Do you have a lifetime of print photographs? Do you have loose photos that are completely unorganized? Now is the time to take care of these precious family keepsakes by organizing your old family photos. This is a simple process for how to organize print photos.

How to Organize Print Photos

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In this age of most of us exclusively using our phone as a camera, some generations do not  have a collection of print photographs. But, for many of us that grew up with print photographs as the main way of capturing memories, we have huge stacks of loose photos around the house. Or maybe we have big bulky photo albums that are taking up a lot of storage space in our homes.

These printed photographs can take up a lot of physical and mental clutter. We might feel burdened by the self-imposed  responsibility of maintaining these photographs. We might be the family historians that hold the family memories of generations gone by.

One of the most overwhelming forms of clutter in our homes is print photos! 

The most important things to keep in mind when you organize print photos is that the end goal is to preserve the most important pictures. We do not want to overcomplicate the process or it can be easy to abandon the project. Then the photos will continue to sit untouched for years to come. Eventually, photos that are not stored properly will be damaged by unintended neglect.

Simple Process to Organize Print Photos

Are you ready to get started? Go into this project knowing that it will take time and patience. But keep in mind that the payoff will be so good! You will feel a sense of relief when your print photographs are organized and stored properly!

Gather all loose photographs.

The first step of any organization project is to gather all of the items that you want to get organized. Do not cheat yourself out of this step. You might have photographs in various places of your home. Check your attic, basement, storage containers, bins with old family memories.

Do not forget to gather up all of your photo albums. You may decide not to continue to hang onto all of your current photo albums. More on that later in the process.

Categorize the print photos.

To start the next step, grab a pad of sticky notes. Start to group your photos together by time period. It will depend on how big of a print photo collection you have as to how narrowed down you will get in your categories. Write down the categories you want to use. As you go through your loose photos, you might adjust your categories depending on how many pictures you have. Maybe you have a large category that you later decide to break down into several categories.

That is why it is nice to use sticky notes. You can erase the category or use a new sticky note when you want to make an adjustment.

Do not get overly detailed on this process. If you have piles of printed photographs from your college years, grouping them together as one time period will suffice. You do not need to spend too much time on pinning down an exact date.

Some general photo categories to use:

  • Childhood
  • High School
  • College
  • Early Marriage
  • Family
  • Vacations
  • Holidays

You might decide later on to be more specific on certain categories. For instance, if you have kids, you may narrow down the photographs by year.

But overall, you do not want to get too picky on exact dates. You will get very overwhelmed and burn out quickly in the step if you spend too much time worrying about dates.

Pick the best and let go of the rest. 

As you organize print photos, you might notice you have duplicates or less than quality photographs. There is no reason to hold onto these photographs. If you have several pictures of a specific occasion or time period, you can be choosy about which print photos you want to keep. Do you have an unflattering photograph of yourself? Guess what? You do not need to keep it!

You want to narrow your photos down to a manageable collection. The more photos you have, the harder it is to maintain them.

If you are saving photographs for younger generations, take into consideration how many photos you want to pass down. How many photos will the younger family members want to keep? In today’s world, younger people do not want a lot of stuff especially family keepsakes. Focus on the best photographs that represent your family’s memories.

Your family will appreciate a nice collection of the best family memories, not boxes and boxes of photographs.

What photos can I get rid of?
  • Duplicate photographs that no one else will want. If it is hard for you to let go of duplicate photos, pass those on to someone who might want the photos. Then they can decide if they want to keep them.
  • Blurry photos.
  • Unflattering photos.
  • Excessive amounts of photos for a particular event. Do you have more than enough photos of a particular holiday or vacation? If you have enough to represent that particular time then it is okay to let go of ones that hold less meaning.
  • Pictures with people you do not know. It is very common, we come across photos of old friends or people that we do not know or remember. If you do not remember them now, you will not remember them 5-10 years from now. 
  • Bad memories or broken relationships. It is okay to let go of photographs that do not elicit good feelings. You only need to make space for photos that you love or have positive memories. 
  • Unimportant or unmemorable events. Not every thing needs to be documented. Sometimes we take photographs and then wonder why we bothered for that particular event. If you do not want to hold onto that memory or the photos do not spark a good feeling, you can let go of them!

Decide how you want to store the photos.

Now that you have paired down your print photos to the ones that you want to keep, it is time to decide how you want to store them.

Option 1: Photo Albums

In years past, big bulky photo albums were the main way to store photographs. The problem with this method is that many photo albums were not made to preserve photographs for years to come. Some of the old style photo albums have not held up over time. You may have some of these books where the pages are falling out and the photos are showing signs of age.

The benefit of photo albums is that it is a nice way to look through photos. You can keep albums on your coffee table or shelf. It is easy to access them and you can show them to your family and friends.

This is a good option to organize your print photos if you do not have an especially large collection of printed photographs as albums can take up a lot of physical space. Look for higher quality photo albums that are made to last.

Steer clear of big bulky photo albums and look for ones that can hold a lot of photos but are not too thick. This is a good slim photo album that can hold a lot of photographs.



Option 2: Photo Boxes

Another way to organize print photos is to store them in photo boxes. There are these photo boxes that can contain up to 1600 4 X 6 photographs. Photo boxes are a great option if you have a lot of print photos and a lot of specific categories. These photo boxes come with individual containers that hold up to 100 photos each. So you can label each container by category.

how to organize print photos easy method

The photo storage boxes are also good if you have a lot of family photos. You could even have one box per child and categorize by years. Photo boxes do not take up as much room as the amount of photo albums you would need to store the same amounts of photos.

Option 3: Store Digitally

If your goal is to organize your photographs for generations to come, you might want to consider storing them digitally. This is the most time consuming method for storing print photos. You will need to have a high quality photo scanner to scan each photo. Then, you will want to organize the photos on your computer in files by category.


There are professional photo services, like Legacy Box that will scan your print photos. You send all of your photographs to the service and then you will receive copy of them on a thumb drive, disk drive or the cloud. Some people hesitant to use these services in fear that the photos might get lost. So you have decide how comfortable you feel about this process. The quality of the scanned photos will be significantly better than doing this process yourself.

Option 4: Combination of Storage Methods

Most common is to store your photos in albums or photo boxes. Then you may opt to save very important photos by scanning onto a computer. There is not a one size fits all approach to storing print photos.

Consider how much space you have to keep all of your print photos. Then, consider what your end goal is with the photographs. If you want to organize and then store out of site, the photo box method is great! If you like to look through old print photographs, then you should put some of them in albums.

What to do with large print photos?

In additional to 3 X 5 and 4 X 6 photos, do you also have larger print photographs? The best way to store large printed photos is with acid-free, good quality storage boxes.

These boxes are great for oversized photos and large professional print photos.

When to Hire a Professional

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the process of organizing your print photos, you might want to consider hiring a professional. There are professionals that specifically work with clients on photo organization. It is worth the investment to accomplish your goals in a matter of a few hours for something you might have pushed off for years. They can help you make the best decision on how to store your print photos. Plus, they can offer support and guidance as you gather, sort and organize your photos. It is a big undertaking, but the process is so worth it!


Other blog posts you might like:

 Basic Photo Organization Tips

Creative Ideas for Displaying Print Photos


  1. Holly Breton @ Pink Lady on March 14, 2023 at 2:18 pm

    Great ideas! I organize mine by marking Shutterfly albums every year now 🙂

  2. notinjersey on March 15, 2023 at 8:15 am

    I always put ordered photos into albums right away. Now I may be taking down our old framed photos so I’m not sure what I’ll do with them when i do!

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