Printing Press: The Ins and Outs of Photo Organization in the Digital...

Printing Press: The Ins and Outs of Photo Organization in the Digital Age


This past summer, seven of us set out on the arduous and awe-inspiring journey of walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It was spectacular, and our photos are proof. Speaking of photos: I was the only person carrying a camera, but we all had our phones, including our guide. Moreover, we took photos practically every step of the way. That was eight phones and one camera, resulting in well over 2,000 digital photos and a few videos. Since we got back, have we even looked at the photos or made a photo book? No, but we will. How? With professional photo organization.

I hired a professional photo organizer to sort through the Dropbox folder, with instructions to choose the 250 best photos and turn them into a memorable photo book.

The trip to Machu Picchu resulted in 2,000+ digital photos.

Why am I telling this story? Because the need for photo management and organizing services continues to explode; technology keeps changing, and photo collections are growing into the tens of thousands.

In fact, every day 20–30 people ask to join a private Facebook group called the Photo Organizers. To enter, they have to answer this question: What do you hope to learn in this group? The answers vary a bit, but there is always a common thread: “The best way of protecting digital photos and digitizing old ones”; “Tips to organize and take charge of family photos”; and “I hope to learn how to organize my digital photos better.”

Furthermore, the professional photo organizers within APPO (Association of Personal Photo Organizers) are also reporting a steep increase in the need for their services. People are no longer surprised when they learn they can hire someone; rather they say, “OMG I need you.”

Photo Organization Service Options for Retailers

If you are a photo retailer reading this and want to know how you can offer these services, you have two choices. You can outsource the work to a certified photo manager, or you can sponsor an employee to become certified. In fact, APPO recently updated its professional certification program and code of ethics.

What information does a photo manager need to know and understand? Here is an overview of the key learning objectives that APPO includes in their certification, including our code of ethics. PP-Photo organizationThe Photo Manager Certification contains five self-paced study modules—a combination of downloadable PDFs and online video courses. Each has an accompanying review quiz. There is no in-person exam or classroom study. We also require documentation of a client project, a client reference and an interview with a staff person from the Photo Managers.

Module 1: Introduction to Photo Management

Understanding the opportunities available in the photo management industry and the Photo Manager’s role will help as you grow your business. This module also contains best practices and the code of ethics.

Module 2: Client & Project Management

Building relationships and effectively managing projects will ensure that your clients are satisfied and will return to you for additional services over time. This module provides insight about creating relationships built on trust and respect. It also offers tips for the day-to-day management of your projects.

Module 3: Physical Photos & Memorabilia

Many photo management family clients have collections in which you’ll find items other than photographs. These may include CDs of photos, kids’ artwork, scrapbooks, playbills, souvenirs, old home movies as well as high school soccer trophies. Consequently, this module covers the basics of safely digitizing printed photos, both loose and in scrapbooks. In addition, it covers converting old media to digital files. Objects get their own section regarding their place in the photo organization system.

Module: Digital Photo Organizing

Nearly every photo management project contains some aspect of digital photo organizing. A critical part of our industry, it is also the most complex. There are many options for software, hardware, cloud storage, backup, etc. This module contains the most up-to-date information about the basics of working with a client’s digital photo collection.

Module 5: Save & Share

After the digitizing is done, images are gathered into a digital photo hub. However, there is still lots to do. The fully digital collection can now serve as the basis for many sharing options, from photo books to photo-sharing websites. Moreover, archival storage options will preserve the physical photos and objects.

APPO Code of Ethics

As the field of professional photo organizing has grown, so has the need for a strong code of ethics that members are required to uphold.

  • Serve clients with integrity, competence and objectivity. Also treat them with respect and courtesy.
  • Offer services in those areas in which the member is qualified and accurately represent those qualifications in verbal as well as written communications.
  • Recommend the services of other members and/or other qualified professionals when unable or unqualified to fulfill requests for services directly.
  • Advertise services in an honest manner and represent the photo management profession accurately.
  • Keep confidential all client information—business as well as personal.
  • Make recommendations for products as well as services with the client’s best interests in mind.
  • Determine and communicate industry-standard fees and expenses directly to the client.
  • Seek and maintain an equitable, honorable and cooperative association with all colleagues. Moreover, treat them with respect and courtesy.
  • Respect the intellectual and artistic property rights (professional photographs, materials, titles and thematic creations) of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers, its members and other firms or individuals; do not using proprietary information or methodologies without express permission.
  • Be a credit to the photo management industry by acting and speaking with the highest degree of professionalism and integrity.

Breakout Topics for Photo Organizers APPO-certified-logo

In addition to certification, APPO also hosts an annual educational conference and welcomes new, inexperienced photo organizers. The next conference is scheduled for April 16–18, 2020 at the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead, Georgia. Wonder what topics photo organizers are interested in learning? Here is list of a few of the breakout sessions being taught by experts in the industry.

Lost in Space: Claiming a Spot for Home Movies in the Digital Space

Clients are no longer satisfied with watching their home movie archives in a lower resolution than their 4K TVs can display. So, how do we store, share and back up their large files. This session explores the implications of the selected scanning workflow that the client as well as the organizer must understand.

Exploring Network Attached Storage to Improve Workflow

Flash drives! Hard drives! Floppy disks! SD cards! Cloud storage! Storage devices are everywhere, making it difficult to find the files needed when you need them. How can an organizer do their job effectively? The answer is Network Attached Storage (NAS). We will help demystify what a NAS can do and how it can help.

How to Turn Blank Walls into Money

Printed photos. Digital photos. What about hanging photos, original artwork and other client treasures? Putting their artwork on the wall is approached like any other photo-organizing project, with client requirements, collaboration, supplies, time management and billing involved.

Digital Gathering Best Practices

Learn the best workflow for gathering digital assets from a client, including photos and videos. After this session, you’ll be ready to tackle these important sessions with calmness, efficiency and also confidence.

Using Facial Recognition Software Effectively and Efficiently

When we add keywords to our clients’ photos, people’s names make up a significant portion of those keywords. Using facial recognition software is a quick and efficient way to name people in photos.

Camera Scanning Workflow: How to Photograph Artwork and 3D Objects

Photographing artwork, family heirlooms and other sentimental objects is intimidating. You want to accurately record the colors and details of the piece so that the object is represented at its best. However, the scale, delicateness and intricacy of the piece often makes this tricky. A proper workflow plus a few tips and techniques make photographing these objects fun and, dare we say, easy.

Working with Nonprofits as a Professional Photo Organizer

Led by a panel of APPO’s “seasoned” professional photo organizers with a variety of markets and business styles from throughout the U.S., we will discuss the benefits as well as challenges of working with nonprofit organizations.

Genealogical and Historical Societies Are Profitable

Expand your business and increase your profit by tapping into genealogical and historical societies through workshops and presentations. Learn how to approach societies, negotiate fees and create engaging presentations.

From Chaos to Order: Organizing Physical Photos and Media

Bringing order to boxes, bags and bins of printed photos as well as other analog materials can seem like a daunting task. Once you have a foundation, the job is much easier. In this session, you will learn how to use visual clues to sort and date the materials found in a physical photo collection quickly and efficiently.

Get in Touch with APPO

The need for photo organization is growing, and so is the Association of Personal Photo Organizers. Our training and community are ready to welcome members of your retail staff or work with you to offer their services.

If you’d like further information on certification, membership or attending the APPO national conference, please contact Cathi Nelson, CEO of APPO ( or