Since digital cameras came on the scene I've taken innumerable amounts of photos. Even with the convenience of deleting the bad shots, I still have a thousands I'd like to keep. Storing and organizing all of those photos is a monstrous task, but with a systematic and consistent approach, I've been able to keep things pretty well under control.
Since the first two-thirds of my life was spent without a digital camera, I also have boxes of negatives and printed photos that haven't made it into my family scrapbooks. (Sound familiar?) Over the past month I finally took on the challenge of scanning, digitizing, and organizing all of those pre-digital photos. So, today I want to share five important storage tips for digital and printed photos. I'll share my workflow for keeping them organized, plus some important ways to make sure none of your memories are lost.
Dump SD card and iPhone photos onto laptop hard drive regularly
My first tip is to dump the photos from your digital camera's SD card and/or your smartphone onto your computer or laptop hard drive on a regular basis. For me, it works best to do it the first day of each month. It's easy to remember, and I usually don't have so many photos from one month that it's overwhelming to deal with them. For the most part I store them in chronological order by year and month. There are other ways to organize your digital photos (event, person, place, etc), so find a way that works for you.
Be sure to delete any bad or unwanted photos so you don't waste storage space. Remember, you don't have to keep every photo. Often only one or two from an event or moment will be enough to tell the story. I try to keep a long-term perspective, thinking about what would be worth having 40, 50, or 100 years down the road: will my kids and grandkids really want to lug around tens of thousands of photos? Which photos would be worth keeping for them to have the important stories about our family?
Backup digital photos onto writable DVDs
Tip #2: Hard drives crash and become corrupted, so it's really important to backup your photos (and all of your files for that matter) multiple ways. About once a quarter I burn my latest digital photos onto writable DVDs. They hold much more than CDs. I write the month(s) and year(s) in permanent marker directly onto the disc so I know what's on each one.
I made these tabbed dividers with some heavy smooth Bazzill cardstock and my Silhouette Cameo. I added some old mini alpha stickers I had in my craft stash that had been sitting around for years. I'm glad to put them to use, and I still love them even though they're about the oldest supply I have in my craft room! (Remember those?)
I created some CD storage tabbed dividers cut files and printable templates which you can download for free. There are 12 x 12 and 8.5 x 11 versions of the cut files and an 8.5 x 11 PDF of the templates. The CD tabbed dividers are 5 x 5.5 inches.
DOWNLOAD FREE 12 X 12 CD STORAGE TABBED DIVIDERS CUT FILE HERE
DOWNLOAD FREE 8.5 X 11 CD STORAGE TABBED DIVIDERS CUT FILE HERE
DOWNLOAD FREE 8.5 X 11 CD STORAGE TABBED DIVIDERS PDF TEMPLATE HERE
Backup digital photos to online storage
If your home ever becomes damaged by fire, flood, or any other destructive event it's possible your computer/laptop and your DVDs full of photos could be damaged or lost. My third tip is it's essential that you also backup your photos (and other documents for that matter) online. There are many websites where you can store your photos--Winkflash, Flickr, and Google Photos are just a few. My current photo storage website of choice is Google Photos. With your free Google account you get unlimited free high quality photo and video storage. Plus you can sync your account to all your devices and share with friends and family.
Let's move on to my printed or pre-digital photo workflow.
Scan and digitize your favorite pre-digital photos
Tip four is the first step in my printed, or pre-digital photo workflow. Scan and digitize your pre-digital and family heirloom photos. This is so important so those printed photos and negatives don't get lost forever. Many home printers are also scanners, and most of those scanners will scan multiple high res photos at one time. If you don't have access to a good scanner at home, there are several companies that will digitize your printed photos and store them on a disc or USB drive.
Again, save yourself some storage space and time by selecting your favorite photos that tell the story best. You don't need to save every photo. You can add brief details (names, dates, location, event) to the title of your photo to help you remember what you need to know. Once I select and digitize my favorite printed photos, I toss the negatives, extras and doubles. Then I treat them like I do my regular digital photos, and back them up on DVDs and online.
Store printed photos in acid free photo box
My final tip is the last part of my printed photo workflow--storing my favorite photos in an archival-quality photo box, organized by year.
You can also write down memories or details on 4 x 6 acid free journaling cards with an archival safe pencil and keep them stored next to the photos they're related to. That way, if you plan on adding them to an album, you'll have everything you need ready to go.
I cut some tabbed dividers with my Silhouette Cameo and some smooth heavy-weight Bazzill cardstock. I added the same mini stickers to mark my tabbed dividers. If you'd like to create some of these photo storage tabbed dividers, you can download 12 x 12 or 8.5 x 11 cut files or an 8.5 x 11 printable PDF template below. The photo tabbed dividers are 7 x 5.5 inches.
DOWNLOAD 12 X 12 PHOTO STORAGE TABBED DIVIDERS CUT FILE HERE
DOWNLOAD 8.5 X 11 PHOTO STORAGE TABBED DIVIDERS CUT FILE HERE
DOWNLOAD 8.5 X 11 PHOTO STORAGE TABBED DIVIDERS PDF TEMPLATE HERE
While this system works well for me, as long as you've backed up your photos in multiple ways (making sure one is the internet), and digitized your pre-digital photos, there's really no "right" way to store or organize your photos. The key is finding a system that works for you, and working on it on a consistent basis. That way it won't be overwhelming, and you won't risk losing precious memories.