What’s Your Story?

Generation Y (The Millennials), and Generation Z, are the most photographed people in history. Yet, these individuals see their pictures the least in the context of their life history. Why? Because everyone takes millions of images that remain in their iPhones forever, without any proper backup, rhyme, or theme. Therefore, what’s your story? Let’s discover this by organizing pictures.

But Why?

Many people struggle with clutter and find loose pictures from years past, gathering dust, disorganized, among many unrelated documents, or stacked in plastic bags in the most unimaginable places.

But knowing our life stories and family history gives us resilience and enhances our self-esteem. Pictures tell our stories. Pictures are important. We need to provide those photographs with the respect and importance they deserve.

Let’s Do This!

But how do we reconcile the forgotten past (printed pictures in plastic bags) with the high-speed present (images hidden in our iPhones) to make them come alive and tell our stories? First, we need to organize the pictures!

So, here’s a detailed guide for you to organize all your pictures. Let’s begin.What's Your Story? Organizing Pictures

1. Gather all print pictures

Find these pictures all around the house, office, car, and relative’s homes. You might want to undergo a thorough home organization process of your home to start (this is how we find most pictures!). 

Do not forget to round up all those old photo albums and scrapbooks. Photo albums are rarely ever complete or coherent. Include all your framed prints; displayed and hidden in closets and drawers. Gather them all. 

2. Remove prints from frames and photo albums

Remove all those pictures from albums and scrapbooks because chances are those hard copies are the only ones in existence. You might want to use a product like Un-Du to ensure album pages glue does not ruin the pictures while removing these.

Remove all pictures from their frames. Let these frames go by donating or discarding them. Place all empty frames you wish to keep in a box or bin. This box shall live wherever you keep additional home décor items. A hallway closet is an excellent place to store these things. Removing pictures from frames and merging those pictures with the others allows you to effectively preserve them without the added bulk of these frames that probably do not work for your space any longer and in the context of the story you are telling.

Consider that once your pictures are safe in digital form, you can easily decide what images might enhance your walls or surfaces. Then, you can choose the best sizes to print those pictures and get a similar collection of frames that will be compatible with your home décor and the picture grouping. In the meantime, your goal is to have all your pictures safe in digital form and a chronological context.

What's Your Story? Organizing Pictures3. Sort pictures by year

Gather all those loose pictures and classify them by year (and, if possible, by month). If not possible to precise the year, start with a decade then. Then, after establishing the chronological order, sort by them by event, if this is an important criterion.

4. Store pictures in plastic bags

Divide and store pictures in plastic bags (for the moment, plastic is not suitable for photos in the long term) and place your labeled bags (with the year) in a bin or a box that will ONLY contain pictures grouped in this way. 

5. Digitize all prints

Photos are an essential category to digitize. Having all pictures in digital form has the following benefits

  • To have all of your images in one single format so that they can complete the story
  • To enhance and repair pictures
  • To use the photos in projects such as crafts, photo books, scrapbooks, imprint them on mugs, blankets, or other gifts
  • To intentionally select images to display at home or office 
  • To control the size and format to show your enhanced pictures
  • To change your display as often as you like
  • To share all of your images online with everyone 

So, create electronic folders in your computer according to the year, event, family, or person – Whichever way makes sense to you. But these files will be the framework of your project.

To digitize your pictures, you may get the equipment to do this yourself, send your photos to one of the many companies that offer the service, or contact a Professional Organizer to help you with this. Some organizers belong to the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO).

6. Evaluate photo editing needs 

At this point in the process, you should evaluate if any of your print pictures should undergo a restoration process or other kinds of editing.

For simple editing, you might want to get one of the many software programs available such as Adobe Photoshop, Mylio, Forever, Historian, Google Photos, Flickr, and Shutterfly.

However, if your pictures need restoration, you should probably contact a member of APPO. They will be sure to help with this. But, more importantly, they will offer a white glove, personal experience you won’t find anywhere else.

7. Other media to digitizeWhat's Your Story? Organizing Pictures

If you find videos, reels, negatives, and slides while searching for all your scattered, loose print pictures, you want to digitize them as well! In this case, chances are you need professional help. Again, professionals can help you. You can also opt to use the services of companies that will convert all that media into digital files and return that along with the original material. Just Google the service you need, and many options will show up.

In my case, I had to scan pictures and slides. I bought a $30 “contraption” (LOL – love that word!) that allowed me to stabilize the iPhone and slides. I also purchased a $29 app (Photomyne) to scan and optimize these slides. The process was time-consuming but straightforward.

8. Combine them all!

Combine the photos from all digital sources you have (iPad, iPods, iPhones, Tablets, laptops, and others) with your scanned photos (prints scanned). Do not forget pictures in Shutterfly, iCloud, and other places you might have shared photos to in the past. 

9. Back up the mess! 

Yes, you want to back up all that mess before you even organize it. You do not want to risk losing any of it.

10. Organize the new digital collection

Once all your pictures are in digital format, it is time to prepare digital folders by year and month within each year (or whatever criteria you wish to use) to organize all those pictures. 

What's Your Story? Organizing Pictures

What’s Your Story? Organizing Pictures

11. Eliminate duplicates

 It is common to have several copies of the same digital pictures. Some apps that make getting rid of duplicates easy are Duplicate Photos Fixer ProQuick Photo Finder for Windows, and Duplicate Sweeper.

12. Rename photos in a consistent manner

Rename all pictures in your digital file once prints have been scanned and merged with your other digital images. You want to have the images free of duplicates before you rename them. 


Consistency is the name of the game to rename the pictures coherently. Here are some examples of ways to rename the collections: 

  • YYY-MM-DD-Event
  • Event-YYY-MM-DD
  • Surname-Last Name, First Name

13. Backup again

Avoid losing your life story by employing two or more backup systems for the pictures once these are organized. The most common backup systems for photos are external hard drives and the Cloud. 

14. Discard original prints

Once the process is complete, you can discard the prints. When you digitize your print pictures and toss originals, you recover all the space these take. You can let prints photos go by sending some to others appearing in the images, friends, or family members with interest in them.

Okay, this is the Organizer speaking. Experts in the field of photo preservation and photo organization will tell you about the many ways in which you can (and should) preserve your print pictures as well. Their information is extensive. I will limit myself to say that if you wish to keep your print pictures consider two things:

  • Your entire collection comprises the print photos (now digital) and the pictures initially in digital format. Preserving the prints will only tell part of the story. The complete story lives in your newly created digital collection.
  • To adequately preserve your prints, use special boxes that are acid-free, lignin-free, archival safe, and photo safe.
  • Should you wish to create photo albums or scrapbooks, use copies of the prints so the originals remain safe in the specialty boxes. Although a better alternative would be to create photo books, you only need the digital photos, and you can include comments and narratives that help tell the story much better.

15. Have a system moving forward

From this point on, have a system designed to quickly, efficiently, and systematically incorporate all new pictures taken (let’s say, every month) into your primary digital collection, adequately labeled, following the rest of the collection’s scheme. Keep in mind pictures you get as print only, should be transferred to digital as soon as possible. For a one-time scanning of a picture or two, any average printer these days might get the job done. Avoid gaps in your story!

Happy Storytelling!

The digitizing process can be daunting and the organizing part of it even more, especially if you don’t have the time. The Association of Personal Photo Organizers can help! In addition, some Professional Organizers specialize in picture organization.