It’s time to think about how your family records and stores memories

This essay first appeared at On Parenting from the Washington Post.

Do you like to gather around when family is together and look back through the old photo albums documenting childhood days? The corners of the books are frayed and the white pages have turned a shade between yellow and brown, but inside those pages exist the precious records of family life. Our parents printed 4 x 6 pictures and secured them with a clear sheet of plastic in the hope that one day we would look back through the albums, remembering the stories contained deep within the images. As we grew older, we pinned pictures to bulletin boards. These prints were our visual reminder of where we’d been and who we’d had at our side.

It’s always a good time to think about how your family records and stores important moments. Digital photography offers us new and better ways to share pictures with family and friends. But it also creates new challenges for families hoping to keep their memories organized. I’m a photographer, and admittedly I am a little obsessed with ensuring that my images will be relished both now and into the future. These simple tools offer me the confidence to know that if I’m ever looking for a photograph, I’ll know just where to find it.

Showcase your memories. Digital photography offers us the wonderful ability to keep an electronic record of our memories, but it does little to showcase our beautiful collections. Print your images regularly and share the photographs with your children. I like to print my favorite images and have them professionally framed. I also like to create canvases to share with the grandparents. I’ve printed my photographs on a variety of other items, like coasters and magnets. A few of my clients have even printed their photos onto credit cards! A unique way to hold on to a special photograph is to have it inspire a fine art portrait like these by Naava Katz​. I love seeing reminders of our family’s most special moments displayed throughout my day.

Make a photo album. While you might have albums in your iPhone, nothing compares to flipping through a book of family memories. Some families might enjoy printing images in the traditional manner and creating a photo album on their own. Others might want to take advantage of the convenience offered by photo-book creation websites. I use sites like MyPublisher and Blurb to help me create our family albums. I store my photos on SmugMug, and it has a special plug-in with both publishing websites. This makes photo-book creation a breeze. I transfer the pictures, and the programs fill in the pages in chronological order. This simple method ensures that I will find the time to print a photo book every year.

Do a privacy checkup on your social-media accounts. Keeping your family memories secure isn’t only about making sure you have easy access to your images. It’s also important to make sure that your images don’t end up in the wrong hands. This can happen more often than most parents think. Did you know that many images found on child pornography sharing sites were originally posted innocently on social media and family blogs? As I’ve researched and written about, parents can best protect their children’s digital footprint by being aware of the risks that online sharing presents. Once we understand the risks, we can enjoy the many benefits social media offers. On Facebook, I like to go through my privacy settings every few months and take stock of not only who can see my pictures but also the images I am tagged in by others. I delete older pictures from the sharing site that I no longer want online. I also post on Instagram, and I’ve chosen to set my account to private so that I can control who sees my images. Consider reviewing the privacy settings on your social-media accounts and adjust as necessary.

Back up your iPhone. And make a backup of your backup. Most of us would be crushed if we lost the precious memories tucked away in our electronic devices. Luckily, it is quite simple to back up your phone to the computer. But consider investing in an additional layer of protection. I upload my images to SmugMugand sometimes even back up my images on Dropbox. I also use an external hard drive to store my favorite images. This peace of mind is priceless when it comes to knowing that my images are safe and secure.

I don’t print my pictures with the same feverish drive as I once did. But I do still make every effort to ensure that my children will have the same physical reminders of their memories that I enjoy from my own early years. By having a system in place for organizing, sharing and saving your digital images, you can ensure that your family’s memories will be revisited for lifetimes to come.