Photo Organization: Unearth the Smiles from the Piles

Got Photos?

From time to time I offer a photo organizing workshop with the intent of helping clients pull together all of their non-digital photos (the ones that lurk in boxes, bags and bins). Before jumping in and helping them with a hands-on sort and purge, I present the following organizing primer:



Step 1:

Gather all your photographs in one place so you can loosely inventory what you have. (Digital photos can be addressed as a separate issue).

Step 2:

Create a photo log. Take a few moments to think about how you want to access your photos in the future. This will be useful for the broad sort of your photos; a fine sort will come later.

Step 3:

Broad Sort: Based on your own sorting criteria (chronological, thematic, individual family member, etc.) you will begin to sort into stacks within these categories.

Step 4:

Fine Sort: Now that your photos are grouped by category (i.e. Christmas, baby album, school years, etc.) you will begin to sort by year.

Step 5:

Cull the heard! This step is critical. You want to quickly sort through each stack of photos and toss duplicates, blurred shots or any other poor quality pictures. When preserving memories, you want the best and the brightest. While you are at it, toss photos of ex-boyfriends, grumpy bosses or anyone else that brings you down.

Step 6:

Photo Storage: Now comes the fun part. You get to take all those wonderful photos you’ve sorted and begin filling your photo storage box. You are on your way to having a wonderfully chronicled box of memories, waiting to be placed into photo albums.

Photo Log Questionnaire

Ask yourself the following questions:

How do I want to access my photos?

If I wanted to show a friend or loved one a picture of my child’s first Christmas, would I want that photo in an album with all my other holiday photos? Would I want it in a baby album? Would I want it in a family album, created in chronological order by year?

Answering these questions for yourself now will help you establish an ongoing photo storage system starting today and into the future. The same principles apply to digital photos.

Another way to approach this is to ask: who, what, where, when and why.

Who: My son
What: A photo of him decorating the tree
Where: Our home
When: November, 2008
Why: To commemorate a family tradition of decorating our tree the day after Thanksgiving.

I have chronological albums of both of my boys as well as Christmas albums. I put the photo of him decorating the tree into our Christmas album, because that is how I would remember and access it.

Others may categorize it in a family album or an individual album created for their child. There is no right or wrong way, only your way!

I take pictures of the following people and events:

Child 1:
Child 2:
Child 3: etc.
Spouse or Partner

I also have pictures of:

grandparents (especially heritage albums)
Family Events (i.e. anniversaries, weddings, reunions, graduations, etc.)

New Year’s Eve
Valentine’s Day
4th of July
Specialty albums: A book for grandma, a teacher or a special friend.

Based on my Photo Log, I want to create the following photo albums:

3. etc.

I recommend Creative Memories photo storage boxes as described here:

Use the decorative Power® Sort to help you safely store, organize and transport up to 1,200 photos. The inside cover storage sleeve allows you to safely hold flat memorabilia or even panoramic photos. Six divided Compartment Boxes and Dividers allow you to sort to your heart’s desire−by big events, family members, chronologically and more.

Future Workshops: If you and a group of friends (three-person minimum) would like help organizing your photos, please add a comment below. Private workshops can be arranged in Silicon Valley, in your home or mine, within a 25 mile radius. Workshop attendees receive a Creative Memories Power® Sort photo organizer along with a 10% discount on two hours of organizing services.

$75 per person/3 person minimum


  1. I really like the idea of having different albums/scrapbooks for different things rather than chronological. Much more enjoyable to sit and relive memories of a specific event of person than just a mishmash of whatever happened during a given year!

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