How to Organize Your Print Photos

You’re sentimental about the past and love to revisit memorable events and people captured in old print photos. But a cardboard box in the attic or basement won’t preserve these treasures forever, and moving every so often isn’t helping you keep track of them either. Picture This Organized has the answers.

Common Questions

What’s the best way to store my prints?

Over time, photographs are exposed to dust, moisture, light, and adhesives containing acids and oils that slowly degrade the image. The first thing to do is locate your photos and:

  • Put them in a clean, dry, secure container (search online for archive-quality photo containers at Gaylord.com and Archival Methods)
  • Keep photos (and other media and memorabilia) free from dust and extreme temperatures

Label your boxes to find them easily. Learn more about the best ways to store and protect your print photos on the Picture This Organized blog.

How do I organize the entire photo collection?

Now that you have your photos in secure, labeled boxes, your prints are still in loose piles along with photo albums, scrapbooks, random loose photo pockets, and magnetic pages. You may even have a few home movie reels and tapes mixed in. The easiest way to start sorting is by putting “like with like.”

  • Pull out loose prints and put them in envelopes together in their own container
  • Put Albums, scrapbooks, pocket pages, magnetic pages in a different box
  • Separate any movie reels, tapes, and other memorabilia from the prints

Once prints, albums, or other media have their own box, you can start organizing the photos chronologically by using important dates or milestones. They can also be separated by common themes like vacations, hobbies, and heritage.

As you go through everything, you may find mementos that aren’t photos like newspaper clippings, notes, greeting cards, children’s artwork, certificates. Hmmm.

What should I do with other print media?

Non-photo mementos can be scanned or photographed to preserve them, and we even offer tips on our blog about the best ways to organize other memorabilia such as:

  • Adding a caption for “difficult to read’ newspaper clippings that note the article’s importance before scanning or taking a picture.
  • Photographing trophies and other 3-dimensional artifacts.

How do I decide what to keep and what to toss?

With so many treasured photos, making decisions is easier with the ABC method:

A = Album. The finest versions of the originals will be the prints you’ll want to share with family and friends. Albums can be traditional books or digital online displays.organize your print photos

B = Archive. Preserve the next best set for other family members who decide to do their own photo projects. Let them rummage through your collection.

C = Can. Duplicates, blurry images, and photos of people and locations that no one recognizes can go straight to the trash can.

If you don’t have the time to sift through your photos, send them to us and we will help you sort through what to keep and what to discard.

What should you do with the photos that bring up difficult feelings and situations?

There are times in our lives that might be linked to painful memories, but they still have meaning. We suggest avoiding hasty decisions and giving them some thought.

  • Think about their relationship in family history
  • Consider giving them to other family members who may find them important in their lives.

Read our article about difficult memories for recommendations and tips for best practices.

Why do I have so many photo duplicates?

Back in the day, processing film required mailing film containers and waiting for a week or two for processing. We took extra photos just in case some didn’t turn out and ordered duplicates we wanted to share. You may be surprised by the number of copies of the same or similar photo. Today, we don’t need to keep them all because:

  • We can share as many digital versions as we like
  • We are able to preserve the best version and discard the extras without worry

Photo CDs are another source of duplicates. They were often made simultaneously with prints, leaving you with both versions due to the film ordering process. If this is the case, the labs often saved a low resolution version to the CDs, and the prints may be the better copy to preserve. It’s easy to do a high-resolution scan and reduce the number of duplicates. Learn more about How to Finally Tame your Photo Mess.

What about slides and negatives? These are great versions of the original image and you can digitize them, but it may be a little costly. If you have the print photo versions, it is easier to scan them before getting rid of duplicates. While this is a time-consuming project, it is worthwhile for everyone to locate or share photos in the future.

Our clients have many interesting photo projects and reach out to us to preserve their prints. If you’ve never used a photo management company before, you may be wondering how to find the right help. Look no further! We want to make organizing your photo collection easy and stress-free, and we are pleased to offer our services to both local and remote clients. Contact us if you have questions or need help with your print photo collection!

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