The A, B, C’s of Photo Organizing

ABC's of Photo Organizing

It’s as Easy as A-B-C!

Ready to get your family photos sorted? I know, you have a lot to get through! It may feel overwhelming, but my aim is to ease the pain, reduce the stress, and make it into a manageable process.  Do you believe me?

In my previous article, I encouraged you to gather all the photos throughout your home.  This includes all your loose pictures (perhaps taking photos out of frames), envelopes of developed photos, and photo albums.  You could also round up other media such as slides, family videos, older 8mm movie reels, camera cards, photo CD’s, external hard drives, and old phones with pictures on them.  We’ll get to those eventually.

Step 1 – Gather

If you didn’t have a chance to do that already, this is your first action step—gather!

The supplies you may need for the sorting process are:

  • Sorting boxes, such as craft boxes or narrow bins to hold 4×6 photos
  • Index cards for recording information
  • Sticky notes
  • Archival ink pens to write on the back of photos
  • Cotton gloves to prevent fingerprints

Step 2 – Assemble

Once you’ve gathered everything together, go through your collection and see what you actually have.  Take pictures out of each envelope and line them up in a sorting box.  Put an index card in front of each grouping of photos and write any information about that stack of pictures on an index card, such as the date, names of people, places, or events.  Dates can be approximate if you only know the year or even just the decade. Go through each set of photos in envelopes, loose photos, or take pictures out of albums. Keep any necessary information with each group of photos.

You can keep negatives together too if you have them.  I like folding an index card like a sleeve to hold the negatives and mark the corresponding information on that negative folder.

Step 3 – Sort

Once the photos are lined up with information preserved, you can begin the actual sorting.  I recommend the A, B, C’s of Photo Organizing, a system used by many professional photo organizers, developed by Cathi Nelson, founder of The Photo Managers.

Here’s how it goes:

A = Album

  • The best of the best.
  • These are the pictures you want to revisit—in photo books, slide shows, and framed pictures.
  • They’re the pictures you want to have accessible, to page through and enjoy the memories.
  • There’s a story behind these pictures—you look at the photo and recall the memory behind it.
  • These are the photos you would most regret losing in a disaster.
  • These are the photos that tell your
  • You definitely want to have these pictures digitized.

B = Box

  • Not your favorite photos, but you like them and don’t want to get rid of them.
  • You wouldn’t put these in a photo book, but you do want to keep them in a box.
  • You may want these photos digitized, but probably at a lower resolution.
  • If they were lost in a disaster, you’d be disappointed but not devastated.

C = Can

  • These are the photos not worth keeping—yes, you can throw them in the can!
  • They are the blurry or bad photos.
  • You don’t know who the people are in the pictures.
  • Duplicate photos, particularly from the years you could get double or triple prints when the roll was developed.
  • Travel and landscape photos of similar shots. It’s the pictures with people in them that make the memory.  How many photos do you need of the Grand Canyon?  Keep a few of the best and let the rest go.

Start with your first stack of photos, look at each picture, and ask yourself if it is an AB, or C photo.  Be patient.  At first, the process might be slow, but you’ll begin to figure out your criteria for what makes a meaningful photo and which ones you can part with easily.

When you’re finished, your A photos are the ones you want to have scanned. You can set your B photos aside to store. As for the C photos, go through them one last time before throwing them away.

Now that you know what to do, ready, set, SORT!

And if you need help, please reach out—I’m happy to support this important task!

Next time…we’ll talk about how to scan your photos in the safest way to preserve your memories.

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