’t speak to you in some way.  This is also your opportunity to remove any embarrassing shots.  Let’s say you took 50 pictures of the same fountain.  Unless you’re trying to create a 360° view of the fountain, or you captured someone being murdered, you don’t need most of those shots.  Some of your pictures of will be blurry, have sun flares or be photobombed.  Unless these factors somehow add to the shot, which occasionally happens, pictures with these qualities should be the first to go.

Use gut instinct from here. A picture you took in the early evening might lend a really neat perspective to the fountain compared to an identical one you took at noon.  Keep the few that really grab your attention or evoke the best memories. Get rid of the rest or save them somewhere separate from your “keeper” shots.  Once you know how many good pictures you’ve got, you can divide the remaining work up more knowledgably than you could when all you knew was that your vacations tried to swallow you every time you opened the closet.

It’s up to you how far you go in organizing your vacation(s).  Some people are content to save them on their computer with no labels, others insist that each “keeper” be meticulously captioned, and some prefer digital photo frames.  Those with a bent towards arts and crafts might like to print their pics and organize them into albums or scrapbooks.  Whatever you do, make sure that when your friends ask to see your Caribbean cruise, you don’t bore them to tears with grainy or repetitive photos.  Even if your best shots make it no further than a Sharpie-labeled shoebox, at least when you pull it down from the shelf you can be so confident that you won’t be labeled the worst vacation photographer ever (even if you really are).

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