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 Sinclairification by Grant Sinclair

Keeping photos organized as you travel

13 Aug 2008

Keeping your photos organized as you travel isn’t necessary, but it is helpful.  When you get home, you will have laundry to do, people to call, E-mail to check and other things to do.  Your pictures should be the least of your worries.

However, you will still have to go through your pictures before you show them off to jealous family and friends, so there will be some sorting to do.  We’ll get to that later, in another article.

But getting – and staying – organized photographically while you travel will make your sorting, editing, printing and sharing a whole lot easier and faster when you get home.

Make sure you know how to set the Date/Time function on your camera correctly.
If you’re going to be spending your trip in another time zone or if you cross the International Date Line, you’ll probably want to change the Date/Time information to that location.  This will give you the most accurate information as to when those photos were taken. 

And isn’t that what the Date/Time function is for?  You don’t want pictures of a sunny beach in Sydney at Noon to be stamped 10:00 PM – the night before – because your camera is still set for the time at home.  It doesn’t make sense and it can confuse you when you try to figure it out later.  No one likes doing the post-travel Time Zone math to try and figure out the date a picture was taken:

“Let’s see, the computer says it was 11 AM, but the picture is at night, so that means if it was 11 AM here, then….let’s see.  GMT, plus the International Date Line, plus Daylight Saving Time, on the third day of Lent equals….”

To be clear: I am against those ugly, red/orange digital, microwave oven clock-looking numbers that made their way onto prints from film cameras in the mid-to late 80s until digital cameras made their way into the market.  If you have that feature, TURN IT OFF!  Those numbers are ugly and detract from the photograph.

I’m talking about setting the date and time within digital cameras that saves the photographic information on the memory card, so that when you load the memory card into the computer, the correct information appears on the screen.  That is all.

Get a small, pocket-sized notebook.  Keep simple notes in it as you travel.  For example:

Day 01, Tuesday, 26 August 2008, Sydney
- Opera House (11 AM – 1 PM)
- Many beach (2 PM – 6 PM)

Day 02, Wednesday, 27 August 2008, Sydney
- Sydney Aquarium (10 AM – 12 PM)
- Sydney Tower (1 PM – 3 PM)
- Scruffy Murphy’s (5 PM – Thursday)

Day 03, Thursday, 28 August 2008, Sydney
- Slept off Scruffy Murphy’s

Day 04…

Simple, easy-to-write and read notes like these will help you not only keep track of your photos, but of the trip itself.

For more on pocket-sized notebooks, click here.

Get at least two twin-tip Sharpie markers and a few click-type pens.  The pens are for taking notes and the Sharpies are always useful.  The reason for the twin-tip recommendation in a minute.

Label your memory cards.  If you carry more than one flash card – and you should – make sure you can tell them apart.  One way is to number each card with a Sharpie.  Be sure to check with the card manufacturer to find out if doing so will harm the card!

NOTE: Some of the information in this article is the same or very similar to the information in our article entitled “Protecting your pictures as you travel.”  It’s better to have the information twice than not at all.

If traveling with a laptop computer with a CD or DVD writer:  Buy the highest capacity media that can be created on your computer.

For example, if you have a CD writer, bring some CD-Rs on your trip.  If you have a DVD writer, bring along DVD-Rs and if you have a DVD writer that writes double-layer DVDs, bring along those.

I know it sounds obvious to write that, but you would be surprised how often people forget removable media at home, then are surprised to find out how expensive that media is when the travel.  You know where to get the best price on reliable media where you live.  Don’t run the risk of leaving it at home and trying something that may not work or cost too much money.

If traveling with a laptop computer without a CD or DVD writer:  Either bring along a portable USB hard drive (good advice for the section above this one, too) and/or bring along a USB enabled CD/DVD writer and the appropriate media.

If traveling without a laptop computer:  Please see the article entitled “Five ways to store photos without a laptop computer.”

If you are shooting film:  We’ll get to you shortly, but here’s a hint.  The pen-end of the twin tip Sharpie and the notebook come in handy.

Use the pocket-sized notebook.  Did you even bring the notebook and pens?  Good!  Use them!  It does you no good to bring them along and not use them.  As outlined earlier, keeping simple, neat notes will help you keep things in order as you roam the planet.

At the end of every day or event, copy the pictures to your laptop computer.
You can go through the images as a whole, give them proper titles and dates, including activity and locations.  And it will only take you a few minutes.  When the pictures have been copied to the computer, copy them to CD or DVD.  For those of you without a CD or DVD writer, copy the images to a portable hard drive.

If you have internet access, upload the images to an online storage site or E-mail them to yourself.  If you don’t have immediate internet access, but need to use a PC room or other public computer, copy your pictures to a flash card or other portable USB device, then go to the PC room. 

It’s probably not a good idea to bring your computer to a PC room, where it could be lost, stolen or broken.  Other people might tote theirs along, but you don’t need to stand out so much.  A small, pocket-size flash drive works just as well.

For film photographers, this method is both simple and brilliant.  As you finish each roll, write a number on it.  In your notebook, write that number down with a short description of what’s on that roll.  If you have time, go to a PC room and type in that information and E-mail it to yourself.  Update as needed.

In terms of protecting and duplicating images from film as you travel, there are a few choices.  You could have the film processed where you are, then mail home the prints and negatives in separate envelopes.  The purpose of this is to avoid mailing home unprocessed film, which may be damaged by X-ray in transit.  You want to send the negatives and prints home separately, so if one package doesn’t make it, hopefully the other will.

If you are shooting slides, you can have the slides processed and prints made from your favorite images, then send them home separately, like with the print film.

It’s always best, no matter what you are sending, to ship things via private courier (UPS, Federal Express, DHL, etcetera).  You can get a tracking number and insurance.  They may not have perfect systems, but in countries where the postal system is suspect at best, it’s good to have those options.

Some places may offer to scan your slides or prints to CD or DVD when you have your images processed.  If it’s decent quality and not too expensive, take them up on the offer.  This enables you to save those images online as another means of backup protection.

It’s NEVER a good idea to hold on to all your film for the entire duration of your trip.  You want to send things home as you go if possible.  Do not carry all of your film and slides together for and entire trip without sending anything back.  Trust me on this.  I’ve been to SouthEast Asia, but there are no pictures from SouthEast Asia on this Web site.  There’s a reason for that, but that’s a story for another time.  Or another article.

If you follow the advice in this article, you should be able to go through your pictures more quickly and easily when you get back. 

Just a few minutes each day to keep your pictures – and to another extent, the rest of your itinerary – organized will save you a lot of time when the trip is done and you can have more fun as you travel knowing there is one fewer thing to think about when you get home.

© 2008

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