Your external disk is filling up with all the digital files, but before you buy additional memory storage to hold more of your photographs, consider doing something with the ones you've already created so far.
Planning shoots and hunting for images is and can be exciting, and sometimes, we don't necessarily remember to edit all of our sessions, let alone figure out what to do with them. I am not referring to any of your work you might have produced in a professional capacity, because that type of photography always has a very clear end goal, which will depend on what your client has ordered. This time, I am talking about the images you have shot as part of your personal photography, whether it is hundreds of files from your hiking and traveling trips, numerous model shoots, or simply snapshots of things that have caught your eye over the course of years.
We have already written about using images laying on your device for stock purposes to generate passive income, for example, utilizing things and scenes around you to capture them for stock imagery or even going as far as learning to specialize in a particular stock photography niche. However, the moment you remove money from the equation, the question remains: what should you do with the images, and what is the overall point of the images you have created so far?
Personal photography is an odd direction because there are absolutely no rules nor anyone to motivate you apart from yourself. It can be extremely rewarding, but it can also become overwhelming if you only focus on the creation of new photographs without ever stopping for a moment to look at what you have done so far and what you can create out of that.
There are many tools online to help you visually present and compartmentalize your work, whether you choose to share that with anyone or not. For example, Adobe Spark, which offers a few different pricing plans depending on whether you already have an Adobe subscription or not, gives you a platform where you can create something that I would describe as a mix of a slideshow presentation and a one-page website. You can add both images and videos, as well as text, which helps if you want to describe your project, add an introduction, as well as any details about yourself as the author. For example, I used Adobe Spark to put together a project myself and several other photographers did as we shot daily themes for 28 days in a row. This way, I did not need to create a separate website to display all of the images the participants created, and I could still share a link with them and anyone else who wanted to look at it. The downside to Adobe Spark, in particular, is that I found it was laggy and slow at times, which can quickly frustrate anyone dealing with organizing and designing numerous images.
My favorite presentation tool so far has been Canva. It has an incredible amount of inspirational templates that you can use to not only create beautiful presentations that you can download or view online but also for PDFs in the shape of magazines, books, and more. It's a free tool, although you can get a subscription if you want additional features, and you will definitely find something in there that will help you create a way to present your project or collection of images in a very sleek way. For example, using the same project I showed on Adobe Spark, I also created a book on Canva, which you can view here. The only limitation was the number of pages: the project required me to create the book in two halves to fit within the limit of pages Canva allowed. A website like this will feed you with inspirational designs that will get your creative ideas going on how to present your work.
There are certainly other similar tools and websites online, both paid and free ones.
Print, Print, and More Print
A friend of mine always says that a photograph isn't a photograph until it's in a print form. It is easy to fall into a routine of creating digital files, filling up all your memory space, but at the end of the day, if your devices crash or get stolen, or destroyed, what kind of legacy have you left, if not for others, then for yourself and for your journey in photography? I won't even go into the argument over methods of backing up your files and why you should do it because that still doesn't help you organize your photography nor does it give you a tangible product of your work.
Similar to the presentation online, you can do exactly the same but in a print format. Nowadays, there are so many drag-and-drop style options for creating and ordering books, magazines, zines, or of course, actual portfolio or wall prints. There are many photographers, who spend thousands on their equipment, both for shooting and for processing their images, as well as on hiring models, yet they will not set time aside to create a tangible product of their shoots, projects, or overall portfolio. Again, it's easy to fall into this routine of constantly going forward without stopping to reflect, so I can see how that can happen.
There are plenty of budget-friendly print labs all over the world where you can order products to suit your style of photography and how much you are willing to invest in printing your work. All of them will offer different types of papers, book sizes, and formats. For example, for my own personal photography, I have used Blurb, Bob Books, Saal Digital, or Whitewall, just to name a few, which don't require you to register as a professional user. You simply create an account and start designing your products. But, I've also used print labs that only permit professional photographers to register because these are primarily aimed at selling products to commercial, portrait, and wedding clients. These print labs generally will offer higher quality products, but of course, the price will increase with that, too.
Treat Yourself to Feeling Proud
After years of shooting, you deserve to treat yourself to a product that showcases your best or favorite work, something that you can hold and look through, and pass down the generations if you so wish. But, all in all, the primary goal of printing is to feel a sense of accomplishment, to give yourself something that will forever remind you of the places you traveled to shoot, or the people you photographed, or the projects you completed. Spending time to design and choose what you want to print and how will also help you put your photography in some sort of logical order that is unique to you. It's almost like doing a spring clean to come out feeling fresher and having a clearer perspective.
Receiving your photographs in any of the print formats is a natural conclusion to the shoot or the project. It's something that signifies that you put time, effort, and skill into something, and now, it's proudly displayed on your coffee table, your wall or it's something you can share with people online, especially if your friends or family don't live close. Trust me, drives will fail, images will get lost or deleted, but a beautiful hardcover book of your most precious work will get looked after. You don't need to print all of the thousands of images you have shot so far; just picking some is enough. Even if you give up photography one day, this will be a reminder of what you achieved.
What are your preferred ways of dealing with your personal photography work?