You had a great time backpacking around Europe for the summer. You went to all the famous sites, hung out with awesome people, and ate fantastic food.

And what do you have to show for it? A 4-inch model of the Eiffel Tower and three 4-gigabyte memory cards full of photos?

Now what? Perhaps you glue the model of the Eiffel Tower to the dash board of your car and throw the memory cards in a desk drawer. You want to go through and put pictures up on the web, since showing off your pictures is a great way to share your travels, but it’s hard to find time for it. And how do you make them interesting to other people?

Use folders to keep from being overwhelmed

First, get those photos off the memory card and onto your computer. Then, sort them into folders by location. Instead of one folder with 2000 photos, you might have 40 folders with 50 photos each. It’s the same amount of photos, but suddenly it’s manageable — you can organize one folder at a time and get that warm feeling of progress. I know I’m more likely to sit down to sort through 50 pictures than 2000. And if I can get myself started, I get into it and sort through a lot more than I thought I had time for.

Send copies to the people in your pictures

Maybe you’ve only posted three of the pictures from the night out on the town, but you’ve got another dozen on your computer. Email those to the people you went with. Your friends at home may not care to see the others, but the people who were there will be interested. If you’ve put them up on the web somewhere they can download them, send an email with the link. It’s a great way to stay in contact with people you met.

The chipmunks outside Rocky Mountain National Park were so tame I took about 300 pictures.  Aren't you glad I'm only showing you one?
The chipmunks outside Rocky Mountain National Park were so friendly I took about 300 pictures of them. Aren't you glad I'm only showing you one?

Be selective

Amateur photographers get one good shot out of every ten they take. Professional photographers get one good shot out of 100. Only show your best. Digital is great because it’s easy to take lots of pictures, but be brutal when deciding what to share.

The one really fantastic shot of the view from the hiking trail loses its impact when surrounded by nine sort-of-okay shots. Ask yourself “If I hadn’t taken this, would I still think it was interesting?” After the 40th picture of “This is me at the bar with some people I met at the hostel” your viewers will be bored. Always leave them wanting more.

Don’t feel you must have everything done before you start sharing

Start sharing straight away, even if there’s more to sort, or some photos you want to touch up in Photoshop. Get the ones that are ready up on your website (or blog, or Facebook account or other photo-sharing site). Create a manageable goal: one picture a day, or five a week. Getting comments from friends and family will inspire you to keep posting until you’re done.

Wading through the glacier melt.  It was the only way to get home.
Wading through the river of glacial melt in New Zealand. It was freezing, but the only way to get home.

Write captions about what happened

Sure, the picture of the river is okay, but isn’t it more interesting to know the river is from a melting glacier; it was 7:30am when we crossed and my legs went numb as soon as I stepped in. One person was so short the water came up to her waist and I thought she was going to be washed away. Someone else declared it was so cold she’d rather go through the pain of childbirth again than go back across, but Kat, the girl in the middle, crossed seven times to help the rest of us make it.

The goal is to make the viewer jealous. Either jealous of what a great time you had or jealous of what a great story you got from the adventure. It’s not really important which.

Add some music and make a video

Ok, I admit this is something that I haven’t actually done, but once I find some easy software (any suggestions for a mac?) then I’ll do this. I’ve already got the music and photos picked out. It’s a great way to view lots of pictures quickly.

There’s more ways to share pictures than just the web

Get some prints, glue them to index cards and mail them off as post cards. Make a collage or a scrapbook. Put framed copies up on the wall. Use them as inspiration to plan your next trip.

If you do more with your pictures than throw the memory cards in a drawer you’ll appreciate them a lot more than a 4-inch Eiffel Tower.

Your thoughts on "Picture perfect: organising your travel photos"

  • good software for the mac? If you're new to videos and music, iMovie is perfect especially if you use iTunes and iPhoto because they're integrated into iMovie!

    on February 11, 2009 at 1:22 pm Reply
  • Great advice! We always make calendars and photo books for our family for gifts like at Christmas or birthdays. It is fun and they really love it. We are on an open ended tour, so it allows them to come with us in a way or have us there.

    on February 11, 2009 at 11:12 pm Reply
  • I'd agree with Stuart. You can make a whole slideshow with music in iPhoto or export it to iMovie and add extra transitions and titles. It's a simple workflow but you can do some powerful things with it.

    on February 11, 2009 at 6:21 pm Reply
  • GREAT Tips! i love taking photos, and get overwhelmed by the quantity. i often find myself doing a little bit each night. i'd much rather be sleeping!

    on February 13, 2009 at 11:09 am Reply
  • iMovie! Of course. I suppose I should start with trying out the software already installed on my computer. :) Thanks for the reminder! Soultravers3 - I agree, you can make some fantastic personalized gifts with your travel photos. Lately, I've been trying out for printing and have been very impressed. I've just been getting prints for myself, but they have a ton of options for letting you design your own cards. I have friends who use it every year for their holiday cards and that's what got me turned on to it. They always look great.

    on February 12, 2009 at 10:19 pm Reply
  • i also used to bore people with 1,000s of photos. but now i pre-screen them and show (and PS) only the best. the rest are only memories

    on March 5, 2009 at 6:03 pm Reply
  • Hi Zolton, You bring up a very good point. Just because you're not showing everybody all your pictures doesn't mean you have to delete them. If you like them, keep them for yourself! That's really who you're taking them for anyway. Plus you may find some select groups who really do want to see all your pictures of a certain subject. I took about 300 pictures of those chipmunks and kept about 30. I would never include all 30 if I was showing someone pictures of that trip, but on occasion the subject of chipmunks has come up and I've quickly flipped through them all for someone. Everybody always has a different favorite so I keep them all.

    on March 6, 2009 at 8:30 am Reply

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