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Welcome to two weeks of photo organization here at Almost Never Clever!

Summer vacation season has officially begun and cameras are going into overdrive.  I’ve put together a series of posts about how I organize my photo collection.  This system is what works for my Type A personality and will be full of tips!

35mm Photos

You’re thinking:  but wait, I don’t use 35mm anymore.  This doesn’t apply to me.

Do you have boxes or albums of 35mm prints in your closet?  What about boxes of old negatives?

I thought so.

I switched to a digital camera my last year in college.  I had four boxes of 35mm prints waiting to go into college scrapbooks.  Today, they’re nearly gone.  Nearly.  Loyal readers will know I’m almost finished with my last college scrapbook.

Here’s how I tackled the boxes.

Step One: Organize

Divide your photos categories:  You could sort them by year or by type such as vacations, holiday, etc.  I had one box for each year in school and then subdivided them by each event.

Label: Label each category and subdivision so you can easily tell what’s in the box when you look at it and when you open it.  I labeled the outside of each box with the year.  Inside the box, I cut up index cards and made little file tabs for each event.

Step Two: Scan and Back Up

Pick which photos to scan:  Not every photo is worth saving.  Go through photos and remove ones that you wouldn’t go through the trouble of scanning.  Because I used a home scanner, I decided as I went along whether each one was worth it.

Scan away:  I used my home scanner and scanned about 80% of the pictures in the box.  I scanned at 600dpi, which is a good quality setting.  Check your settings before you scan.  Most machines default to 200 or 300dpi.  The higher resolution, the larger the file will be.  Make sure you have enough space on your computer.

Consider using a scanning service:  There are services out there that will scan a box of photos for you.  This is a great option if you don’t have a home scanner or don’t have time to.  You can also use scanners at drugstores.  Most stores let you scan as many photos as you can fit on a CD for a few dollars.  Some examples I found online are ScanCafe and ScanMyPhotos.

Negatives and slides:  Many of the above-mentioned scanning services will also digitize negatives and slides.  If you are using a drugstore, talk to them about developing negatives to a CD.

Use Them!

Get them out of the box: If you are a scrapbooker, go ahead and start scrapbooking with the photos in the box.  If you aren’t a scrapbooker, consider putting your favorite pictures into albums.  Use the scanned photos to make lightweight photo books with MyPublisher, Snapfish or Shutterfly.  These are easier to show and manager than thick albums of 4×6″ photos.

Either way, try some format where the photos aren’t stored in boxes and people can actually look at them.  This may seem overwhelming, but if you begin to chip away at it, you’ll make real progress!

Share:  I upload a portion of the scanned photos to Facebook to share with my friends.  If you do this, make sure your privacy settings are locked down so you don’t share old photos with an unintended audience.   If you have a lot of old family photos, consider making CD’s and distributing to your family members so they can enjoy them.  This is a great option if there are other crafters in your family.


Whatever I don’t put in my scrapbook gets tossed.  There are a few small exceptions, but that’s it.  You have the photos backed up on your computer – this makes you free to purge the hard copies and regain your space.

Negatives:  Once you scan, one thing you really don’t need is negatives.  It felt fantastic to toss the box of negatives  and Advantix canisters (remember those?) I was saving for those just-in-case scenarios.

If you thought you could recycle:  I checked with my local waste authority during this process.  Photos are not recyclable.  It feels horrible to have to toss them in the garbage and I cringe when I think about how much I spent to have them developed.  This exercise will cure you from printing too many digital photos down the road.  This is a big reason why I only print as I go nowadays.

Leftovers?  Maybe some of the photos could use a new home?  I call this part sending my clutter to other people sending pictures to friends.  It’s really fun getting something from a friend in the mail.  I include a note telling them they aren’t duty-bound to save them if they don’t want to.

Phew!  Who knew I could write this much about purging pictures?  It really is easy and worth the small one-time commitment in exchange for more space in your home.

Stay tuned for more posts about photo organization!

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