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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 proper backup, rhyme, or theme. Therefore, what’s your story? Let’s discover this by organizing pictures.
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.
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.
1. Gather all print pictures
Find these pictures around the house, office, car, and relative’s homes. You should undergo a thorough home organization process of your home to start (this is how we find most pictures!).
Remember 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 those hard copies might be the only ones. You should use a product like Un-Du to ensure album page 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 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.
3. Sort pictures by year
Gather all those loose pictures and classify them by year (and, if possible, month). If it is impossible to pinpoint the year, start with a decade. Then, after establishing the chronological order, sort them by event if this is an important criterion.
4. Store pictures in 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, and 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 makes sense. 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. 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 should 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 contact a member of APPO. They will be sure to help with this. But, more importantly, they will offer a white glove, a personal experience you won’t find anywhere else.
7. Other media to digitize
If you find videos, reels, negatives, and slides while searching for all your scattered, loose-print pictures, you also want to digitize them! In this case, you need professional help.
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!) 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 (iPads, iPods, iPhones, Tablets, laptops, and others) with your scanned images (prints scanned). Remember pictures in Shutterfly, iCloud, and other places where you might have shared photos.
9. Back up the mess!
Yes, you want to back up all that mess before organizing 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.
11. Eliminate duplicates
You might expect to find several copies of the same digital pictures. Some apps that simplify removing duplicates are Duplicate Photos Fixer Pro, Quick 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:
- 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 photo backup systems are external hard drives and the Cloud.
14. Discard original prints (wait, what?)
Yes! 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 printed photos go by sending some to others appearing in the images, such as friends or family members with an interest in them.
Okay, this is the Organizer speaking. Experts in photo preservation and photo organization will tell you how you can (and should) preserve your print pictures. Their information is extensive. I will limit myself to saying 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.
- Use special acid-free, lignin-free, archival-safe, and photo-safe boxes to preserve your prints adequately.
- Should you 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. Digitize print pictures as soon as possible. For a one-time scanning of an image or two, any average printer these days might get the job done. Avoid gaps in your story!
The digitizing process can be daunting and the organizing part even more, especially if you lack time. The Association of Personal Photo Organizers can help! In addition, some Professional Organizers specialize in picture organization.