Finally Organize Your Pictures

Finally Organize Your Pictures

Regular readers of this column know that I'm not fond of making resolutions for the New Year, but I might make an exception this year. Last January 1st, I set out to find family photographs to expand my personal archive. Now I'm faced with picture overload.&nbsp...

Regular readers of this column know that I’m not fond of making resolutions for the New Year, but I might make an exception this year. Last January 1st, I set out to find family photographs to expand my personal archive. Now I’m faced with picture overload. Sound familiar? It doesn’t matter if you have one small album or a closet full of pictures, the time to start organizing is now.

1. Retain the original order of the pictures. If you’ve received a box from Great Uncle Harry and one from Aunt Minnie, don’t mix them together. You could unknowingly blend two different branches of the family and ruin your chances for identifying some unidentified images.

2. Instead scan all the pictures. It’s inexpensive and quick. If you don’t already own a scanner, purchase a dedicated scanner that can also scan negatives and slides. You can buy an Epson flatbed scanner for around a hundred dollars.

3. Download photo organizing software such as Google’s Picasa. I’ve been using it for years and love it’s features. Keyword your photos to make searching easier. Picasa actually searches your hard drive for images. Organizing your pictures with digital images enables you to sort pictures by donor, person’s name or occasion.

4. Label each picture! Use a soft lead pencil to add names, dates and details to the back of paper based photos. For modern resin coated images, use a scrapbook pen such as a black Zig marker. These are available at art supply stores and scrapbook outlets. You can use your Picasa program to add labels to digital images.

5. Don’t forget the digital images. Sure, Picasa will help you organize all your digital images, but remember to print out significant images. Backup your files on a regular basis using a portable hard drive so that your digital archive is safe if your hard drive malfunctions.

This short article is just an overview of organizational tips. It’ll get you started. Throughout this year, I’ll feature other techniques for organizing and preserving your photos. Happy New Year!

Related Products


Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


  1. Maureen, sitting around scanning photos can admittedly be pretty boring, and sometimes it’s hard to get started on a project. I’m inviting you and your readers to join us this coming year for Scanfest (, held nearly every last Sunday of the month from 11 AM to 2 PM, Pacific Time.

    We use Windows Live Messenger to chat while scanning our photos. Sally Jacobs, the Practical Archivist, has called it a &quot;quilting bee for scanning.&quot; We exchange advice about scanners, scanning, photo preservation and restoration, genealogy and everything under the sun. We have a lot of fun and just get silly, too! Newcomers are always welcome, and you’ll recognize some of the biggest names in genealogy blogging while attending.

    Please join us!

  2. Hi Maureen,

    Happy New Year! I’m including your post in a list of genealogy organizing tips in the January 2009 CGS e-News.

    One of my resolutions is to stay in better contact with my long-distance friends. Hope you had a fantastic holiday.


  3. I have a question about labeling photos. I can’t write clearly, or for for long, and have thousands of photos to label. I wanted to print adhesive labels to put on the backs of photos. Are there any safe labels/adhesives?

  4. Picaso has some cool features for uploading to the web, submitted for printing, etc. I might use it someday if I decide to upload some of my pictures to the web. However, I’m an advocate of organizing not only photos but all scanned and downloaded genealogical records within the folder and subfolder system of Windows.

    I call my folder sets (folders/subfolders/subsubfolders) within windows my &quot;computer filing cabinets&quot;. I have several &quot;computer filing cabinets&quot; I group things roughly by major surname / record type / opt subfolders by family group, event. I can view them by file name or thumbnail (aka icon view in Vista); conduct simple and complex search on the file names and properties. Vista has a tag option which I haven’t used.

    It is a good idea to put the location of a scanned photo in the properties and even more important to remember that you entered that information. I recently had a request to rescan a photo at a higher resolution. I could have saved time looking for it had I first looked at the file location property field where I had noted the exact box location which was at my mom’s, not at my house or given to a cousin as I had first thought. Like Maureen, I am in photo overload!