This June my husband and I were fortunate enough to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. In preparation for this milestone, I decided to organize the last 25 years worth of photos. Some were already stored in albums. I must admit, however, that somewhere before the halfway mark of our quarter century the momentum was lost and batches of photographs found their way into drawers, boxes and bags, randomly scattered throughout the house.
True to the saying, a single glance at a photo of an early vacation or one of the kids with a missing tooth was enough to elicit warm memories and funny stories – a thousand words.
Wait, a thousand words? Too bad they’re not worth a thousand dollars! It seemed like I had millions of them – and that’s excluding the digitals.
In a recent training on organizing and preserving photos I learned that in situations involving home-evacuation, pictures rank second only to living things (people and pets) for what we want rescued. If these precious and priceless memories are counted among our dearest and most prized possessions, finding a better way to keep them might be worth the effort.
Thanks to my recent endeavor, I am happy to report that the process for organizing photos is more fun and less painful than I had imagined (mind you, I had avoided this for over a dozen years and what I had imagined was not pretty). Since my experience was a pleasant one, I would like to share the process that took me and my memories from random chaos to easy-to -find, -use, and -share treasures. I suggest tackling the task through four steps: Gather, Sort, Scan, and Store.
- a photo-labeling pencil or pen to mark dates on the back of your photos
- photo-safe storage boxes (or shoe boxes)
- Index cards for dividers
- ALL of your printed photos
Unless you have a deadline, two hours once or twice a week works well for this step.
- Mark the date on the envelope
- Flip through the pictures – throw away any that you don’t want, return duplicates to the envelope and write the date on the backs of the keepers
- Put the photos and an index card dated by year into one of your storage boxes
Whatever your objective – whether you are looking to create albums for each of your children, vacation or anniversary albums – I found that organizing by year gave me the most flexibility and easiest search-ability later on.
There are certainly ways of doing this process yourself. You could use your home scanner if you have one, bring them in batches to scan at a local store or buy some type of bulk photo scanning machine. But, if you are facing years of photographs like I was, I highly suggest paying to have them bulk-scanned by a reputable company. There are several online companies that will accept your boxed photos and send them back to you along with CDs of all the scanned pictures. I personally used a local company, SaveMyPix.com. The prices are reasonable, they are timely and reliable and Max, the owner, picked them up and delivered them back to my doorstep. If you consider that you may wish to keep one to two hundred per year and multiply that by the number of years you are sorting through, bulk-scanning is well worth the money.
Finally, once you have all your photos on discs, you can decide how you’d like to “store” them. You may want to choose some to make into digitally-printed photo albums like the kinds offered by companies like Snapfish.com. Or you might want to organize them by person or event and break them down into multiple CD’s to make as gifts or screen-savers. You can also upload them to an online storage company to save in case something happens to your own discs.
In the end, I guarantee that the results of your effort will put a smile on your face worthy of a thousand words!