This week will be all about photos: culling, saving, storing and sharing. Today’s post is about what to do with your old photos.
Before paring down my hard copy photo collection my photos sat in a photo storage box and three photo albums. The box came with little index cards to separate and identify stacks of photos but at some point I gave up and they were all jumbled up.
The photo albums were a set. They had plastic sleeves for three 4 x 6 photos to a page. The third photo album was only half full. I stopped doing much with photo albums once I had my own digital camera in 2002.
In some ways the digital age saved me on this project. I am turning 35 this year. My big photo milestones – baby, marriage – have been captured digitally and stored on a hard drive.
What I’m saying is: if you have a lot of hard copy photos paring them down will take some time. Don’t worry. My digital photos have also been a lot of work to pare down. So we’re even. More about digital photos later this week.
How to declutter hard copy photographs:
- Organize your photos in a timeline. I did mine in stacks like this:
Note:I also included some newspaper clippings and other paper mementos in my stacks. You can too if you’re scanning them or creating a storage system.
- Cull like crazy. I had to laugh at how many terrible photos I kept. Terrible photos that really had no significance and didn’t help tell a story. At the time it was really important to me to take a photo of the classroom we slept in at the 1993 BC Summer Games. But years later that photo told me nothing. It was the photos of my teammates and friends, laughing, racing, swimming in a lake, those were the ones I wanted to see again. Of course, terrible photos can also be charming and remind you of a different time. Just that fact that we have terrible photos says something. Nowadays bad photos are deleted before anyone can see them.
- Honour your past but don’t cling to it. What story do you want to tell your grandchildren, your children or your friends and relatives with these photos? It’s a morbid thought but thinking about a relative of mine going through my photos once I am gone has helped me let go of a lot of photos. Maybe a few dozen photos from your youth are enough. I know when I look through my mother’s photos from her childhood I enjoy how precious the photos are. There aren’t that many so each one is studied with care; the photo of her at the age of two on a ship headed to the far east and the one of her as a teenager hugging her father in their garden.
- Decide if you want to digitize. I recommend getting digital copies of old photos for many reasons. First, it’s a great way to share them. Who doesn’t enjoy getting an email with a blast from the past photo? When I was sorting my photos I took pictures of some of them and sent them to friends. Every friend emailed me back saying they’d really enjoyed the photo. Second, digitizing is a great way to store photos. I’m not one to worry about floods and fires too much but it’s nice to know that I have photos securely stored away digitally in a few spots. I’ll talk about digital photo storage options later this week.
- Scan or take photographs of your old photos. After putting in some time at the scanner I decided to pay to have my photos scanned. The service was quite reasonable and I am happy with the result. One thing I am not happy about is that the service still hasn’t sent me my photos back. There were a few odd challenges and a postal strike but really, no excuse. It’s been almost a year. Your other option is to photograph your photographs. Once you’ve set up your photo station it’s pretty quick. Here is a tutorial on how to photograph or scan old photos.
- Decide if you want to keep all of your hard copy photos. I didn’t. So I haven’t been too wrecked about the scanning service not getting my photos back to me. I do have a small collection of loose photos at the moment. They are mostly photos that family have printed off and given me. Yes, people still print photos. They are all copies of photos that I already have the digital file of. It’s okay to keep your photos or toss them once you have stored the digital copies in a few places for safekeeping.
- Display and share your old photos. Now that you’ve gone to the trouble of organizing, culling and scanning your photos give them their due. Display them in photo albums that are easily accessible in your home. Take the album with you the next time you visit a family member. If you’re going to keep things use them.
One of the reasons I decided I didn’t need most of my hard copy photos was that I wasn’t looking at them much. I have photos in frames around the house and we use our television as a photo album. We don’t have cable so our television is connected to an Apple TV box. I set up a photo album for the Apple TV and it rotates through the photos when the tv is on but nothing is playing. It’s been a great way to share photos with friends when they visit and remind Henry of his family in Canada.
Has anyone done something interesting with old photos? Mural? Decoupage? Turned them into postcards?