Posted by: organizationstation | July 16, 2008

How to organize your old photos.

Q: I have a huge cardboard box full of old photos that I have never organized over the years. I want to organize these into photo albums, but I don’t know where to start. Can you help me?

Signed: The frantic photographer.

A: Starting now, organize your photos as soon as they get back from the lab. Now for that box of old pictures. Go through it when you are in the right mood, to travel down Memory Lane. Keep only the GOOD pictures. Throw out all of the bad photos and all the pictures with people you don’t know. If you don’t remember what “mountain” you took the picture of, throw it out. This works for all scenery pictures. Always try to have people in the pictures. Send to friends, the pictures you have taken of their family. They will enjoy them more. Once this is done you will be amazed how few photos you will have left. It should not be such an overwhelming task now. I suggest you put them in a photo box in chronological order, from oldest to newest. Remember, a little work at the time they come back, can save you from having that overwhelmed feeling.



  1. Take the mystery photos to a family reunion. The old-tmers will help solve the puzzle and the young ones will laugh at the hairstyles and vintage clothing. Fun for all!

  2. I disagree with throwing all duplicates and/or photos of people/places you don’t recognize out.

    Duplicates can be useful if the original gets damaged, to share with family, and to have a few copies of favorite portraits for future generations.

    Landscape photography can tell a lot about your life, just like group photos of people can. You can show your grandkids what your neighborhood, house, school, etc. looked like when you were a kid. Or, your favorite soda shop, movie theater, vacation spot, etc.

    Find a happy medium of keeping photos that you actually like vs. disposing of very blurry and/or unrecognizeable photos. Don’t forget that you can share duplicates with family and friends. It’s good to have multiple copies in multiple places as a backup.

  3. The “bad photos” you throw out might be the only photo you have of a certain person or place. Be careful when doing that.

    Also, don’t throw out very old photos of people you don’t know. It could very well be a great-great grandma. Save some family history for future generations.

    If you need help organizing, take a look at a bookstore or library for organizational books. To start, categorize your photos by decade– childhood, teens, twenties, vintage/historic family photos, etc. Then go through them for unwanted photos (you might not want those 20 photos of your foot). Label individuals (with a photo-safe pencil or pen, on the back) that you don’t recognize at first– ask relatives if they know who the person is. Get photo-safe boxes, or use boxes you have around the house. Make a pile of photos that you don’t know who is in them.

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