Getting your photos in order means you can enjoy precious memories and safeguard them for others – but where to start?
Most of us have boxes of old prints and negatives, along with smartphones and hard drives of images. And it sometimes feels far easier to take a photo (or five) than to organise them later on.
If you’re downsizing or moving to a retirement village, deciding what to keep and what to discard is something you need to tackle. In The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, decluttering expert Marie Kondo advises clients to process sentimental items, including photographs, last because these can be the hardest to let go.
However, with a little time and thought, it’s possible to get your own personal photo archive into a state where you can find pictures easily, enjoy looking through them and share them with others. And the process itself can be a wonderful trip down memory lane. Here’s how to do it.
Gather up all your photos in one place
Start by gathering all your photographs and ordering them by theme or date. Chronological works best for a lot of people, but you can also divide them up by people or places. This is also the time to get rid of any that are blurred, damaged or not worth keeping. Set aside any photos you really love.
Unfortunately old prints can’t be recycled due to the chemicals in the paper. So before you discard them, check that absolutely no one wants them – including any local history societies or family members – and then throw them in the bin.
Next, scan the ones you want to safeguard. You can do this yourself with a home scanner or printer with a scanning function. With a scanner you’ll also be able to enhance the quality of your images, brightening them, cropping them or even removing red eyes. Keep in mind, though, that if you have a lot of photos to get through you don’t want to spend too much time on individual images.
Dealing with photo negatives
If you have lots of negatives, there are a couple of things to consider. Firstly, very old negatives that smell vinegary are breaking down, and if these images are important you should scan them straight away. Negatives in good condition should be stored in archival boxes in a cool, dark, dry place. These will produce high-quality images when printed, so are worth holding on to.
If you don’t want to buy a scanner, another, faster option is to use a scanning service. The Magic Shoebox is a dedicated photo scanning service that gives you online access. They will send you a box, which you fill with your originals and send back to them via tracked post. The photos will be uploaded and returned to you with an online file and a USB so you can then share them with friends and family or post them online or to social media.
If you don’t want to post photos, try googling photo scanning service near me, digitise photos near me or convert negatives to digital service near me to find a local business offering this service.
Finally, place prints in labeled boxes, folders or albums, writing dates, places and people’s names on the back of significant ones. Albox offers acid-free boxes with folders, and customisable albums, or you can find them in an office supplies shop. Store your boxes and albums in a cool, dark and dry place.
Organise your digital images
Once you’ve tackled the prints, it’s time to sort out your digital images. Go through your computer files, phone and online storage and delete any you don’t need, as well as duplicates.
Next, decide where you’re going to store them, ideally all in one place. An external hard drive that you plug into your computer is one option, another is an online cloud system, such as Google Drive, Apple Cloud or Dropbox, with a paid storage plan.
Once you have all your photos safely in two places – online and in boxes or albums – you can start thinking about the next step: making the most of your favourites.
Enjoying the best moments
Some photos capture a moment in your life and make you remember it like nothing else. Why not pull them out so you can appreciate them regularly?
The obvious solution is to frame your prints and display them around your home. Or, create a personal library of photobooks. These make wonderful gifts, and are fun to do after a holiday as you sort through your photos. There are now many online photobook services available, all offering inexpensive, easy-to-use publishing and editing tools and a smart album delivered to your door.
Are you downsizing or thinking about it?
We have lots of information to help you through the process of downsizing – be sure to check back regularly.