Letting photo organizing be easy

5 August 2019


Last February, I cleaned out a closet in my home and found a box of photos from my pre-digital-camera life that I had completely forgotten about. Right around that time, I heard from a rep from Epson offering me a loan of an Epson FastFoto photo scanner so I could try it out and blog about it. (Later this week, I’ll post that review.)

I dug into that box of photos and started sorting. I threw out the bad ones and duplicates and I put the keepers into rough categories, with the intention of scanning them with the Epson photo printer. (That’s one of the keepers, a photo of my parents the day after our wedding, at the top of this post.)

I got started scanning but found the process of renaming each photo to be really tedious. With my digital genealogy files (which are primarily documents, not photographs), I scrupulously rename every file to reflect its contents. That was my mindset when I started scanning. I thought that each photo had to be similarly named so I could find it easily on my hard drive.

But then I realized I’d skipped an important step. I needed to get in touch with why I’m organizing and scanning the photos. Only then would I know to what level I needed to name and organize the digital photos.

There are many possible reasons for taking on a photo organizing and scanning project. They include:

  • To reduce physical space taken up by printed photos
  • To make the photos more accessible
  • To make the photos easy to share (with individuals or on social media)
  • To create albums
  • Anticipation of an event (like a wedding or graduation) requiring a slide show or collage
  • To share family history with descendants or relatives

For me, once I thought about it, I realized that I wanted to scan the photos so I wouldn’t lose them. And so I’d be able to share them. But I’m not interested in albums at this point or any big sharing of photos.

I realized I would be satisfied to be able to look in a folder of photos and scan through them to find the one I wanted. I did not need individual descriptive file names.

That was a game changer. It meant that I just needed to create broad categories of photos. The FastFoto software makes it easy to create and scan into folders for those categories. And then the individual photos are numbered sequentially with the folder name in the file name. (I should mention that I have a terabyte hard drive and that I back it up to the cloud and to an external hard drive daily.)

Suddenly, this project turned from something I’d been putting off for months (even though I needed to return the printer) into something I can do while watching Netflix. I scanned hundred of photos painlessly because I’d already sorted them into categories.

It became so easy that I went on a treasure hunt around the house for more caches of photos. I found a photo box, already organized, that I had created almost 25 years ago. They contained photos from travel in the early years of our marriage, organized by destination. I took a glance at the pictures inside and realized that I had no desire to digitize them. As a collection, they’re nice and my husband and I might enjoy looking at them. But they’re already organized and accessible and no one besides us would care about them.

Giving myself permission not to scan these photos felt good. I affixed a Post-it® Note to the top of the photo box indicating that the photos have been digitized in case I ever want to toss them.

So what did I do with the printed versions of the photos I digitized? I decided to keep them. I have a big house with lots of storage space and I didn’t see the need to throw them away. But they’re in category order, in archival boxes and if I ever actually need to access any, I’ll be able to. Chances are very good, though, that if I did want to look at a photo, I’d go to my hard drive, not these boxes. When I move in the future, I’ll take another look and decide whether to toss them then. If I were downsizing, I’d be comfortable tossing them since I have digital versions.

This what’s worked for me. Your mileage may vary. The big lesson here, to me, is to get in touch with why you’re taking on a photo organizing project and organize accordingly. Make it as easy as possible, so it’ll actually get done. This was one instance where good enough was definitely good enough!

P.S. On my treasure hunt I also a box of unsorted miscellaneous photos. It’s given me pause. But I have a methodology now and a loaned scanner that I need to return. So I plan, within a week, to systematically sort, toss, categorize into broad categories (paying attention to the categories I’ve already created) and scan these photos. I will take pictures of the process as I do it and create another, more granular, how-to post.

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About Janine

Janine Adams is a professional organizer based in St. Louis, MO

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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