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Organizing Digital Photos: A Picture-Perfect System

Holidays offer plenty of opportunities to capture priceless moments. We asked the Image Team to share their top tips for taking the best pictures and then storing them wisely.

The advent of digital imaging changed the world of photography. Digital cameras allow photographers of all skill levels to take more pictures, to edit them, to create digital albums, to print copies with the click of a button and to organize everything on a home computer. Follow these 10 steps to capture and protect memories for generations to come. And don't miss the picture captions for bonus holiday pic tips.

1. The best camera is the one you have with you. Keep your camera ready to fire, especially as you meet friends and family for holidays and special events. If carrying your digital camera is not an option, consider upgrading the storage on your cell phone's camera.

2. Invest in two smaller memory cards as opposed to one large one. That way, when a card fails (and eventually, it will) you won't stand to lose as many photos.

3. Delete as you go. Digital photography allows you to take as many pictures as your photo cards will allow. Deleting less desirable shots as you go will give you more room on the photo card and save time when downloading.

4. Move pictures from your photo card to your computer at the end of every day or every time you take pictures. You’ll have a clean memory card for your next photo op, and organizing goes faster when the shots are fresh on your mind.

5. On your computer, sort your photos in a folder structure that makes sense to you. You could organize by month and year, by family members' names or by event name. A folder named 2009_12_Family translates to December 2009 family pictures, for example.

6. Consider using a photo-management tool like Adobe Photoshop Elements or Apple iPhoto to edit your photos. Learning the basics of photo editing tool is a good idea if you enjoy photography and appreciate the ability to work with your photos, to fix problem areas, resize, manipulate color, pattern, lighting and much more. Take a class to learn how to take advantage of all bell and whistles of a photo program or practice, practice, practice, and teach yourself.

7. Utilize an online photo-sharing website such as Shutterfly, Flickr or SmugMug. Photo sites are an easy way to share pictures with friends and family; they offer a safe place to move and store pictures when you are away from home, and provide services for creating albums and gifts.

8. Learn to recognize corrupt files. Preview every image on your computer to confirm that no files are corrupt before reformatting your memory card.

9. Reformat your memory card from the camera. This simple step makes a big difference in photo organization. Reformatting cards this way maintains the file number sequence established by the camera, so you’ll never have duplicate file/photo names.

10. Many photo applications and photo-sharing sites allow users to tag photos with keywords so that you can find photos easier in the future. Also, many online photo-sharing services read these tags and expose them to their own search engines, so that friends and family have help finding photos when they visit your site. Tag as often as time allows.

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