How do you organize your photos?

I've been asked more than once how I organize my photos. As a die hard lover of beautifully organized spaces, I wish I could say something like this:

'All of my old photos are carefully sorted by topic and date into matching storage boxes and stacked neatly on shelves. I pull out my favorites and lovingly yet artfully arrange them in acid free linen bound albums. I have a special shelf where all of these albums sit at the ready for a walk down memory lane. '

But as you can probably guess by now, I can say no such thing. All of my old (pre-digital) photos are stuff haphazardly in mismatched boxes and stuffed wherever I can find room. I have always wanted to make lovely keepsake albums but I never seem to get around to it. So the few photo albums I do have on my shelves are never quite finished and nothing special to look at. 99% of the thousands of photos I've taken since going digital sit on my computer completely underutilized and unorganized.

This is just pathetic. I love all of my photos and the memories they represent. I drag my camera everywhere so I preserve those moments in time and then I lock them away forever. A waste.

I just could never find the perfect way to display or organize them all so I just threw up my hands in frustration and gave up. I've decided it has to stop. So rather than finding the "perfect" solution - I'm just going to pick one. I've picked Blurb ( I also looked at Lulu and MyPublisher but picked blurb based on the reviews).

I'm working on a digital photo book of our travels in 2009. Its not all emcomposing. Its not as lovely as a beautiful linen bound, vellum paged, archival album. But its a start, right?

photos of blurb books found from tracy77, thimbleanna, tamaginidesign, neweyesblog

And I do mean a start. I haven't finished a single book yet. Im forcing myself to do something really simple so I can finish it in this century. Wish me luck.

So spill the beans - how do you organize and store your photos???


  1. I am really terrible at this. We strive to keep a back up photo disk kept elsewhere after our laptop was stolen, but even that doesn't happen as often as it should. Really, I use my blog to keep all of my favorites.

    This reminds me... I'm about 2 years behind on Finn's baby book.

  2. I do not have many photos they are all on my computer.

  3. I wish I could say something wonderful as well! I actually just picked up two boxes of photos from my pre-digital days at my parents house this past week. I need to find something to do with them. I also have an assortment of mismatched albums, and a ton of photos stored on my laptop, CDs and another hard drive.

    Those books are great. I made one for my boyfriends Mom last year with a collection of my photos from 2008. I've thought of creating some books like this to cover different times in my life, but it needs to wait until we get a new cord for my currently useless laptops.

  4. I used Blurb for my wedding albums. Rather than pay my photographer a ridiculous amount to make an album for me, I paid to have them (all 5000) on disk.

    I made one large wedding album for my husband and I and smaller ones for our parents. For Christmas I used Blurb to make a photo book for my Mother that included pictures from all 3 of her children's weddings.

    I LOVE Blurb. The best part about it is that when my album is no longer fashionable, I can make a new one.

    I think it's a great solution to get those digital photos out on the coffee table where friends and family can enjoy them.

  5. I am like you. I use to take my camera everywhere! And I use to love to scrapbook. Well as the years went on, I got bored with the scrapbooking and started to realize I had no where to store pictures. My cameras were put away and forgotten about. Then I discovered photobooks and am back into the swing! Love this idea!!

  6. My own attempt at this took me about a year's worth of Sundays. Storage: Put ALL of my photos in one spot, and then went through them and wrote on the outside envelope the month/year (or approximate) and event, then tried to stack the envelopes in chronological order.

    Then I had to buy stuff:

    1. 15 white photo storage boxes ($1.99 ea/on sale)

    2. 4 linen-like 3-ring binders (one per decade of my life so far), a set of bookplates to label the spines, tons of sturdy page dividers, and about 200 of these:

    3. An archival fine-point pen, and about 400 large index cards (had Staples cut about 1/2 inch off each bottom so it fit in the box but was larger than the photos, makes the boxes much easier to flip through.)

    Started at the beginning of my photo piles: took the envelope, wrote the date / event @ top of index card, put card and pics in the box. Then take the negatives, write the same info on the index card at the top of the negative sleeve, slide in the negatives, put them in a binder. I had to get creative sometimes, if I had pics with no negatives or vice versa.

    I left room in each box just in case I found other pictures later; now I can just fill out an index card, put it in the box, and add the negative sleeve to the right binder. All of the boxes are stored in a closet, but once we decorate our home office, they will be out.

    Display pics: I do love Blurb, but am partial to seeing actual photos in my albums. I bought these albums: and many packets these: (All on sale: $10 albums,and $2.50 sleeves at Hobby Lobby)

    They're easy to dress up a bit--add spine labels, cut some patterned paper into the right size and slide it in to make a header or whatever. Also simple to add/remove pages.

    Once organized, it's MUCH easier to keep current with both storage and display, so now I'm also using these w/ photo corners: to document each year.

  7. I love Photobooks! They make such great conversation pieces and look right at home on my coffee table.

  8. I started off with good intentions, have our first 15 yrs all tucked in lovely albums. Since then, 18 yrs later...nothing. Like you all in boxes, a mismatched mess in fact. It's one of those I gotta do things I never seem to do.

  9. Thank you for addressing this! I, too, feel that our photos should be perfectly and safely stored, but alas, it's my secret shame! I already feel that I have neglected our children's inheritance of our family's pictorial history... your "start" is motivating!

  10. Wow Melissa - that is impressive. I can barely sit myself down for one weekend to get a single book done :)

  11. Three can't-live-without solutions:


    Photography is my serious hobby and I also do make a freelance income from it (as well as run a website devoted to a Brooklyn collective of photographers), so being organized is of the utmost importance to me. I have solutions for both digital and analog photos:

    DIGITAL: It can be a challenge to keep track of my dozens of SD cards, so once I complete a photo session, I immediately upload all RAW photos into Lightroom, which is a fantastic Adobe product designed for catalog management. For the art shots I edit, I upload (either publicly or privately) to FLICKR, where I have a pro account that iteratively backs up the photos across dedicated servers. This is basically my disaster recovery backup in case of emergency. It's also great to have your best library mobile for access anywhere on the web! The Lightroom catalog also gets double-backed-up on two external harddrives.

    ANALOG: I still shoot film too, but almost never have photos developed unless they're for a project or a client. I get them developed and scanned straight to hi-res CD. The negatives go in an archival binder, organized and labeled by date / location and the CDs get uploaded into the Lightroom library and stored in small CD storage boxes.

    Now, if I could only be so organized with all my gear... but that's another problem entirely. ;)

  12. i don't have many pre-digital photos, but i have made one photo-book off of snapfish and it turned out really nicely! i made it for my sister to commemorate a summer we lived together, and she loved it. It's a great way to get those photos off the computer and visible to yourself/friends/family. I'm sure there are better sites out there to make nicer albums, for for the basics (and I was a first timer) it was easy-peasy.

    and yes, i did just say easy-peasy.

  13. Blurb is great! I made our Israel vacation book using their services and am really happy. I've also used other places (MyPublisher, Kodak Gallery, Snapfish, etc)... Blurb and MP are my two favorites.

    I always make a digital photo album of our travels. The pre-digital photos are all in a 12x12 scrapbook album- finally! It took forever, but it was totally worth the time and effort.

  14. i also have a flickr account that i've been using to back up my digital photos (not all, but a lot end up on there) - that way i'm not stuck if something happens to my computer. plus i like that i can access them from home, work, or wherever.

    i've thought about using some kind of digital photo book something - i like the idea of starting to make them so that they'd all be the same size and format. plus then i could go back and scan some of my old photos from all of the random boxes that i have, and have them printed the same way.

    but that seems way organized. and i'm not very good at being organized :-) you'll have to let us know how blurb works out for you, maybe i'll give it a try.

  15. I'm in the same boat as you! I did howeever make a wedding scrap book, but that just sits in a box outta view too! What to do?!

  16. In the digital form on an external hard drive ! I tell myself I'm going to make a scrapbook every year, but it never happens. But, I just discovered picture books online & ordering my first one today! We'll see how it turns out :) This could be the start of something new!

  17. In my pre-digital days (ie, college all the way up to early 2003) as soon as I would get a roll developed, I would put it into an album in chronological order. I was a Nazi about this. Then I got a digital camera and I quit getting pics developed but I still organize all of my pictures chronologically (I'm a history major, it's in my DNA, I guess). I did make one mistake that I don't think I'll ever recover from...I got into scrapbooking and I thought I'd scrapbook some of my college photos. STOOOPID idea as they were all already in chronological order in albums. I pulled out the ones I wanted and put them in a box to scrap. Now it's all a mess because I don't scrap anymore. I could go back and kick myself for doing that.

  18. I love to be able to hold photos in my hand when I'm looking at them.
    The ones I really like I print out and put them in white sandwich bags and put a cute lable on them.

    The ones I love to see all them time are stored on a digital photo frame and that is running all the time. I have usb sticks with specific topics on them (birthdays, travel etc.). If I feel like I want to relive a certain vacation I just pop the stick into the frame and walk down memory lane

    Greetings from Germany

  19. Oh gosh, so glad you addressed this, it's been weighing on my mind how/what to do with all these photos. I'm loving everyones comments, very helpful!

  20. I'm just like you - I don't really keep hard copies of photos lying around, except for old photos that aren't in my computer. Like you, they are completely underutilized sitting in my memory, and every so often when the screen saver goes on I sit and gawk at the screen until the cat comes and sits on the keyboard.

  21. Sadly, all 15,000 of mine are sitting on a hard drive.

  22. Lovely project you have in the works! Check out if you would like someone else to do all this hard work for you(: and you still get all the credit!

  23. For digital...Picasa, no question. Easy to organize, edit and upload to my blog...

    For old school pix, I bought these great photos storage containers at Costco that have clear photo envelopes with labels that set in one side (2 divided sections), and when you flip it over it has one large, shallow area for large and oversized photos. Each side click closed so you can pick it upright and pack it around by the handle....we own 3 of these! They are awesome!

  24. Can't even wrap my mind around that one yet.
    Maybe in 20 years, when I "have nothing to do", I will take a gander at the mounds of photographs waiting for me.

  25. This sounds like I posted it instead of someone else. That being said--last May my husband and I promised each other handmade gifts. So, (instead of handmade) I decided to go digitally made. I went ahead and started a digital album to print on blurb and have yet to finish it. Instead I got him Britney Spears tickets--lame right? Anywho here we are in May again and I still think I should finish it in addition to whatever I give him this year. I too take thousands of pictures each year and they are all stuck on Picassa on my PC. I have several unfinished physical scrapbooks as well--Yay. My hopes is to copy a friend who prints all her pictures and puts them into physical albums which she puts into huge baskets in the livingroom so that people can grab them and flip through (it looks much better than I make it sound).

  26. I could have written that post too - you sound just like me. And at least you have a great Flickr account - I have not even got that organized!

    Up until the digital days, I was an anal negative and photo filer, so I have great albums and all my good negs are filed in good quality plastic sleeves too. Then it all went downhill.

    All my digital stuff is in iPhoto on my mac, and I bought a 20 Gb backup drive so at least now I have a digital backup. But if my house burns down, they are toast. I really need to get a Picasa or Flickr account going.

    I have started making an annual calendar for David on my Mac of yearly travels and I'm planning also to do photo books from now on, after any big events. iPhoto lets you create nice ones and you order directly from Apple. Will have to investigate other avenues for these books, as it never occured there were likely a zillion companies doing them!

    We just got a digital frame and yes, I think it is nice to organize a memory stick with certain photos. We gave one to my Grandma in the nursing home and now people can give her memory sticks and she can look at their photos. One day I was visiting and she had this cat photo on the screen but she did not know who's cat it was. Too funny.

  27. Anonymous9:30 PM

    I have a to do pile in a beautiful box/tray which I throw stuff in, such as photos picked up from the Wal Mart(which I email all my photos on my camera).On Fridays (my day off work)I go through my to do pile. Always have a pretty album on my dresser and photos get put in the album. No time for captions, scrapbooking, etc but at least the photos have a home and I have easy access to them.As the album gets full I move the album to my tv wall unit and add new album to my shopping list.

  28. Like most of your commenters, I use Picasa to organize the digital photos plus I have my Flickr pro account. For photobooks, I use MyPublisher to create gift books for friends I travel with.

    I have some scrapbooks for predigital photos and I have some old photo albums and photo boxes filled with blurry photos. Don't know why I keep them!

  29. You don't even want to know.

  30. photoshop Organizer

    i use Photoshop to get the images from the card and onto my external hard drive then organize them in collections. you can see all photos in many ways - chron, collections etc.

    also export to Flickr.
    can be done via Photoshop or FLickr uploader.

    close to 7000 images on Flickr (yikes)

    love Flickr for sharing with large farflung family.

    will look into blurb

  31. I don't organize at all! :) It can be a mess, but I love to keep my photos loose in a box on my coffee table. I love holding the individual photo in my hand and flipping through a stack! There's just something about holding that memory in my hand. and I love the feel of the paper and I love how it starts to fade a bit over time. It's also fun when people come over and they can flip through them, too! I'm sorry I have no input on organizing. :)

  32. I love blurb! I was in the same boat as you, and scanned in 15 yrs worth of family vacation pictures for photobooks for Christmas!

  33. I'm awful with pictures. I give anyone with a system credit for doing so.

  34. Piled into mismatched boxes then stored in an old wooden filing cabinet that stands by the office french doors so I can easily push it out if there is a fire!!!!! Don't know what I will do if the fire starts at the office end of the house. Its just one of those silly things you do in life. But every photo is a precious memory that one day my kids will enjoy!!

  35. Melissa- you rock with your organizing!

    I wish I had a great solution. Mine are just like yours and even worse in iPhoto. I'm trying my hardest to be a better organizer lately when importing though. I'll be excited to see what you come up with.

  36. Just like you! Happy book making....xv

  37. Anonymous10:28 AM

    Wow, this is such a great idea! Thanks so much for making me aware of Blurb! I love that it allows you to incorporate text with your photos.
    All my pre-digital photos are lying in an uncermonious heap in big box. I've backed up my digital photos on discs and have tried to print some out, but I lose steam a few weeks after each trip, so each album is never quite finished.

    Thanks for the great idea (among many)!

    -a reader from Canada-

  38. Don't hate me, but I am one of those people who has all her photos in albums and photo boxes. I started scrapbooking about 6 years ago and love it. I even made my own wedding album instead of having a coffee table book made. A friend of mine comes over every Wednesday evening to scrapbook with me so we can keep up with it all. Having the dedicated time really helps.

  39. Sadly, I keep my photos exactly the same way you do!... It's a mess. I've used Blurb to make a cookbook and liked it, so I'm excited to see how your photo books turn out! There's a blog linked on my favorites called Enjoying The Small Things, and the author makes a photo book of her children for every year of their lives. They're amazing!

  40. All of my old ones are in marble blue (what was I thinking) photo boxes from Exposures photo catalog by date.
    Now my digital photos are on my computer. The sad part of this is hardly any are printed. I will have to work on that soon.

  41. The printed ones are in a couple photo boxes and then stashed in a few drawers. The ones in the photo boxes are organized by date and event...but I organized them that way when I was just out of grad school and had a lot more time on my hands.

    A couple years ago, I got a scanner and started scanning old, important family photos, but didn't get too, too far. I'm so sad that a few of my favorite pictures from childhood might be lost if I don't finish doing this (the scanner broke!).

    A friend of mine gives disposable cameras to his children when they go on trips and he creates MyPublisher books using his "good" photos and the kid's more candid ones. Isn't that a great undertaking? He must have a book for every family vacation and I imagine the quality of the kids' photos has improved as they've gotten older. :)

  42. Me? lose them. One hard drive at a time.


  43. I am a great organizer and love organizing but photos escape me. I have my digitals online and backed up and have them by month but nothing else:(

  44. I'm so glad I just ran across this. I was thinking about this exact thing, today. I take around a thousand pictures a month, trying so hard to capture all our memories, and once they're on the computer, they seem to disappear. Thanks for reminding me to get going on my picture organization. Mostly I need to just learn how to pick the best ones to print, instead of handfuls of them. Quality over quantity :)

  45. I keep my photos on Shutterfly and print out only the ones I want in albums or frames.

    It gets overwhelming doesn't it?



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