Before You’re in the Trenches with Your Photos…
Keep the End in Sight
“What’s in those boxes?”
“Uh, old photos. I can’t deal with that right now.”
Ever heard that?
Ever said something like that?
As a professional organizer, I’ve heard it many times. Even going through an office full of papers is easier than dealing with pictures.
Why is that? Because we can’t look through our family photos objectively. Emotions are always involved. Memories take over as we thumb through an old album or shuffle through a box of prints.
Such a different process than looking through a stack of utility bills from 2004! We feel the connection to people and recall hidden moments in our past. I love getting caught up in those memories.
But what do you do with boxes and bins and albums filled with photos?
Why do these boxes bursting with family history stay untouched?
Why does it feel like a burden rather than a joy?
Often, it’s because we just don’t know what to do with them. We can meander our way through our photos, but how do we get them in order? My first inclination is to jump in and give you the all steps to get it done! But I realize we need to step back and look at the bigger picture.
Let’s talk about our end goal.
Our printed photos need to be protected.
From disasters, from corrupting elements, and from age. We never know if there will suddenly be a water leak in the basement or a fire that will destroy 60 years of history. I cringe when someone shares their story of unexpected loss of their family photos—and it happens more often than I think. We also want to protect photos from excessive heat, deterioration and mold.
The best and most reasonable way to preserve your printed photos is to have them digitized, or scanned. Think of it as “insurance” for your photos. If anything tragic were to happen, you have digital versions. Other benefits of scanning your collection are: having the ability to create photo projects and share them freely with other family members. Isn’t it heartwarming to know that everyone in the family can have the full collection?
Now, I’ll leave the details of scanning for another day, but there are two important guidelines to immediately consider.
- First, given that many family photos are irreplaceable, treat scanning as an investment. If possible, avoid going the economical route and be sure you’re using a reputable service. You want your family photos handled with the utmost care, ensuring that the digital images will be the best version possible of the original photos.
- The second guideline is connected to the first. If you’re using a quality service, they will most likely scan your prints at 600ppi. Many cheaper services only scan at 300ppi. The quality of the images is significantly better. If you decide to create a photo book or digital slide show, you will notice the difference.
What happens to the original pictures after they’re scanned?
I’m often asked if you should toss your photos once they’re in digital form. The answer is always up to you, but many people still like to keep the physical printed photos—especially if they’re vintage and part of your family history. My general rule of thumb is: if a picture is part of your story, it’s worth saving.
Place them in an archival quality photo box. These boxes are made from materials which will not harm your photos over time. Next, let your pictures live where you do. Place the boxes in a living area of your home such as a bedroom closet. In other words, avoid basements, attics, garages and sheds.
Your first task is to hunt down all the printed photos in your home and figure out what you’re dealing with: loose photos, albums, scrapbooks, envelopes of developed pictures? Old, vintage photographs? Oversized portraits? Gather them all into one place and take a rough inventory.
Next time, I’ll show you how to sort your photos using a manageable method. The fun is about to begin!
If you have any questions or want to get started sooner, reach out to me! As long as we keep capturing memories, there’s no time like the present to get your photos organized!