Where to Begin? 5 Easy Tips to Start Organizing Your Prints

Where to Begin? 5 Easy Tips to Start Organizing Your Prints

Organizing your photo collection can seem like an intimidating task, particularly if you have a large assortment of albums, loose prints, negatives, and boxes full of who knows what!? However, with a little bit of time and effort, you can easily begin the task of getting your photos into a more organized state. Whether you decide to digitize your collection on your own or choose to hire a company like History Creators to help you, having things sorted beforehand, makes a world of difference!

Here are a few suggestions to help get you started:

  1. Start with your most recent photos: Some photo managers suggest starting the organization process by going through your most recent prints first. These typically are the photos that you're most likely to have handy (maybe in your closet upstairs vs buried away and hard to find) and you are also more likely to have recent memories of the time, event, location etc. Organizing your most recent prints helps you to stay on top of your photos and it can be an easy way to transition into the rest of the process.

  1. Start with a small project/chunk:  On the other hand, if the task of digging through all your recent prints feels daunting, consider starting with a smaller chunk. For example, you could focus on organizing just the prints from your last vacation or focus on school/yearbook photos of your children. Sometimes organizing a small batch can help you gain momentum. Additionally, many of our clients who bring in prints for us to scan often start by only bringing in a few hundred at a time…even if they have a collection in the thousands! Getting started is the first step.
You could start by going through school photos/or professional photos, like this 1980s Sears classic

  1. Sort Chronologically: Many of our clients choose to sort their photos chronologically. This can be done in a variety of ways, but one that is helpful is to have your prints in baggies or folders with an idea of the year even if it’s a “fuzzy date.” If you don’t remember an exact year, you can list a decade or use context clues in photos (furniture, hair styles, clothing) to determine an estimate. Typically, the style of the print can also give away the decade of the photo, again, giving you an idea of when the photo may have taken place.

  1. Sort by Person: If you have a lot of prints of specific people/animals (family, friends, or special pets) it can be helpful to create folders for individuals. This will make it easy to find all the photos of a specific person in one place. We recommend, if you choose to  put all the photos together of a certain person or animal, to place a date estimate on each photo, because it helps you (or us) later when it comes to organizing or tagging your scanned prints. As a reminder If you don’t remember an exact data, you can list a decade and use context clues to gather an estimate of the time period.
Photos of my Bapa and Grandma (my mother's parents) and a letter I would like to scan

  1. Sort by Event: Another great way to sort your photos is by an event or trip. Again, we recommend labeling photos by year if possible or putting photos from Hawaii 1996 all in one folder or baggy. The reason it's best to keep things chronological with trips or events, is because it may get confusing for annual trips/holidays. For instance, if you go with your family to a cabin every summer, it may be difficult to determine 1985 vs 1987, so we do find that labeling or separating by year, if possible, to be helpful. Additionally, when sorting through prints it may help to create folders or baggies for weddings, graduations, holidays, birthdays, and other significant life events.
Thanksgiving 2022

By keeping these tips in mind, you can easily get your photos organized and make it easy to find the ones you need. Remember to be consistent and take small steps, and you'll be surprised at how quickly your photo collection will become organized and ready to scan. Ultimately, organizing and digitizing your collection in batches to be shared is our recommendation, and we are here every step of the way if you need us!

Michele Anderson is currently a Photo Specialist and Social Media Coordinator with History Creators. Michele enjoys interacting with clients and finding ways to preserve their family history. She has worked on large-scale projects for local families and institutions, and her work has even been featured in a recent documentary! Read her full bio here.