18 January 2015

Photo Organization: Still Sorting!

Last year I started sorting all of the pictures I brought home from my parents' house. While still in the middle of all of that, I found myself adding even more boxes to the mix, this time from my grandma's house. Suddenly I had an entirely different mass of family photos to integrate into my already overwhelmed -- and not yet organized -- system. At that time, all could do was label Grandma's plastic tubs and boxes and set them aside until life settled down enough to deal with them.

Family history is very important to me, so it is hugely distressing to me to have boxes and boxes of jumbled photos in no semblance of order! It makes me feel very out of control, and it feels almost disrespectful to the lives and memories represented in those photos.
So now that the new year is upon us and I am feeling like my life may be leveling out, I am back in the sorting mode! I know that many people face similar boxes of completely unorganized photos, so I thought I would share a couple of quick tips for getting started.

I grabbed one of Grandma's tubs of photos and jumped in. This tub contained everything from vintage photos to obituaries to photos taken in the last five years. This is a good activity to do while halfway watching a movie or basketball game!

I began by making some temporary dividers for a photo box:
* Memorabilia
* Portrait type photos
* Black and white photos -- 2 categories: Known and unknown people
* Color photos -- 2 categories: Known and unknown people

I sorted all the photos and papers into those categories and put them into a box. Already I felt much better! Then I started working on each of the categories in more detail.

 Why create separate categories for color and black and white photos? It is the first step in figuring out when the photos were taken. Obviously, the color photos are newer and date from the early 1960's when color photography first became available. The black and white pictures are all older than that -- that's as close as I can come to dating them right now! :)

Next I separated the color photos by size/type. This sounds a little goofy but it was actually very helpful. In the 1970's, many photos were developed with rounded corners. Putting all of the rounded corner photos in one pile helped me at least get them in the correct decade. At the same time, I grouped together photos which were obviously taken at one event. As I worked, I tossed duplicates and poor quality pictures. I also tossed all the snapshots that friends had sent to Grandma, unless they were of family or otherwise significant.

Photos from the 1960's were printed with white borders and many include the date that they were developed (super helpful!). I didn't realize until I started looking through the box that there were several different sizes, so I also sorted them by size and event.

After a couple of hours of not-too-painful work, I had finished my first "rough sort" step of the color photos in this box -- just one box of many. They are not yet in chronological order, nor are the people in the photos identified, but they are ready for that step to be done. Next I will do the same with the black and white photos, but that will be a much more time-consuming process. It may require binge-watching something on Netflix!

As I worked through the color photos, I was excited to find several I'd never seen before, including some of me with my cousins decorating Christmas cookies at Grandma's house. Finding those photos confirms that it is absolutely worth the time spent on this process!

I have a few plans for these photos: 
  • Scan and upload the most significant family photos to share with my cousins
  • Date/identify key photos
  • Integrate the photos into my own chronological photo filing system
  • Incorporate special photos into my scrapbooks

Here's to FINALLY making big progress on this project in the new year! That would make me very happy!


Heather said...

I have tons of photos that need to be organized too! I have hundreds of my own photos that are at least in boxes in chronological order, but I want to get them scrapbooked. I'm trying to be OK with the fact that they're never ALL going to get done. I'm a horribly slow scrapbooker!! Anyway, I also have a massive box of my father-in-law's photos that we got when he passed away. I want to get them organized and scanned to share with the rest of my husband's family but am a long way from being done!

Janet said...

Hi, Heather! I'm right there with you! I'm such a slow scrapbooker, too...and it seems I rarely get to work on my albums these days. I think the key for me is to plan time to work on these big projects so they move forward. Otherwise it is easy for other things to get in the way and then I never make progress! Hopefully this is our year, Heather!!! :)

Kimberly Marie said...

This is a lot of work, and what a great solution you've settled on doing to help you get everything in order! My problem is that I have TONS of pictures not even DEVELOPED YET, but are still on camera cards!! There are some pretty important events among all those photos, but it seems such a daunting task now to go back, sort through the cards, pictures on the cards, upload to a site and then order them for printing. Isn't that silly??! It's because I'm looking at the whole project, and instead, I should probably just look at one event at a time. One down, one to go sort of idea! You've helped to stir the realization in me that I really SHOULD get to doing this.....and maybe it'll be my year, too!