In a previous post, I shared my approach to dealing with new photographs. But it’s just the tip of the iceberg, isn’t it? I can easily imagine the number of photos that you’ve accumulated over the years, hiding in your closets and drawers, bags and pockets, in between paper, memorabilia, or clothes, or partially sorted into photo albums that have never been completed. Photos that you’d love to go through sometimes just by yourself or with your family or friends. So what is it that’s been holding you back to do something with them?
Well, I’d bet that the main reason that prevents you from tackling your backlog of photos is that you envision having all your photos nicely sorted in photo albums, arranged in scrapbooks, or beautifully framed. This is definitely time-consuming and you may not have the luxury of spending this amount of time on such a project right now, especially if you work and/or look after a family. Or you may be just too overwhelmed by how much there’s to do.
So this is what I suggest to get you moving in the right direction:
- Gather photographs from all around your home in one location, ideally where you’ll have space to spread them out.
- Sort your photos in broad categories e.g. by year (or periods if you struggle to remember the exact year), by life stage (as a child, teenager, student, spouse, parent, etc.), by event (trips, celebrations, etc.), by person, etc. If there are pictures that you don’t want to keep, get rid of them right away, but don’t spend time at this stage agonising over whether you should keep them or not. If you’re concerned that humidity will damage your prints, put them in transparent sleeves with sachets of silica.
- Gather shoe boxes and assign a category to a box. If you combine several categories together, make sure to use dividers in between so that they don’t end up all mixed up. Also, make sure to leave some room in each box in case you come across additional photos so that you can easily add them onto the relevant box.
- Label your boxes.
You may want to stop at this stage – until the kids have left home or you’ve retired, or even for good, there’s nothing wrong about this. Having all your photos stored in one single location and broadly sorted is already a big step compared to having them scattered all over the place. If aesthetics matters to you, invest in nicer boxes than shoe boxes such as Kikki.k storage boxes for photographs.
But if you can spare a bit more time and no longer feel overwhelmed by the extent of the work to be done, consider the following options:
Put your photos into photo albums or create scrapbooks. For that, tackle one category or box at a time. Start by purging: eliminate the duplicates, the ones that are blurred, out of focus, unflattering, etc. to keep only the best ones. Invest in identical photo albums for all your photos so that they’ll look better on your shelves.
Frame your best pictures. Or do a photo collage – check Pinterest for amazing ideas. Arrange them around a theme and try various combinations before buying the frames and putting them on the wall.
Digitise them. If you prefer to keep your photos in a digital format to save some space or because you’re worried they’ll get damaged over time, scan them. Either invest in a scanner to get the best quality, download an app on your phone such as Shoebox from Ancestry.com or CamScanner by Insig, or outsource the work to a third party.
You don’t have to tackle everything in one go, in fact, you should rather work gradually but regularly on this – whether it’s 15 minutes per day, 1 hour during the weekend or 2 half-days during your holiday. As usual, I’d advise you to book the time in your diary if you want to make it happen.
I’ve focused above on print pictures, but the approach is similar for your backlog of digital pictures. Consolidate your digital photos from your various devices into a Photos folder. Then create sub-folders for your categories and assign your photos to the right sub-folder. Come up with a naming convention e.g. yearmonth_event (201602_Housewarming party) for the sub-folders and photos so that it’s easy to find them. Save them in a smaller size or buy an external disk to free up some space on your computer. Don’t forget to back up your Photos folder. Then if you wish, print some to be framed or put into photo albums.
It’s really a question of letting go of your all-or-nothing mindset when it comes to dealing with photo backlog. Finding the right balance between a satisfactory outcome and the time you are prepared to put in for this task will ensure that the task stays a pleasure not a chore.