By Ben MacAskill, Head of SmugMug Customer Success
As head of Customer Success at SmugMug, and an employee for almost 13 years, I’ve seen my fair share of large digital projects from customers over the years. Recently however, I spearheaded my own photo archaeology project at the very special request of an individual needing some unique assistance. It seemed like a daunting task at first: 500 GB of images (over 130,000 images, to be exact) needing to be organized and uploaded. I also came into the project blind — no idea what the content was and where it was sourced — but in the end, had 65 organized galleries uploaded to SmugMug in less than a week. If you’re facing a project that seems overwhelming, I’m here to tell you it’s not. Let me show you how I was able to do this and how you can as well.
One of the first hurdles that many fear to tackle when dealing with a large image organization project is how scattered the image locations most likely are. In my circumstance, they were scattered like the wind: 100 photo CDs, seven hard drives, 30 photo libraries, and 30 floppy disks. And that’s just the digital images! I also had seven boxes of prints and several reels of film to include as well. In total I was dealing with 20 years of precious family photos. To make the process as easy and uniform as possible, gather together everything you might have to tackle.
20 years of photos — quite the journey back into time
A fraction of the storage locations of the 500 GB of images
Once you’ve collected all of your image sources, it’s time to begin uploading. It took me two long, 12-hour days of centralizing to one location on my computer for 500 GB worth of data. While tedious, you will find your rhythm and become a repetitive machine by the end. I suggest listening to some music while you work to help ease the boredom. If you have files on old technology, such as floppy discs, Zip discs, etc, but no longer have the proper computer equipment to access them you will need to buy a portable disc drive for whatever older technology your images are stored on. I purchased what I needed very easily and cheaply online — there are lots of online vendors that can assist you with this after a quick Google search.
The grand total of all digital images
Now, for the heavy lifting portion of the project. Just kidding! Adobe Lightroom and SmugMug’s Lightroom plug-in will do all of the heavy lifting for you. I suggest you let Adobe Lightroom build the catalog and also delete any duplicate photos overnight — then in the morning when you wake up you will find the majority of the organization done for you. Why use Lightroom? It’s an easy way to simplify your workflow. It saves time by managing your SmugMug site directly, allowing you to create Folders and Galleries through its Publish service. It also is perfect for easy image retouching. If you are unfamiliar with Lightroom, you can find out more about how it uploads and sync photos to SmugMug here.
Now that we have a gorgeous catalog without duplicates, we will begin uploading to SmugMug via our Lightroom plug-in. You can learn how to install (or update) the Adobe Lightroom plug-in here. I highly suggest you set your privacy settings before uploading, in case you might have anything sensitive or personal in the photo library. I decided to catalog the images by year to make the family history easily searchable and recommend the same if you are dealing with a similar project spanning many years.
Adobe Lightroom and SmugMug’s Lightroom plug-in make organization and uploading a piece of cake
In regards to the seven boxes of prints and video reels — I sent them to our friends over at ScanDigital to digitize. It was quite a large amount and took them a month to complete, but they sent completed work in batches via hard drive during that timeframe. There is no metadata attached to these photos, so these photos will require some manual organization, but it is far from taxing. A big thank you to them for doing a stellar job. If you would like to check out their services, they are offering a 20% discount to SmugMug customers with the code SMUGBLOG.
In the end, I had 65 searchable galleries with very little manual organization on my end — I barely broke a sweat. But SmugMug offers much, much more than a digital storage solution for your family photo archive. It’s a wonderful way to share moments with friends and family far away. Our privacy options allow you to decide who can see your precious intimate memories. Our photo tagging solution allows you to add keywords to photos and galleries, allowing for quick search and discovery. We also have many wonderful photo partners to choose from when it’s time to print out key memories for home display or gifting. SmugMug isn’t just for photographers — it’s for all memory makers.
Anyone with a little time and patience can organize and share decades worth of family photos, or any large image collection. I hope this inspires you to tackle your own personal project that you’ve been procrastinating. Photos are meant to be showcased and shared, not hidden in a box in the attic.