Organizing and Storing Family Photos

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Organizing digital photos

Just as years’ worth of printed photos can become a jumbled mess, the same can happen with digital photos. Whether you store digital photos on your computer, memory cards, CDs, DVDs, a portable storage device, or use a Web-based photo storage and sharing service such as Flickr or Snapfish, you need an organizing method.You might create a few top folders labeled with broad topics, then subfolders for subcategories. For example, create a folder for each child, and then subfolders labeled “infant/preschool,” “elementary school,” “middle school” and “high school.”

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Make it pleasant

Begin in a comfortable place where you have room to work. Stop to enjoy the memories as you go.

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Save what's sentimental

Keep pictures that bring back strong memories or have personal value. If a photo is not focused or composed perfectly but is meaningful to you, keep it.

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Remove duplicates

If you took several shots of the same scene, pick the best and discard the rest. If you hate to toss duplicates, offer them to extended family members or friends.

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Choose a storage method

Use storage materials that are PAT (Photographic Activity Test)-certified. Never store photos in plastic bags or storage bins permanently, unless they are labeled “acid-free.”

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Make digital backups

Scanning and electronically archiving older photos saves space. But be aware that some CDs and DVDs can degrade in about five years. Plus, the format could become obsolete, making photos impossible to retrieve. Plan to move digital images to a new storage device every five years. Storing multiple copies of your photos—on a computer hard drive, a compact disc or with an online photo storage service, for example—offers extra security in safeguarding cherished images.

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Decide how you want to sort

Choose a system that makes sense to you. Many people arrange their photos chronologically, but you could organize them by event, person, activity or theme. For example, you might have one album for vacation photos, another one for Christmas photos and another for pictures with extended family and friends. Use labeled boxes or bins for each category or time period.

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Keep the keepers

If you can’t decide what to keep and what to toss, keep in mind that pictures of cows along the roadside won’t be meaningful 20 years from now, so prioritize photos with people.

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Guard the good stuff

Treat older pictures as valuable heirlooms, and never store photos in an attic, garage, basement or any place where there is high heat, extreme cold, high humidity or sunlight.

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Catalog your collection

Write down the names of each person pictured and any other important details. If you write on the backs of photos, use only a photo-safe pen with acid-free ink that won’t harm the photo. Such pens are available where photo storage supplies are sold.

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Getting started

Organizing a large collection of photos may seem like an overwhelming task. Consider scheduling an hour or two every week to work on the project, and set realistic goals. For example, your first goal might be to remove all photos from old albums or photo envelopes.

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