4 Steps to Photo Organization


steps to photo organization
Organize-It is pleased to present guest blogger, Jennifer Niloff, a passionate scrapbooker who turned her enthusiasm into a very successful digital archiving and photo printing business, EverPresent. Organizing and preserving old photos is something we all need to do and tend to put off. Jennifer will get us motivated to finally address our photo collection issues with this helpful blog post.

Photo Organizing is Super-Easy Using These 4 Steps

1. Consolidation: Gather everything in one place and sort out the obviously bad.
The first step to organizing your photos is to get them all together. Once you start sorting and selecting your photos, it will set you back to come across a set of albums or photo boxes in the back of your closet that you forgot about. Check all the nooks and crannies, ask family members and gather as much as possible into a large space you’re comfortable dedicating to this project for a little while. The more spread out all your photos are, the more overwhelming it will feel to get started.

As you’re consolidating, now is a good time to set aside or throw out any photo that is obviously bad. These are the photos that are so dark or so bright there are no details or visible people. These are the blurry photos and the groups of landscapes that are tucked into the back of albums. Getting rid of any of these right from the beginning will make the rest of the process go much smoother.

Here are a couple of things to consider on what makes a bad photo:

  • Blurry
  • Under or overexposed
  • Bad faces
  • Closed eyes
  • Fingers or a thumb covering part of the lens

2. Prioritization: Find the photos you can’t live without.
Now that you have everything together, just dive in. We always recommend utilizing the ‘three pile method’—photos you can’t live without, photos you maybe don’t need and the photos you aren’t going to keep. photo pilesYou won’t find every bad photo in your initial consolidation of your photos, so the bad pile for this part is the same pile of bad photos you’ve already started.

Your pile of photos that you can’t live without should cover all the basics: weddings, graduations, milestone anniversaries, school pictures and professional family photos. Keep in mind as you’re creating this pile that you don’t need every single one of these photos. If you have a sheet of the same fifth grade school picture of your son, cut out one and toss the rest. You want to save the photos that move you.

Anything you’re on the fence about should automatically go into the maybe pile. The maybe pile is the most important and the most difficult. It’s easy to make instinctual reactions about what’s terrible and what’s amazing, but not as easy to decide between which photos to keep that don’t strike you as incredibly important.

3. Selection: Sort through the ‘maybe’ pile and make hard decisions.
The most important piece of advice we can give you for sorting your maybe pile is to be ruthless. You’re going to go through this pile multiple times, and each time you go through it will require a more thoughtful approach, so the first time should be quick. Take your maybe pile and sort through as fast as possible. Trust your gut instinct to weed out any photos that you don’t need from that pile. You’ll be surprised at how many you eliminate doing this after you’ve completed your ‘can’t live without’ pile and know what you have in there.

For the photos you are still deciding on, here are a couple of tips to help you narrow down what really matters.

  • Good faces matter. If they’re not looking at the camera, you’re not going to be fully capturing the moment and we suggest not keeping it.
  • Duplicates are unnecessary. The iPhone burst function that creates a huge number of photos that are basically the same is rooted in tradition—people have been doing it with their film cameras forever. For the 10-15 photos of your son’s first birthday party in your ‘maybe’ pile, pick one or two (or none at all!) because the best photos from that event should already be in your ‘can’t live without’ pile.
  • Keep a photo if it makes you pause. You’ve been through your piles multiple times by now, and if a particular photo still makes you question whether or not it belongs in the ‘maybe’ pile—save it.
  • The future also matters. If you have any projects in mind for these photos, you can use that in your consideration of your ‘maybe’ pile. Photo gifts that utilize a single photo are going to be culled from your ‘can’t live without’ pile, but photo gifts that require a number of photos to tell a story need more. If you’ve saved all the best vacation photos from your favorite family trip as a child and want to make a photo book, include some of the beach photos or scenery you might have in your maybe pile for background pictures or that little something extra that brings the narrative together.

4. Organization: Find the system that works for you!
You’ve sorted your ‘maybe’ pile into your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ piles, you’ve thrown away all the photos you aren’t keeping and now the big decision happens—how do you organize your ‘can’t live without pile’?

organization file                                                                                      organization file systemThe answer to this will come from what you’ve already gathered as you were sorting. Most families don’t label or separate their photos chronologically, so attempting to do that from a pile of loose photos is going to be incredibly difficult. We recommend separating your photos into overarching themes. Once you’ve done that, store them in archival photo boxes you can easily find at Michaels. Having your photos scanned into a digital format is the best long-term choice for preserving your photos before they deteriorate.

Here is a list of themes you can consider as you’re organizing your ‘can’t live without’ pile. You may also find as you’re grouping your photos by themes that a chronological pattern becomes more apparent and you can organize your themes in a pretty accurate timeline.

  • Separate branches of the family
  • Your children individually and general family photos
  • Important events like weddings can be grouped together
  • Organize groups of photos by vacations
  • Holidays can be sorted as a general group, or by individual holidays like Christmas

Jennifer Niloff is a lifelong scrapbooker who turned her passion into the nation’s leading photo-organizing business, EverPresent. Established in 2012, her company now employs over 40 professionals and serves clients nationwide. Jennifer writes on topics ranging from photo-scanning services to digital photo organizing to using photo books and edited slideshows as the best methods to share your important family photos and videos with loved ones.