Organizing your Printed Photos (Part 2)

Photo organizingAt the end of my blog post, “How to Organize your Printed Photos”, I promised that my next would discuss organizing digital photos. I lied. Sort of. I’ve been learning so much from the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO) free Save Your Photos Summit that I wanted to add some additional tips. You can get all of these resources free with this link: https://bit.ly/2wShkhy. Even if you don’t have time to organize your photos now, if you sign up for the Summit, you will have lifetime access to the materials. So go sign up (after you read this article, of course)!

If you didn’t read the last article or need to review just a bit, you can read it on my website at https://beshipshape.com/blog/. This article will expand on the last article and add some new information.

    • Step 1: Gather all your photos into one space.
      • If possible, choose a room where photos can be left out during the organizing process.
      • The APPO Summit listed a few places to search for your photos that you might not have thought about: albums, frames (don’t forget to look behind the front one!), photo boxes, scrapbooks, wallet, relatives’ homes, bins, on the refrigerator, in various drawers, closets, within the pages of books like the family Bible, under furniture, undeveloped film, unpacked boxes, memory box, hope chest, safe, file folders, secret hiding spot, attic, garage, storage unit, yearbooks.
      • Photos that are still in frames take up a lot of space. Even if it’s a great photo you plan to keep, unless you plan to display it again in that frame or use that frame to display another picture, you’re better off removing the photo from the frame.
    • Step 2: Decide on your end goal(s). What do you want to do with your printed photos? There are so many possibilities. Really think through this goal before you begin, because it will guide the whole process.
    • Step 3: Start sorting through your photos. I love the way the APPO Summit describes this process by using the ABC model. Separate your photos into A, B, and C categories as you sort. You may want to wear cotton gloves as you sort to prevent damage to your photos, especially if you are working with older photos.
      • A photos are the cream of the crop. They are album or frame worthy photos that tell a story or bring back a treasured memory.  You would mourn the loss of these photos. You will be using the A photos to create the end goal you decided on. As you sort, you may end up with more than one A pile. For example, if you are creating themed albums or boxes, you may have a Vacations pile and a Holidays pile.
      • B photos are are not necessarily the best of the best, but you aren’t ready to part with them. These are good candidates to be kept in a photo safe box, possibly grouped into categories.
      • C photos are ones that need to be tossed into the trash can. C photos might include duplicates, blurry or poor quality photos, photos that you can’t remember who/what is in them, etc.

 

  • Step 3: Scan your best photos.  For your A photos (and perhaps your B photos as well), you definitely need to have digital copies. I have heard way too many horror stories of priceless printed photos being destroyed by fire, flood, or other catastrophic events. Don’t let this happen to you! Also, it is much easier to share photos if you have a digital copy of them. If you have a lot of photos to scan, you may want to outsource this task. I used Bays Media in Johnson City for this task because I didn’t want to send them off, and I was very pleased with their service.
  • Step 4: Create your desired project(s). With your end goals in mind, use those A photos to create your project(s).
  • Choose supplies made specifically for protecting photos. Whether you choose physical albums, boxes, or folders, you should definitely use photo-safe supplies. Look for these terms: acid-free, lignin-free, PAT tested, and buffered. Additionally, photos need to be stored in a temperature and humidity controlled environment. Remember, you want these photos to last so that future generations can enjoy them. 
  • Document information about the pictures as you go. You may know by looking at a photo that it was taken at your middle child’s kindergarten graduation, but you will eventually forget that, and others that view that same photo won’t know that information. I highly recommend that you include a way to figure out a way to include a few details, whether through written notes on the back of the photo using a photo safe writing instrument, a note attached to it or beside it, or an audio or video recording. Our photos tell stories, and if you can include the story with the photo, it makes that photo all the more valuable.
  • Step 5: Consider other photo safety issues: What about photo albums you’ve already created with older, non-photo safe materials? What about photos that are already organized into non-photo safe containers? This question is one that I’ve thought about a lot since I have shelves full of these albums that represent many many hours of work. You’ll have to make your own judgement call about this question. The only way you can guarantee the long-term survival of the photos is to transfer them into photo-safe albums and boxes. It is a laborious task, and you may not personally benefit from the work. But you can be reassured that you have done all that you can to assure their safety.

 

I hope that you have found this article helpful and that you are now motivated to begin organizing your photos. Remember, sign up for the free APPO Save Your Photos Summit if you haven’t already. Organizing your printed photos may be a big project, but it is worthy of your time.

Happy organizing!

 

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Organizing your Printed Photos

Family-album

“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.”

Eudora Welty

Since I started working as a professional organizer, I have helped a lot of people organize a huge variety of spaces and items. One common denominator of most of them is that their physical photos are a hot mess. It is not unusual for clients to show me a huge stack of boxes or bins full of photos, or even an entire closet. They are usually very overwhelmed and anxious about the sheer volume of photos that need to be organized, they don’t know where to start, and they don’t have a plan for getting it accomplished. They just keep adding to the pile, hoping that “someday” when they retire, are recovering from surgery, get snowed in one winter, etc. they will have time to tackle this huge project. Does this sound familiar? Fear not, readers. I’m here to help you get started! This article will give you a simple plan to get started with organizing your printed photos. My next article will address digital photos.

The first thing you need to do is face the fact that “someday” may never come, and that the longer you wait to get started, the worse it’s going to get. It’s taken years to get into this situation with your photos, and it’s not going to be a quick fix. But with determination and a clear game plan, you can be successful. September is an especially good time to work on your photos. September is Save Your Photos Month, and the Association of Personal Photograph Organizers (APPO) has a special program called The Summit in which you can sign up to receive emails chock full of helpful free resources. You can sign up and find out more details at this website: https://www.saveyourphotos.org/.

Step 1: Get all of your photos into one location. Gather them all and put them somewhere you can access them during this organizing process without being in the way of normal day to day activities. Don’t worry for now about putting them into any particular container; your only job at this point is to get them into the same location.

Step 2: This is the most important step. Remember the phrase “Begin with the end in mind”? You need to decide what you really want at the end of this process. Fill in this blank: When I am finished organizing all of these photos, what I’d really like to have is ________________. There are so many possible outcomes, and only you know what is ideal for you and your family. There is no right or wrong answer. Really take the time to think about this question, and be realistic about it.

I have spent many many hours over the years taking photos, printing them, and documenting information about them. As a result, I have most of a bookshelf full of albums. I actually feel like it’s overkill at this point. The albums take up a lot of space, are heavy to move, and although they have come in handy for special projects, we don’t look at them as often as I had thought. So I recommend going with a plan more limited in scope.

Here are a few photo project ideas that are more limited in scope:

  • Make an album with older family photos. This could be limited to those classic photos of earlier generations. The fear of not organizing and documenting these pictures now is that eventually no one will remember the people in the photos. This would make a good extended family project.
  • Consider making an album using only school portraits in chronological order. Most of us have extra 5 x 7 or 8 x 10 school photos, so this is an easy album to make for each child.  
  • Many families go on a summer vacation every year, and these vacations almost always include photos. Similarly, most families take pictures as they celebrate Christmas or other seasonal holidays. Both of these albums would be relatively easy and could be organized chronologically.  
  • For both of my children, I made a printed photo album at the time of their high school graduation. I gathered the best photos from birth to their high school years to create this album. I had extra copies made for each set of grandparents.
  • You may not want any physical albums, but just the ability to more easily find the photos you need. Common events that require us to search for photos include high school or college graduation, weddings, and funerals. Whether we’re setting up a physical display of photos or creating a slideshow, organizing your photos now will prevent many frustrating hours of searching. For this goal, you’ll probably want to choose either organizing chronologically or by person and storing the photos in photo boxes.  

Step 3: Now that you have decided your end goal, it’s time to start sorting all of your photos. I’m afraid there is no substitute for going through them one by one. Yes, it’s time consuming, but it must be done. I suggest that you just do a few at a time to prevent the feeling of being overwhelmed. Try spending 20 minutes three times a week or so. Don’t too much pressure on yourself to get it done quickly. You might try combining it with binge watching mindless TV or listening to relaxing music. Work on it with a family member, and have fun reliving some memories and laughing at photos from that awkward middle school stage. Keeping in mind your end goal, quickly sort through your photos. For example, if your goal is to create school portrait albums for each child, you will want to put these into one spot.

If you are starting with a huge amount of photos, you will need to be especially ruthless in purging. The pile of photos you’re keeping should be much smaller than the ones you’re discarding. It’s not illegal to discard photos. Don’t guilt yourself into keeping photos that you don’t need! Keep in mind how freeing it will be to only keep the best and to be able to enjoy the ones you keep!

Here are some categories that should be discarded:

  • Multiple copies of the same photo
  • Blurry or otherwise poor quality photos
  • Damaged photos
  • Photos in which you can’t identify either the person, event, or location
  • Most photos of animals at a zoo or geographical locations. These photos can be easily found through a web search.

Step 4: Now that you’ve sorted through and chosen the best photos, it’s time to create your desired project. You can find loads of creative ideas and specific how to’s on Pinterest or other websites. Have fun with it!

Happy organizing!