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How to Store Your Photos

Photo Storage Ideas


You’ve cleaned out your closets, put away the Christmas decorations, tidied up the garage, and even cleared floorspace in the basement. You can’t put it off any longer. Your dreaded unsorted photograph collection has been piling up for decades. If that isn’t bad enough, your digital photo collection spans multiple hard drives and makes you feel dizzy just thinking about what to do with all those memories. Memories that represent a lifetime of adventure, love, connection and friendship. You know it’s time to tackle the beast. But how?

Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern

It’s only right to consult the guru of organization. The suggestions that follow are from Julie Morgenstern’s book called Organizing from the Inside Out. It’s a classic in the home organization world. I recently finished Julie’s book and found her advice for organizing photographs so helpful.

Printed Photographs

Most of us have a hybrid of printed photographs and digital photographs. It’s best to start by tackling the printed photos first by:

  1. Analyze: what works for you, what is essential, why you want to get organized, and what’s causing the problems.
  2. Strategize: first gather ALL of your photos in once spot, then sort by year into shoeboxes, toss out all the duplicates and bad photos.
  3. Containerize: Sort the “keeps” within each shoebox by approximate date, then find a shelf or two in your home to store the boxes. Write important details on sticky notes and stick to the back of the prints (like which kid that is when your babies all look alike).
  4. Equalize: Transfer best photos into albums or frames. Add all new prints into a new box labelled for this year.

Not sure what to toss? Have a look at Julie’s “No-brainer toss list:”

  • Out of focus
  • Two darker to light
  • Unflattering
  • Off-center
  • Poorly framed
  • Poorly angled
  • Redundant
  • Duplicate that you have no intention of sending to anyone
  • Purely utilitarian. Practice shots, shots of a pair of shoes you were considering buying.

When it comes to putting your photos into an album, there are keener scrapbookers out there (and wow are they creative), I’m just not one of them. I prefer simple clean 4x6 and 5x7 inch sleeve albums that I can slip my prints into. Add it and forget it. My favourite brand of slip-in album these days is made by Kolo in the USA.

Digital Photographs

Digital photo clutter can be a real beast. We fill up our hard drives with so many photos (and video clips), but rarely take the time to do anything with them. Julie recommends starting with a good understanding of how your digital camera (DSL-R, point & shoot, or phone camera) works. This includes knowing how to:

  • View and instantly delete shots while still in the camera
  • Download the good ones to your computer.
  • Organize digital photos on the computer with a software program like Adobe Lightroom. Learn how to tag, find, manage, and view your photos.
  • Email images to friends or upload them to a sharing site or cloud storage and send the link to friends.
  • Get digital photos printed at photo labs. In Toronto, I suggest you send them electronically to Downtown Camera in Toronto, which will print them and then you can pick them up.

Manage Two Streams of Photographs (printed and digital)

Most likely you will need to blend your digital and paper worlds. This requires a little added discipline but can easily work with your newly organized printed photo system. I have all of my pre-digital albums in one area. I have scanned all of my old negatives into digital images and I have made back-up copies of those images. I then had all the negatives shredded at Papersavers in Newmarket.

I use the following system to manage my personal digital photos:

  1. Download my raw DSL-R images the day I take them to a folder with the current month (i.e. January 2021). In that folder I made a sub-folder with the event name (i.e. walk-in-park). Within that, I make a sub folder called “walk-in-park raw”
  2. Download all my camera phone images every month (and place them into the folder by month and the sub folder by event).
  3. Import all photos into Adobe Lightroom, sort by date, and rename using the following date format:
  4. Flag any photo that looks decent. Do a quick fix on each of the flagged photos (exposure, colour correction, crop, and straighten).
  5. Export the flagged photos to a new folder called “walk-in-park jpeg edits.”
  6. Any photos that I especially love I will do some extra work on if needed, add a bit of skin softening, and put into a smaller folder called “walk-in-park jpeg finals.”
  7. Upload the finals to the lab for printing. Slip the 4x6 or 5x7 inch prints into your next available album.
  8. Order one or two of your favourites as 8x10s to display in frames around your home. If you run out of wall or table space, put the new prints on top of the old prints in the frames to keep your home looking fresh.
  9. Order extra copies of the best photos for the grandparents, friends, etc. Send them right away so they don’t sit on your desk for ages.

Ongoing Maintenance

Finally, Julie suggests you do some on-going maintenance of your photo storage to keep the system fresh by:

  • Having a photo work zone where you store cameras, boxes, frames and albums in one location for convenience. Include envelopes and stamps for mailing duplicates to friends.
  • Limit the shots you take (don’t be trigger happy). The more shots you take, the more sorting, weeding, deciding and cropping you will have to do. Save yourself time be selective. Erase bad shots as soon as you take them.
  • Finally, update your boxes and albums routinely, either once per month or twice per year, say January and July.

Be sure to give yourself a big HIGH FIVE when you complete the project.


I am a professional family photographer in Toronto. Please contact me to book your next family portrait session.