Organizing Your Photos the Safe Way – Digital and Printed

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organizing your photos, how to organize photos, photo organization, digital photos, print photos

Organizing your photos –  both digital and printed, can seem like a daunting task, but today I’ll share with you steps and tips to make the project more manageable and, maybe even fun.

You may have digital photos or you may still have boxes of photos that you have printed. Let’s tackle each one and get you and your photos organized! Here’s the recommend way for organizing your photos:

Organizing Your Photos –  Digital

organizing your photos

Step 1: Download At least once a month, you should download photos from your camera and/or phone to your computer. If you don’t do this regularly, you could lose precious photos due to your camera or phone breaking or being lost or stolen.

Step 2: Edit Look at each of the photos that you have downloaded and delete poor quality photos and duplicate photos. Look through them again and delete any photo that it repetitive or you just don’t love (don’t keep them just to keep them – they take up space and if you don’t love it enough to want it in the future – let it go!). Having less photos of high quality will also make it easier for you to locate the great ones when you are looking for them in the future.

Step 3: Create Photo Folders.  Now that you have your photos on your computer, you need to decide how you want to organize them. There are several schools of thought on this. Chronological is one approach; by theme is another. I suggest using a combination of both. Create a folder for each year, and inside it, a folder for each month. Inside the month folders, create themed sub folders (Disney vacation, Mary’s birthday party, Johnny’s first hair cut, etc.).

Step 4: Rename and Edit Each Photo Next, go through each photo that you have downloaded and give it a name (rename it from the string of numbers that your camera assigned to it). For example, for a Disney trip, you might use the name of the ride you went on or the hotel you stayed at for pool photos. If you use color-correct, fix red-eye, or otherwise edit your images, do that as you rename. Your computer may have programs already installed for this purpose. Check your computer for photo software that comes pre-installed.

Step 5: File the Photos Place your newly named and edited photo in the appropriate file that you created earlier.

Step 6: Back Up. After you have uploaded, edited and organized a batch of photos, back it up. Experts recommend using at least two of the following methods: an external drive, an online storage service, or prints. (Most don’t recommend backing up on DVDs or CDs unless the discs are archival-rated, which are expensive.) If you go with an online service, look for one that focuses on storage. Those that offer printing often charge for downloading a photo and reduce its resolution. Here’s a deeper explanation of each method:

  1. External Drive.  For less than $100 (I purchased mine for about $50), you can purchase an external hard drive to save your photos to. Plug it into the USB port on your computer and drag your folders of organized, edited photos onto it.
  2. Online Services.There are dozens of photo sites, each offering a combo of services, including storage, printing, and online sharing. Here are the top rated ones for 2017.
  3. Prints. Whether you print online, at your local Walmart or at home, having a “hard copy” of your photo is still the best “backup” you can have. Printing at home can be expensive and the quality not as high as getting them printed professionally, but if you enjoy printing your photos at home, then, by all means, go for it.

Step 7: Delete.  Now that your digital photos are safely stored away on your computer and back up, it is safe to erase/delete them from your camera or phone.

organizing your photos, how to organize photos, photo organization, digital photos, print photos


organizing your photos

Photo Storage Options

  • Purchase a set of photo albums and photo boxes. I like these from Amazon.

  • Go through photos when you first receive them from the printer (or you’ve printed at home).
  • While you sort, record an identifying description, such as the date or who’s in the photo, on the back of each photo.
  • Write on photo paper with a light touch, and make certain you use an acid-free, photo-safe pencil or pen .
  • Don’t keep bad exposures, blurry shots, or bloopers you won’t look at again. Throw away any photos you’d rather not remember.
  • Nab your favorites to put in an album or frame right away; pick out images to give to friends.
  • Make a list of any reprints or enlargements you need and take it to the photo store next time you’re out and about.

Storage for Printed Photos

When using a photo box, create a filing system similar to that you have used for digital photos (by month/year and/or event).

Clearly label each envelope or clear pocket with dates and any other identifying description — Road trip to Yellowstone or Christmas 2012, for instance.

Label tabbed dividers to further organize into subcategories, perhaps by year or family member.

The key is to create categories that will fit all of your photos and that you’ll remember when the time comes to search out that certain shot.

Albums or binders with acid-free plastic sleeves are great systems for organizing your photos. Identify shots by leaving a blank pocket in front of each new set of photos.

Slip a little labeling card in the pocket — something to remind you and other viewers that these are moments from your second honeymoon in Hawaii or your niece’s graduation party.

organizing your photos, how to organize photos, photo organization, digital photos, print photos


Protect Photos

To protect your precious photos, keep these points in mind:

  • Temperature, humidity, and light affect photos. Stash stored photos and photo albums away from sunlight in a cool, dry area.
  • Hang framed photos on a wall that won’t get the direct sunlight, which fades photos quickly. Or use blinds and draperies to control the light.
  • Avoid storing photos in basements or attics, where temperatures and humidity fluctuate.
  • Oils on your fingers degrade photos and negatives, so handle them by the edges only. For additional protection, wear clean white cotton gloves.
  • Paper clips, rubber bands, glue, and tape shouldn’t come in contact with photos, unless specifically designed as safe for photos.
  • Plastic pages, bags, and boxes that aren’t acid-free might release harmful vapors that permanently damage photos. These plastic products are considered safe: polypropylene, polyethylene, mylar, tyvek, and cellulose triacetate. Before you buy, check labels on photo boxes, mats, and albums to make sure they’re acid-free and photo-safe.
  • Always frame photos using acid-free matting materials.
  • Keep photos away from wood, plywood, chipboard, rubber cement, animal glue, shellac, contact cement, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), pressure-sensitive tape, and porous marking pens.
  • Adhesives might chemically interact with images and ruin the photos if you try to remove them from an album at a later date. Use only specially made acid-free glue sticks, markers, and corners on your photos.
  • Never use magnetic photo albums that have damaging glues on the photo pages.

What are your best tips for organizing your photos? Share with us in the comments if you have a great storage solution!

We’d love to hear from you!

Until Next Time

organizing your photos, how to organize photos, photo organization, digital photos, print photos

Susan is a writer, speaker and the creator of Women of Noble Character ministries. She is passionate about helping Christian women deepen their walk with God through Bible study and creative worship and strengthen their marriages.

She lives in rural North Central Missouri with her handsome and hilarious husband and a myriad of dogs, cats and chickens.

Susan runs on Jesus, coffee and not enough sleep.

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