August 16, 2023

How a Professional Photo Organizer Manages Vacation Pics and Videos

First off, I want to say this is not the be-all and end-all way of dealing with vacation photos. This is my own person system of habits that work for me and I want to share since that’s what I do. I organize things. I share. Rinse and repeat. Maybe this system wouldn’t work for you. Or maybe you will find something you can implement to get a better handle on your own vacation memories. That’s definitely my goal.

Second, the following assumes you are only taking photos with your cell phone. If there are photos from a DSLR camera, I would deal with those differently depending on if I’m traveling with my computer or if I have a wireless memory card automatically syncing with my phone camera roll. For today, I’m just talking about phone photos because truthfully, I hardly travel with my big camera anymore. I love it when I do, but I really enjoy the freedom of being able to get great photos and videos with my iPhone.

So here we go. From start to finish, this is my process for managing my own photos and videos from our vacations.

Before the Trip

As the vacation approaches, I like to have an idea of what I want to do with my memories in the long run. On our recent Barcelona trip, I knew I wanted to take all my little video clips from the whole week and edit them together to make one longer recap video. I also know I like to add a few photos and title pages so I make sure to take some key photos in landscape position. Knowing this intention ahead of time means I can make sure to take pictures and videos that fit with my goals. I take all my videos in landscape position unless I intend to post something to my Instagram stories. If I want to make a photo album, I like to take some b-roll photos as filler pics. This includes any photos of the environment and location to give a more full-story of our trip. This could be close-ups of leaves or flowers in that area or close-up detail shots of other things of interest. Ok, now I’m ready to go on vacation and I have an idea of what I want to capture.

During the Trip

This is going to sound crazy coming from me but I take as many pics as I want. I know, I know. I don’t often say things as outlandish as this. Usually, I am saying that less is more. Just hear me out. The truth of it is in the following statement:

“I have never regretted taking a photo but many times I have regretted NOT taking a photo.”

Do not have photo FOMO, my friends. As long as it doesn’t interfere with my enjoyment or my family’s enjoyment of the trip, I take as many photos as I want. Sometimes I just need to be present and put down my camera. Other times, I only have one moment to capture the memory so I’m going to take every opportunity possible. This might mean hanging back from the group to capture something in a couple different ways. This might mean asking questions to my family to prompt them to talk about something. I can always delete it later but I can’t ever retake that moment. Which brings me to the next very important step.

At the end of each day, I like to cull my photos. THIS IS EVERYTHING. It’s fine to take a lot of pics but I cannot keep all of them. Sometimes I take a lot of pics at the beginning of a hike and then I realize later that the pics I thought were awesome are nothing compared to the pics I took from lookout point later on. It’s ok to take a lot of photos but I make sure to delete the duplicates, the similar pics and the stuff I just don’t want. If I can’t commit to doing that, I need to take less photos to begin with.

I like to collect photos or videos from other people as soon as I can. At times, other people have taken a video or photo of me. Imagine being included in your family vacation story as a mom?? It’s a Christmas miracle! Or sometimes I might ask someone to intentionally take a video of me. On our recent Barcelona trip, I got 2 additional videos from my daughter of me and my husband on a food tour. The sooner I get these items from other people, the more likely it is to actually happen. Sooner means I won’t forget and the other person won’t be annoyed at having to search for it deep in their photo library. And it also means they probably haven’t deleted it yet. It just happened. It’s right there. Easy peasy, no? I don’t like to procrastinate gathering from others. (We are an all iPhone family so my preferred method of gathering is to ask for them to airdrop things to me.)

I also like to find a moment to keep a short daily diary. This is a bullet list of what we did, where we ate, anything funny that happened and so on. I often take photos of signs and such, just to reference later on. If I write it all down then I don’t need to keep it all in my head and I can also delete the reference photos. That’s a win for me!

This all may sound like a lot of work but it’s just some habit tweaks here and there. I’m not telling you to skip any of the fun stuff and sit in a corner and look through your photos. Not at all. I like to pick a time when it makes sense. There is usually some down time on a vacation, maybe a quiet moment when someone else is checking email or the end of the day when you want to scroll social media and just chill out. Maybe everyone else is taking a nap and you can give 2 minutes to your photos. Instead of mindlessly doing nothing of importance, use that time productively and scroll your OWN media from the day. I promise it will make it easier in the long run. 

On the Way Home

Oh bummer, the trip is over. But now is a great time to do a little tidying up. If you’re flying or a passenger in a car, use the travel time to do a final edit through your photos and videos. I like to ruthlessly cut out the junk, pick even more of the best of the best so it’s easier to find what I want later on. At this point I also like to make an album on my phone of just my video clips so they are easier to locate.

If I didn’t write a daily diary of our adventures, I take out a notebook and use the time to write it all down now while it’s still fresh in my mind. Many times, I have to ask other people for details. On this past trip, my husband had figured out most of the restaurants and I wanted to ask him where we had eaten. (Good reminder that I should be taking a pic of the restaurant signs if I really want to remember, instead of having to ask him.)

Now that I have cleaned up my camera roll, I can start working on my vacation video recap. Having a head start (if not completely finishing it before we get home) will make transitioning back into real life that much easier. Because we all know once you get home, reality strikes pretty quickly and dealing with vacation photos tends to take a backseat to other pressing things.

After the Trip (You’re Home!)

I like to do a final wrap-up on my video recap. It could be as simple as merging all the movies together and calling it good enough. It could be adding captions to photos, title pages or music. Each one is a little different but I’m going for DONE over perfect.

I also like to scan any items or photos I brought home that I don’t have in a digital version. This could be pics taken with a polaroid camera, photo booth pics, postcards or anything else I want to keep with my photos for memory’s sake. 

One of the most important things I do is to make sure I back up my vacation photos! I copy all my photos out of the Apple ecosystem (because I have an iPhone therefore all my photos begin in my iPhone) and over the hard drive of my computer (which gets backed up via Crashplan). If you have read my prior post about monthly photo maintenance, you know it’s important to have a 3-2-1 backup. This does it for me.

I also take a bit of time to update my vacation files. What am I talking about? Well, as you can imagine, I’m an organizer. For every trip I have a few things filled in before the trip. No matter how much you plan a trip, things change, we do different things based on how we feel. This means when we get back I like to just do a quick update to the following items:

  • Planned Itinerary (adding what actually happened on the trip)
  • Google Map (where we actually ended up going)
  • Packing List (what was helpful and what was not helpful, etc.)
  • Vacation Reflection Worksheet (less of an update and more of a journaling practice)

Hope this gave you some ideas on how you document your own adventures, be it near or far. Getting it out of your head clears space for more adventures today and in the future!


PS- Don’t forget to write reviews for the tours you took. I know when we travel, we rely on other reviews that people took time to write. It’s nice to pay-it-forward for the next travelers!


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