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The Secret Life of Certified Photo Manager Beth Gibson Lilja

We Certified Photo Managers see a LOT of photos every day—thousands in a year. That means photo managers are not just photo preservationists, we are family historians, therapists, private investigators, researchers, artists and even arbiters. My passion is helping people tell their stories with photos. I help them to remember, to celebrate, and to connect.


How do we do it? Today I’ll show you how and share my experiences preserving photos and creating photo books, photo displays or other treasures for countless clients.


You may recall my photo fanaticism began at age nine in 4-H where I created my first photo albums and scrapbooks. After all these years, my passion has only grown. Why? Because I cherish helping people preserve their histories in photos and to tell their stories. It’s fascinating. It’s cathartic. It’s sad at times, but overall—it’s a complete joy.


When people bring photos, I present a process that makes every step clear. First, I have a confidentiality clause to ensure that whatever I see and learn is confidential. My clients’ privacy is vital to performing my work. They tell their stories so I can learn, preserve, and prepare a masterpiece: their history in photos. Sometimes there are tears. Other times—elation. I see the full gamut of emotions, and I’m always there for my clients.


I remember uncovering photos of a loved one in hospice—a photo they forgot they took. There was joy and sadness, all at once. Then memories poured out.


One time a client asked that I determine a photo’s date. Lo and behold a car was in the background. I enlarged and dated the license plate to determine the year. That was one amazed client.


Another client found her dad’s WWII diary—a personal history of one soldier's thoughts and experiences during the Greatest War. I scanned it cover-to-cover. Now the entire family has a digital version of that diary. It’s a treasure and family history.


I remember the time a client’s collection included 54 VHS tapes. I discovered her husband’s 2nd birthday party on tape. They were overjoyed because they were preparing for their granddaughter’s second birthday. They showed her husband’s video at the party. It thrilled all.


A son’s high school graduation inspired a client to bring in his photos to be transformed into a book. I asked about their son—everything from his favorite color and song to his favorite hobbies and activities. I wove it all into the book. They were thrilled to share this photo legacy at his graduation party. It’s a book their son will treasure forever.


When clients bring their boxes of photos, or digital library, there are photos they assume I will toss or delete. One time I pointed out that the barn in the background of a photo may be the only image they have of grandpa’s farm. Sometimes clients overlook the obvious. I’m there to save those precious memories.


Yet another client is writing a book—we’re scanning all the items, photos, and newspaper articles for the book. Really interesting.


What people appreciate are the options I present. During a free initial consultation (15-30 minutes), I determine the client needs and to determine if we will be a good fit. I then schedule a Photo Assets Analysis where I ask more in-depth questions and photograph their photo collection. Then, I prepare their Photo Management Plan. No templates there, as each client is unique.


We meet again (Zoom or in person). I share a Power Point presentation revealing the full plan, showing areas of concerns (damaged photos requiring re-touch, repair, or extra attention). Sometimes they pause at the price. But because so many are family legacies, I suggest cost sharing the investment with family members. Then smiles appear.


Some use the Do-It-Yourself plan I create. It’s highly detailed and exclusively for them. For those who want me to create their digital legacy—and/or special photo displays or photo books—work begins. This entails deleting or tossing duplicates, separating damaged photos, scanning, organizing, and categorizing, capturing the essence of the story their photos tell, envisioning and creating their finished project, and proceeding from there.


My favorite step is presenting the creation. When clients see their finished product, I see glowing smiles often with a tear or two. As one client said, “Thanks for helping us see our ancestors again.” This is so rewarding. It’s another person whose history is saved, savored and ready to share. Many are so happy they request a photo maintenance plan. Then I curate and preserve photos at predetermined times so they’re ready to share throughout the year.


Of course, I also help people start their own photo management business. If you love people, photos, and history—what’s not to love about a photo management career? If the passion is there, the rest can be taught.


Whether you want your photos preserved, or are thinking about a photo management career, contact me. I welcome the opportunity to work with you.


PS: Don’t forget about Save Your Photos Month and the free information available from September 1—October 31. (https://thephotomanagers.com/save-your-photos-month/)


Ready to give it a try? Call or email us today; let’s get started: (612) 616-1215 or beth@gettingorganizednow.com