I am the unofficial family historian and have spent countless hours digitizing old photos, film and videos as far back as the 1950s. Much of this time was spent people-tagging, captioning, keywording, dating, and otherwise adding metadata to the archive so that an aggregated media archive can be efficiently searched.
Previously, I had used Picasa to aggregate all the media and edit metadata. Even after Google discontinued support, I used it for quite awhile as I could not find a suitable alternative - until I came across Mylio.
Although I had to put quite a bit of work into re-doing some of the metadata work (in particular, for videos and albums), I found Mylio to be the best combination of speed, efficiency, future-proofing and cost plus the major benefit of being able to synchronize across multiple devices.
I do not use the editing features within Mylio, I view it primarily as a multi-platform metadata editing, media aggregation and organization platform.
=== Devices and Vaults ===
Windows PC - 2nd internal hard disk that holds my entire Dropbox folder (I segregated it this way so when it comes time to upgrade my PC I can just add this drive to the new one). I created the first mylio Vault as a folder within the “My Pictures” directory. So when I add photos they are automatically backed up to the cloud + I like Dropbox’s link sharing features. I do most of my bulk metadata and organizing work here as it is the most efficient.
Synology NAS - setup a second Vault here. Connected to home LAN and “always on”. Synchronizes continuously with Mylio on the Windows PC.
Laptop (Windows) - I have an external HDD where I have installed a third Vault. When I am on the road for extended trips, I take my laptop and an external HDD and can process files and do organization work this way, synchronizing them when I get home. On the external HDD I have the Vault located within an encrypted file container that needs to be mounted (protection in case the HDD is stolen).
Sony SLR Camera - shoot in RAW, process files using Adobe Lightroom, including adding metadata. Export files as JPGs into Mylio folder structure. I backup the RAW files separately.
iPhones (multiple) - shoot and save in HEIC and MOV format.
Mylio for iOS - use this to view photos on the road, occasionally make metadata edits.
=== “Physical” Folder Organization - optimized for Intake Process ===
I maintain a folder structure that is related to intake of photos and media. My main sources are:
- SLR - typically shot in RAW and processed in Lightroom
- iPhone 1 (mine)
- iPhone 2 (wife)
- Old Cameras - older digital photos from past digital cameras, organized by camera (which roughly corresponded to different time periods)
- Scans - separate folders for Print scans, 35 mm film negative scans, VHS video scans, 8 mm scans etc
- Others - photos from friends, organized by year and then by specific event (like wedding photos) or grouping.
We generate or collect around 10,000 photos and videos a year collectively. Total library is around 700 GB (Excluding RAW files).
I decided not to maintain RAW photos in Mylio, instead using Lightroom to edit the photos and add metadata, before exporting as JPGs to be archived in Mylio.
=== Using “Logical” Albums ===
As the physical folders are organized to optimize for intake, I rely on Albums to create logical groupings. This allows me to seamlessly combine photos from different sources. For example, for my wedding we collected photos from dozens of different cameras. These photos were in separate physical folders but could be weaved together seamlessly through Albums.
I have setup several categories of top-level folders:
- Events - specific collections based on events like birthday parties, dinners, day trips to the park with the kids etc. Usually single day shoots but can sometimes span multiple days. Usually these are “complete” sets. Typically non-curated. Example: “2019-06-20 NY Mets vs. Atlanta Braves”, “2018-07-04 July 4th Fireworks” or “2016-06-21 Wedding”. Albums here can be subsets of Travel collections. Because there are so many Events (50+ per year), I group then by year.
- Travel - longer multiple-day travel collections. About 5-10 per year. Example: “2015-05 Trip to Mexico” or “2017-03 Cross-country Road Trip”. Typically non-curated.
- Collections - a catch-all folder and nested sub-folders for general collections that don’t necessarily fit into Events or Travel collections. For example, I have a sub-folder “Schools” which is further separated into sub-folder collections of photos from each school year for the kids. Some collections are complete, some are curated.
- Favorites - grouped by family member, I use these Albums to essentially tag the best photos for each person. Highly curated.
- Best - Specific collections featuring the best, highest quality photos for more “abstract” categories like composition, “New York City”. Can argue that these can sit in “Collections” but I like having this separate top-level category. Highly selective and curated.
I also utilize an “Operations” folder which helps me keep progress on certain metadata and organizing tasks that I am in the middle of. For example I have a whole bunch of scanned photos which don’t have accurate date info. I can use albums to collect these photos in one place which makes it easier to put them in some chronological order as I guess or estimate dates and times.
=== Using Keywords ===
I use keywords to tag certain characteristics of photos for future use. Some common tags:
- “Processed_Lightroom” - all JPGs that are outputted from Lightroom, so I know I can go back to the original RAW file if I need to
- “Scanned” I have tagged all the photos that I have scanned
- “Duplicate” sometimes I have scanned a photo multiple times for various reasons. I use this tag to differentiate the best version from the duplicates.
- “Issue_Lines” or “Issue_Dust” sometimes I find scanning issues after the fact so I use tags to describe the issue, to identify which photos may need re-scamming etc.
- Random descriptive tags like “Food” as certain people take a lot of these types of photos. These tags help me compile “Best of” Albums down the line.
=== Using Tags ===
I mainly use tags to keep track of progress organizing photos.
For example, as I am in the middle of organizing my videos, I use Blue and Purple tags to indicate whether I have completed checking and adding time and date, captioning and person-tagging data.
=== Final Thoughts ===
As our media libraries continue to expand, it is important to have an organizational structure that works for you. I like to spend the time up front during the intake process to add metadata and captioning because that is when memories are fresh. Having invested many hours maintaining the media library over the years gives me incentive to continue to maintain it in a consistent way.
The investment in organizing via Albums and adding keywords, captioning and date data up front means that it will be easier to recall photos and videos many years from now because they can searches in different ways. Some media may be searched because you remember the date but others only because you remember certain aspects of it that can only be described through keywords. Keeping it organized also helps you discover old photos as you can browse chronological for by people tag or by album.
Finally I also like Mylio because it seems like a platform that can grow as new technologies and formats are incorporated in the future. There isn’t as much anxiety that the platform may become obsolete one day or that I am tied to a single platform because of all the investment of time in maintaining the media archive. I hope for this spirit to continue in the future in which case I will be happy to be a lifetime customer.
=== Areas for Improvement ===
Right now, one area that could use improvement with Mylio is in processing video files, primarily in pulling the correct metadata from the video. A fair amount of my intake processing is spent manually correcting dates and times, captioning and tagging persons to the videos so that they are displayed in proper chronological order in all the Albums and searchable.
Specifically, it is strange that one can only tag people to videos by selecting multiple videos. The + button only appears when multiple videos are selected. So to add people, one needs to manually find two videos with the same person - or tagging a person to one video and a randomly selected second one before manually removing from the second one.
Mylio used to support XMP files for video files, I am curious as to why this changed.