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Did you ever wonder if there was a better way to manage vacation photos? Better, that is, than coming home tired and busy only to have 1000s of photos that you need to sort, cull and edit. Not to mention that you want to share the best of those photos with family and friends.

Yep. I feel the same way.

Depending on the length of your vacation and the technology you use, you will have several options to manage vacation photos better. Most of the options contain Lightroom – it’s the easiest way to import and organize photos.

How to Manage Vacation Photos with a Laptop

Do you travel with a laptop? Depending on the length of vacation, I often do. Aside from feeling like I need to work, having the laptop is a huge help in managing travel photos.

Lightroom is installed on both my laptop and desktop. Sadly, Lightroom doesn’t synchronize catalogs across machines. However, using a special Dropbox trick that I will show you soon, you can share photos between Lightroom catalogs.

My daily routine for managing vacation photos with a laptop is:

  • Every night or so, I import photos from my camera onto my laptop. I use Lightroom to import and I store the photos in the Dropbox folder on my laptop. As I import, I add keywords to photos. (See below for more info.)
  • As far as the Dropbox file structure, I create the same structure that I want to use on my laptop. This usually involves creating a vacation folder with a detailed name:  Road Trip 2017, for example. Within that folder, I’ll create folders for each major stop or event on the trip.
  • I sort through the photos that I’ve just imported using the flags.
  • As time allows, I edit my favorites.
  • As I work, I keyword photos with words that describe how I want to use the photo: scrapbook, print, video, blog, etc.
  • Finally, for the photos that I want to print, I export them immediately and upload to Mpix. You can create folders in Mpix to organize your uploads. With a vacation folder, I can easily print all of my photos from the road or when I get home – no more sorting or editing required.

The benefit of working on your photos nightly is that you don’t have a mountain of work to do when you get home. Introvert that I am, I need some downtime every day, even on vacation. Sorting and playing with my photos is relaxing and revitalizing.

Not everyone feels that way though, and there are some vacation days where you don’t have a spare minute. If you have a laptop, remind yourself that any photo management you can do on the road will mean less to do when you get home – use airplane time, driving time or other moments when nothing fun is going on.

How to Manage Vacation Photos with a Tablet or SmartPhone

Lots of people don’t travel with laptops. After all, the point of vacation is to unplug, right? If you have Creative Cloud, you can use Lightroom on your phone or iPad to manage photos while you travel. Lightroom Mobile works on iPhone & Android phones, plus the iPad.

(Lightroom 6 and prior – the non-subscription products – do not include the Lightroom mobile app and you can’t synchronize your photos from a device to your computer.)

Here’s how it works:

  • Transfer your photos to your device. I use this adapter
  • Import the photos into Lightroom.
  • Sort through the photos using flags or your sorting method of choice.
  • Edit your favorite photos, as time allows.
  • If you’d like to print photos, consider uploading them at this point directly to Mpix via Tap to Print, their mobile app. That way, you don’t have to remind yourself which photos need to be printed after you return home.
  • Sync to Lightroom desktop using the Creative Cloud.

Lightroom Mobile isn’t as full featured as Lightroom for the desktop yet. Notable limitations include not being able to rename files or add keywords. In addition, you have to choose one folder to synchronize photos into – I couldn’t use my vacation-folder-with-vacation-stop-subfolders structure.

However, you can rename, add keywords and sort into folders in batch once you’ve synchronized your files into Lightroom for the desktop.

How to Manage Vacation Photos: Here’s What I Don’t Recommend

If you don’t use a tablet or laptop, I don’t recommend reviewing photos on camera and deleting from there. With the tiny screen, you’re much too likely to miss focus issues or distractions that you would only notice on your computer. It’s much better to save the sorting until you get home and can look at the photos on the bigger screen.

How to Manage Vacation Photos: Folder & File Names plus Keywords

In the screenshot below, you can see my folder/subfolder organization.

Many people put the date in front of the folder in numeric form: 20170724 Avenue of the Giants, for example. This sorts the folders chronologically rather than by date. (I should do that, but I’ve never gotten into the habit of it.)

I name my photos after the term I’m most likely to search on in the future. For example, I would name photos “Disney 1,” “Disney 2,” etc. rather than Orlando or Florida. Consequently, I have photos named after places, people, and events.

In addition, I add keywords to the photos for other terms I’m likely to search on: states, cities, parks, hotel names, etc.

Finally, I also add keywords to remind me of my plan for my favorite photos. Those keywords might include: scrapbook, print, Facebook, email, photo book, etc.

I’ve seen many strategies for naming and keywording – some work better than others. The key, however, is that you choose a strategy and use it consistently. As long as you can find the photos you need when you need them, you are doing it right.

The key to learning how to manage your vacation photos efficiently is to do as much as possible while you travel. You’ll knock out a lot of work before you get home. And, if you are reviewing photos every day, you’ll know when a photo didn’t work and needs a redo. Much better to discover that when you’re still at the beach rather than already at home.

The Mpix app is a big help when traveling. Or anytime, actually. If your phone photos tend to get lost in the cloud like mine do, use the Mpix app to upload your favorites. When you have a good group waiting for you, simply place an order. In a few days, you’ll receive a package of memories that is sure to warm your heart.

I kept up well with our vacation photos on our road trip over the summer. One of the things that I did on that last 14-hour drive was to upload photos to Mpix and prepare orders for everyone we visited. It’s a nice feeling when you know that you have both processed all your photos AND sent prints off to those family members who are clamoring for them – before you even get home!