I’m a new mom with a digital camera—and an iPhone—and I know how to use them. Now that I have accrued thousands of photographs in a matter of months, they all sit chronologically organized just waiting for my laptop to crash so I can lose everything from baby’s first bath to last night’s sweet potato dinner. Boulderite, freelance photographer, and mother of two Julia Vandenoever clues us in on how to find the most useful and, most of all, safe homes for our beloved photographs.

Take lots of pictures: The glory of digital photography is you can setup and take as many photos as you like without worrying about running out of film or developing it. “I try to capture my kids at their age,” Vandenoever says. “Life goes by really fast. I want to capture who my kids are and their habits.” Shoot away.

Par your collection down: First, make a folder on your desktop named “The Best of 2013” with sub folders for each month. Go through all of your hard drive and iPhoto albums and pick out your favorite shots from each event. This is where Vandenoever says to “pick the ones you would be really sad about losing if your computer crashed.” The rest—the blurred, duplicate, eyes closed (not on purpose)—of the shots can be discarded.

Double up: Copy the “Best Of” folders to an external hard drive. If you are paranoid, you can also burn DVDs for each year worth of photos. Remember to back everything up, often.

Old School: Remember when the only way you saw your photos was to get them developed…at a grocery or drug store? Pick through your “Best Of” folders and make prints of your favorite shots.

Books Aren’t Just for Babies: Each year, make a photo book for each of your kids. “It creates memories and reflection for everyone,” Vandenoever says. You can use local companies like Artifact Uprising or national websites like Kolo and MyPublisher. “I want to show my kids what they did that year. I look for a brother-sister moment or anything that is special to that time,” Vandenoever says. Don’t forget to write little blurbs of information next to the photos to spring your mind back the memories in the future. Tip: Make sure to do a photo book each year. They get harder to accomplish when multiple years pile up.

Let Them Linger: Don’t be in a rush to delete your photos from your iPhoto catalogue. You’ll probably want to use them in a slideshow or print off extra copies. Use the easy access for a year or two, then make room for new ones.

Protect the Cache: If every parent’s worst nightmare happens and snaps of your little one’s first steps vanish in a computer fatality, the heartache can be avoided with by subscribing to backup plans like CrashPlan ($59.95 per year) to automatically file your precious photos away to the cloud.

—Image courtesy of Shutterstock