Tackling Those Old Photo Albums

From guest blogger, Mollie Bartelt of Pixologie

When thinking about planning for the future, we often consider our financial situations, health status, living arrangements and much more. However, our family photo collections routinely are left to the bottom of the priority list. Most people know it’s a problem, but are just not sure where to start.

Why Should We Take Time To Save Our Photos
Family photos are integral to passing down family values, celebrating the best in life and connecting generations. Deborah Gilboa, MD says that “organizing and displaying photographs connects children to our families, our values and life goals for them.” In her experience, photos teach respect, show responsibility and build resiliency in children.

In addition to those important reasons, when we take the time to save our best photos and document who is in them, we are leaving our legacy to future generations. Our children do not want to deal with a mess of albums, boxes of photos and unidentified relatives.

Lastly, when we save our photos (ensuring they are scanned and backed up), our memories are preserved if an unfortunate disaster hits. I have met people who have been in housefires, floods and even the wildfires out west. They have expressed deep regret for not protecting their photos.

Preparing to Remove Photos From Albums
For this article, I am focusing on photo albums, but many families have boxes and bags of photos stored many places in the home. It is important to bring all of your photos to one place with the goal of saving the best photos.

If you want to preserve your photos for future generations, your photos have to come out of the albums at least temporarily for organization and scanning. The decision of whether to put the photos back into albums lies with you. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do I want to have these albums forever?
  • Will my kids want these albums?
  • Are my photos safe in them?
  • Are these albums in good condition?
  • Will I want or need to downsize my home someday?
  • As you look through photo albums, do any photos stand out that you no longer need to save?

Remember, back in the day; it was normal to save every photo taken because we had so few to look through. If you do decide to continue using photo albums, chances are, you’ll want to get rid of poor quality photos and place the good pictures in new, photo safe albums. Another option is storing the photos in high quality, photo safe archival boxes.

Getting Started
First, be sure you are prepared for quick action in working with your albums. This is no time for memory lane if you want to finish saving your photos. Here’s a list of items that will be helpful for you as you start removing photos.

  • Photo boxes or bins
  • Index cards and Post-It notes
  • Photo labeling pencil
  • Spatula for sticky album pages or dental floss 
  • White gloves if you have very old, fragile photos

As you take photos out of the albums, only keep the best photos that help tell your family story. You can place them in photoboxes or bins temporarily (if returning to the albums) or you can put them in a photo safe archival quality photo box. I like to use index cards or dividers to separate the photos by year.

Later on, when you are scanning the photos, then the digital files can be labeled by year. If you prefer, you can also divide your photos up by person or subject. However, chronological order is great if you are dealing with many photo albums. We recommend our clients create an Age Chart to help with estimating the dates of photos you don’t know. 

Which Photos to Keep?
It can be overwhelming to look at decades of accumulated photo albums. Think of your role as a curator. No one wants to look at all the photos of a lifetime. Instead, you will want to select the best photos and stories out of a generation or more of photos that the family can enjoy together.

 Here’s some thoughts as you think about what to save.

  • Identifiable people: save the photos where you know who is in the picture and why the event is significant to the family
  • Vacations: save the very best photos with family members in the picture. Save a few of the best landscape scenes
  • Repetitious photos: Never mind duplicates, repetitious photos are boring to look at. Think of the many birthday parties with one picture for each present a child opened.

Remember we are trying to save the photos that tell the essence of what life was like back in the day. We don’t need to save a photo for every moment that was caught on film. 

Scanning Photos
With today’s available technology, scanning photos can be easy. Using a flatbed scanner is definitely not going to be a good answer. We recommend using the Kodak Alaris Picture Saver Scanning System. The high speed scanner can scan photos up to 1000 photos an hour, depending upon how prepared you are. In addition, it scans both the front and the back of a photo if you’d like to preserve any handwritten notes. If you don’t have a local place to rent this scanner, use the contact information below and we can arrange to have a scanner system shipped to you.

Wrapping Up
Hopefully, this article will have shed some light on how you can start to preserve your photos and family memories. Prepare to laugh and cry as you go through your photos, but more importanly, enjoy the feelings of relief when you have saved the best of your family photos for future generations to know your story.

About the Author
Mollie Bartelt, Co-Founder of Pixologie, has helped hundreds of people get their photos out of chaos and back into life to be celebrated and shared. She wrote “A Simple Guide to Saving Your Family Photos” to share the Pixologie photo organizing system. It is available on Amazon.

email: mollieb@pixologieinc.com
phone: 414-731-1881
website: pixologieinc.com