Whether handed down to you in sepia tones from generations past, or accumulated over the years in printed or digital form, photos can prove to be an organising challenge.
Without getting too technical on the safest ways to store your precious memories, today I will briefly focus on how to ‘sort’ photos cohesively. I’m also not going to get into the world of scrapbooking either physical or digital as I believe this is a topic unto itself, and so I will choose to revisit scrapbooking at another time.
Time and Place: Set aside a time to commit to this project i.e. 1-2 hours, one night a week, but try to be consistent, you are making a date with your ‘elephant’, and as we know there is only one way to eat an elephant, and that’s one bite at a time. Involve the kids. They will love the trip down memory lane and try and do this at a desk or table where you can spread things out. But make sure you don’t leave them spread out before you get back to them again. Leaving photo sorting projects scattered out and about the place equates to damage, dust accumulation and loss.
Edit & Reduce: Be ruthless. Only keep the good photos, remove (shred any too personal), blurred or unflattering ones; duplicates; or people and places you either can’t (or don’t want to) remember.
Tools & Tips: Gather together index cards, sticky notes (or removable masking tape), paper envelopes, clear clip-lock bags, and either old shoeboxes or photo boxes. These are to help you ‘sort’ your photos into categories. Big tip, don’t use ink! Use pencils. If you use a pencil on envelopes they can be reused. Again, using post-it’s or masking tape on clip-lock bags instead of ink means they can be reused after sorting. It’s about speed and saving money in the process. Get the boring job done first, revisit and get pretty with labelling when the boring job is out of the way. Another thing, often is the case that ink can get on your fingers and then on your precious photos. Also, resist writing on the backs of photos with ink as often this can transfer onto the face of photos behind others in a box. If you want to put notes onto an actual photo. Use a post-it note and stick it on the back, and again write with pencil onto the post-it note.
Chronological Markers: Categories should work as close to chronological as possible for each member of the family. Mum and Dads individual lives before they met. The life they’ve lived together. Within these times, use year/event markers, e.g. school days, sports events, holidays, reunions, birthdays, Christmas etc., engagement, wedding, honeymoon, birth of each child etc. Write the title of the category on the post-it and attach to the envelope, pop the envelope into the box, the most recent event to the front. Eventually envelopes can be removed and replaced with labeled dividers, although if you want to keep the sets together keep the envelopes and write the title and any notes on it.
Events: If chronological becomes too taxing, think of grouping by event, and if you want to get more detailed, event per family member, or family group.
Merging of Media Types: CD’s of other photos belonging to an event can also be included in with printed photos. Oversized photos can be noted onto an index card with a locator reference to note its existence and where it can be located, e.g. in larger photo box or an album.
Digital photo frames or computer storage: are great if used properly. Ensure creation of chronological folders with group titles and make sure you also back them up onto an external disk or drive. Scanning of printed photos can be time consuming, but worth the effort if you’re committed.
Online or ‘Cloud’ Storage: Nowadays there is also the option of saving your photo library to a ‘Cloud’, such as Dropbox; Skydrive; and for Mac, iCloud’s Photostream. I’ve been advised that some such as Photostream are not recommended for an entire library unless you are prepared to pay for additional data. Some also give you trial periods, some are good for documents and photos and others also for business storage. Again, some are ‘public’ and not ‘private’. So, because I’m no expert on all that’s out there, to help sort this out for you, I’ve found a very comprehensive and fairly current review by Kevin Ekland on ToMuse.com who has personally investigated and reviewed each giving his pros and cons and costs. Check it out here: Ultimate Review List of Best Free Online Storage and Backup Application Services.
*Another note on digital storage: As technology is constantly changing some photo archiving companies still recommend clients keep original photos and negatives. This is because the original quality is still always best reproduced. The steps involved in scanning a photo then saving to say a CD or USB stick back-up and then to something else equals two or more degradations of the original image.
Example: If you would like to see an example of some photo sorting I have done for a client visit my Facebook page, hit the Like Button, and look in the photo album there! Photo sorting is a specialty of mine, so if the task you have seems overwhelming and you’d like a professional job, book a session via the Less Equals More ‘Contact’ page, and as Mother’s Day is around the corner, maybe this could be a wonderful Gift Certificate idea for Mum?