Living histories: Organizing your photos into albums

I’ve spoken to several people about getting their photos organized over the past few weeks. It’s something that many view as important – it’s an archive of our living, continuing history. And yet, it seems so overwhelming. Digital photos have made things so much worse. It’s hard enough to slog through a roll of film, let alone the 500 photos you took of your last vacation, with triplicates and more of the same shot to get the perfect pose or lighting.

I’ve heard (and I’m guilty of this too) that once it’s posted on Facebook, that’s good enough. We have a digital record of that trip or that season, our friends can peruse through, so what more do we need. But I remember growing up the intense joy I took in flipping through the pages, the tangible proof at my fingertips that I existed, that I had people in my life that loved me, wanted to photograph me and document my time with them. I think the physicality of a photo album is important, especially for children as they develop a sense of identity as they grow.

Z and I decided we want to start keeping photo albums from a time before our little guy comes along, and keep it up so we always have those memories at hand. I’ve started the process of going through all our photos we’ve collected together, since we’ve been together three-and-a-half years ago. It’s overwhelming, especially since all the digital files are saved willy-nilly over several computers and hard-drives.

I completely took advantage of my position as homes writer to talk with a professional organizer about this, and wrote a column that I hope helps people as much as it helps me. The organizer, Georgina Forrest, is local to Calgary, and is also a member of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers – who knew that was even a thing.

Here’s the article, and good luck with anyone trying to put their photographic life in order:

Many people collect photos over their lifetime; sometimes photos are collected for beyond one lifetime. Whether these photos are digital or print, the idea of organizing these snapshots in a meaningful way can be overwhelming.

We take photos in order to capture a moment in time – here’s how to bring them back to life.

The first question to ask is: what is the goal you’re hoping to achieve? “Having a goal in mind will help motivate you,” says Georgina Forrest, owner of Smartworks! Office Organizing Services. “Do you want to create a family album or compile photos from your daughter’s life for her graduation? Knowing this will give you direction.”

When you start to go through your photos, the sheer amount can be daunting, so follow the ABC’S set up by the Association of Personal Photo Organizers to help categorize the photos.

A is for Album. “Photos destined for the album are those you’ve identified as being on you’re A list – the ones that best capture the moment,” Forrest says. “B is for box, which is for photos that didn’t make the album but want to keep them in storage.”

Perhaps most important is C: Can. Photos to throw out include the triplicates, the blurry, the too dark or over exposed and the unflattering. Remember to be as nice to others as you are to yourself. If there is a photo of a person at a bad angle, ask how you would feel if someone kept a photo like that of you.

“It can be hard to throw out a photo, as we feel like we’re throwing out a piece of that person when we do, but it’s not true,” she says. “By getting rid of the superfluous, you can focus on the truly beautiful.”

The S is for the stories that belong with the photos, providing context that give the images meaning. Photos become our legacy. Often we have photos from our grandparent’s era with no idea who the people are or what they are about, so they have no meaning. Your descendents will feel the same about your photos without context.

“Document the basics at the very least: who, what, when, where, why, even just in bullet points to create context,” Forrest suggests.

Sorting your photos chronologically can be difficult if your photos haven’t been stored in order. A fun and interesting way to organize them is by theme: travel, family vacations, children from birth to kindergarten, pets, events. The theme can be anything that makes sense to you.

“People love to connect and tell stories, and photos enhance this experience,” she says. “This is why a photo album is so meaningful.

“If you find the process too overwhelming, if you have decades of photos tucked away, then the best way to start is with the most current. Do an album of the past year, for example and keep up with your photos from there.”

Word of the day:

Skulduggery: dishonorable proceedings; mean dishonesty or trickery: bribery, graft, and other such skulduggery



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