How many digital photos have you taken? 10,000? 20,000? 50,000? Instead of leaving all those photos sitting on your smartphone or a hard drive, why not do something with them?
Wander around any city, and you’ll see hundreds of people all with their phones out taking photos. Some of those pictures might end up on Facebook or Instagram, but for the most part, they sit forgotten an unappreciated in digital limbo. That’s a real shame. Photos are a great way to remember people, places, and events—plus, the pictures your smartphone takes are really good now.
The great news is there are lots of cool things you can do with your digital photos. Here are some of our favorite ideas.
Sort Through Them
I’ve shot thousands of photos with both my smartphone and dedicated camera. Most of them are terrible. Blurry selfies, missed photos, screenshots of memes, and God-only-knows-whats. They don’t deserve to be ignored—they deserve to be deleted, and have whatever hard drive they were on smashed to dirt. Buried in there, however, are some outstanding photos. The kind of thing I want to keep forever. As long as the good and bad all stay mingled together, I’m never going to see the good photos. I’m sure it’s the same for you.
Now, the bad news. There is no easy way to sort photos. The only real way to do is to sit down, throw on your favorite TV show, and go through, deleting all the bad pictures, sorting the others into albums, and favoriting the absolute best.
But, you’re probably not going to do this. Almost everyone (myself included) is at the point where they’ve shot way too many digital photos for this to be a realistic option. That means we need to use some less thorough strategies to get the good photos out:
- Go through your Facebook and Instagram accounts. If there are any photos you really like there, go through your phone and pull out the original. Also, use it as a springboard to remind yourself of events or places you loved, and go back and find photos from them too.
- Use your photo app. Both the iPhone Photos app and Google Photos (available on both iOS and Android) will show you photos from past events, organize photos by location and event, and more. While they’re made with machine learning, they will pull out some useful suggestions—like that vacation you took to the Florida Keys.
- Get into a habit of, when you remember something fun, taking five minutes to go back through your photos and grab the photos out. It will take time, but you’ll gradually sort through chunks of your photos.
- If you have an iPhone, you can use Gemini ($2.99/month) to clear out loads of the bad photos, which will make finding the good images a lot easier.
Print Them Out
My granny’s house was covered in photos. She had four children and 14 grandchildren (plus a pile of siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends who made the cut) and each of us was featured at least four or five times. The favorites would have an entire mini-shrine dedicated to their achievements. Most of the photos were pretty terrible but, because they were the ones she had, they were the ones on display.
Now, most people have hundreds of much better photos, but because they’re not printed out, nobody sees them. The single best thing you can do with your digital photos is print them.
You could print a few dozen pictures you love as 4×6″s and put them in photo frames around your house, just like my granny. Or, you could get one or two of your best made into 36×24” framed prints or canvases that dominate a wall—digital photos, even ones from a smartphone, can be printed pretty damn big if you work from the original. Really, the options are limitless. You could also make a photo album. Just be sure to check out our guide to why photos don’t look the same when you print them on How-To Geek to make sure you’re doing it right.
Create Shared Albums
As well as taking thousands of photos of myself, I’ve also taken thousands of pictures of my friends. And they’ve taken loads of pictures of me. The problem is I only have the photos I’ve taken, and they only have the photos they’ve taken (and they’re all sitting on hard drives or smartphones). We haven’t shared more than a handful with each other.
There is, however, a simple solution to this: create some shared, online photo albums. That way, everyone ends up with all the photos; even the ones they didn’t take.
If everyone uses the same smartphone platform, then things are really easy. Just check out How-To Geek’s guides to creating shared albums on your iPhone or with Google Photos to get started. If not, then you’ll need to use a cross-platform service—here are our favorites.
Make Them Your Wallpaper or Screensaver
While the default wallpapers on most modern devices are pretty good, there’s nothing that sets your smartphone or computer apart as much as using an image you took yourself. Why not find a good photo and set it as the wallpaper across your phone, tablet, and computer?
Or best of all, set it to the screensaver on your TV. Here’s how to do it with an AppleTV and a Chromecast. Anytime you want to see your favorite photos you can flip on your TV and watch the slideshow.
Make Greeting Cards
You don’t just have to print your photos as, well, photos and hang them around your home. You can also do more with them. One of my favorite things to do around Christmas is creating personal greeting cards and sending them to my friends.
And it doesn’t have to be for Christmas—you could create personal birthday cards, postcards, or even just random stationary. Make every letter better with your face.
Do Something Weird
In the last few years, a market for very weird—and wonderful—custom photo products has popped up. Ever wanted your face on a pair of socks? Well, you can. Want custom Vans shoes to match? They have you covered.
There’s almost no limit to what products you can print or make with your photos. If you can think of it, it can probably be done. I’ve seen jigsaws, smartphone cases, murals, and skis. If you have a hobby, you can get gear made from your photos.
Give them as Gifts
For all that people ignore the photos they take, they still love them. Everyone wants to see their friends’ childhood photos or pictures from their blunder years. If you’re going to spend the time to sort through your photos and pull out the good ones, you’ve set yourself up with gifts to give for years to come. Either print the pictures and frame them or go with one of the wackier suggestions, depending on who you’re giving the gift too. They’ll appreciate it.
Whatever you do (or don’t do) with your photos, there’s one thing we haven’t mentioned yet that’s crucial: backing them up. Hard drives fail; smartphones break. Don’t leave the safety of your photos down to luck, or they might not be there when you want them.