Photo Organizing 101

While sheltering in place the last few months, I’ve been trying to tackle jobs that are easily put off for a rainy day.  Like others, I’ve been looking through old photos on my laptop in hopes to organize them better!  I’ve read a few articles relating to the topic of photo organizing and have decided to share them with my readers. 

  • Experts indicate you should have your photos in at least 3 formats in case of an emergency (I still remember after our house fire in 2004 when the first thing I ran into the house to retrieve was the photo albums of my kids!   A few examples of these formats could include hard copies, phone, laptop, external hard drive and the cloud (or similar service).
  • Keep in mind that printed photos are best stored in acid free photo safe storage boxes.   I ordered some from Amazon ($27 for two that are approx 15” by 13” by 4” deep).
  • As you are going through your photos, try to delete photos that aren’t very clear, subjects are cut off, or photos that really don’t generate any special feelings for you.  If you are like me, I have often saved several shots of the same/similar scene whereas what I should have done when cleaning out my photos, was deleted the worst and saved the best 1 or 2.
  • Come up with a labeling system for your photos.  I tend to organize mine by year and then indicate the occasion and then the names of the people in them.   You can also tag the people in the pictures but I find it easier to just include the subjects in the name of the photo for easy retrieval.  An example would be 2020-06-10bellabirthday.  I keep all my pictures together based on the year I took them but sometimes create subcategories within them but this is an individual decision. 
  • Consider using a photo organizing software to help you delete duplicates.  Some of these may even sort your photos by date order and allow you to search by keywords.  I recently downloaded Duplicate Cleaner Pro and was able to delete over 1,000 duplicates on my laptop in two days! 
  • If you have boxes of physical photos to organize before scanning then it is recommended that you find a large table or work station you can use for a few weeks.  I had to do this after our house fire as all the photos that were salvaged were defumigated and given back to me in bags!!  In the old days many of the photos had a date stamp on them so I began first by sorting all the photos by year.  Then I would tackle a year at a time and break down by special event (e.g., holidays, vacations, weddings, graduations).  Once you have done this, it may be easier to toss out photos that are duplicates (same/similar) or just plain “bad” photos.
  • When my kids were young, I was devoted to putting all their photos in albums each year.  Maybe this was to make up for the lack of photos when I was young (my late father told me they sold the camera when I was young to buy a new rug!!).  Now I realize the mistake in this as there is no way my kids are going to want to cart around 10 large sized photos albums (each) with them for the rest of their lives.  So, in time I will be going through these albums one by one, scanning the best pics, tossing the worst, and then storing them in acid proof photo safe boxes (less to move during their adult years).
  • Speaking of scanning there are a lot of great scanners out there but they can run from $250 – $500.  I’m currently just using my copier/scanner which works just fine although it may be a bit slower than many would like.  I usually just scan several at a time when I am in my office doing paperwork, filing, etc. 
  • As you are going through your printed and digital photos, you may want to mark some as “favorites” in order to create printed photos books or some of other type of photo memory gift for loved ones (collages, blankets, canvas prints, etc.).
  • Last but not least, make sure you keep on top of the organization of your photos especially once you get further along in the process.  Make sure however, before tackling your digital photos that you create a back up on an external hard drive.  As many know who have lost photos before (from last cell phone or broken laptop), you can never get many of those precious photos back!