• Clémence R. Scouten

Photo organizing secrets revealed

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

Curating your archives is how you create family legacy.

One of the reasons many people put off organizational chores is a belief that there must be an optimal way for items to be organized, but they don’t know what it is so the whole project becomes overwhelming.

This is a particular problem with organizing historical family photos where an endless series of pictures somehow comes out of the woodwork with no good place to go.

Old family photos have a lot of blind spots. We don’t always know what year they were taken, so that makes chronological organizing difficult. We don’t always know where or on what occasion photos were taken, which eliminates thematic organization. And oftentimes, these photos are filled with people we aren’t able to recognize. This last point can be particularly discouraging.

The good news is that you are not alone!

Photo Organizing Secret One

Even professional archivists face these issues. If photos (or letters, etc.) are organized chronologically but someone wants to see pictures only of Grandma Susie, then chronology isn’t helpful. On the other hand, if someone wants to see the photos from the 1920’s and they’re organized by person, that isn’t helpful either.

The important thing is to pick a method and just do it. Even if the method selected doesn’t always work for every scenario, it is still better to have them in some order than none at all.

Photo Organizing Secret Two

It all gets easier once you make a decision. Unless you are focused on a specific individual or event that matters more than anything else in the photos, chronology is probably the way to go. And don’t beat yourself up if it’s not perfect!

Once family branches are separated (for example, your mother’s side vs. your father’s side) you can place all the photos in general chronological order like childhood, teen years, adulthood, etc.

Photo Organizing Secret Three

There are no magic ways for this to go quickly. Once you get started, don’t worry if you get bored or can only do so much at a time. Be patient and chip away at the project at your own pace.

Even if you just do it bit by bit, this is better than becoming frustrated and giving up. It’s especially true if you move on to scanning the photos once they are organized. I find scanning an especially slow and tedious process. Music or a good TV show on in the background helps a lot!

So if you’ve been putting off this task because the ideal solution eludes you -- banish that thought from your mind! Just start plugging away, and before you know it, you will have done what you didn’t think possible.

Pro tip: By the way, the process of organizing your photos is a great opportunity to get rid of some of them. Blurry photos, duplicates, photos damaged beyond repair, photos of objects you can't identify... these are all candidates for the garbage bin.

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