“We take photos as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone.”

But what if you have too many? In my office, I have around 12 cameras sitting on shelves, and although I wouldn’t consider myself a professional photographer, I am disgustingly interested in documenting my life. Why do I say disgustingly? Since the purchase of my first professional-grade digital camera in 2010, I’ve averaged about 18,121 digital photographs per year. 93,374 digital files since my first was born three years ago. How the heck does someone keep this organized?

Here’s a little insight into what has worked for me so far.

You have to MAKE something with these photographs. There has to be an end product, and that end product can’t just be “Post it to Facebook or Instagram.

In my mind, there has to be a tangible end product that these photographs end up in. The end goal is to preserve memories, right? So, you need a way of determining a memory’s start and end for your future viewer. Thus comes the different ways in which my wife and I are gathering and consolidating memories for our children.

1. We make tangible, hold in your hand, live on a shelf photo books.

There are plenty of ways to get this done in the new digital age we live in. I have two favorites that I use constantly. My first favorite is an app called Chatbooks for one set of books.

Chatbooks uses a certain technology that allows them to gather photos containing certain hashtags from the Instagram accounts of myself and my wife. Then it adds those photos to a book which gets automatically printed when it’s full. We use the curation method of “Is this worthy of an Instagram post?” to edit the photos that we’d want in our book, eliminating the need for extra work.

This is one of my favorite services because I can set up two separate books—one for each of my boys. Then when the books fill up, they arrive at my door. The books aren’t a huge investment either—I believe I pay $6 per book once they’re printed. They can also print retroactively on your account, catching you up to where you are now.

I now have a stack for my three-year-old, and a stack for my one-year-old sitting on my shelf ready to be thumbed through.

2. I spend the time once a year to create one big yearly photo album book.

For my photo library, I use Adobe Lightroom and I use a feature built into Lightroom to print my book using Blurb. I have many methods of pairing down the photos that I want to use in these photo books.

First, I don’t usually include many iPhone or cell phone pictures. This photo album is for my high quality digital and film photos that I’ve taken throughout the year. Lightroom allows me to search by camera type, if it’s been edited, and a date range which quickly helps me narrow down the photos I want in each year’s book.

Then once I have about 600 photos to choose from, I go in and “trim the fat” getting rid of the less important photos, the ones that are in soft focus or aren’t family photos at all.

This photo book is usually a bit more expensive and I see it as an investment in my family’s memories. It usually runs me over a hundred dollars, but I am usually able to find an “end of year promo code” which helps me out on the inflated cost of having a 234-page book printed.

3. The last service we use to catalog our families memories is an app called Notabli.

Notabli allows you to create a digital baby book for your children. You add in milestone moments, photos, quotes, audio and even video. Then you write a little bit about what the photo or video contains. The service allows you to add family members and determine their access so that you can instantaneously share what your children are up to with your immediate family.

We live three hundred miles from my wife’s parents, but they can feel like they’re keeping up with our kids because they get this “insider’s view” into our family. They can feel like they were there with us on the first day of preschool, or the first time the boys tried ice cream. It automatically notifies them when new memories are added, and they can thumb through this private feed of our family at their leisure.

This is a great place for us to post the random videos and photos we capture of our children. To share the beautiful, the awesome and even the downright disasters of our daily lives quickly and easily. My wife is better at keeping up with this than I am. However, if truth be told, I edit all of our family videos so we share responsibility.

I recently came across the quote—

“Memories are the architecture of our identity.”

I want the legacy of my documentation of our family to be more than the handing off of a hard drive to one of my son’s. I want them to have a breadth of shared memories that are tactile and tangible—that they can hold in their hands.

I want them to have a searchable library of videos to dial up to watch, or play on a loop. I want them to have books to hold, cherish and share. I want them to be able to reprint the books as they grow up and move away. So that all the memories of our family can be equally shared. Not just photo albums sitting on a dusty shelf or a hard drive of memories lost to the sands of time.

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