Photos tell our the stories of our lives. Yet we are often are overwhelmed by our photo collections. Many of us have shoeboxes and drawers full of photos, we have digital pictures on our computers in various places, as well as CDs and DVDs, multiple memory cards, and home movies in formats we can no longer view. Your family's history is important and should be preserved so you can enjoy it today and pass it along to future generations! Here's some tips to help you get started.
Find a system that works for you. The ABC’s of Photo Organizing© are a great place to start. This is a method taught by photo organizers from the Association of Personal Photo Organizers. Your A’s are the photos that belong in albums. They are personal and cherished. B’s are photos that you don’t want to get rid of, but they don’t necessarily need to be in an album. They should be organized for long term storage into an archival box, or backed up. The C’s can go into the can, either the garbage can or deleted on your computer. These are the blurry, or unflattering photos, the duplicates, and the photos you simply don’t need, such as extra scenery photos or people you no longer remember. The S stands for stories, and this is the most important part! Your stories will be told in your albums alongside your A pictures.
Make sure you are storing your photos in a safe environment. Photos should be stored in a cool dark place where there isn’t much fluctuation in the temperature. You also want to avoid humidity and direct sunlight. Attics, basements, and garages are NOT good storage spots! In addition to where you store your photos, you should also consider what you store them in. Make sure you are storing your photos in a photo safe environment and use reputable products. You probably have noticed that photos that you have in those old magnetic albums have started to yellow or fade. You’ll want to remove your pictures from those types of albums.
Scan your old photos. If you’d like to have a digital copy of old photos, or would like to pass photos along to other family members, scanning is a great option. You may find having a portable scanner like the Flip Pal that you can bring with you on the go is handy to have. This is really useful when one family member has a photo that everyone wants, but doesn't want to "loan" it to you.
Restore special photos. You may have certain special photos you’d like to restore. Perhaps they’ve faded, been torn, or even crumpled up. There are many great types of photo editing software out there, but if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, you can work with a service provider that offers photo restoration.
Digitize old media. With technology constantly changing, it’s an ongoing process to archive old media. Your old home movies can be converted to current technology, but keep in mind, as technology changes, you will need to change with it, which most likely will mean re-recording again at some point. If you don’t want to invest in the equipment to do this yourself, there are many services that can handle this for you.
Back it up. I always recommend having at least three backups. I use a cloud based storage system, an external hard drive, and I print my photos in photo books as well. One of the great things about photo books is you can journal your stories alongside of your photos and you can order multiple copies for family members (and reprint if needed)! I also print special photos that I want an extra copy of and store them in a photo safe box. Having a printed copy is a great backup because a print can always be scanned and digitized. While it may not be realistic to print all of your photos, you may want to consider printing your most important ones.
Share your photos with family members through a cloud based service. Before choosing cloud backup storage, make sure it offers the options that you are looking for. Some things to consider: Your viewing and sharing options, how easy it is to get your photos back, and whether you and others can comment on the photos. Linea is a new photosharing app that I am now using. I really like the fact that anyone I share my “line” with can add photos to it, allowing me to keep all photos from a certain event in the same place even when multiple people are taking pictures. Everyone can comment on them as well, which is helpful when you’ve uploaded old family photos in which you’re trying to identify people or learn the stories behind the photos.
Preserve your family’s stories now. Unfortunately stories get lost through the years. Consider sitting with older relatives with a recorder and documenting their stories, or using one of the many journals out there with writing prompts. Check out A Grandparent’s Legacy, by Thomas Nelson or other similar type of journals. Do the same thing with treasured family recipes…if there is a handwritten version of the recipe, you may want to preserve that. There’s always a story behind those special recipes! Don’t forget to write down your own stories as you are going through this process…not only are your family stories important to your family now, they will be treasured by future generations!
What are you doing to make sure your memories are preserved for future generations? We’d love to hear your suggestions!