Photo preservation 101

Photo albumsA few summers ago I decided to attempt a daunting task: to organize my family’s photos.

Although most of the printed photos we had at that point are now stored away and arranged in a closet at home, it wasn’t easy to sort through many memories from my childhood and moments before my time.

My parents had kept photo prints in envelopes from photo centers, some with accompanying negatives and others without. Some photos were still trapped inside sticky photo album pages and faded in color. Some photos were dated and/or labeled, but it seemed most were not.

I’m sharing this experience because I’d like to emphasize the importance of preserving photos. Sorting through hundreds of photos can leave many questions unanswered. Whose baby is in that photo? Where were these photos taken? And were those people there?

Preserving your printed photos

Do you want to remember your past forever? If so, check out these photo preservation tips:


  • Use photo boxes to store loose photos. You can find these at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores or Hobby Lobby. Index cards make great dividers or tabs to categorize the photos by event or year.Photo storage boxes
  • Store your photos in albums with plastic sleeves, similar to page protectors in a binder. The plastic should prevent photos from aging quickly. Avoid albums with sticky paper that keeps photos in place. The glue can damage the photos and make it difficult to remove them from the album.
  • Buy photo albums in bulk, especially if they are on sale. If you keep photos in similarly shaped and sized albums, it’s easier to store them in whatever limited space you may have.


  • Avoid storing photos in direct sunlight and under artificial indoor lighting. Bright conditions cause photos to fade.
  • Keep photos in a cool, dry location in your home. Heat and moisture may speed up the aging process of your photos.


  • Most importantly, remember to write the date or year each photo was taken on the back of the photograph, on photo box dividers or inside photo albums.
  • Use the five W’s (who, what, where, when and why) to tell the stories behind your photos.
  • Always use archival pens or acid-free writing utensils to label photos.

Memory card for photo storagePreserving your digital photos

Technology can go wrong; it’s a fact. And unfortunately, I neglected backing up my files when I got my laptop three years ago. I didn’t have my laptop for a year before it decided to completely re-start itself and I lost everything, including some photos. This wasn’t a fun experience, so I have some advice for others who store photos on their computers:


  • Invest in an external hard drive. Back up all your files regularly and store the device in a safe place.
  • Keep track of the photos you have uploaded from your memory cards to your computer. Don’t delete photos from your camera until you have confirmed they are backed up.


  • Store photo files in folders labeled by month and year, then by date or event. This system works best for me, but you may find it’s easier to use other means of organization.
  • Delete bad photos as you upload them. Poor quality photos waste space on your computer and external hard drive.
  • Make digital copies of original photos if you decide to edit them with Photoshop, Picnik, etc.

So how do you organize your photos? What works best for you?



Filed under Photos, Scrapbooking

2 responses to “Photo preservation 101

  1. I think it’s very important to capture life’s greatest moments. This is why I’m obsessed with my camera. I have more than 5,000 pictures and I find it hard to print and organize all of them. I enjoyed reading about your ways to preserve, store and organize photos. I’m going to try to put my photos on an external hard drive. Technology is a helpful tool, not just in the classroom or at a job. This seems to be the best way to keep my photos organized and stored.

    • I have the same problem with my pictures. Sometimes I think I have too many! This summer I plan to organize them and print certain ones for my scrapbooks, so hopefully I can keep them all straight!

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