9 Steps to Organize Your Printed Photos

Organize your Printed photos

Often the thought of the work it might take to organize your photos seems overwhelming and the hardest part is getting started.  Here are some simple steps to get you on the road to organizing your printed photos.

  1.  Find a workspace and get some basic supplies together.  Do you have a space where you can set up a table and leave it up for a while?  Here are some items you might want to gather.
    • Get some extra photo boxes for sorting
    • Paper for writing down your timeline of important events to help sort photos
    • Soft leaded pencil for writing on the back of pictures
    • Index cards and a photo safe pen for writing information about your photos
    • White gloves for handling pictures
    • Spatula/Dental floss for removing photos from sticky albums
  2. Figure out what you have.  Now is the time to look in all your nooks and crannies and move all the (disorganized) photos you have to your workspace to see how much you have.  Take an inventory.
  3. Set your priorities.  What photos will make you the happiest to organize first?  Is it a special event or maybe your child’s first year?  If your photos aren’t too disorganized, you can set this type of priority.  Maybe it is to manage the photos handed down by your parents or create an anniversary or graduation album.
  4. Do a rough sort of your pictures.  You can try to sort chronologically maybe just starting with decades, you can also choose to sort thematically in categories such as birthdays, weddings, school, travel or vacations etc.  You can divide these into photo boxes to tackle in increments later.
  5. Do a fine sort of your photos.  If you are sorting chronologically here is where you can break them down to year, month and event, when possible.  This is when you will start getting an idea of how many pictures you have of specific events. 
  6. Now you can start identifying the photos to keep and which to toss.  Association of Personal Photo Organizers recommends the ABC method
    • “A” is for “album”: These are the photos that belong in an album, and you would be most upset if they were lost. These are the photos to digitize, back up, share and display.  You don’t have to put all these pictures into albums; it just means they are album-worthy.
    • “B” is for “box”:  These photos are the ones you aren’t ready to part with but want to have access to at some point in the future. These photos will be archived for safekeeping but not necessarily digitized.
    • “C” is for “can”: Yes, you can throw them in the trash. This is for duplicates, poorly framed photos and generally bad photos.
    • “S” is for “story”: Does the photo tell a story? Sometimes we keep a photo that otherwise doesn’t look great but has a special story attached to it.  Maybe it is the only photo you have of a relative that has passed away. 
  7. Use your index cards and include information about your favorite photos.  Dates, identifying people in the picture, writing about the event that took place are all good things to include.  Sort these cards in front of the picture you are captioning.  These will be scanned with the photos.
  8. Digitize your photos and back them up.  Here is the backup step for printed photos.  Scan the “A” photos and integrate them with your digital photos organizational structure.  You can scan on a flatbed scanner have a service do them like Burnham Creative Group.
  9. Share!  Now you are ready to put them in photo albums or books, create slide shows with the digital files, frame, print extras for friends and family and post to social media!

6 Steps to Prepare for Scanning Your Photos – and what you need to know before you get started.

Photo Scanning Equipment

As a photo organizer, I typically help the client through each of these steps.  However, it is good information for do-it-yourselfers or for people to understand the process of scanning photos before you get started.

About Scanning equipment and file resolution
Typically scanning services will have at least one of three types of scanning systems for scanning photos.  A high-speed scanner for standard prints, a flatbed scanner and some may also have a camera scanning setup for larger or odd sized prints.  If you have photos with writing on the back we can also scan both sides of prints quickly with our high-speed scanner.  At Burnham Creative Group we can scan up to 1200 dpi and can also do tiff files for those that want them.  Tiff files are used by libraries and institutions as it is considered a more archival format.  However, the file sizes are substantial.  For most people, photos scanning photos as jpg files is preferred.  Our standard scanning resolution is 600 dpi that allows for printing 8×10 pictures of 4×6 files.

  1. Organize your photos.  Sorry, this is the most time-consuming step.  If they are not organized your scanned photos will not organized. 
  2. Choose the photos you want scanned.  I am not a proponent of scanning everything you have.  One way or another you need to take the time to pick your favorites.  Either you will take the time before you scan and you are selective, or after when you have thousands of digital files to sort through that you have paid to have scanned.
  3. Remove your photos from albums or boxes and label the spaces they came from.  Some people use twincheck labels.  Another simple method is to use small post-it notes.  Number your post-it-notes sequentially.  Attach a post-it-note to the album/box location it came from.  Please note that you should not put the post-it-note on the front of the photo.  Use a soft leaded pencil and put the number from the post-it-note on the back of your photo.
  4. Make sure your photos are clean, with no trace of adhesive. If photos are glued or taped to anything else put them in a separate pile.  They will be scanned separately from your other photos.  Consider wiping photos with a microfiber or lint-free cloth prior to bundling.
  5. Bundle photos in the order you want them scanned.  You may wrap them in a rubber band.
    • Separate them with 4×6 index cards and write the sequence number on each one if you want them scanned in order (if your index cards contain dates, that works too). 
    • Make sure the rubber band is not touching the front of any pictures, but your index cards instead.
    • Feel free add additional information on index cards that will help with organizing the files later.  They will be scanned with the photos.
  6. Decide how much information you want added to the file.  This is called metadata and applying this data properly is the best way to ensure access and sharing to these photos for years to come.  Information includes:  Name and date of event, location of the event, people in the picture and more.  You can even add a description and memories of the event that is part of the data of the photo! 
Use these index cards for scanning your photos

You can put in a box or an inexpensive photo box for transport.  Finally,  If you are doing all the work on your own and you have more than 1000 photos to scan, consider purchasing a ShoeBox Scanning Box for great pricing. 

12 Great Reasons to Scan Your Printed Photos

  1. Fires, flood, storm and smoke damage – it happens.  If your favorite photos are scanned and backed up properly, they will be protected from these disasters.  Who remembers all the photos that were blown miles away during the tornadoes a few years ago.
  2. Save improperly stored photos before it is too late- The process of looking for photos to scan will uncover potential storage issues that may be harming photos.  This will be a good opportunity to remove those pictures from sticky/magnetic albums or other problem storage issues.
  3. Photos do deteriorate – especially if in poor storage conditions.   Take a look at color pictures from the 60s and 70s.  Often they are faded and Yellowed.  When photos are scanned the digital image can be easily color corrected!
Photo Scanned and Color Corrected
  1. The ability to edit – scanning a photo allows the opportunity to not only color-correct, but also to crop, enlarge and otherwise restore pictures, often improving on the original
  2. Sharing – now that an image is scanned you can share with uncle Bob or your sister Sue or you can post to social media.  
  3. Listen or share stories before it is too late – as we treasure hunt through our photos, and photos of family members, it is a perfect opportunity to find the story behind the photo.  The earlier you start the process, the more likely the person will still be around to tell that great story and you can capture it in the metadata of the photo.
  4. Scanning photos now will be readily available when celebrating a special event like a birthday, graduation, anniversary.  This is also especially helpful when creating a photo memorial for a funeral.
  5. Digital photos can be easier to find – if you add file information to your digital files you can search in Windows or Finder for your photos.  Have you been to Disney several times?  Search on Disney and all your photos will be listed.
  6. In a divorce, both parties can have a copy of all the photos.
  7. If you don’t want to do scanning yourself,  scanning is now much more affordable
  8. Create a shared extended family photo collection – often over time, different family members have different photos of different events.  Families can collaborate and share their favorite family photos with others.
  9. Make photo books and all sorts of photo gifts with your new found photos. 

What is photo scanning and is it something you should do?

Photo Scanning Equipment

I was recently talking to a client and asked her if she wanted to scan some of her favorite pictures as we worked.  She asked what I meant by that.  Another question I have had asked is how to “get a printed photo” on their computer.  Sometimes we make assumptions based on the universe that we live in and realize other people might not have the same experiences. 
This is all managed in the scanning process.  When we “scan” a physical document or photo we place it on either our flatbed scanner (many people have these on their multipurpose printers, or on our high-speed commercial scanners.  It effectively takes a digital picture of the photo or document and it saves it to a file on our computer.  This is also called photo scanning or photo digitizing.  Now that the photo is scanned we can do any number of things with it. 

Metadata – photo information

First of all, we add identifying information – or metadata to it. When we scan an image it might be called image_0001 and image_0002.  I will typically name a picture with year-month-day if it is available, and at a minimum, event and location info.  Why?  We want to be able to find these files later.  An example would be  “2017-07-01 Disney Vacation 
Cinderella Castle.”  From there I save it to a file structure I have created on the computer.

Here is what I recommend.  If you have photo albums or boxes, go through them and choose your favorite pictures to scan.  If your photos aren’t organized, you will need to do that first.  If you need help organizing your photos contact us to get one-on-one help. Some people just hand them over and say scan everything, but that really can mean much more work in the long run.  There are clearly photos in your collection that will cause the most stress at the thought of their loss,  these are the ones to digitize.

Printed Photo Organizing Workshop

Sat, Jan13, 2018 from  9:30am-12pm
or Wed, February 28, 2018 from 6:30-9pm
10am-11:30am
Lodge at Laurelwood
at 800 N. River Street,  Batavia, IL  60510

Are you overwhelmed by your disorganized photos?  Do you have them stored in various spots around your house?  Carolyn will help you bring order to the chaos in this hands-on workshop.  Please bring up to four boxes of photos that you want to organize, plus any empty photo boxes if you have to sort them.

Click here to register online
or call the Batavia Park District and Register for class or call (630) 879-5235 and register:
Sat, January 13 is class #101022-1A
Wed, February 28 is class # 101022-1B.
Class fee $30 for Batavia residents. Slightly higher for non-residents.

Pass on Your Memories – Not a Mess

Wed, September 20, 2017, 10am-11:30am
Batavia Park District, Conference Room
327 W. Wilson Street, Batavia, IL  60510
and
Wednesday, October 25, 10-11:30am
Pottowatamie Community Center
8 North Ave, St Charles, IL 60174

After a lifetime of taking pictures and videos are you left with photos, negatives, slides, VHS tapes and other media that you know what to do with?  The hardest part of any project like this is getting started.  Take the first steps by learning how to organize, convert and backup your photos and other media so you can share your memories with your loved ones.

Click here to register online for the Batavia Park District Class
or call the Batavia Park District and Register for class or call (630) 879-5235 and register for class #402007-1A.
Class fee $25 for Batavia Residents slightly higher for non-residents.

Click here to register online for the St. Charles Park District Class
Class fee $25 for St. Charles residents, higher for non-residents.