Photo Albums

Strategy for compiling one's personal photo albums

Over a period of a few years, between about 2016 and 2021, I was quite diligent about organising my digital photos, using Google Photos. During that time, the Google Photos AI "assistant" tended to automatically generate video slideshows, and suggest albums, lighting or right-angle rotation edits, etc. It didn't force these data to be added to one's library, as the user was required to review and save the suggestions.

I loved the automatically-generated videos of trip highlights, and my friends also loved them when I shared them. I learnt how to control the video generation myself, selecting the best photos and videos, and accompanying royalty-free music.

At the time, before my phone fell in a river while hiking, my phone had high value, with a very good camera. In my photographic journey, I have found that the tools affect one's hobby a lot, so perhaps my photographic interest was better then. I replaced my phone with a cheap one, as I am concerned about being mugged.

I kept my library organised, by storing all my digital photos in Google Photos, deleting unneccessary photos like screenshots, and creating digital albums about events. The main purpose of this blog post is to reflect on how beneficial scrolling through one's photos can be, and what lessons can be gleaned from this exercise.

To try to define it, the benefit is that one understands better what is important in life. Most screenshots and memes have a short half-life and thus should be deleted (with the intention to reduce the amount of unnecessary data stored). Unhealthy images should be deleted (for example, a screenshot that shames a person who sent a message online). Also, data storage costs money, so if you are near the limit in a tier in cloud data storage, you would objectively need to trim down what you are storing. It doesn't make much sense to store files that are stored by an organisation for the general public, unless it would be hard to find. Also, there needs to be some sort of informal contract to agree why you are storing data that only benefits other people but doesn't benefit you.

But, I digress. Scrolling through a (clean) photo library, although by definition it only represents memories that have been photographed, mostly gives you a history of the fun moments in your life. By stretching over time, this brings out the importance of one's personal development, as one watches friends come in and out of one's life. So it isn't the friends that make you who you are, so much as it is the ability for you to handle life's challenges. Seeing photos of friends who you don't see anymore can be sad, but by taking the approach just mentioned, one can appreciate how a life story is told. With hindsight, you may also be able to reflect on how you went through a challenging period, and you don't necessarily need to share your reflection with someone close to you, which is what individuation is about.

Creating digital photo albums

Let me now switch to the practicalities of creating digital photo albums. Emotionally, it can take commitment. Because of the work involved, I have so far only done it to benefit dozens of other people, such as for Vogelgat and the Annual Hermanus Camp (AHC). In a context such as an outdoor camp, compiling and releasing an album should be done as quickly as possible (people usually want to share their experiences on the same day, as seen in Stories). The AHC necessarily has a rather formalized process for collecting the photos, where they need to be shared with the email address. This is done so that the photos are ultimately stored in the highest resolution, in the central drive, and so that submissions don't get lost in the process (for example, if the photo album curator absconds). Unfortunately, I've felt over-committed to volunteer activities, and nobody has helped me yet with maintaining the albums for the last few years.

Through my experience, I posited that I could help people to manage their photos (a now-deleted page under "Consulting" on this website), but freelancing is an insecure affair, and, in-fact, managing one's photos is personal admin that everybody should be doing.

People seem to not value digital photo albums enough (compared to how we used to value physical photo albums) because social media crowds-out our attention. There is too much junk on the internet (including adverts, AI-generated content, clickbait, funny videos, scams, impolite or heated language, poor grammar/spelling, synchronicity, and spaces where the content is not narrowed-down enough on a particular topic, causing the reader to have to filter it). This leaves too little of our attention capacity for the most long-term important, and healthy, content. This is where book-readers shine, and those who spend time doing outdoor sports (staying in-touch with the more fundamental elements of life).

You may have noticed that I strongly believe that the internet should be informational more than emotive. This means, less junk on social media, and more value placed on technical documentation or well-researched news. And, this means that the internet should be organised, with hierarchy, and a tendency for pages lower down in the hierarchy to link to the official, canonical source of information. Is my website canonical? No, I am not a companythis is a blog.


I tend to wonder if my private journals will be viewed by my future wife or children. A similar thought crops up about my photo librarywho is it for? Will I print a personal photobook in the next ten years? I have printed coasters for me, family and friends, and printed personal wall prints. It was a phase, so now I wonder whether those photos are too out-of-date. What different objects need personal photos on? I suppose this is why digital photo frames were invented! But don't photo frames on a table take up space, whereas minimalism is nice? I've been so lazy about drilling screws into walls (mostly because I rent, and drilling is a sensitive issue when renting)...

So, this shows the interaction between the digital world (where I am comfortable with viewing my Google Calendar a few times a day, but friends don't view my busy times) and the physical world, which is more permanent, at least when there aren't disasters.