Organizing Pictures

Organizing pictures can be painless if you create a system for yourself that is quick and easy. Different types of pictures will require different organizing solutions. Here are a few ideas for organizing your digital or printed pictures, and slides or negatives. 

Organizing Digital Pictures

When you transfer your digital pictures from your camera to your computer, the easiest way to organize pictures on your computer is to create folders that are easy for you to browse and search in the future. You will have to decide what works best for you and customize your directories; for example, do you tend to recall events by date or occasion?

If you organize pictures by date, start by creating a folder for each year. Then create subfolders for events occurring in that year, organized by date. Your file directory could look something like this:

  • 2009
    • Visit with Denis_May 2009
      • Yosemite_8 May 2009
      • Yosemite_9 May 2009
    • Disneyland_11 May 2009
    • Chad’s 20th Birthday_June 2009
  • 2008
    • Family Vacation_August 2008

When you download your pictures, try to label them immediately. Searching for pictures later can get out of hand if you are always in a hurry and miss this step. The label should include the names of people or specific places captured in each picture. If you took several pictures of the same scene (the benefit of having a digital camera!) you can label them with the name of the shot and a number after each one – so the label could be ‘Lake Geneva View 1’ then ‘Lake Geneva View 2’ and so on. If the angle of the view changes, you can include a new description.

Organizing Pictures, Negatives and Slides

These days negatives are typically from pictures taken before digital cameras were widely available. It is a good idea to go back and organize your pictures and negatives now to make sure they are safely stored in acid-free sleeves, boxes or scrapbooks to prevent fading and deterioration.  There are several companies that sell archival quality picture, negative, or slide materials.  You will need to decide if you want to store them in boxes or scrapbooks.

The best way to organize negatives is to put them in archival sleeves.  You can label each sleeve according to the year and event of the negative, and then place them in boxes labeled with the year(s) of the negatives inside.  It is good to store pictures separately, labeled in the same fashion as the negatives to allow for easy searching.

Pictures can be stored in archival boxes or scrapbooks. Ideally you should label the pictures on the back with an archival pen. You can then place them in the box organized by year or event with separator index cards.  Scrapbooks can be as easy or complex as you’d like – make sure you find archival quality, acid free sleeves/books to protect your pictures.  Again, you should label pictures either on the back (with an archival pen) or on the book sleeves.  You can create one book for each year, or fill the book and then label the date on the outside.

Always store negatives and slides in a cool, dry place to prevent damage.

Safe Storage and Backup

  • Pictures often capture treasured moments or people in our lives. Home fires can be devastating if family pictures are lost. If you want to minimize the chance you will lose your pictures, you can follow the following easy steps.
  • Create copies of digital pictures on a backup drive or copy pictures onto several CDs. You can then either give copies of the CDs to friends to hold for you, and/or place the CDs in a safety deposit box.
  • Store digital pictures online. There are a variety of websites where you can upload and organize your pictures, such as Snapfish or Flickr.
  • Older pictures without negatives/slides, or those where you’ve lost the negatives, can be scanned into a digital format. This step takes more time, but these older pictures are often the ones that mean the most (typically black and white pictures of family from previous generations).  You can then follow the tips above to replicate them for safe-keeping.