Photographs - initial sorting

bbstxJuly 30, 2013

I have two boxes (book box size from the movers) of photographs, all totally jumbled together. Some are photos of the family, some are vacation photos, some are "who in the world is that?" DD has said she will put them all in albums, but first I need to sort.

Sunday night I started on the first box. I have piles of photos scattered around my bedroom floor that I have been gingerly walking around for 2 days now.

Can anyone give me some ideas or guidelines on how to start sorting? Except for the final albums, nothing needs to be archival quality since they will only be there for a short time. I've thought of buying cheap large plastic kitchen food storage boxes at the dollar store to get started. Is there a better idea?

Not only do I need to know what to sort into, but I need some ideas on categories? My child, my parents, my grandparents, vacations, etc. But what do I do if it is my parents and my grandparents on vacation? How do I break this analysis paralysis?

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What's below is more or less a copy and paste from a post I did on the Home Decorating forum a year or two ago.

I sorted the temporary piles and kept them in brown paper grocery store bags while I was working. No need to buy anything.

As for categories, go with the broadest categories that make sense to you. I had one pile for each of my siblings. Each one included all the pictures with just that sibling, all pictures relating specifically to that sibling--so all birthday parties, all sports events, awards ceremonies, etc., even if there were other people in the picture. Then I took other events, like Christmas, and sort of divided the pictures amongst all of us.

I somehow became the Keeper of the Photos in my family. I have pictures of my grandparents and a few of my great-grandparents, plus a ton of photos that my parents sent to my grandparents of all us kids at various stages--Dad was in the military, so they took a lot of pictures to send to the families back home.

This is how I tackled the project when I decided to get them organized. It might give you a few ideas.

Step 1. Sort. Discard all the blurry photos, the ones that didn't come out, the ones that no one will want. Sort everything into general categories. I did Great-Grandparents, Grandparents, Mom & Dad (which included baby/child pictures of them up to their wedding pictures and also pictures of them without the kids). For myself and the 7 siblings, a pile of family photos, plus individual piles of pictures of each sibling. That took some doing, as there were usually 2 or more kids in each shot. So Bobby got all the pictures of his birthday parties, even though there were other siblings in the pictures, for example.

Step 2. Identify. There were a lot of older pictures, like those of Mom in her teens, where I couldn't identify everyone. (My parents had died long before I started this project.) So I called the aunts and uncles on Dad's side of the family, and visited them with a ton of pictures in tow. Had some very lovely visits, ate a lot of cookies, drank gallons of tea, heard some interesting stories about Mom and Dad and Grandpa, got names for almost all the faces. For Mom's family, I had a little tea party when some older cousins came into town and we sat around the table and looked at pictures and gossiped madly.

Step 3. Decide. There were so many pictures that scanning them all would have taken forever. So I picked certain pictures to scan. All those of the grandparents and great-grandparents--this was only about 15 pictures total. Mom and Dad's wedding album. All the first day of school pictures of all the kids. One picture from each birthday. Random funny or significant pictures. Then one of my brothers scanned them--I think there were about 500. They all got put on flash drives and every sibling got one. (So we have backups out the wazzoo if we need them.)

Step 4. Preserve. I really didn't want to get rid of any of the pictures. So each sibling got their own stack of pictures--the ones that were clearly theirs, like the birthday pictures, plus a selection of group shots. Since there were usually a couple of shots of the same group, and I had duplicates of many of them (because my parents always had two copies made, one for each set of grandparents), there were enough to go around.

A couple of pictures, like the only one we have of my paternal great-grandmother, I took to a photo store and had duplicates made for all my siblings.

Then I took the pictures I liked best and make a few photo albums. Not scrap books. I bought archival quality photo albums that allowed room to write the names and dates and occasions. There's one for Mom and one for Dad and one for me and one for all the grandparents. And one with baby pictures of Mom, Dad, me and the siblings, and now all the nephews and nieces.

All the rest of the pictures are stored by category in archival boxes that shouldn't damage them.

I got a lot of the supplies from the Exposures catalog.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 3:07PM
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I have so many photos. My husband's sister sent me a bunch from his side of the family. Then there's all the photos I took of my kids growing up. I'm thinking, the best of the best should go in albums, the rest sorted in a meaningful way and put in boxes. Categories could be: "my childhood" , "ancestors" , "vacations, "school photos", then a personal sort for me, DH, our kids, etc. Any leftover, bad shots, would be either given away or thrown out.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 9:07AM
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Yikes! This is a reminder to me of my paralysis surrounding photo sorting. I have a huge locker/chest filled with random photos awaiting sorting for years, now. *Cringe*. I started the project some years back but didn't get far. Had sort of forgotten about it until this posting....oops!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 1:06AM
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I regret to say, I have not gotten much farther along than I was in my first post. I have pitched a bunch of pictures if they were just scenery. For example, a photo of a bunch of sheep grazing. I have no idea when or where the picture was taken. I suspect it was from my parents' trip to New Zealand in the mid-80s or it could have been from my own trip there in the early 2000s. I saved the picture of Daddy attempting to shear a sheep. To me that had meaning.

As of now, I've sorted about 200 photos. I have a bag of my daughter (an only-child), a bag of my parents, one of my grandparents, one for my husband and one for me.

I'm guessing I've got a couple thousand more photos to go. Plus, my husband was a a man of some standing in our community and in his profession, so at some point I've got to deal with newspaper clippings and magazine pages. That sounds like a scrapbook project to me ... a simple scrapbook. I'm not artsy enough to do one of those fancy scrapbooks.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 10:11AM
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Here's a nice blog about photo organizing....

Here is a link that might be useful: photos organized

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 5:26PM
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duplicate deleted

Here is a link that might be useful: photos organized

This post was edited by LuAnn_in_PA on Thu, Aug 8, 13 at 17:30

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 5:29PM
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Yikes! This is a reminder to me of my paralysis surrounding photo sorting. I have a huge locker/chest filled with random photos awaiting sorting for years, now. *Cringe*. I started the project some years back but didn't get far. Had sort of forgotten about it until this posting....oops!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 7:36PM
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I did my collection of photo's chronologically, starting with "pre-1930". Started with long intervals (few photo's) to yearly as my children grew. At first, I used many shoe boxes and index cards and developed a system.... then slowly purchased archival photo boxes where I continue to store, chronologically extra prints, un-identified people, some scenic, pets, just ???able ones..... too pretty to pitch. I think, I made albums for 6 or 7 family members so that they all had some 'family memories' from my mother's (1912) collection and mine.None of them are fancily "scrapbooked", just identified by name and event etc.
My kids grew up as military kids with lots of travel and postcards, so gathering them up and putting them in the plastic sleeve albums is how they are stored. Birthday cards and the relatively few momento's that survived our many moves were incorporated into their photo album... chronologically.(Far from "perfectly" but close to those years)

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 10:40PM
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