Do you ever lay awake late at night worrying about the state of your photo albums? I have over 2,000 unprocessed pictures on my phone, not arranged into scrapbooks or uploaded to the cloud. They are priceless family memories that could be gone in an instant if I lost my phone.
Just thinking about it makes me sweat.
The last photo album I finished was in 2015. In two days it’ll be 2019, and I will officially be four years behind. How did I let myself become the living, breathing definition of mom-fail? Documenting happy family memories for all posterity is one of a mother’s primary duties. It’s right up there with force-feeding children vegetables.
It was easier back in the dark-room ages before digital cameras. There were less photos to process because film was expensive. Going to the store to pick up a new batch of pictures was thrilling. It was always a surprise to see which shots turned out great and which ones were destined for the trash can.
If I didn’t put my photos into albums right away, at least I had the comfort of knowing they were in a shoebox underneath my bed.
Of course, traditional photo albums took up valuable storage space and the scrapbooking craze put pressure on women to make each page perfect. Theoretically, the drop-and-click technology we have access to now should make things easier. Photo albums created through online services such as Shutterfly or Snapfish are easy to store and don’t require photo mounting, stickers or crafting parties. But they do still take time — and time has always been a limited commodity for mothers.
My New Year’s resolution for 2019 is to do better when it comes to archiving family memories. I asked my friend Angie Langford, owner of Verb Photography in Edmonds who takes breathtaking newborn photos as well as family portraits, wedding photography, business images and headshots, how she manages her family’s photos.
“I have several methods of storing my personal and business portraits,” Angie told me. “My printing typically includes 4-by-6 prints to pass down to my children.” Angie does this because computer technology will change a lot in the next 50 years. External hard drives can break and passwords are easily lost. “I also store images in the iCloud,” she explained, “and on USB.” She recommends keeping USB sticks “in a cool, dry place so the connection ends don’t rust” — which is a potential disaster that never occurred to me as something I should be worrying about.
After my conversation with Angie, I formed a three-step plan for dealing with the snowballing photo gallery on my phone. Step 1: Upload my photos to the cloud. Step 2: Back the photos up on inexpensive USB sticks (one for each kid) and store the USB sticks in a safe place. Step 3: Turn on my computer, grab my mouse and pretend like it’s 2016. Every mom knows that photo albums don’t make themselves.
Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal.