Organizing Photos

Organizing photos can be a big job, but it can also be a fun walk down memory lane. Here are my top tips for getting all those photos under control!

Printed photos… If you’ve got ‘em, most likely you’ve got LOTS of them!  Some of us have them organized in chronological (or maybe not-so-chronological) boxes or albums; some of us have them in scrapbooks. And the rest of us likely have them stuffed randomly in boxes.  

Even if you’re one of those industrious people who has some in albums, if I were a betting gal, I’d wager that you probably still have a box or two of pictures you haven’t gotten to yet or don’t know what to do with.

So what to do with them all? I’ve got some organizing photos strategies for you – and a little tough love to share. So plan to break the project over a few sessions, take a deep breath, and let’s plunge in!

#1: PURGE the photos that aren’t memorable

Yes, the first thing I’m going to ask you to do is purge. With any organization project, the first step is always to weed out what you don’t need. Organizing your photos is no different.

Purge your box of blurred photos

  • Start with the obviously bad ones.  You know, the pics where someone’s eyes are closed, or they are out of focus, etc. And going way back to film cameras, the ones where your subject has the evil red eye.  Even if the day was memorable, the fuzzy, bad, not-flattering photos aren’t the memories we want to keep!
  • Next, rid yourself of the multiples and duplicates. You may be thinking whaat?? Most likely you’ll see it’s a real thing as you start to dig deeper…

If you have boxes of printed photos, it’s almost inevitable that you have multiples and duplicates!

  • You know how we take 100 shots of a family photo to get that perfect shot for our Christmas card?  With film photography we didn’t know which would be the right shot until they were printed. But now you do – so eliminate 99 (or at least 90!) of those multiple pics.  
  • And how about those packets of school pictures with a few large sizes and 27 wallets?  You only gave out 3 or 4 of those to friends and family – which means 23 unnecessary copies of a 4th grade picture. Keep one to show the kids and grandkids how super cool your feathered hair was, but please get rid of the rest.  I beg of you.  No one needs all those copies! (I don’t even know if I want to remember this bad hair day and fashion nonsense.  And IF you ever should need an extra, remember you can always copy the one you saved.)

The truth is, FEWER photos will actually deliver MORE joy and satisfaction, because you’re more likely to actually LOOK at the photos you have if you’re not wading through a massive box. So pick your favorites and eliminate all the rest. 

#2: SCRAP the photos of people you don’t know

Now let’s move on to the photos of people you don’t even know. Remember the next door neighbor you had 30 years ago?  Or the kids that lived on your block when your kids were little? It’s common and normal to have pictures of people and their children that we’ve drifted apart from over the years.  

  • You may remember the face and have vague memories of some block party or cookout, but if you really don’t remember (or even know) the people in the picture, is it worth saving?
  • How about pictures and albums that you acquired when cleaning out a loved one’s home?  Do you know who all of those people are?  The answer is likely no.  You don’t have any strong feelings and attachments to people you don’t know and recognize. Therefore, it’s not necessary to keep pictures of them. Maybe a few will be of interest to history buffs, but stuffed boxes in your basement are overkill! 
  • Lastly, how about all those scenic landscape photos you took on your vacation? In the moment I’m sure it seemed like a great idea to take a picture of beautiful scenery, buildings, and skylines. But unless you put a person in those pictures, you may not remember as much as you expected from that day…

If you DO have meaningful memories, then by all means keep the scenic pictures.  Otherwise it’s ok to let those pictures go.  Remember, that’s what we have Google Images and post cards for.  There is likely a much better quality photo already out there should you ever want to see it.

#3 PRESERVE memories while ORGANIZING photos – accessibly!

So now that you have hopefully been able to whittle down your collection of photos a bit, it’s time to decide what to do with them. Peel-and-stick photo albums? Scrapbooks? Digital albums?  From here, organizing photos all comes down to personal preference and willingness.

Option 1: DIGITIZE your photos for easier saving, sorting, scanning, and sharing

The great thing about scanning your photos and storing them in the cloud is that it is free real estate and doesn’t take up any extra space in your home.  You can share your favorite photos to digital photo frames. Those are extra handy because you can share the frame’s app with other family members who can send digital pics right to your frame. 

The bad thing: scanning pictures is a considerable time commitment. There are some scanning apps for your phone that may make the job a bit more convenient, but there’s no getting around it – it’s a big job. 

If time and equipment are the biggest obstacles, you can also outsource it. In my area, there’s a company called 621 Productions (in Apex, NC) that will take all tubs of photos and digitize them; they’ll even convert VHS, DVD, film, 8mm to digital video. I love that!! Do a Google search and you’re likely to find a resource near you, as well.

Option 2: Transfer your printed photos to easy-to-browse physical albums

Organizing photos into albums can protect them

Photo albums are, for many people, more fun to look through than digital ones. And creative types love to add flair to the way their photos are presented, adding stickers or memorabilia, scrapbook-style. 

They do, however, come with a price: both in money and space. Do you have the space to store the albums? Is that how you want to use your shelves or other storage space? If you get joy from albums, definitely go for it!

What will make you happy?

So now you’ve got some decisions to make – and it’s totally fine if you decide on a mix of solutions. Maybe some holiday albums would be fun for you to create (now that the overwhelm of ALL THOSE PHOTOS is over!). The rest you decide to store in the cloud. Or you hire a crafty friend or teenager to put them into albums for you.

Like I said, it all comes down to personal preference, and willingness to put one foot – or photo – in front of another.  

The bottom line: choose what method of organizing photos works for you. Whatever you decide, I wish you luck in your photo organizing endeavor. And I’m always happy to answer any questions you may have. I’d love to see any before and after pics (pun intended!!) of your project! Happy Organizing!

P.S. One last thought… It’s OK to keep a small box of random photos – emphasis on the word “small.”  When my kids were younger, it seemed I was always looking for a picture for some school project, a Facebook post, etc.  So I keep a small box of pictures from weddings, reunions, school photos, etc that I keep for those purposes. It’s more convenient to go to the box vs. hunting them down in an album.  But if you have lots of boxes or tubs, it’s now less convenient for you to find what you’re looking for, so keep it small and manageable. Now that’s how organizing photos can really serve you!



SOS by Lisa | Professional Organizer, Home Organizer
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