Queries from the Curious

I’m drowning in digital photos on my camera … and old family slides … and yellowing albums … and canisters of undeveloped film. I’d like to create a coherent family history for my kids, but I don’t know where to start. I’m just shoving everything into a big storage bin for now. Any advice?

Your storage bin presents a messy picture, at first glance. You’ll need to imagine the outcome of whatever organization scheme you choose before you’ll be able to see coherence in your photographic treasure trove. Ask yourself the following questions before storing and organizing your photos.

  • Who is the intended audience? Are you envisioning albums, CDs, DVDs or a web-based sharing site? What formats do you want for the contemporary photos?
  • Have you moved pictures from your digital camera onto your computer? Do you know how to do that?
  • What are your criteria for printing photos?

The easiest first step would be to cull the printed photos by tossing duplicates, out of focus or unintentional shots, and those in which the locale or subjects cannot be identified. Purge these from your digital camera, too.

As you look at your collection, think about how you might organize it. Many folks start with chronology and create sub-folders within the year for months or seasons. You might prefer to organize by topic — Family Vacations, Birthday Parties, School Events — that resonate strongly with you. Keeping your computer and paper systems parallel is essential to creating the coherence you want.

If you have enough memory on your phone or computer, start with the picture application already available to you and move all of your photos into folders. Now you can back up the photos on an external hard-drive or upload them to a photo storage site such as Flickr, Google Photos or iCloud Photo Library.

These services are free up to a certain file size. Larger files may require paid services such as Carbonite or Mozy. Do your research to find out if the service does automatic backups for all of your files. Some back up only the photos you share.

If you have various film formats, VHS tapes, negatives, slides or canisters of undeveloped film, look into iMemories, DigMyPics.com, or another online service that moves old and new formats onto DVDs. If you prefer the personal touch, check out Harmon’s and Total Video Service here in Gainesville.

Delegating the tedious transfer of pictures and videos gives you time to review your collections. Now decide with whom and how you want to share the family history. How much wall or shelf space do people have available for framed displays? Explore digital photo frames for a rotating display. Would grandparents like a book featuring each child’s activities over the past year? Shutterfly will give you creative ideas for using photos to personalize gifts, and scrapbooking is a creative outlet for special photos. If you want to keep a limited collection of printed originals, use photo boxes with labels that match your organizational scheme.

A shorter answer to your question would have been “it depends.” And it does depend — on what you think is best for your particular photos and family!

Helen Kornblum is a life coach and organizer in Gainesville, Florida. Find her at www.CoachOrganizer.com. Her specialty is coaching teens and young adults who have ADHD or ADD.