4 Tips to Organize and Scan Your Photo Collection
Digitizing your photos, slides and albums is an often overlooked, but vital part of preserving your family’s history and memories. If you have a large collection of photos, the idea of digitizing every single one can not only be overwhelming but cost prohibitive. We’ve made it easy for you to prioritize what’s actually important and what’s not. Following these tips will keep your project cost effective and save you the hassle of sorting through hundreds of digital photos you don’t need when everything is scanned.
1. Get the whole collection on a single, large table. How can you prioritize if you don’t know what you have? When your photos, slides and albums are scattered throughout your house, it makes the project seem especially overwhelming and it will hinder all of your organization and prioritization efforts. Clear off space in a part of the house that’s used the least, like a dining room table, or set up a space in a guest bedroom. This will save you time in the long run and help you avoid finding new items and repeating steps to get organized.
2. Focus on the basics first—to scan versus not to scan. We have a tried and true method to narrowing down your collection into three basic groups, and it’s so simple—make piles! Start one pile for the photos you MUST have, like the wedding photos and school portraits. Create another pile for the photos you would LIKE to include and a pile for photos you don’t really need, like landscapes. Pay attention to your gut instincts here. You’ll feel it right away if a photo goes into your “must-have” pile or if you don’t need it. Your maybe pile is going to be the hardest, but we will help you with that in step 4! Be ruthless and try to only spend one or two seconds making a decision about a photo.
3. Keep important themes and projects in mind, then work backwards. Now that you’ve spent the time to sort your photos down into piles, you have a good sense of what you are working with before you get started with more concentrated organization. This is the time to be making decisions about HOW you want to organize. If many of your photos are undated and have no descriptive or identifying information on them, it is unlikely you’ll have any success organizing anything in detailed, chronological order. Utilize overarching themes and categories instead like “Family Vacations,” “Old Family Photos,” “School pictures,” etc.
As you’re making these decisions, it’s a good idea to consider any projects you are interested in doing when your photos are digitized. Projects like photo books and other photo gifts can be overwhelming on their own, but if you take the extra minute to flag with a sticky note any photo that really moves you, or a family favorite, you can create an ongoing system for marking your best photos. It will save you time on future projects if you already have a group of photos you’ve identified as being your favorites.
4. Find the middle ground and aim for being organized, not perfect. Once you have your piles and you’ve decided on the best method of organization for your photos, it’s time to dive into your piles. Start with your must-have pile because you know you plan to digitize all of it. You may find yourself needing to create new ones or discover a predetermined one isn’t working for you, and that’s fine. When you’re ready, move onto your maybe pile.This part will seem the most daunting. It’s not easy to prioritize what you’ve already prioritized, but luckily, your real priorities were your must-have pile, and that’s already done! Your maybe pile is actually full of photos you don’t really need. Start by filtering out any photos that have distracting elements, cut off heads and limbs and anything that is too light or too dark. If you still find yourself with too many photos to be digitized, start cutting out near duplicates and bundles of photos from the same event. If you have three photos of your kids in the same place in the same pose but only one of them has all three looking at the camera, that’s the only one you need! If you have 15-20 photos of your kid’s eighth birthday party, you only need three to five of them (if that!) to really capture the memory. At this stage, perfection is your enemy and it will sabotage your progress. Be ruthless and confident in your decisions.
When you’re done with all your sorting and organizing, make sure everything is stored well and labeled! The Container Store is a great place to find storage containers to hold your photos as you are organizing. Grab some coupons for The Container Store! You can work with your photo scanning company of choice to maintain all your physical organization as you convert everything to digital. It is important to be as clear as possible. You would do better to find a local shop for this project or a national company that offers this level of organization, because most don’t. After all of your photos are digital, your family will have an easy time navigating the subfolders and groups that you’ve created. When they are ready to digitize, they may even use some of your organization to get started!