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Why Dealing with Your Analog Memories First is A Bad Idea

Why Dealing with Your Analog Memories First is a Bad Idea

Got both printed and digital photos? Most of us do. Your instinct might be telling you to get them scanned as fast as possible, but what you might not realize is that it’s usually a bad idea to deal with your analog memories first. Huh?… I hear you saying. Yep, that’s right. I recommend that you start by organizing your digital memories. Read on, and you’ll see what I mean.


“Let’s Scan!”

Every so often I get a client who wants to organize both printed memories and digital memories at the same time, and usually that client will assume that scanning is step one towards completing the goal. “Let’s scan,” they’ll say, and ask me which pile of photos to grab. It makes sense to have everything in the same format, does it not? Sure, but it’s not always the best way to go. If given a choice, I will always recommend organizing a client’s digital collection before anything else.

I scan a lot of photos every week, and those of you who know me personally know that I always encourage people to get all of their analog memories digitized as soon as possible. In fact, that’s kind of what this blog is about. So why would I tell anyone otherwise? Well, here’s the thing. It’s not a bad idea to deal with your analog memories. Not at all. But it’s a bad idea to deal with your analog memories first.

This might sound a little backwards, but hear me out:


Digital First, Analog Second

The whole reason why someone hires me is to be able to enjoy their photos again, right? They want to get them organized, and keep them safe in the long run. My job is to do just that in the most organized and most productive way possible, and with the least amount of risk to the memories. Not necessarily in chronological order. The most productive and safe way, in my opinion, is not to start scanning right away, but instead to set up a digital system before attempting to deal with the backlog of printed photos.

Here’s why that makes sense:


1. Tech Failure Rates vs. Natural Disaster Statistics Say So

Consider this fact: Statistically, you are more likely to lose your digital photos in a tech crash than your analog memories in a house fire or other natural disaster.

It’s no secret that hard drives fail. Lots of phones are stolen every day. Computers shut down, never to be powered on again. In other words, your device is the most likely culprit when it comes to lost memories, not a natural disaster.

Is it always accurate? Of course not. I don’t believe that any disaster or accident should be treated casually, so you’ll have to consider the dangers that your photos face, and make a good judgement call, but in general, I tend to acknowledge this statement as fact. I live in a low-risk area, and I know for sure that my photos are more at risk on the tech side. Every project needs a plan of action, and if you’re statistically more likely to lose your digital photos, why not start by keeping those safe?


2. Most of Your Photos are Digital

If you lose your digital collection, you’ll probably end up losing more photos, maybe even most of them. I mean, aren’t the majority of your photos digital? I’d bet my last quarter on the fact that most of your photos are digital, even if you have lots of prints. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably taken more photos in the last few years of smartphone-clicking than in the past few decades combined (unless your polaroid cam was working overtime!)!


3. Intangible Memories are Easier to Lose

Digital photos are easier to lose because they’re not tangible. Printed photos are usually stuck in a box somewhere, and they can be kept relatively safe if you store the box well. You’re not that likely to forget about it. Digital photos, on the other hand, are usually scattered on different devices and across different platforms, and they don’t come together as easily. You just haven’t looked at them enough to remember all of them, so they’re easier to forget. You’ve never held them in your hand, and that makes a big difference. There are many studies that show that we relate better to things we touch, so I have to believe that tangibility matters. It’s much easier to forget about a few photos on a certain device than about a box of prints that you can physically see.


4. A Digital System Makes Maintenance Easier

It’s not uncommon for the photo organizing process to take a few weeks, and sometimes clients take hundreds of new photos while we’re in the organizing mode. Without a system in place to deal with all the new digital photos, the to-do list keeps growing and the project never ends. I like to think of it as a conveyor belt. The photos are just going to keep coming, so it’s easier to quickly set up the conveyor belt to go in the right direction rather than having to deal with an amassing pile of files. Why add more to the mess? With a digital system in place, it’s easier to maintain order, and when your older printed photos are ultimately scanned, it’ll be much less work to add them to your collection.


Why organizing your analog memories first is a bad idea!

I’m a Perfect Pinnable!


The Goal is a Reliable Overall System

Your photos, regardless if they’re in print or digital form, aren’t safe if you don’t have a reliable overall system, so setting that up should be the goal, and in my experience, you’ll reach that goal faster if you deal with the digital first. Naturally, this doesn’t mean you should drag your feet on the rest. Get your photos scanned as fast as possible, just not before you set up your digital workflow. As I explain in the organizing formula, the right order of things make all the difference, so do yourself a favor, m’friend, and untangle your digital mess before you do anything else.

What say you, readers? Have you made “digital first, analog second” your photo organizing mantra? Or is it just me? 😉



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  • Reply
    August 18, 2016 at 10:36 am

    When I read your title, and tried to guess why, what I came up with was your last sentence of #4:” With a digital system in place…when your older printed photos are ultimately scanned, it’ll be much less work to add them to your collection.” But I see you have more reasons than that. I agree completely! Digital first.

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