Tips & Tricks: Importing Shared Photos

Remembering to add shared photos is the weak point of nearly everyone’s archive. You forget to download the email attachment, you misplace the USB or DVD, or the website you’re trying to get your photos from hides the download function behind an unlabeled drop-down. Eventually, you forget whether you’ve imported the photos already or not, and you create duplicates by trying to be thorough. Below, we cover some basic process tips, go through imports in-depth, and tackle the daunting task of getting files off of Shutterfly.

General Tips for Importing Shared Photos

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Move, don’t copy! There is no reason for you to keep a copy in your Downloads folder.


number of photos-01Try to get the highest resolution files available! If you like to make photo books and prints, the lowest resolution you really want for a full-page image is around 3,000 x 2,000. NOTE: If you do absolutely all your printing through Shutterfly, they’ll be using the full-resolution version of the file when you make those projects.


desktop-01Do not take screenshots! Screenshots don’t contain any date metadata, and the dimensions are typically so small it might not even look good as a normal 4×6” print.


check-01If you’re organizing your files, do it right away! You’ll remember the details of the occasion better. This applies whether you’re organizing the files into folders, adding captions, or tagging them with keywords.


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Don’t share through Shutterfly! As established below, it is a nightmare to get photos off of it.

General Process for Importing Shared Photos

  • Put a recurring calendar event at the beginning of every month reminding you to check through your email and usual share sites.
  • Put all new USBs, CDs, etc. in a dedicated box until they’ve been added to your archive.
  • If you’re prone to forget what you’ve imported, don’t incorporate files until the end of the month.
    Have a dedicated “Shared with Me” folder in your archive, so it’s easy to check and see if you’ve already downloaded something.

Importing from external media (SD cards, discs, USB drives)

Make sure you have the right reader for your media. Most modern computers contain a standard SD card slot and USB ports, but CD and DVD drives are becoming optional. You might need an external disc drive if your computer doesn’t one built-in. Some camera manufacturers like Fujifilm also have proprietary SD card types that require their own readers.

Once you’ve inserted your device, your photo software may automatically open to an Import screen. Select the files you want to add to your archive and hit “Import”.

If you’re importing manually instead, open the device’s folder and select, drag, and drop the files/folders you want onto your computer.

Importing from email

Download files and add them to your archive soon after you get them so they don’t get lost in your inbox. If you’re really prone to forgetting, it could help to set up a label for emails you’ve downloaded.

Most websites automatically compress multiple shared files to a .zip archive. Mac and Windows both have built-in tools to unzip these into usable files. On a Mac, just double-click on the .zip archive to unzip it to the same folder. In Windows, right-click and select “Extract All”, then “Extract”.

To unzip .rar, .7z, .tar, and other uncommon compressed archives, you’ll need to use another program such as Unarchiver for Mac and WinRAR or 7zip for PC. You won’t run into these often.

Importing from Shutterfly (SD cards, discs, USB drives)

Here is where it gets really fun! This is the only way to download full-res pictures or pictures with all your date and folder metadata from Shutterfly. Otherwise, you’ll just get a medium-res file without any date information.
Go to the share site your friend shared with you, and open the album where the photos are.
Go to the Actions drop-down and select “Save Album…”
Select all the pictures you want, then click “Save pictures” and then “Yes”. If you want all the pictures, Select: all at the top right of the middle window.
Once the folder is added to your Shutterfly, go to ThisLife!
If you don’t have an account, set up a free one. If you do have an account, click “Timeline” and then “Upload”.
Click on the Shutterfly tab.
If you want to import everything, hit “Import Everything”. If you don’t, click “Select Photos or Albums” and navigate to the album you want to import. Then click “Import Whole Album”. Wait for the files to import.
If you want to download all the files in your ThisLife account, download the Desktop Downloader from here. Please note that album names will not be preserved – it subfolders everything by date instead.
If you want to download only a few files, select the files using the check in the left-hand corner of each image. Then go to Share > Link. Go to the link. Under each photo, click “Download”.
It’s as easy as that! Yes, this is the only way to get a high-resolution image from Shutterfly for free. They very strongly discourage people from using their services as cloud backups. You can also buy an archive DVD for only $10-20 for the first 1,000 photos, and $3 for each 999 after that. Here is their official downloads page for more information.
Finally, if you know you’re not going to use high-res versions of the files you’re downloading, and you’re diligent about putting files in the right chronological folder (or even better, you fix the missing metadata so it works properly in your photo software!), you can individually download each picture directly from the album. To do this, mouse over the file you want and select “Download this picture..” from the dropdown.

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