That photo thing (or, why I’m a rotten mom)

I used to be organized. Then my father did us a favor and bought us a digital camera.

See, I had a system. I’d take pictures, drop off the film someday, and when they came back, I’d label the back with who was in the picture, when and where it was taken. Then I’d put the photos in an album and mail off the duplicates.

After the arrival of Kiddo#2, my father gave us this awesome digital camera (and it is — it’s a little workhorse; the only time it’s failed on me was the time of the Ghost Photo incident) and you don’t need to develop those pictures. You just put them on your computer and print them at your leisure.

You see the problem there, right?

Actually, the problem is twofold. The first is I have no strictly leisure time. I fill it with “important” things like writing weblog entries and surfing Ehell. But the second, which you can’t possibly know, is our color printer. It’s a near occasion of sin for me. Every time I use it for photos, I end up saying things that would make an entire New York City subway car gasp in shock. When God sees me getting ready to print in color, He gets out His divine tally sheet, sighs, and sharpens three pencils.

You know in Office Space, when the guy says “Why does it say ‘paper jam’ when there is no paper jam?” That’s my color printer’s younger cousin. They went to school together.

At that point in time, we also had dial-up, so online photo services actually took longer for us than dropping off a film canister. Or growing an evergreen tree, to be honest.

There’s also the higher expectations of digital photos: you’re only supposed to print the good ones, but I had no way of looking at them all in batches and figuring out which were the good ones. It took hours. Correcting things like redeye and cropping took even longer.

During this time, I was still using the film camera sometimes, and those photos needed to be interleaved with the digitals. I’d hold onto the duplicates and not mail them away.

Consequently, the photos backlogged on me. Then Kiddo#3 arrived, and after three months, I couldn’t keep up. There were unprinted photos on my hard drive, unsorted printed photos, and a box of duplicates as big as a shoebox.

I felt like garbage. Everyone else has beautiful scrapbooks for their kids, and I had a couple of CDs. Every time I thought about the photos, my next thought was, “I should just die and get it over with.”

(This weblog says “sarcasm served up daily,” but I’m not being sarcastic. I really felt like I was failing my kids by not having organized albums like my mom does.)

Then one day, inspiration struck. I’m pretty sure it was my guardian angel. And this is what the inspiration said:

If you feel so bad because you haven’t printed photos, why don’t you print them?

It’s hard to argue with that kind of logic. Plus, timing is everything: right around then, Wendy sent me a link to photos of her house, and they were on yahoo photos. It looked easy to navigate. Everything fell into place. This is how God takes pity on fools, drunks, the United States of America, and me.

Within a few days, I had a yahoo photos account. I abandoned any idea of correcting bad photos. With DSL, uploading went like lightning. Then I’d do a slideshow of photos and note the ones I didn’t want. I’d hit “select all” and then unselect the bad ones. Then push a button, and two weeks later, voila. I decided to print twenty a week so I’d be done in six months.

It worked so well that I did them by the hundreds. Yahoo photos was squealing with glee, at least until they shut down. After that, Shutterfly squealed with glee, rubbing its hands together (I’m imagining an actual fly here, doing that thing with its front feet) and blissfully selling me prepaid plans that I blew through in a matter of days. (My record is two days for two hundred photos.) It took only two months to clear the backlog.

They’re all in albums now.

I fell off the wagon last August, but in the last week, I’ve caught up. 150 photos are on their way right now. (If you’re related to me, you may be getting some.)

I’m taking more photos now that I know they’ll be printed.

I love my photo albums. Printing pictures is a way of loving myself.

Er, does anyone want a box of several hundred duplicate photos from 2001 to 2005?


  1. stphoto

    LOL! I hear you, I still got boxes and boxes of 4×6 prints from the pre-digital days I have. Probably thousands that need to looked through. I keep saying I’m going to do that, buy a scanner and put them up in online albums for the family to see. Yep, one of these days. ;;-)

    I don’t print many photos at all. I use online albums now. Speeds up the process, I think. 🙂

  2. philangelus

    It probably does, but I still have that visceral need to feel the photos and be able to see them without the computer screen.

    Oh, the scanner. The bane of my existence. I had a free photobook from shutterfly, but some of the photos for what I planned needed to be scanned in. I got three-quarters of it done, then said, “I need to scan the others,” and it’s still unfinished eight months later.

  3. ivyreisner

    Can I introduce you to Flickr? You can put your photos there and rest assured they will stay there, in all their digital glory. Post to two services for the security of backups. Then you can just send a link to your album to all of your relatives (including the third cousin you saw once when you were two months old) and not have to store two billion photos in the house.

  4. philangelus

    Feel free to introduce me to flickr, but I still need to have photo albums in my hands in order to feel the pictures have been done.

    I *like* storing two billion photos in the house. Imagine I suggested to you a program that knits sweaters for you. (Check out

    Or worse, “Why don’t you just buy wool socks at Stuff Mart?” Well, I’m the same way about photos.

  5. CricketB

    Wow! Congrats! I’m still at the “I should follow your example” stage, having heard you describe it before.

    Now, are you a good example, or setting the bar too high for us mere mortals?

    I hear you about the higher expectations with digital. $2 extra for 36 triple prints, label, sort, mail. Vs 40c / print, cropping and red-eye expected. I use HP photo something for mine; it came with the printer.

    Yep, gonna start with the first full camera card of 2008, then worry about the backlog later. Except it hasn’t filled up yet, since I’m saving those last 10 for something important so I don’t have to deal with it at all. There are some envelopes from 2006, or 2005, or 2004, hiding, waiting to be dealt with, so I can’t just go through my albums and start where they leave off.

    Scrapbooks? Binder albums in date order, with home-made dividers (staple paper on edge of filler page) since the regular ones are too small. Can insert pages as necessary, including odd sized ones.

    Mom and Dad have dialup, and MIL doesn’t have a computer, so the paper is still important. The kids can go through the binders without messing up my desk.

    It’s on my list, though. Just as soon as I get through the stuff I should have filed in 2006.

    BTW, do I recognize a bit of your “loving myself” line? Computer stuff really needs to be zone of its own!


  6. illya

    I’d love to look through them next time I come

  7. philangelus

    Illya, by all means, give me an excuse to haul out the photo albums.

    Cricket, I’m not sure about that “mere mortals” thing because I barely clear the bar for “mortal.” On the hierarchy of life forms, I’m definitely somewhere over “dirt” but sometimes I think a smart geranium could supercede my standing as sentient life form…

    We’ve got family members who aren’t online, and anyhow, the cool thing about photo books is it’ll give my grandkids something to argue about when I’m dead. “Do you want the photo albums?” “Heck NO!” “Well, someone ought to take them.” “I don’t even *know* these people!” etc etc.

  8. Jenni

    I, too, have a backlog and I don’t even have kids. I even have a backlog of photos I just haven’t emailed! And everytime I get that reminder message on my computer to make backup CD’s I think of all the photos I have and that I should go through and keep/delete/use for blackmail etc. I have a hard time paying someone to “hold” my photos for me, but maybe I should reconsider that stance. (I miss Yahoo Photos)

  9. CricketB

    I also set my screensaver to show photos.
    You set a folder, and it shows all the images in that and its subfolders. Husband wrote one with a bit more control, but he’s a programmer, so the interface is … programmerish.

  10. philangelus

    My Patient Husband had one of those too. Actually, for a while I had a program on my old iMac that randomly put up Gatchaman pictures. Sadly, it doesn’t work with OS X.

    THe problem with doing that for all photos is that, again, you need to weed out the bad ones, otherwise you get those ugly photos and the photos where you accidentally took a shot of the ground or your thumb is in the way. 😉

  11. CricketB

    But those photos are part of the event! Seriously, most of my treasured photos are the ones that are least artistic. (And I thank Dad for teaching me to hold the camera in a way that it’s almost impossible to see your thumb.)

  12. philangelus

    I took two years of photography, but every so often, there’s still a camera strap or a fingerprint that gets memorialized. 😉

    I don’t mind “non artistic” shots, because if I did, I’d have no photos. But I do mind “I pushed the button, the camera didn’t respond, and after thirty seconds I lowered it to see what was wrong and that’s when it took this picture of my sneaker.”

    Why memorialize my klutziness? That’s already memorialized in enough ways.