It can be very easy for a collection of print photos to get out of hand. You run out of room in your photo albums and start sticking them in drawers and closets, promising yourself that you will organize them later. At Michael Broyles Photography, we believe that taking care of your photos is the only way to preserve them for future generations. And that starts with getting your print photo collection in order. Below are five easy steps you can take to organize your print photos so they remain safe and easily accessible.
Gather Loose Photos Together
To start, you will need to gather all of your loose photos together in a central location. Ideally, you will have a designated workspace for this project, such as a dining room or kitchen table. Don’t worry about sorting yet; that comes later. As you sift through shoeboxes, envelopes, and bins for photos, be thinking about the scope of your project. How much time do you have to devote to organizing your photos, and do you have a specific project in mind for them (such as a slideshow)? These questions will help guide you through the next four steps.
Choose a Storage Method
When it comes to storing loose photos, the options are endless; however, if you want to preserve your photos your best bet is either a photo album or a photo storage box. Although either option works well, investing in archival photo storage boxes has several benefits. Archival photo storage boxes are typically acid and lignin free, so they protect your photos from harm, and storing your photos in boxes reduces some of the fuss involved with assembling an album. You can always go back to your boxes later and pull out photos for a special project or for inclusion in an album or scrapbook. Of course, if archival photo storage boxes are out of your price range you can always use plastic boxes or shoeboxes in a pinch. The key is to choose boxes that are clean, dry, and water-proof (if possible). When storing your photo boxes, choose a clean, dry, and cool place that is high enough off the ground to prevent damage from flooding.
Sort Photos into Categories
Here is where things can get interesting. If you have piles of photos, you will want to keep your initial categories fairly broad; you can always sort photos into subcategories later. The choice of categories you use to sort is entirely up to you. Here are some typical examples:
- Sort by year or life milestones (e.g., graduation, marriage, childhood). This can be tricky, so look for clues in the photos themselves to help date them. Photos printed in the last 10 – 20 years may have a date stamped on the backside.
- Sort by event (e.g., holidays, vacations, graduation, birthdays). This sorting method is fairly easy, especially if these photos are already grouped together.
- Sort by person or people (e.g., college friends, wife’s side of the family). This is a good method to use if you are organizing a collection based on a person in your life, or if you are organizing a set of historical family photos.
Declutter your Photo Collection
As you sort, you are bound to come across photos that are blurry, out of focus, too dark/too light, or are of people you cannot identify easily. Give yourself permission to toss these photos into a garbage pile knowing that the photos you do save and organize have some meaning or significance for you. Come across doubles? Offer them to family and friends. If you are still having trouble, check out this ABCS method developed by Cathi Nelson, founder of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers.
- A is for Album – These are your most meaningful photos, the ones you are likely to place in a photo album for safe keeping.
- B is for Box – These photos are ones you are not ready to part with, but would not necessarily place in an album to show off. You can archive them for now in a box and return to them later if you end up deciding to use them in an album or scrapbook.
- C is for Can – These are the photos you should send to the trash. If you are on the fence, put them aside and come back to them several months later to see if your feelings about them have changed. If not, pitch them.
- S is for Story – These photos may not be your best, but they play a role in telling a story about an event or person you captured on film. Pair them up with A photos and use your B photos to help fill in your story’s gaps.
Label, Label, Label
As you sort your photos into their respective categories, be sure to go through and label each one with as much information as possible to help you and future generations identify the people and events captured (e.g., year or date of photo, who is present, what is the occasion). If you can, use an archival safe photo pen instead of a ballpoint pen to prevent the ink from bleeding through or smearing onto other photos. You may also choose to label different subcategories within each photo box using index cards or dividers to help you find particular photos quickly. Last but not least, label the outside of your photo box within an appropriate name to help you remember the types of photos stored within.
For those looking to start a new photo collection, Michael Broyles Photography has a special for you! Throughout the month of February, we are offering our clients a leather wrap photo album with eight prints for $150. Take advantage of this Sweetheart of a Deal before it is over.