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Simple Tips for Organizing Family Photos

January 16, 2020

A few easy ways to make sure that your treasured family photos are cared for and ready to share with future generations.

CLEAN + ORGANIZE   |   Published January 16, 2020

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Do you have a collection of photos stored like this? Old photos, new photos? Thrown into a box with the idea that when you have time you'll sort, label, and store them properly?

For quite some time, I’ve been doing genealogy research on all the branches of my family tree (which, including step-grandparents means that I'm doing 6 trees...oh my!). Eventually I’d like to put a book together with the research and family photos, but this is probably a long way off.

I’ve restored some of the old photos that I scanned from other family members and there are many more to do. Once the old marks, discoloration and tears are fixed in the images, I save them to my computer and then send for physical prints when I get a batch completed.

I wanted a way to organize the photos once they are done and printed. These are a few ideas that I’ve come up with to keep things neat. I haven’t organized any of my current photos (most of them aren’t even printed!), but these ideas would work for new photos as well.



Ideally, I wanted all of my restored photos to be the same size, finish, and labeled identically to keep things neat and organized. So regardless of the original size of the scanned photo, I’ve cropped and resized all of the finished photos using Adobe Photoshop Elements into a 4x6 print.

Old pictures are found in various sizes and depending on what size they are being reprinted at, areas may be cropped out when they are processed.  I like to do the cropping myself so that I know what the finished image will look like.

This also helps to get a nice modern, close up kind of picture.


For image quality, make sure you scan the original pictures at a high dpi (dots per inch).  A minimum of at least 300 works, but for small pictures you may want to even go to 600 dpi.  This allows you to edit, crop, and enlarge pictures without making the image blurry or pixelated.


I get my photos developed online either at Walmart of Shutterfly and choose the matte finish (over glossy). The texture keeps fingerprints from getting all over the photos and I think it enhances the look of the old images.

On a side note, isn't my dad adorable in this picture?


When I get the photos back, I print Avery Address Labels with a complete name of whomever is in the picture and an approximate date of when the picture was taken. You could also include where or why the picture was taken if you know the information.

After doing all the research I’ve done, I’ve realized how important it is to have the pictures labeled. Even though you may know who is in the photo, future generations will not. When making the labels, I used “Grant’s Hand” which is a nice handwritten font. There are many free ones to choose from at DaFont and Font Squirrel.  I think this adds a personalized touch.


Once all of the photos are labeled, I sort them into piles based on what part of my family they are from.  Right now, I'm sorting my photos by the family that they belong with in my family tree. With current photos, you could sort the photos by event, year, or family.

Then I take a narrow strip of white cardstock that I've cut, wrap it around the photos, and write a label on the card stock. This keeps the piles of photos from getting bent and scattered.

I had originally got this idea from Pottery Barn Storage & Display. In the book, the photos are wrapped with the labels and then stored in an old film canister, which I though was really unique. Not only does it keep them organized, but it looks stylish as well.

I eventually plan on having a flat archival storage box for each of the branches of the family where I can store the research, photos, and any documents or mementos that I have from that part of the family. It is important to store photos in archival boxes to protect them.

Although this can be a long process gathering all of the old images, bringing them back to life, and organizing them, I just love knowing that I'm taking care of the treasured pictures.

With today's technology, taking pictures is no big deal.  We don't even process most of the pictures that we capture.

But these pieces of the past were something special at the time.  You didn't have a snapshot to document most events or random moments. To have even just one image of a great-great-grandparent is a treasure and should be protected.  And I just love being able to know what the people in generations before me looked like, the clothes they wore, or the places they lived.

I'd love to hear about any ideas you have for storing your photos. Are you blessed with a collection (or access to one) of pictures from the past?


Old family photos

This post has been updated from it's original publish date of June 5, 2013.

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