Description: It’s time to upgrade how we preserve, organize, and experience our family photo libraries. Here’s how to do all of that with Mylio.
How to digitize, organize, and access your family photos
By: Maggie King
Once upon a sweltering Alabama summer, a young man winked at a young woman in a department store lobby. They fell in love, lived in Germany for a while, had a daughter, and loved each other for the rest of their lives. Their daughter also had daughters, and one day many, many years later, she sat down with them, surrounded by slides from the Germany years none of them had been alive to know.
One by one, they scanned each slide and saved them on a USB drive with a whopping 256 GB to its name. Rejoicing in their success, they put the images in two folders: Germany-1 and Germany-2. Some of the photos got labelled, but most didn’t. And those folders remained largely unopened for many years after.
Maybe for your family it’s a shoebox full of Polaroids. Maybe it’s a stack of yearbooks from the 90’s. Or maybe it’s a camera roll full of quarantine family photos that will fall victim to the “endless scroll” until the next time you upgrade your smartphone, when they could be lost forever.
Though all our stories are just a little bit different, our family photos have something in common: they’re as difficult to manage as they are sentimental. It’s time to upgrade how we preserve, organize, and experience family photos. Today, I’m showing you how to do that with Mylio.
Sharing your digital photos from Mylio
We’ll talk a lot about digitizing and preserving your older family photos in a bit, but let’s not forget the most important part of having a digital family photo library: sharing and experiencing those photos in a convenient way. The best way to share photos with family is the one you’ll actually use.
So often, the processes we are enthusiastic about in the beginning fall by the wayside over time. Mylio’s functionality and versatility keep things running and organized, even when life is too crazy for me to take an active hand in my photo organization. It also makes it simple to share from a central hub, which means I share photos (and experience them) more.
Sharing between devices
Mylio is “device agnostic”, meaning it works with iOS, macOS, Android, and Windows. And what’s more, your library plays nicely between all those different platforms. My life is on a Macbook, my husband can’t live without his Surface Book 2, and we both use iPhones. We make frequent updates and changes to Mylio on each device, and they sync like butter.
That means we finally have a true, shareable family photo library, rather than a collection of camera rolls and folders that we wrestle with about once a year in November, when it’s time to put together our annual family Christmas album to send our respective mothers.
Sharing on social media
We’ve all heard that phrase, “Pics or it didn’t happen.”
While I’m more a fan of experiencing life than documenting it compulsively, there is definite value in sharing photos on social media from time to time. Families who are spread out, in particular, are able to stay close in a way they never could before thanks to Facebook, Instagram, and the rest. Mylio makes this type of sharing darn easy. Just select the photo you want in your mobile app and tap the Share icon at the bottom of the screen. Then, select the social media app of your choice.
Sharing safely with Guest Mode
My kids love looking at pictures. The problem is, they are accident-prone little balls of energy who could mess up all my digital organization in a hot second. Guest mode allows me to share their history (both recent and further down the line) with them without risking our history’s safety until they’re old enough. I means I can also let the less tech-savvy adult members of my family flip through my Mylio library to their heart’s content without the constant worry that they’re going to mess something up.
Finding the best way to digitize old family photos
If you hadn’t guessed, the story I opened with was my own. When we decided to digitize old photos of my grandparents, it turned out to be far more time-consuming than any of us expected. So, while we were excited to have two years of family history at our fingertips, we stopped there.
But that was the early 2000’s, and now there’s a host of resources that didn’t exist then, Mylio chief among them. If you’re looking to get started with organizing your family library, particularly older images, remember, before organization comes digitization. That means either scanning your images, paying a service like ScanCafe or Legacybox to scan them for you, or taking photos of your photos. All three have their place.
Going it alone
Scanning the photos yourself allows you to do the project in stages. While that does a lot to manage overwhelm, it can take longer. You’ll need scanning equipment and a baseline knowledge of digital photography to get quality scans of your images.
Paying for convenience
Scanning services will take care of the quality aspect; some may even restore photos as they digitize them. It’s a premium method, but it comes with the nail-biting experience of shipping off your precious memories to strangers.
Photographing your photographs
You’re not likely to get consistently high-quality photos this way, but if you want to digitize family photos without access to scanning equipment (for example, when you’re making your yearly visit to Great-Aunt Enid’s house) it will definitely do the trick.
Preservation and longevity
When looking for the best way to store old photos (or new ones, for that matter) you may wonder what the big deal is about digitizing. It’s understandable to have an attachment to your physical photos, but while a hefty photo album may be meaningful, it’s likely to sit, neglected, on the same shelf for years at a time. (That’s if it’s not boxed away in an attic with a rodent problem or a basement with a water problem.)
Digital photos can be looked through wherever and whenever you want, without fear of rips, tears, fading, or fingerprints. But what a lot of people fear about the digitizing process isn’t even about the photos themselves. It’s about losing the handwriting on the back or the context of seeing it in the album, with cues from the surrounding photos about time, event, and place.
Mylio adds to the longevity of your images by giving you the option to preserve the information that goes with the images in several ways:
Say I had a photo of my great-grandmother labelled with the year and location on the back. I don’t want to lose that valuable information, so I scan both sides of the image. Then, I assign both images the keyword “Ruth” (her name). I also assign the keyword “handwriting” to the image with the writing on it. If I knew who wrote the words on the back, I’d add a keyword for their name, as well, to have a record of what their handwriting looked like.
In the past, I would have done this in Photos on my Macbook, and you still can, if you like. Those keywords will become part of the image metadata and translate right over to Mylio with the image itself.
Now, though, I do this type of thing inside Mylio. I simply Shift + click all the images I want, go to Info, and enter the relevant keyword(s). (If using more than one keyword, separate them with commas. Remember, you can add individual keywords to each photo as well, without losing the shared keyword.)
If you want to link photos with keywords, but they’re not already categorized together in any other way, just drag and drop each image to the bottom of Mylio, where they’ll hook into Mylio’s clipboard. Once all the images you want are in the clipboard, it’s easy to select them all at once and add a shared keyword or two.
The clipboard in action, courtesy of Mylio
I also “cheat” the facial recognition system by tagging photos of handwriting right along with the person who wrote it. (Or, in the case of a labeled photo, the person the handwriting refers to.)
For these recipe cards, I took photos with my phone when I visited my mother’s house, then selected all of the recipe card photos in Mylio and scrolled down to People. Then, I clicked the plus sign and selected her name. Now, when I search for her, those recipe cards pop right up next to the photos she’s actually in.
How to organize old (and new) photos with Mylio
These days, photos of your immediate family could easily number in the thousands. It may seem like a daunting task (and a substantial time commitment) to organize and centralize all that information.
Mylio streamlines the process and helps you every step of the way. You can do much of the work in batches, rather than sifting through one photo, one face, one fact at a time. And Mylio makes a lot of helpful suggestions that take critical thinking out of things like facial recognition or assigning dates, making organization a much more enjoyable experience.
Furthermore, Mylio doesn’t rely on one system of organization. Rather, it offers several and lets you organize in a way that makes sense to you.
For example, you can look for photos based on what you remember about the photo. Keywords, labels, or rankings are useful for this, but some people don’t want to spend the time to input those. So, try using map view to find your beach photos from last summer or search by a family member’s name to see their baby pictures.
If you do think chronologically, use the calendar view to see a visual spread of your images by year, month, or day. It’s a sight better than that Price is Right scroll that’s so frustrating, where you just have to hope you land in the right ballpark and go from there. If there’s no metadata for an image and you only know a rough estimate of the date, you can add a date range instead of committing yourself to a single, arbitrary day.
Hmmm… when did we make these ninjabread cookies? It was definitely some time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s…
No problem, I’ll just right click, select Change Date, go to Date Range, and select the range.
It works for the family
I’m a big fan of all these different ways to organize for a few reasons:
- I don’t always remember the same information when I’m looking for a photo. Sometimes I might remember where it happened but not who was there, or I might remember the year but not where we were.
- Different members of my family use Mylio, and we all think differently, too. It helps that we don’t all have to work within a frame that only really fits a single person in the group.
- Most of it happens automatically. Getting truly organized is an overwhelming task when you’re starting from scratch. This program does most of the hard stuff for you so you get to focus on the more “fun” organizing tasks like approving facial recognition suggestions.
Of course, you can also create albums to make collections of images outside those parameters, or add events to your calendar for added context as you explore. You can also change anything Mylio doesn’t get quite right (like that one image of me at a football game that inexplicably claimed to be taken in the 1940’s). You can have any level of control and involvement that works for your family.
Bringing Mylio into your family life
“Workflow” sounds like such a business-y word, but we all have workflows for everything we do, photo organization included. To get the most out of Mylio, you need to understand your family workflow and find ways to put the two together.
Think about all the events your family has been a part of in the last few years. Weddings, vacations, births and birthdays… and now think about how you managed the photos you took. Are they still sitting in your camera roll or on an SD card in your camera bag? Did you upload a few to Facebook and forget about them after the likes and comments stopped rolling in? Or are you worried that if you took as many photos as you wanted, you’d run out of space on your devices?
Creating a Mylio workflow is a lot simpler than you might think, and you can get started with some simple first steps:
- Make a habit of adding keywords and ratings or making albums shortly after a big event (or during, while details are fresh on your mind, if there’s downtime).
- For all the in-between photos, put a date on your calendar every so often to sit down and sift through them so they don’t pile up.
- Share to social media from Mylio. While you’re there, tag faces. It gets rid of that extra step.
- Use Events in the calendar to consolidate images from the same occasion that were taken on different devices.
- If space is a concern, go to your Device Sync Policy Settings (click the appropriate device under Devices). There, you can choose to view the images as thumbnails on your mobile phone, which will save considerable space. Don’t worry; your vault will keep the full resolution versions nice and safe.
Device Sync Policy Settings, courtesy of Mylio
Mylio can also be a companion during family events. Easily call up photos to show family members you haven’t seen in a while, instead of making them wait while you scroll. You can also email, text, or AirDrop photos to everyone after the event, straight from Mylio.
Bonding over your digital family photo library
The whole reason to digitize and centralize your family photos is to experience them, and not just individually. Use this opportunity to revisit old favorites with your favorite people.
Sit down with your grandmother and ask her to identify faces in old photos as you tag them. Look at baby pictures with your school-aged kiddos and tell them what life was like when they crawled on all fours. The point isn’t just to walk down memory lane, but to also strengthen the bonds you share today, possibly even creating new memories as you revisit the old ones.
Preservation isn’t meant to replace your photos; it’s meant to expand their possibilities. When you digitize your family photo library with Mylio, you get more use, knowledge, and joy out of those images than you could ever gain by pulling the physical prints out every few months or years. It’s an ideal method of organizing your digital family photos, no matter what technological skill level you’re at.
If you’re just starting your journey, consider purchasing a Seagate PhotoDrive. These currently come with three years of Mylio Create!