Crop it like it’s hot

How to get your camera roll in order

Rebooting is a biweekly newsletter about how we can use technology to take better care of ourselves.


There are many things I was unprepared for when I packed up and headed down to Arizona to quarantine with my family and girlfriend. Baxter and Behr are getting increasingly frustrated with my mom’s pups being around me, the Tucson heat is less bearable than I remember, and the lack of private space makes me feel like I’m in middle school again, trying to stop my parents from picking up the phone while I’m chatting with friends.

All things considered, those are pretty minor inconveniences, and mostly just reasons for me to complain with my friends. What’s actually been hard has been having to sift through the things my Nana and Tata left me when they passed last year, which I’d been putting off in some hope of never having to confront those feelings. But with a collective sense of grief filling the air, it seemed like a good time to take this on, since those feelings were already lingering.

Admittedly, some of it’s been tough. It’s impossible to know what to hang onto and what they’d be okay with me tossing out, no matter how much time I spend agonizing over it. But it’s been really nice revisiting old memories and seeing sides of them I’d never seen before—my Tata didn’t smile much, so for the first time I’m seeing some of the only pictures we have of him smiling. I also found two letters my Nana and Tata sent to his parents while they were living in Colombia, and that alone has been worth putting myself through this.

None of us anticipated spending a good chunk of this year cooped up inside with seemingly no end in sight, but if we have to do it, revisiting old memories and being with loved ones isn’t a bad way to spend quarantine. Maybe you don’t have a suitcase full of photos and letters from family members to clean up, but most of us have camera rolls full of duplicate screenshots, blurry photos, and maybe some pictures we’d rather just never existed. Whatever the case, now’s a good time to sit down and clear up your photo situation, and maybe revisit some of your favorite memories along the way.

Even if the days of deleting photos just to have enough space to download a system update have finally passed, it’s still a good idea to stay on top of organizing them. It can give you some peace of mind and easy navigation later when nostalgia hits.

You could just swipe through your camera roll and select each picture you need to delete, but that’d require a lot of tapping around and inspecting each photo, or faith that you won’t accidentally delete something important. I’ve opted for something that does a lot of the legwork for me.

Gemini Photos, available for iOS and iPadOS, is a photo management app that gathers duplicate images or ones that look similar, like the ten shots you asked some stranger to take of you and your friends outside your favorite bar, and lets you pick the best ones, then deletes the rest. Gemini pulls these pictures together automatically, and you can sort them by date or event, so if you need to clear your vacation photos of all the blurry action shots before posting the album, you can do that in a pinch. It even tries to show you which pictures it thinks is best, in case you’re having trouble picking which to keep. And if you love them all, you can also choose to save each one.

The app doesn’t stop there, though. If you’re like me, you might be prone to using your screenshot folder on your phone as a pseudo-to-do list that you’ll definitely triage into a proper list when you have a second—but that second never comes and you’re just left with a folder full of contextless screenshots that cause more confusion than anything. Thankfully, Gemini helps easily get rid of screenshots by grouping them all together based on similarities, so you can swipe through all your texting screenshots and see which ones you actually want to keep, and which ones you wish you’d never sent in the first place.

But what about all the photos that don’t fit into similar groups like mentioned above? For all those miscellaneous ones, there’s an “Other” folder you can go through. A swipe up will keep the photo wherever Gemini found it, and a swipe down will toss it in the trash (but don’t worry, it’ll prompt you to make sure you want to delete all those pictures first). Think of it like Tinder for your badly recorded memories, without the risk of mindlessly swiping the wrong way and losing a potential match forever. The first time you do this might be tedious and take a while, but eventually you’ll get into a habit of cleaning things up, and since Gemini does a lot of the heavy lifting for you, you won’t have to do too much swiping.

There’s a lot of power in having Gemini automate your photo management, but it’ll cost you $20 per year. If that’s out of your price range, especially with things as they are right now, that’s okay! You can use Google Photos to do some pretty thorough cleanup of your library, and it’s free.

Google Photos, which offers free unlimited storage for compressed photos, has an entire tab dedicated to managing your library. Sure, it won’t group them based on how blurry they are, but you can quickly move all your screenshots to the archive, and it will automatically group your pictures together based on the people in them, so you can relive your favorite memories with the pals you’re really missing right now.

If you’re pressed for storage space on your phone, you can even hit one button and Google Photos will clear your camera roll once all your pictures have been backed up to Google’s servers. That’s all great, but just be mindful of the fact that you’re handing a lot of data over to Google by letting it peek at all your pictures. As long as you’re cool with that, the service has a lot to offer and can help you keep your photos nice and tidy.

Whichever route you go, if you take the time to do it right, your photo library will be easier to sort through, which means you’ll have an easier time digging up memories when you’re feeling nostalgic. This might sound silly, but don’t just use this time to clean up and objectively select the best images. Sometimes in the pursuit of getting cute pics, we forget to enjoy the moments as they’re happening. Taking a second to slow down and relive those memories can be a much needed boost of joy when we’re all feeling isolated.

📚 Good Reads:

The one thing keeping me going in quarantine: video games (Vox): I think we can all agree, at this point, that we’re straight up not having a good time right now. I don’t mean to make light of the situation, but it’s getting really hard to not mull over how foggy and distant my brain feels every day. Zooms with friends help, and walks with my family provide a nice break from the walls we’ve self-quarantined in, but like Alanna Okun points out, video games provide a sense of accomplishment that isn’t always attainable right now, when quarantine burnout feels so real. 

How to sleep when the world is falling apart (Wired): All trauma and catastrophic damage aside, my biggest gripe with this pandemic has been the havoc it has wreaked on my sleep schedule. On a good night, I’ll be able to get back to sleep after waking up, but most nights I end up pacing around outside, trying to enjoy some fresh air until my mind chills out enough to sleep for at least a little while longer. Hopefully you’re not dealing with that, too, but if you are, you’re not alone, and there are things you can do to help get back on track. 

Zoom is giving fandoms a new place to hang (The Verge): Before all of this, making friends online might have seemed weird and uncomfortable. And that totally makes sense! But since it’s still not clear how long we’re going to have to socially distance ourselves, being able to make new friends virtually is a viable option. Having weekly crafting sessions with like-minded people isn’t the worst way to spend a quarantined afternoon. 

🌐 Just Browsing:

💕 And now, here’s something we hope you’ll really like:

Book Track: A lot of my projects have been put on hold while I try to get my day-to-day shit together, but I’ve been trying to slowly put more privacy barriers in place where I can lately. One, admittedly small, part of that, has been getting away from Goodreads. As useful as it’s been for tracking my reading, I’d rather not have all that information sitting on Amazon’s servers if I can help it. Book Track, a reading tracker for iOS, released a huge update recently that basically turns it into a private Goodreads network. You can add books to your library, keep a wish list of books you haven’t had a chance to snag yet, and there’s even a tab for books you’ve loaned out to friends, so you can make sure they make their way back to your shelf. There’s also a statistics page where you can track your reading habits over time. My favorite feature, though, is that you can use your phone’s camera to scan quotes into the app, making it super easy to keep track of your favorite clips.

As always, if you have any questions, feedback, or just want to say hello, feel free to drop me a line on Twitter.

My thanks to Medea Giordano for editing this issue.