Get It Together
5 Steps to Organize Your Digital Photos.
By Sharla Ishmael
Truth or Dare: Would you rather get your mud boots stuck on the way to the trough with two full buckets of feed and 10 hungry heifers in your pocket or spend half a day looking for photos you need, say, for an ad or to compare for rangeland monitoring — photos you know you have, but cannot find — when you have 50 other things on the To-Do list for that day?
They are both frustrating situations. At least one of them can be avoided. In the digital world of today, whether you need photos for your cattle business or you are documenting the life of your family, you need a plan to conquer the chaos.
Step 1. Make sure you HAVE the photos you need.
For advertising sake, whether you sell heifers, bulls, seedstock, equipment, etc., you are going to need photos to promote them either in a print publication or even on your own Facebook page. Unless you happen to have a day job as a photographer, it is best to hire it done.
The worst thing you can do is put out a bad picture of something you want to sell. Once the photos are taken, make sure you have not just the photos, but all the rights to use them in as many ways as you desire, as well.
Also, make sure the photographer sends you high-resolution digital photos for print. A low-resolution (low-res) photo can be used online but not in any print publication.
To see what happens to low-res photos in a print publication, take a look at the example with this article.
By the way, it is bad form to use photos (even on Facebook) with the photographer’s watermark across the animal. It tends to aggravate that photographer, whose help you might need, sometime in the future, to look up a photo from ten years ago.
Most livestock photographers offer discounts if you buy more than one at a time, so maybe put a list together of several photos from the same shutterbug and get a good deal if you happen to be buying show pictures.
Step 2. Gather your pictures into one place.
Most of us have photos stored on our phones, our tablets, and our computers — maybe even on old computers we do not use anymore — and possibly an external hard drive, cloud service, and social media accounts.
Start by gathering all the files into one place — probably your computer if you have room or the hard drive/cloud storage program of your choice. You cannot organize your collection until you know what you have. If you have a lot of photos, particularly high-resolution photos, you will need a lot of storage space — especially if you also have some videos you want to keep.
Many livestock publications now use Dropbox as a hub for all things digital.
This service allows you to share large files easily between staff, designers, and advertising agencies.
If the photo or file is too big for email, we can easily send you a link to open it.
Other online storage services are iCloud, Google Photos, and Flickr.
Depending on whether you are an Apple or Android user and how much free space you can get (or whatever your budget is), just try a few and see what you think is easiest to use.
If you happen to be a Pinterest user, there is a great pin from Refined Rooms that gives you a 10 Week Digital Photo Organizing Challenge.
Each week you have a different part of an overall plan to accomplish since we all know this is a job that probably cannot be done in a day. They even have a handy checklist to remind you of places where you could have photos stored that you have forgotten — old CDs anyone? And they also have links to help you figure out how to transfer photos from your phone to your computer if you need that type of instruction.
They also make a really good point about cloud services.
“I am a firm believer that you should not entrust your original set of digital images to any third-party service. Companies go out of business, change their terms of service, and experience service outages. By choosing a digital photo hub that is locally based, you guarantee that you will always have access to your photos when you want them.” – Refined Rooms
A follower of their page makes another good point. In the event of some huge catastrophe (like an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that takes out the company’s server), you might want to print your most important photos. To be ultra-safe, keep them in a safety deposit box at the bank.
And remember, if you are not using a cloud service but some type of physical backup at home, the rate of change in technology can make your device obsolete.
If you buy a new computer, you might be surprised to find it no longer has a CD drive. You can buy a mobile CD/DVD reader to access those old files and then upload to a cloud service or other hard drive.
Is it worth buying a professional’s time?
If you just do not want to mess with this whole project and you can afford to, there are professional services that will help get your photos gathered, backed up, cleaned up and organized into a coherent system. While convenient, it can get pricey.
“The cost varies depending on the level of organization you want and the number of photos you have. For the DIYer, assuming that you already have a computer, you can organize your photos for about $150. This covers the cost of a cloud backup service and an external hard drive.
“Professional photo organization can range from $1,500 to $10,000 and up. Some photo organizers charge by the hour, while others charge by the project. When working with a professional, the costs include the backup options, the organizer’s time, and any additional organization tools, such as a photo management software program.” – Houzz.com
Whether you gathered up your photographs yourself or paid someone to do it, backup is an essential part of this process.
Options range from a thumb drive or other external storage device to cloud services. For example, there is a product called Picture Keeper that backs up your images when you plug it into your computer. That is one advantage of Dropbox because you can set it to sync the files on your computer with their cloud. Not only is it a good backup, but it allows you to access those files from your smartphone or tablet anywhere in the world where you can get a connection.
Step 3. Sort and categorize
Now that you have your photo collection in one spot, decide on an organization system and clean out duplicates or bad photos you do not need.
This is where you are probably better off to DIY the chore unless you can hire someone with livestock experience.
The right file system for your photos depends very much on how you plan to use them in the future. For example, you could organize files by date, show, sale, pedigree, herd number, you name it. If you use photo points for rangeland monitoring, you will definitely need an accurate filing system or else all that work is down the drain!
Whatever system you use should make it easy for you to find a photo later.
Rename photos to make them easier to find and easier for somebody else to identify.
Instead of the AB_0565 your camera named the photo, rename the file to a heifer’s registered name or the pasture name and range site, etc.
Another tip, particularly on herd bull pics, is to label photos likely to be updated in the future. If your bull is named Hot Shot and you have a yearling photo, rename the photo to indicate his age. When he is older and you have a new photo of him, name the photo Hot Shot-mature. That way you will not accidentally send the wrong photo for your ad.
Some photo management software programs also allow you to tag photos by location, people, etc. Google Photos automatically sorts photos so you can easily pull together a collage of your ranch dogs, herd bulls, daughter’s basketball games, whatever. It is fun to play around with if you have a few minutes. It can even recognize faces and help you search more efficiently.
Step 4. Maintain
As you add photos to your digital library, you will need to stick with your plan to keep things organized, tidy and backed up.
Set aside time every so often just to go through your library and keep or cull or add information.
You might even decide to adjust your filing system once you get going. The main thing is, do not get overwhelmed or give up. Your photos should bring you joy, whether it is remembering a special sunset or the day your kid won the State Fair or whatever. That is part of the magic of photography — capturing a memory you want to savor.
Step 5. Share
What is the point of having a nicely organized library of digital photos if nobody else sees them? Livestock people love to look at old photos of show animals to see how the type preference has changed, so share them on social media! That will help drive people to your ranch’s Facebook or Instagram page in a flash.
Make something special for a VIP customer. There are all kinds of photo memorabilia that can be created now, from photobooks to a coffee mug. If you sold a high-dollar animal to a special customer, particularly one with whom you would like to have repeat business, send them a photo gift. A little thoughtfulness goes a long way!
Here is a tip for sharing with family members: Amazon Prime membership gives you the ability to have up to five family members share a “Family Vault,” where everybody can upload and see each other’s photos. And it comes with unlimited full-resolution backup, which is also good for the pictures the grandparents want to print. Just download the Amazon photos app; you can even use Alexa with it.
Finally, if you have a streaming app, you can stream your photos from your phone or tablet to your big-screen TV to see them better or show to a group of people. There is no limit to the ways your photos can be shared with friends, family, and customers.
As with most things, you get out of your photos what you put into them. Who knows? You might decide to learn how to use Photoshop and edit your pictures for all kinds of uses.
Obviously, this article was geared to the amateurs among us who remember when we still used film. So, there are advanced versions of everything mentioned here. The hardest part is just getting started.
Pick a day to get started, make sure you have all the supplies you need and have a plan. Then the next time an advertising deadline or stocking rate decision comes around and you need a certain photo, you will know exactly where to find it and then have more time in your day for the other 49 chores calling your name. Let’s just hope feeding in the mud is not one of them!
Get it Together is excerpted from the October 2019 issue of The Cattleman magazine. Join today to start your subscription.