What family history enthusiast can’t claim to own boxes of “stuff.” That of course includes photos, which most assuredly don’t belong stuffed into that cardboard shoebox on your closet floor. If you’re like Judy Walck, winner of last year’s Photo Organization contest, you could wax poetic about your dire photo storage situation:
They hang on every wall you see. What a quandary.
1. Survey your collection.
2. Winnow it down.
It’s OK to throw out a photo. I’ll pause while you pick up your jaw off the floor. It’s true: You can give yourself permission to discard, for example, those now-unidentifiable family vacation photos that don’t show any people. Ditto double prints and blurry-beyond-recognition pictures.
3. Stock up on supplies.
You know from HGTV that everything needs a suitable place to be stored. There are appropriate storage materials for every type of photo, and they don’t involve acid or lignin (common in cheap paper) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC; found in vinyl and many plastics). Those elements react with photos and cause fading and discoloration.
Judy Walck, the lucky winner of our Photo Organization Contest, will receive $250 worth of archival photo supplies from Hollinger Metal Edge. That investment can preserve a lot of photos. Here’s how I’d recommend spending it:
4. Label and scan.
Professional organizers tell folks not to handle a piece of paper more than once, but photos are a bit different. Give yourself two touches: once to scan and label the image, and once to file. Adapt the process to your needs. If you’re working with a lot of pictures, you may want to label and file everything in safe storage, then take out one box at a time to scan.
5. File away.
Probably the most common way people organize their photographs is by family name, or in the case of contemporary pictures, chronological order. For instance, my snapshots with my husband and children are stored in albums by year and event, but my historical photos are stored by surname. I have so many old pictures that I number them to help with refiling—when I remove a photo from my files, I can easily put it back in the right place.
- Labeling your digital photos with keywords and tags lets you search for and quickly retrieve the photo you want. Keep a list of the people in your photos so you always use the same name for the same person.
- Photo Rescue digital download
- Digital Photography Essentials independent study course download
- Preserving Your Family Photographs
From the February 2012 issue of Family Tree Magazine
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