Organizing your photos is smart, but did you know it’s faster and easier than ever? Great-looking storage containers and easy-to-use software make shaping up your snapshot inventory less daunting, even if you’ve got decades’ worth of prints or a hard drive full of digital images to tackle. The result? A more enjoyable trip down memory lane, plus an easier time finding a specific photo. Most important, your precious photos will be safe.
Stacks of unsorted photos can get out of control if left unsorted for too long. Here are a few tips for taming these piles.
Set them aside. Remove pictures from the photo-processing envelopes. These envelopes often are not acid-free and over time can damage photos.
Use bought storage. Store them in conventional photo albums or photo-safe boxes and use acid-free, lignin-free index cards to organize photos by subject and date.
Avoid sunlight. Keep your albums and storage boxes out of direct sunlight and away from high humidity areas.
Label them carefully. When writing on the backs of photos use only a soft lead pencil, a grease pencil, or an acid-free permanent marker—preferably one that writes on slick surfaces, won’t bleed through, and dries quickly so you can stack photos immediately.
They may not take up much physical space, but digital images require a bit of wrangling for easy access and safekeeping.
Use software to sort. Sort digital images easily with photo-organization software that comes packaged with most digital cameras.
Change the names. Add identifying information to your file name, such as “LakeOkaboji_5x7.jp.” If you changed the image to black-and-white, save it as “LakeOkaboji_5x7bw.jpg.” That way, when you’re ready to print, it will be easier to identify the specific photo you want.
Be ready to search. Find photos using organization software and the keyword you used when naming your files, which means no more hunting through dozens of images to find all the photos of your child’s first birthday or your husband’s grandmother.
Store them on CDs. Avoid losing your images in a computer mishap by not storing them on your hard drive. If your computer doesn’t support burning CDs, you can upload your images to an online service that will save them to a CD for you.
Label them. Any labeling should be done using an acid-free permanent marker.
Negatives provide the clearest images when making copies of your prints, so it’s important to keep them safe.
Steer clear. Avoid touching negatives (or prints) with your fingers. Even clean hands leave oil that can damage your shots.
Keep them together. Store negative strips in polyethylene, or clear plastic sheets, and keep them in three-ring binders, which provide easy access and protect the negatives from light. You also can store negatives in paper envelopes and boxes, but be sure your storage choice is safe for them.
Include the index print. Most film-processing orders give you an index print or you can print your own. This all-in-one guide is super helpful for identifying photos in a flash.
Separate. Take the extra precaution of storing valued negatives in a different location from where you store your print images.
Get them scanned. Have a photo lab scan the negatives to store them digitally on CDs.