Valentine’s Mini Sessions | Columbia Missouri Children’s Photographer

It’s finally time to share the Valentine Mini Session images! Yay!!

The love was flowing at these darling, indoor, studio photo sessions. Just a quick 20 minutes was all I needed to capture the kids’ darling personality, and the goal was to create some great images to use on Valentine’s day cards and greetings.

Goal: achieved!

This year, I am trying something a little different during these colder months by offering several Short & Sweet Children’s Mini Photo Session events, each with a different theme.

This weekend, we have a Pure & Simple mini session event coming up, which will feature a lovely creamy white background, rug and simple props to use as a blank canvas. We can either get simple, beautiful photos of your kiddos using just the background itself, or you can dress it up with balloons, colorful props, toys or stuffed animals from home to showcase a birthday or hobbies. At the time of publishing, I still have two openings…click over to the schedule to grab your spot!

The next mini session event will be Easter Mini Sessions, and I’m going to keep the gorgeous set pretty simple. The set will feature creams and dark woods with lace and burlap, and props available will be in pale pastels…it’s hard to describe the awesomeness in my head, so check out my Pinterest board filled with inspiration.

As a free bonus, we will have a second set and second photographer at the Easter Mini Sessions to capture a darling photo or two on the Raindrops & Rainbows background too (and, yes, you can change outfits for the second set)!

There are just a handful of openings at each mini session event, so make sure to grab your spot quickly!

Okay, now on to the super cute love photos!

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Newborn Hospital Sessions | Columbia Missouri Newborn Photographer

Oh, how I love the newborn hospital sessions!

They usually take place a day or two after baby’s arrival, and are meant to get some sweet photos of that brand new babe out to your friends and family quickly.

It’s usually a very short session—about 15-30 minutes. New moms and dads have a lot going on–and are usually exhausted–so my job is to get in and out fast.

Here’s the latest hospital session I did with a sweet family I’ve been photographing for a few years. I photographed the now middle child while she was still in her momma’s belly, as well as in the hospital, at home, and throughout her first year.

I’m excited to see her little brother grow up before my camera as well!

These guys are from Macon, and I am so humbled that they drive to come see me as often as they do.

Congratulations, sweet E family!

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Big sister and big brother were just leaving as I arrived. If your siblings are on the young side, it’s better to wait until the at-home session to include them in the newborn photos—hospital sessions are mostly about baby.

But I love, love, loved the sweet kisses they gave mom before they left.

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I love this photo because it looks like Miss R was checking on baby in his bed. In reality, she’s just stealing the nose booger thingy to use as a microphone while she belted out the song “Let It Go.” Love that!

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Such bright eyes! Mr. Man decided that awake time for the day would be while I was there, but he was just as content as could be, so it was wonderful to get a few photos of his beautiful eyes.

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Pure & Simple Mini Sessions

This coming Saturday, February 14th, I will be holding Pure & Simple Mini Sessions!

This session will feature a lovely, simple, creamy white backdrop, which will highlight your super-cute kiddo and can be personalized however you’d like!

Children’s Pure & Simple Mini Session

  • 20-minute session for up to 2 children
  • 8+ retouched, high resolution digital files
  • Quality print orders at cost (no markup)
  • All this for $125!

The backdrop will be a creamy white, and I will supply a neutral upholstered chair (pictured below), wooden stool (not pictured), and crate (not pictured). Here’s an example of the how these sessions can be personalized:

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What are you waiting for! Schedule your mini session today!

Keeping Your Newborn Safe: Why I’m Vaccinated

Vaccinations are a hot topic right now.

I know this post could be considered perhaps a little controversial.

I considered not posting it at all.

But, as a mom who was a bit on the compulsive side when it came to the safety of my own newborn eight short years ago, I remember wanting to pre-screen everyone and everything who came in three degrees of separation of my precious little guy.

Who am I kidding, I’m still on the compulsive side when it comes to my kiddo.

You should see my hand sanitizer collection.

(And remember how I talked about generating worst-case-scenarios when it came to my photo backups? OMG, so much worse in those first few months of motherhood.)

So, with reports about the measles outbreak becoming more and more widespread, I can imagine that there are parents out there wanting to make sure the person handling their newborn and taking photos of her for three hours in those first couple of weeks is taking the necessary precautions.

But let’s get this out of the way first:

This post isn’t about judgement about what you do. This post is about what I do and why.

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I am fully vaccinated.

Measles, Whooping Cough, Flu…you name it, I’m vaccinated against it.

I quizzed my doctor a few years ago to make sure I had anything and everything I could get. We checked through my childhood records and did a booster shot or two at that time.

Every year when I go back for my flu shot, I check to see if there’s anything else I can get vaccinated against.

Some people go to the doctor to load up on pills…I go to load up on vaccines.

My immediate family is fully vaccinated too. Flu shots included.

Working with newborns and babies as much as I do, I have a responsibility to protect them from anything within my control.

Heck, I am cautious about doing a newborn session if I have so much as a sniffle.

I am acutely aware that newborns are not fully vaccinated.

And if a newborn caught one of the horrible, preventable diseases that vaccines protect against, it would be so much worse than if an older kiddo or adult caught it. Their immune system isn’t as strong; it is much more likely to be debilitating or even fatal if they were to catch something.

I can’t take that chance.

You can rest assured that I am—and my whole family is—fully vaccinated.

First and foremost, my decision to vaccinate is based upon the most up-to-date, peer-reviewed, scientific evidence, and I do it in order to keep me and my family safe from preventable diseases.

But additionally, I vaccinate myself and my family in order to keep you, your family, and that precious little newborn safe.

So, there you have it…your newborn photographer is vaccinated.

It’s one less thing to worry about as a new parent.

Speaking of precious little newborns, here’s a recent newborn session I did.

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Organizing My Personal Photos | Part 5: Don’t wait…AUTOMATE!

This is part 5 of a 5-part article on How I Organize My Personal Photos. Make sure to start at the beginning if you haven’t read Part 1Part 2, Part 3, or Part 4.

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You are a busy person—I am a busy person—manually backing up files are not on the daily to do list.

Nor should they be.

Let’s automate this stuff!

First things first: I am a PC.

If you are a Mac, this probably isn’t going to apply because you guys have some magical box called Time Machine that just does it for you.

Go Google how that works, because I have no idea.

Let’s party like it’s 1999…

For my backups, I use a program called SyncToy.

When you open the program, it looks like it’s straight out of 1999.

At first, I was disappointed that they didn’t have a beautiful user interface, but hey—it works. It’s simple to understand and use.

And if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

The help docs within the program will walk you through it, but basically, you set up a folder pair to sync, put it on an automated backup via the Task Scheduler in Windows, and sit back and relax and let it do its thing.

Make sure you set up that automated backup!

If you’re curious, I set all of my automated backups to happen daily at 3:30am.

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Trust, but verify…

The last step you need to do for your photo backup system is quite arguably the most important…

You have to verify that your system is working.

Imagine if your hard drive failed, so you went to your backup system and found nothing from the last three months?

  • Sometimes the automated stuff fails.
  • Sometimes storage gets full.
  • Sometimes things don’t work perfectly (we are dealing with computers here, after all).

Verify those backups are doing exactly what you expect.

I would recommend checking everything after about a week after you set everything up, and then again monthly or quarterly.

Put it on your calendar.

It doesn’t have to be a super thorough check, but just spot check some files you know you’ve changed recently to make sure everything is being transferred over.

Check to make sure the backup drive isn’t more full than it should be (sometimes recycle bins can be activated and used in a weird way when it’s automated).

One More Thing…

Your backups are backups in case something fails or goes missing.

New files and edits to files are made to files on the “working file” drive(s).

Don’t touch the backups.

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Sit back and relax

Feels better to have that all of your photos organized and backed up, right?

I cannot tell you how much it puts my mind at ease to know that the precious memories of my kiddo and family are safe and sound.

I was thinking the other day about the age-old question: “If your house was on fire and all of your loved ones were safe, what would you grab on the way out of the house?”

The standard answer is “my photo albums”.

After transitioning my cameras to digital, I used to always say “my computer”.

After coming up with my solid photo storage system, I am still thinking about my answer to this question.

My photo memories are secure, even in the event of a disaster.

Now go secure yours too!

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Organizing My Personal Photos | Part 4: Get It Outta The House!

This is part 4 of a 5-part article on How I Organize My Personal Photos. Make sure to start at the beginning if you haven’t read Part 1Part 2 or Part 3.

So, your photos are stored on at least two hard drives at this point.

You’d think you’d be set, right?

Nope.

What happens if your house gets hit by lightning and it fries all of those lovely hard drives?

What happens if your house burns down?

What happens if you get burglarized?

These are the things that keep me up at night, people.

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Let me tell you a story…

I had a client call me in tears about a year ago.

Her house had just been broken into.

The burglars took her laptop, where all of her baby’s photos were stored.

They also broke into the fireproof safe and took the external hard drives where her backup copies of those photos were stored.

She did almost everything right.

She had the photos labeled and organized.

She had the backups.

She had a fireproof safe!

But there was one tiny little detail that was overlooked…

You need to keep a copy off-site.

(The silver lining of her story was that I had all of the Baby’s First Year photos I had taken of her daughter and was able to send her links to re-download her images within minutes of her call. Woo hoo!)

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Off-Site Storage: My Setup

I use two different off-site storage places…one for current year photos, one for prior year photos.

Two places may be overkill for the average family, but this blog series is about what I do for backup, so you’re gonna get the down-and-dirty details of my whole system.

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Current Year Photos: Dropbox

I use Dropbox to accomplish off-site storage for my personal photos of the current year.

I have an automatic backup set to copy everything in my Personal Photos folder to a corresponding folder within my Dropbox folder, which gets automatically synced to the cloud in the background on my computer.

There are lots of other great cloud storage places—Crashplan, BackBlaze, Google Drive, SugarSync, the list goes on. I’ve tried a few of them, but I’ve settled on Dropbox for a few reasons.

  • I can backup other types of files too…all of my personal documents and business documents, graphics and collateral are stored on Dropbox.
  • I can easily share docs with other people when I’m working on projects…this is especially helpful to share things with my assistants, editors and fellow Cub Scout leaders.
  • I like that it gives me an extra way to transfer files to clients, if I need it.
  • I have it set up on my phone too, so my phone photos are automatically uploaded to Dropbox. Plus, I can pull things down from Dropbox to my phone if I’m on the go and I need to access a document.
  • It has a folder that lives on my computer, which makes it super easy to set up an automated backup.
  • Multifactor authentication gives me assurance that my files are safe from hackers.
  • It’s only $99 a year for 1 TB worth of storage.

That said, any of the other cloud providers are totally fine—I’m using Dropbox because it works for the way I work.

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Prior Year Photos: Zenfolio

Due to the fact that my days are spent editing other family’s photos, I tend to process and organize my personal photos only a couple of times per year.

Typically, in January, I take a day or two to just have a personal photo editing marathon and get everything from the past year organized and printed.

After I edit everything, I move the photos over to my archive drive then upload the files to my client photo storage place, Zenfolio.com.

I have used Zenfolio since before I had my business, and the main reason I like it is that it allows for free downloading of the high resolution files.

And they offer unlimited storage.

So, if something tragic would happen, I can get all of my high resolution jpegs from Zenfolio for all the photos I’ve ever taken, client or personal.

It seriously helps me sleep at night.

I use the business plan, but at $60 per year for their unlimited personal plan, Zenfolio is very affordable and worth every.single.penny.

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All photo storage places are not created equal

I know some of you use Snapfish or Shutterfly to order prints.

I know because I do it too.

However, you cannot rely on Snapfish or Shutterfly or most online photo labs as your online photo storage place because they do not keep your high resolution files after a certain period of time (and, in most cases, you have to pay to download them again).

Make sure you check that you can easily access your high-resolution files for free before you commit to a storage place.

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What works for me, may not work for you…

I have a LOOOOOOOOOOOOT of photo files, you guys, so my storage needs are pretty unique.

You may find that Dropbox OR Zenfolio (or Crashplan, Backblaze, or whatever) can meet your storage needs without having to use both.

Lollipop-Phogoraphy_0459At this point, I know what you’re thinking…

You’re thinking, “Duh, Rhiannon…one copy just needs to be off-site…I’ll just take that second external hard drive you made me buy and leave it at my parents’ house.”

And then at some point it will hit you that you still don’t have an off-site storage solution for your current year photos.

And then you’ll just run through this scenario, “Okay, well, I’ll just put current year on there too and update it every few months and swap out the two hard drives.”

I know you’re thinking this because, a few years ago, I thought I could do this too.

And while that is admirable, let me save you some agony:

It’s probably not going to work.

It’s going to get cumbersome, you’ll forget to swap on a regular basis…it’s just too much to deal with when you have a busy family.

When I tried this system, I was going to swap every two weeks. I had calendar reminders and everything!

This system lasted me two weeks.

Here’s the other thing to think about if you do this system…you only have two copies of the photos. Which, yes, is better than one copy, but it’s still just not as secure when you have 3 copies (anyone else worry about solar flares? because I do).

And, one last terrible thing to think about as you’re trying to fall asleep at night…what happens if your house AND your off-site storage house are in the path of something tragic, like a tornado or a hurricane or worse?

Sorry. I’m really good at coming up with worst-case scenarios in the middle of the night.

Cloud storage places are REALLY off-site. They’re typically in another state. And they have backups in other states. Sometimes in other countries.

It is worth $60-100 a year to make sure your photos are safe.

And you can probably find a cheaper cloud storage solution that will work for you if you look around.

Just don’t keep all those eggs in one basket, yo.

We’re almost there…tomorrow’s article with wrap everything up with how to make the backups just happen like magical unicorns. Part 5: Don’t wait…AUTOMATE!

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Organizing My Personal Photos | Part 3: Back that Mass Up

This is part 3 of a 5-part article on How I Organize My Personal Photos. Make sure to start at the beginning if you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2.

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So, you’ve read all about the 3-2-1 Backup Method and are a new backup evangelist, right?

Everyone has a friend who has lost all of their digital files due to a hard drive crash.

Hard drive technology has advanced so much in the past few years, but no hard drive will last forever.

Repeat after me: “It’s not a matter of if it will crash, but when it will crash.”

Bottom line: you MUST backup all of your photos.

Let’s do that now.

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Backup #1

When I built my desktop computer for my business, I installed two, identical hard drives within my computer enclosure.

One was the main, operating hard drive.

One was the backup hard drive.

For backup #1 of my personal photos, I have an automated backup program set up to copy all of the photos in my personal folder on my operating hard drive over to the backup drive.

The thing I like about having the second, internal hard drive, is that it’s really easy to transfer files…I just pull up Windows Explorer and can see both drives. No juggling with external hard drives, finding the cords, plugging them in and waiting for the device driver to be installed.

But, if you are working with a laptop or a non-expandable desktop computer, external hard drives are just fine.

I used external hard drives to serve as my backup system shortly after I bought my first digital camera through the first two years of my business.

The basic idea is that you want to have a mirrored copy of your photos on another hard drive, and it’s updated on a frequent, continuous basis.

(The program I use for automating this will be covered in Part 5 of this blog series.)

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Step away from the CD burner…

You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned CDs or DVDs at all.

That’s on purpose.

CDs and DVDs have their place, but in an on-going photo backup system, it’s just not practical to use them.

External hard drives are cheap, durable and can be written and re-written and organized…and they hold a ton more photos than a DVD.

File transfers to a hard drive (internal or external) are faster, and you don’t have to worry if your computer burned the CD correctly.

CDs can get scratched.

New computers are getting so thin that they’re starting to come without DVD drives.

And don’t get me started on trying to figure out how to store the CDs, once you get past just having 3-4 on hand.

It gets ugly really quick.

Just trust me…go with hard drives.

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A peek into my compulsiveness: Backup #2 & #3

I’m a little fanatical when it comes to photo backups, so I also have an automated backup going from my hard drive to my Synology NAS (Network Attached Storage) that I use for my client files, which is set up in a 5-drive RAID system.

I don’t pretend to know how a RAID exactly works…I’ve paid a fantastic network professional to set everything up for me, teach me the dumbed-down version of how to use it, and be on call to answer my silly questions like, “OMG, why are the lights flashing? Is that bad?” (no).

But basically, it’s a ginormous amount of storage and a redundant system so that if one or two hard drives fail, the files are still there.

In my eyes, it works via magic and unicorns.

(Luckily, my network guy knows quite a bit more about it.)

The NAS/RAID box also has yet ANOTHER external hard drive attached to it that backs up the entire RAID system.

That all said…

A NAS/RAID system is probably not necessary for the average family.

I have a LOT of photos, y’all.

I only mention it here because I know people are curious what I do.

Hey, what about those prior year photos?

If you’re keeping track, you remember how I talked about keeping my current year photos on my desktop hard drive.

My prior years photos live on the NAS/RAID system (which is backed up via that huge external hard drive).

I can easily access them via my home network, but I don’t need to get to them every day.

This was all getting confusing to write out, and I’m sure it’s even worse to read through this boring stuff, so I drew a map of my whole backup system:

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But my system is overkill for the average family…

You do not need a NAS/RAID system to properly back up your photos.

And, if your computer hard drive is almost full, you still have options.

If you’d like to go with my current year/prior years storage system and get the majority of your photos off your computer hard drive, all you need are two external hard drives.

If you’re starting from scratch, I’d recommend purchasing two identical drives and get the biggest you can possibly afford so you don’t have to buy more in a few years.

There are 4 TB drives on Amazon for $122 right now. That will last the average family many, many years.

Fun fact: I fill 4TB about every 2 years.

So, get two external hard drives.

Attach one to your computer (or, if your main computer is a laptop, make it easily accessible to attach it on a regular basis). This hard drive serves as the backup to your current photos stored on your computer. You’ll also want to move all of your prior years photos over to it.

Once you get your first external hard drive set up, then copy all of your prior years photos over to your second external hard drive.

Store your second external hard drive somewhere…don’t leave it plugged in (to prevent wear and tear). You only need to access hard drive #2 once a year to update the yearly archival backup.

Oooo—-and slap labels on your two drives so you know which one is #1 and which one is #2.

I’m a sucker for labels.

Wow, that explanation was even more of a snooze fest, so I made a map for you too:

If you set this up, you have at least two copies of all of your photos—whether current year, prior years, or whatever—and they are stored in two different places.

(Don’t forget to dump them all in the same place on a regular basis, like we talked about yesterday!)

Once you have this set up, you have a really, really good start to your backup system, but it’s not quite good enough.

We’ll talk about off-site storage next in Part 4: Get it Outta The House!

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Organizing My Personal Photos | Part 2: Photo Dump Party

This is part 2 of a 5-part article on How I Organize My Personal Photos. Make sure to start at the beginning if you haven’t read Part 1.

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Collect All the Photos                             

I had personal photos strewn throughout the virtual universe—on my phone, within emails sent from friends, on CDs I’d purchased for school photos and such, on my point and shoot memory card, on my computer desktop, within random folders on my computer…you get the idea.

Sound familiar?

It can be overwhelming, but it really doesn’t have to be.

Write down all of the places where the photos are coming in, if you have to. Here are some ideas where those photos might be lurking:

  • The “big” camera memory card
  • Point & shoot camera memory card
  • Places on your computer where you’ve dumped memory cards when they were full
  • That time when you dumped your memory card photos on the laptop because you were in a hurry
  • Your phone
  • Spouse’s phone
  • iPads and tablets
  • Photos in emails from friends
  • Photos in texts from friends
  • Photos of your kid that your friends tagged you in on Facebook
  • School photo CDs
  • Lollipop photo gallery emails
  • CDs from other photographers
  • Theme park and santa photo downloads you’ve purchased

To start getting organized, you need to collect all the photos and get them in one place.

(And do this on a regular basis…put a reminder on your calendar if you have to!)

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Where the Photos Live

I put all of these random photos into a folder labeled—wait for it—“Personal Photos” within My Pictures on my computer’s hard drive.

Really original, I know.

I keep things organized by year, so only the current year’s photos are in the folder on my computer hard drive…the rest are on my archival backup system, which we’ll get into in tomorrow’s post.

I use a current year/archival method of storing my photos because I simply have too many photos to be stored on my computer hard drive.

Put simply: I take too many photos. It would capsize my hard drive.

Additionally, I don’t need to access my personal photos from, say, 2011 on a regular basis (but I do have a system to access my favorites, which I’ll tell you about in a future article).

You may not have this problem and it’s totally fine if you want to store every photo you’ve ever taken on one drive.

But if you’re running into a situation where you’re running out of memory on a regular basis, you might want to think about having an archival hard drive, in addition to storing your current photos on your computer hard drive.

One other thing to keep in mind…if you’re dealing with years worth of photos that haven’t been organized, the process below is the same, but you may want to sort them out by year and deal with them one year at a time.

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Let’s Get Organized!

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m a bit of an organizational freak.

For example:

  • My Google calendar is color-coded and synced to every device in my house, including my husband’s phone.
  • My linens are folded and organized into a system that Martha Stewart herself would be proud of.
  • My to do list is categorized, sorted by priority and deadline, and—yes—there are little tick boxes next to each list item.
  • My client photos are meticulously cataloged by date, name and session type.

You would think my personal photos would be similarly organized.

You would be wrong.

Theoretically, my photos are put into perfectly labeled folders that are chronologically labeled by date and event so they would be easy to find, just like my client files. That system would look like this in my personal photo folder:

  • 2014-8-19 First Day of School
  • 2014-10-20 Cub Scout Spooky Pack Meeting
  • 2014-11-9 Grandparents Day at School
  • 2014-11-27 Thanksgiving
  • (etc.)

In practice, I’m not perfect at labeling my personal photo folders, mostly because over the years, I’ve gone from only breaking out the camera at “events” to pulling out my phone and snapping a pic at every opportunity.

So, my beautiful organizational system kinda goes off the rails when a photo doesn’t fit into an “event” folder, or I forget the date of an event and I’m too lazy to look it up when I’m dumping my camera, or it’s just too much to deal with to sort through at the time of said camera dump.

I’m gonna show you what my 2014 personal photos folder looks like (cringe):

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Obviously, it’s not perfect.

And I’ve decided…it’s okay.

In the words of Elsa, I’m letting it go.

There are definitely lots of exceptions, but for the most part, my personal photos are in chronologically labeled folders within the “Personal” folder on My Pictures.

And the most important part is that ALL of the photos of my family from 2014 are all in there.

So…there…I just gave you permission that it doesn’t have to be perfect.

It just has to be.

Go get all of your photos collected in one spot, then come back tomorrow for Part 3: Back that Mass Up.

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