Photo Organization – How To Organize Your Printed Photos
Photo Organization For Your Printed Photographs
Your photos are one of your most priceless possessions and are the starting point of your family’s history. Most people say that if a fire happened in their house, they would first make sure all family members were safe, then their pets, and then their photos. They are a link to your past, your present, and even your future. Photo Organization is so important – it can be overwhelming so here are some simple steps to help you.
This is why it is so important to DO SOMETHING with your photos. WHAT you do with them is not near as important as DOING something with them. It is important for you to develop a system to organize, display and care for these priceless memories. (Now before you panic and tune me out, it DOES NOT have to be complicated!) Your photos and memories deserve to be shared with others, not kept in a box or computer hard drive until someone finds them and has no idea who or what they are about. (or worse yet, doesn’t have a program to open them with!) Have you tried playing a floppy drive lately? Technology changes so fast but you can always look at a printed photograph. The real magic of a picture doesn’t happen until it is printed. Then you can touch, relive and share your memories for a lifetime!
If you took pictures “back in the film days”, the only way you saw them was to have them printed. So you most likely have lots of older printed photographs. Or maybe you inherited boxes of photos from a family member. These might be organized into photo albums, but most likely they are in boxes and envelopes, possibly all over your house. You probably keep telling yourself “one day” I’ll get to those. Guess what? “One day” never comes, there is always other things to do. So you have to make the time to tackle this project which will lift a huge weight off your shoulders that you never even knew was there. Don’t wait for a week off with nothing to do. Take a few minutes every day and over time, you will accomplish so much!
Photo Organization is a skill – a learned skill. There is no right and wrong way, only what works for you. Below are some suggestions as to how you can organize. Pick and choose what works for you and make a commitment to stick to it. If you have years and years of photos to deal with, don’t get overwhelmed. Work in small sections and enjoy the process. Reminisce about the events in the photos and enjoy knowing that you are further ahead than most people – you have taken that first step to getting your photos organized and properly cared for. This is valuable and meaningful work that forms a priceless connection between you and future generations. If you can, enlist the help of family members – a special kind of closeness comes to families who work together in documenting their shared family history.
Step 1: Gather
Gather all the photos in your house into one location –preferably a location you can leave it out for a while. Make it a photo organization treasure hunt and enlist family members in your search. Check drawers, desks, attics, closets, files, old albums, the garage, framed pictures etc, and bring them all into one location. Remember to check old letters and cards that may have photos in them. You can also ask relatives for pictures and memorabilia that you would like copies of. Don’t worry if you can’t find certain photos – this should be an enjoyable process. When you do come across more photos, you will be able to add them into your system. If you come across relevant memorabilia, add that to your gathering spot too.
If you have photos that are in old magnetic albums, remove them from these albums. This is an unsafe environment for your photos because of the adhesive on the page protectors and the acid in the pages. If the photos are stuck, there is a product called Un-Do that easily removes most photos from these albums. A little bit of dental floss can also be used to pry behind the photos. These old albums are not a safe environment for your photos, so even if you aren’t going to do anything with your photos right away, remove them from the magnetic album and store them in a photo box.
Step 2: Sort
Now comes the fun part. Don’t get overwhelmed now – this is the heart of the project. You will need to decide how you want to sort your photos, and then take it in small bits of time. When you pass through the area, sort one or two envelopes of photos. If you can find a whole afternoon to sort, great, but don’t wait for that chunk of time as it may not come. You CAN do this! Photo Organization should be an enjoyable process so don’t get stressed out.
There are different ways to sort your photos and memorabilia. Before you start grouping your pictures and stacking them in piles, you’ll need to decide which one will work best for you. Remember that with each new package of photos you bring home, you will want to continue this system so make sure it works for you. Whichever system you decide upon, label your photos with an acid free photo pen. Don’t use a ballpoint pen. It is also a good idea to wash your hands before you sort photos. The natural oils on your hands are not that great for photos. You could also wear light cotton gloves. Also, remove all tape, paper clips, staples etc from the photos. While you are sorting, make notes of photos that need restoration or that you want to make additional copies of. Both services are available at Photo Express.
Here are some suggested ways to sort but certainly not the only way. Choose what works for you based on what you will do with the photos after. I personally use a combination of these methods. The majority of my photos are organized chronologically but I also have photo boxes for specific projects that I want to create – for my kids, for special trips, for a heritage book, etc. I also have one for favourite photos – those photos that just make you smile. If you only ever put pictures into one album, this is the one you want to do. It will highlight the things that make you smile and are important to you.
◦ Sort Chronologically – This is the most popular way to organize photos. You will be able to access a specific event with ease, is straightforward to do and easy to maintain. If you have many years of photos to organize, start with “decade” piles, then work down to years, and then if you want, down to months. If you come across a photo and don’t know when it was taken, check to see if there is a date stamp on the photo or the envelope it came in. Guesstimate when it was taken (look at the background, age of people, style of clothes) and put it to the side of that decade pile, and as you sort more photos, you will be able to narrow down the date.
◦ Sort by Event or Theme -You may want to organize photos of a special vacation or Christmas photos from each year by theme/event. This way it is easy to do up a “Christmas Album” with photos of Christmas on a yearly basis. You may want to start a “Celebration” album and put in birthdays, graduations and other family celebrations. Whatever album you decide you want to have is how this style should be sorted.
◦ Sort by Person – You may want to group all the photos of a specific person together. This works really well for heritage photos or portraits. You may want to have an album for each of your children or an album of their school years. You could also break this down into period of life – for example each child could have a baby book, an elementary age book, a high school age book etc.
◦ I Have No Idea Box – This is where the photos that you can’t identify go. When friends or family come over or when you go visit, ask if they can help you figure out who they are or when they were taken. You can also scan them and email them to friends or family to see if they can help uncover the mystery. (This is another good reason to label your photos – so they don’t become “mystery photos”.)
Step 3: Purge and Select
You now have organized photos and memorabilia. The hardest part is behind you and you deserve a big congratulation! Now you get the easier job of sorting through the photos to remove duplicates or bad photos (yes, it is ok to throw away pictures that aren’t great.) This is best done as a separate step, rather than as you sort. You may discover that the 2 blurry photos of your grandma as a young girl are all that you have. You can share duplicates with family members. You can frame duplicates and display them (better yet enlarge them), or you can create a photo gift with them. You can find lots of options for photo gift ideas at Photo Express. Celebrate that you are now becoming a Photo Organization Ninja!
Step 4: Don’t Panic
Realize that it is going to get worse before it gets better. You will have photos spread all out over your dining room table, but the end result is more than worth it. If it gets stressful figuring out which year a photo is from, set it aside and go onto another pile, or take a break. You can do it!
Step 5: Maintain
Once you have sorted and organized all your photos and memorabilia, your job is not done. Photo Organization needs to be an ongoing task. Whenever you bring new photos into your house, label them and put them into your system. This is much easier than having to do a major “sort” every 5 years.
Photo Restoration, Floods and Water Damaged – Coming Soon
Digital Storage – Coming soon