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Better Remembered: The Advantages of a Digital Photo Library

The first photograph ever known to be taken, "View from the Window at Le Gras."

Harry Ransom Center/University of Texas

A simple image called, “View from the Window at Le Gras,” taken in 1826, is said to be the first known photograph ever created. Since this grainy image was captured, camera technology has continued to evolve into the high-resolution image-capturing capabilities of today’s handheld smartphones.

Since its advent, a universal appreciation for photography has swept the planet. Photos have caused monumental social change, and become benchmarks for our understanding of the past and present.

Our personal photographs represent precious artifacts that have the capability to preserve fleeting moments in our lives. We collect them in an effort to hold on, look back, and finally, pass on to the next generation.

Traditionally, our collections have resided in physical albums, with overflow stuffed into shoeboxes and stored in the attic. These storage methods have myriad drawbacks, with damage and loss being chief among them. In fact, the first photograph ever taken was believed to be lost and was discovered by chance in an unknown crate in 1952.

Fortunately, with all of the innovative options available to us for scanning, cloud storage, and photo-sharing, there are more reasons than ever to go digital.

Why Your Photo Library Should Be Digital

Reason #1: A Digital Library Stands the Test of Time

If you’ve ever sorted through a box of your parents or grandparents’ photos, you know that time wreaks havoc on printed images. Experts call it photodegradation, but we call it a major bummer when precious artifacts from the past are lost to the elements.

A digitizing specialist holding old photo prints.

There are multiple ways that physical prints and albums can degrade over time. Insects, moisture, light exposure, chemical decay, improper storage, and even the oil from your skin which is transferred to the pictures upon handling can all lead to the deterioration of your memories.

By scanning your collection into a digital library, you can ensure that your photographic legacy will endure, and bring delight for many generations to come.

Prior to scanning, you'll likely want to sort through what’s actually worth keeping long-term, as this can save you time and money, depending on if you'll be doing this DIY or hiring a scanning expert to handle the project for you.

Once scanned, it's crucial your precious memories are stored properly. While we recommend a few cloud-based photo management systems to house your digital library, like Google Photos, Mylio Photos, Apple Photos, or Amazon Photos, there are many options available on the market, each with its own strengths and shortcomings.

Reason #2: Museum-worthy Curation

If you’ve taken the time to look through a stack of prints to narrow down those worthy of putting on display or becoming a part of an album, you know how much time this project can consume.

We understand this step can feel even more overwhelming with a digital library that likely contains thousands, if not tens of thousands, of photos.

A digital photo library in Google Photos.

Fortunately, with a digital collection living in a cloud-based photo management system, you can harness the power of AI-assisted software to help you more efficiently eliminate exact copies and near duplicates, paring down your library to just those pictures worthy of showing off and passing down. A few of our favorites include apps like Gemini, and Smart Cleaner. For those a bit more tech-savvy, there are super-powered pro-de-duplicators like PhotoSweeper or Duplicate Cleaner Pro.

Just like your physical stacks of prints and albums, you will need to go through your digital library to eliminate low-quality and unimportant shots, but the result will be a streamlined collection that you can easily navigate, unlike the disarray of printed stacks.

In the long run, taking time to do this will make finding your favorite photos easier and require you to purchase less storage space. Plus, you'll be able to pass on a curated, easily-navigable family photo archive to the next generation.

Reason #3: Ease of Navigation

This brings us to one of the most advantageous aspects of an organized digital library: the ability to quickly find what you’re looking for at any time.

Forget pulling down that attic ladder, or heaving heavy scrapbooks up from the basement. A digital library puts all of your memories at your fingertips.

By utilizing albums, keyword tags, and photo recognition software, you can greatly improve searchability and create on-demand photo access. Many of these organizational features are even available straight from your smartphone using the 'info' menu option, so you can apply them while passing the time waiting for an appointment or on a long car ride.

A gif demonstrating locating tagging in Apple Photos.

While creating a workable and efficient system takes time, dedication, and a little know-how, we can’t understate the joy of being able to call up those summer vacation pics from 1997 with the click of a button.

This doesn’t mean you can’t still create and enjoy physical albums. In fact, digital libraries offer up plentiful ways to share digital albums virtually and with professionally published photo books.

Reason #4: A New Age of Shareability

The past decade has seen an explosion of activity in online photo-sharing through social media, but you don’t have to be an influencer to take advantage of the many ways to connect with your loved ones through pictures.

Once you have an organized and curated library, you can use some of the free, and low-cost photo-sharing products offered by Amazon, Google, and Apple Photos, just to name a few.

Amazon Prime members have access to unlimited digital photo storage, as well as free print delivery. You can also create and manage photo-sharing folders to let friends and family view and react to chosen images.

Google Photos offers similar services, and with the iOs 16 on iPhones, you can easily sort photos into shared folders in real-time.

With a digital library, sharing your favorite images with loved ones through photo books, displays, or digital frames also becomes easier than ever. That is, as long as you've given your library the extra TLC it needs to be efficient and navigable, as we mentioned previously.

A digital organizer organizing photos in Apple Photos.

You can even 'share' your photos from your digital library with yourself in really fun ways! For example, without needing any apps, you can introduce a rotating lineup of highlighted images to your home screen on your iPhone. Here's how:

  1. Find an empty space on your home screen. Tap and hold on your chosen spot until you see the icons shake.

  2. Tap on the plus (+) sign that shows up on the screen

  3. Select the photo app from the menu of widgets that appear

  4. Swipe left or right to select your desired widget size

  5. Press the add widget button

While these are just a few of the ways digital photo libraries increase shareability, the options are truly endless these days. Once you become accustomed to the features and ease of digital photo-storing services, we don’t think you’ll miss relying on your dusty and disorganized stacks of prints.

Final Thoughts on the Advantages of a Digital Photo Library

You may be thinking: This all sounds great, but I already have more digital images in my camera roll than I can ever get around to organizing, and that’s not even taking into account the heaps of prints in storage that I’m afraid to even look through.

You aren’t alone. Experts estimate that 3.2 billion images and 720k hours of video are shared online daily. That’s a staggering amount of content, and most of us have all but lost control of our digital collections.

If your photo collection just feels too overwhelming to take on alone, consider enlisting the help of photo-organizing experts who are trained in getting your archives back under control. Then, you can experience the stress-reducing benefits of eliminating digital clutter, while also heightening your enjoyment of your best memories.

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