How to Organize Your Family Photos

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9 Steps to Simplify the Process

Organizing your family photos is a way of honoring your family, your history and providing future generations with a strong foundation of who they are and where they came from. It’s an invaluable act of service that would make a precious gift to your family this holiday season.

1. Consolidate all your photos. Everything. All the photos on your phone, every digital camera, the pictures you uploaded to social media, the back-up system you say you use but usually forget, even get your print photos digitized. Don’t forget those old boxes of slides or old videos.

2. Save, save, save. Not just on your computer’s hard drive. Chose a back-up system. External hard drives or thumb drives are good. I prefer an online system so I can save and share and not have to worry about losing thumb drives. Make a back-up copy now in case you accidentally delete important files. I’ve seen it happen many, many times.

3. Scan for duplicates. Chances are you have multiple copies of the same image. I recently scanned my photos and found more than 2,000 duplicates. There are a lot of good scanning programs out there. My advice is to be cautious with free apps; they often come with a lot of spam. I love photofinder but it doesn’t work with iPhoto. So, if you use iPhoto, keep looking. I’ve heard a rumor that Apple is developing a new improved iCloud.

4. Set up folders. I like to create main folders by events (holidays, birthdays, vacations, family), and then sort them by year within the main folders. It makes creating photo gifts or photo books much easier.

5. Save again. You do not want to do all this work and have to start over. Save your work often!

6. Organize. What to do with printed photos? This can be the hardest part. I use “ABCS” when organizing print photos into the following categories.
•    A is for Album: Photos you want to keep in an album or photo book.
•    B is for Box: Photos you want to keep in an archival, acid-free box (not on everyday display).
•    C is for Can (trash can, that is!): Photos that don’t tell your story need to go in the trash.
•    S is for Story: Photos that tell a story about your life are the most important and should be displayed in beautiful frames around your house.

7. Shred. The C photos are the most challenging because it can be really difficult to throw away photos. But by letting go of those excess pictures, you are revealing so much more—you are helping your family’s story be the focus.

8. Display. Now that you have weeded out the unnecessary photos and protected the important ones, consider what you’d like to do with them. Digital frames with WiFi keep your digital photos from being forgotten on your computer. Photo books are a great gift idea.

9. Share your hard work. There are several photo sharing sites (Flickr, Shutterfly, SmugMug, Snapfish) on which you can create your own private albums to share with family and friends.

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Meghan Rosen is a certified photo organizer and owner of Hodgepodge Ltd. in San Diego. She specializes in helping families organize their photos and preserve their history.

Published: October 2014

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