storing photos

Storing Photos: 4 Steps to Organization and Preservation

storing photos

Every family has cherished photographs that represent important moments in their lives. Storing photos, whether they are printed or digital, can be difficult. You might have the best of intentions when it comes to organizing them – and they might still get out of control.

With that in mind, here are four tips to help you organize and store your photos so that they remain in good condition and you can find them when you need them.

Four Steps for Storing Photos

  1. Create a Photo Organization System
  2. Sorting and Discarding
  3. Gathering Storage and Display Items
  4. Utilizing Digital Methods for Preservation

#1. Create a System of Photo Organization

When sorting printed pictures, you can lay out large envelopes or folders. As you discover what’s in your stash, categorize them by year, event or person, depending on your preference. You really only need to write on pictures where there may be doubt about when it was taken. Let the folder system do the sorting and don’t waste the ink!

Some groups of photos may go together naturally. For example, wedding photos or your kids’ school photos may best be grouped and stored in the same place. Depending on what other items you have, you may also want to include things like certificates, awards, and memorabilia.

For digital photos, apply the same organizational methods to your digital photos that you did to your printed photos. Make new albums and files and sort them as you go. To make it most productive, rename photos in a uniform manner. The simplest way is to mark them like this:

  • the person or persons
  • the event or milestone
  • the year and month

The naming system would end up like this: katie-birthday-May-2007. Each additional picture would simply add a number at the end. This makes pictures much easier to search and sort.

Make sure to mark favorites as you go. This manner of sorting will help when you get to the end of the process.

#2. Sort, Distribute, and Discard

As you are organizing pictures, you can also make decisions about what to keep and what to discard. This culling will help you as you get into the organization process. It may help to have some guidelines in mind as you begin:

  • Look for unflattering photographs, blurry images, and bad memories.
  • Discard these images if printed.
  • If digital, decide if a poor photograph can be cropped. If not, delete it.
  • Separate printed duplicates and set them aside for other family members.
  • Any duplicates that you don’t want should be thrown away.

#3. Shop for Albums, Boxes, and Cases

Now it’s time to take a trip to your local container or craft store or go online to order supplies to help you store your photos safely. Here are some options that you may want to consider:

  • Photo albums often come with removable plastic sheets, labels, and materials for storing archival photos. You may need multiple sizes. For years 3 x 5 was the standard size. Then it became 4 x 6. And, of course, you may have larger ones that were made for frames.
  • Instead of using shoe boxes, consider ordering plastic boxes that are specially designed to hold photographs. You may be able to find boxes that will protect older photographs as well as new ones. Some large photo boxes even come with an assortment of small boxes that fit inside them to help you organize by event or by the subjects of the photographs.
  • Portfolios may be a good idea if you have oversized photos and certificates to protect. Most photo albums are designed for fairly small photos so if you have larger ones you’ll need to get something to store them in.

#4. Using Digital Methods for Photo Preservation

Old pictures have a way of degrading. If you have pictures that are of historical value to you, such as old black and whites, you may want to consider scanning them into your computer. There are also services that will do this for you, although this can be costly.

If your photos are mostly online, you may want to spend your budget on personalized photo books. These printed albums are easier than loose pictures and may make them easier to store.

What’s missing? You may see gaps in your online pictures that you want to fill. This takes time, but the results are worth it. You can add to your collection, making sure to apply your organizational naming system and mark favorites as you go. Here are sources of pictures:

  • Scan in printed photos that don’t have a digital file.
  • Look on Facebook and download favorites from family or friends
  • Ask family and friends for access to files of photos for a specific day or event
  • Scan in printed materials such as certificates and awards


Going through photographs can be a fun way to spend your time. If you add organizational efforts, you’ll find it can be productive as well. Our old photographs are our history and they deserve preservation to ensure they can be enjoyed for years to come.

Off-site storage is always available at your nearest Storage West location: Arizona, California, Nevada, and Texas. Be sure to ask about air-conditioned or air-cooled storage options.

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