What to Do With Hundreds of Family Photos

Marc McDermott
January 21, 2022

We live in the digital age, so printed photos are less common than they used to be, but if you’ve ever rummaged in your parent’s loft or garage, you may find boxes of photos. Some faded, some intact, but a lot of them will be of grandparents, and can stretch back decades. This begs the question of what to do with hundreds of family photos?

Thankfully there are numerous ways to sort and archive these precious memories. We’re going to take a closer look at how you can organize them in a way that helps future generations understand your genealogy better.

Follow our steps for photo storing success:

Create a plan

This is where it all starts. It’s a big decision, but what is the outcome of organizing your family photos? Are you storing them to keep them safe, or scanning them? Do you want to share them with your family, or want to hold onto them before you decide what you want to do?

Also, are you emotionally ready to start getting rid of blurry snaps and old pets you have no idea about? 

Decide How To Store Them

This is a big part of the overall plan. Storing original photos in archive containers is a good way of preserving them and making it easier to switch between pages. Perhaps you’re going to use a binder or sleeves to keep them in place?

When you have hundreds of family photos to archive, using archival quality boxes and serves can help preserve them for many more years.

There will come a point where you have to make decisions on how to organize scanned photos. Some websites offer a high-end place to store photos, although you will need to consider your budget before you consider this option. 

How To Archive Hundreds of Family Photos

Your initial sort through will be a lot easier if you have a plan on how you intend to organize your photos. Start with a general sort through and decide on categories. Sort by family members, years, events like weddings or birthdays, or any other category that works for you. 

This makes it easier to break the process down and go at your own pace. A lot will depend on how many photos you have. Some people will find boxes and boxes, meaning thousands and thousands of snaps to organize. The numerous generations and photos at hand can make it seem like a daunting task, but get specific and you can find the process a lot more manageable. 

It can be fun to organize a spouse from childhood to marriage and repeat the process for different people. You can also organize by each of your parents and their extended family, grandchildren, or just by occasion. 

Everyone is different so if you want to stick to one relative and sort through their family tree then this can be fun as well.

Sort Your Photos In Privacy

It’s always an exciting time when someone starts to organize a box full of photos but it is near impossible to arrange them how you want with distractions. If the children are likely to pick up photos and disturb your perfect arrangement then either you will need to have a relaxed approach to archiving, or find somewhere more private.

This is not the sort of task that can be undertaken in an evening, or overnight so you’ll need to take over the space on the kitchen table or spare room for a short while. Because of the room it takes to spread the photos out, it is best to commandeer the table whilst you organize. 

Write the categories on a piece of paper or your phone and keep this record close so you can place it in front of the individual storage boxes ready to be stored. Any strays can then be placed in the correct box with ease. 

Move your collection of ready-to-be-sorted photos on the table and behold, you’re part of the way there! The piles can seem overwhelming but consider the feeling you will have when everything is archived. Start looking through methodically and begin with one album at a time. 

This is the hard part… 

Decide whether each photo is a keeper or you are going to get rid of it. It can be good practice to keep two discard piles:

  • One for throwing away (those photos of random pets and places or blurry images)
  • One for duplicates and photos the extended family may wish to keep

Yes, the time has come to discard those random pictures you took and have no idea why they are still in your possession! 

Categorize the Boxes 

The process should be therapeutic and will even feel good once you discard the unwanted photos. 

Keep the remaining photos in their categorized boxes. If you wish to sort them chronically, it can be best to put them in archival standard albums, but as we said, this does get expensive. 

Otherwise, the main thing is keeping an archive of an individual or family and knowing where to look when you want to take a trip down memory lane. 

Remember to keep any photos you aren’t sure of. There is always time to add them to other albums or toss them later. 

Sort The Boxes

The process should have taken some time already, so if you aren’t ready to archive them properly yet, save this stage for another day. When you’re ready to continue, start by opening one box and choosing how to archive the photos. 

Most people choose to organize an individual’s photos from baby to marriage, with ancestors in there as well, then repeating for different family members. 

You’re likely to stumble upon the common problem here – what is the photo that has numerous people in? 

Well, the best approach is to file the photo by the main point of interest. Who is the focal point in the photo? Or, who is the main relative? It’s a personal choice as to which individual you choose at this point. 

Assign photos of items, belongings, and pets to whom they belong. It is also a good idea to make a note of where the photo came from – what box did it appear in and who gave it to you?

Sort Through Again

At this stage, it is good practice to sort the hundreds of photos and perhaps whittle it down to 100 – 200 photos or whatever feels right and manageable. 

Final Sort

Once you have repeated the process for all the boxes of photos, it is time to bring some order to each one. Most people like to arrange their photos chronologically. Arrange them by years and life stages, if this is how you wish to file them or arrange them by surname. 

Label The Photos

Add names onto the photos and any additional information such as location or date if you know this information.  Write lightly to not damage the photo and this will help future generations to know what they are looking at. 

How To Store Family Photos 

Always store photos in a cool dry place to avoid damp and mold from damaging them. Avoid keeping them in direct sunlight or risk faded memories, and keep them away from extremely low or high humidity. 

Final Thoughts

You’re all done! Now the photos can be added to the boxes and binders or folders and stored until you next want to reminisce. You can always go back and arrange them again. After all, it takes up a lot of emotional energy and time to arrange hundreds of family photos. 

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