Organizing Your Photos – 5 Tips to Get Started

The thought of sorting your printed photo collection and organizing your photos can at first appear overwhelming.   You have boxes and bins and albums all over the house and you are not sure where to start or how to preserve your photos.  If you choose to tackle this project on your own, here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. Identify your goals for your photos, write them down, and then prioritize them. Talk to family members to get their input.  It is not necessary to attack all of your photos at once – break down your goals into smaller projects.  As I tell my clients, “you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time”.
    • Do you just want to get them organized into a photo-safe box?
    • Do you want to have them digitized so you can easily share them with other family members and friends?
    • Do you have a special event or milestone that you would like to recognize with a custom photo book?
    • Would you like to create a family history book for your family to enjoy now and for future generations?
    • Do you want to recreate old albums?
  1. Create a family timeline. Identify all family members, including children, step-children, parents and grandparents, and list important dates such as birth, graduation, marriage, special trips, special events, and death.  This will come in handy when you start to sort and organize your photos that do not have dates on them.
  2. Gather all the tools you will need for your project.
    • Photo labeling pencil
    • Index cards and post it notes for recording stories and to use as your category labels
    • Pen and pencil
    • Rubber bands
    • Dental floss for removing photos from old albums
    • Sealable plastic bags – small and large – only to be used for temporary storage
    • Trash bags for the discarded photos
    • Temporary holding containers
    • Archival safe photo box for permanent storage of your photos
  3. Gather all of your photos into one location. If that is not possible, then create an inventory of your photos.  Include where they are located and how they are stored (in a bin, in an album).  If they are in bins or boxes, identify the contents – such as does the bin contain loose photos, photos in envelopes, or albums.  Don’t forget slides and video tapes.  As you work through sorting and organizing your collection, check off each item as you have completed it.
  4. Identify the categories you want to use to sort your photos.Tips to get started organizing your photos - afterDecide if you want to sort them chronologically or by subject such as name, event, location, etc.  Your decision will be based on how you want to retrieve your photos and how you want others to be able to find them.  There is no right or wrong way to do it, but once you start sorting one way it will be difficult to change in mid-project.  Once you have identified the categories you want to use, write each one on an index card and lay them out on a table, and start sorting into those categories.

Organizing and preserving your photo collection can seen overwhelming.  It has taken you a lifetime to accumulate your photo collection so organizing and preserving will not be done overnight.  These tips are meant to help you get started.  If you are still struggling with the process of preserving your photo collection or know of someone else who may be struggling, please contact me to set up a complimentary discovery call so that I can support you in moving forward.