Photograph Sorting and Organizing

Photograph Sorting and Organizing

We all have boxes and envelopes of photographs lying around the house. Wouldn’t it feel good to have some sort of classifying system? When your 8 year old son asks for a family photo for a class project, wouldn’t it be great to be able to localize it in under 5 minutes? These next few tips will help you with this daunting task.

For the purpose of this blog, we will only discuss print photos (digital solutions to follow).

1. Sort loose photos into categories

Start going through your piles fairly quickly (now is not the time to reminisce, it will slow you down and discourage you).

Define some broad categories that work for the pictures you have.

Examples sort by:

  • Birthdays, Christmases
  • Vacations
  • School pictures
  • Children’s Sports or other Activities
  • Each child
  • Friends

As you sort, discard photos that are blurry, too light or too dark. If you have duplicates or similar photos of the same event, keep a few favorites and give the rest to family or friends. Children can use the extras to make greeting cards.

2. Buy and fill archival quality photo storage boxes

Put each category in  rough chronological order. The dates do not have to be exact if you have many boxes. Write approximate dates, names and events on the index cards and the categories on the tabbed dividers. Now you can decide what to do with your photos.

You may choose to leave them in the photo boxes. That is a great option as they are now organized and easy to locate.

You can take a few favorites and put them in frames, family bulletin boards or even on the fridge for enjoyment.

3. To scrapbook or not to scrapbook?

I was an avid scrapbooker when my children were young, going so far as taking the camera to the playground and doing a double page layout of the swings and slide.

Then my children started school and after school activities and there were so many pictures!! What to do? I recommend taking the pictures in the boxes and placing them in acid free, non PVC photo albums. The ones with photo sheets that fit into binders are very easy to use. Then if one rainy afternoon you and your kids want to scrapbook, everything is ready to go. You can scrapbook certain categories such as vacations, Christmases or school events. Pick a category that your family will enjoy looking at. For instance, you could look at past Christmases on Christmas Eve or a child’s baby book on her birthday.

It is better to have a completed and organized simple album than an uncompleted fancy scrapbook. Ultimately the choice is yours.

4. Storing Negatives

Negatives can be organized by year or events as well. They can be placed in negative storage sheets and the placed in binders. In order to preserve them they should be placed in a fireproof box for safe keeping. The negatives can also be digitized. Many photo stores such as Black’s will do this for a fee. They will scan 400 negatives and place them on a DVD for $99.99.

Have fun and remember…memories are forever!


  1. Is there a automated way to sort out thousands of photos of athletes according to their BIB numbers?

    • Sorry I have no experience with that. Perhaps a US University yearbook staff could guide you?

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