SMILE- Photo Organizing

Why do we take and keep photos? Pictures tell stories, stories of our lives and the things around us. When asked “What 3 things would you take with you if a disaster hit your home?”, almost all responses included pictures. Our photos are important to us. They hold memories and document special events. They are valuable and usually irreplaceable, yet many of us keep them randomly stuffed in boxes or scattered throughout our homes or computer files. How do you make the most of them without spending hours creating picture perfect albums? You can get them organized and accessible by simply remembering …“SMILE”.


S – Sort– Your goal in sorting is to make sure the photos you keep are important ones. Don’t allow unnecessary extras to create chaos in your collection of memories. As you begin to sort, remember that a photo’s purpose is to capture memories and to document events or places. If you have pictures of random things, photos you can’t identify, a few of the same shot just at slightly different angles, images out of focus or over exposed, realize that these photos will not contribute anything to your collection and should be tossed. After you have evaluated whether the photos is valuable, begin to group or categorize them. There are 2 primary ways of organizing your photos: chronologically or by subject matter. You need to choose the method that is most comfortable for you.

M – Matter– As you sort, look for reoccurring themes or categories. Some people find sorting by subject category is easier because you can always see the subject matter, but you can’t always tell the date. Perhaps your family enjoys sports, and you have many pictures of your children’s sporting events. A sports category would be a great way to group those pictures. Other categories might be holidays, vacations, family members, pets, etc. You may consider grouping your photos by child, but this can be difficult as there often may be more than one of them in a photo. After you have sorted the photos by theme, you can do a general chronological arranging within the specific theme for an added level of organization, but remember that timing accuracy is not as important in this method.

I – In Order –This method involves combining your pictures by when they were taken. This makes all your pictures flow smoothly through the years, and you can see the different stages of life come and go. The chronological approach is great in that it eliminates the need to define theme categories, but a disadvantage is that a photo without a date can halt your momentum and make it difficult to finish the project.

L – Label– While you are working, whether sorting by time or subject, you will want to keep your piles separate and labeled. You need to know which pile to add those pictures of Dad from 1955 to. It is helpful to have a large flat area to spread out your piles and to place a sticky note in front of each pile to designate the theme or time period. Once you have finished your sorting, store the photos in archival safe boxes and clearly label your categories/time periods. Make the labels so they can be understood by others who might wish to enjoy seeing the photos later on.

E – Electronic– Don’t forget about your library of digital photos. Digital photos require organization as well and can be sorted similar to paper photos. Download your important photos from your phone, Instagram, or Facebook to a single location. Create file folders for the different blocks of time or subject categories as described above. Google, Apple and Amazon Prime all offer photo storage and have different organizing features. You can choose one of these services and use it to store all your photos. You may even consider converting your paper photos to digital. Paper photos take up a lot of space but can easily be transferred to digital images. Not only will this require less space, but you are able to back the files up and make sure you still have your precious photos in case of disaster.

Get your photographs organized and ready to share your stories. It will make you SMILE.
© 2019 Beth Giles

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