How to Organize Your Photos

How to Organize Your Photos

How to Organize Your Photos

Do you have photos all over the place?

Scrapbooking is much easier when your photos are organized. So how can you get your backlog of photos sorted and ready for a scrapbook? Organizing photos can be easy if you follow a few simple tips.

Organizing Printed Photos

1. Collect

Rescue your photos from drawers and boxes and bring them together in one place. Nothing fancy. Just find them all. That might be easier said than done!

2. Decide

While you are collecting all of your photos, ask yourself what the main themes in your photo collection are.

  • Big Events such as
    • Celebrations: birthdays, anniversaries, parties, family reunions, etc.
    • Senior Year
    • Sports
    • Theater
    • Vacations
    • Wedding
  • Chronology
    • Anniversary
    • Baby
    • Christmas
    • Family
    • Retirement
    • Sports
  • Ancestral/Heritage
    • Family history
    • Genealogy
  • Family Members

3. Sort

As you sort, eliminate all of the blurry or dud photos.  Here are 4 sorting techniques to use, but you can use more than one of these at the same time:

  • Big Events
    • Separate photos into categories that make sense for your scrapbook.  For example, you might group all of the photos of each location you visited on vacation even if you visited on different days. For a family reunion, you might organize by family group.
    • Write dates and names of places and people on the backs of your photos in case you aren’t able to get them into your scrapbook right away. I am so thankful my mom encouraged me to do that. Two of my children looked a lot alike as babies, so it’s a good thing I had a name on the back of the photos.
  • Chronology
    • If you have decades of photos, divide them into 3-5 year increments or by decade.
    • Sort them by year, then by month.
    • Look for clues like seasonal clothing, hairstyles, or dates on the back that might tell you when the pictures were developed.
    • If your stacks for each year are too large, try breaking them down by event.
    • Don’t worry if you aren’t sure of the month or year. Just guess. If it’s that hard for you to determine, no one else will know the difference!
    • You can create a timeline with significant events to help you figure out when a photo was taken. Note the dates of your vacations, someone’s new haircut, an arm in a cast or new glasses.
  • Family Members
    • Sorting printed pictures by family member takes the most planning.
    • Start by dividing your photo collection into piles by family member. Order duplicates as needed.
    • Next, you can sort each group of photos chronologically.
  • Ancestral
    • Separate your photos first by family lineage (for example, your mother’s family and your father’s family).
    • Put your photos into a sequence that tells a story.
    • I highly recommend mounting these photos in your scrapbooks using photo-mounting corners so you can remove them when a relative asks for a copy!

4. Store

You can use a Power Sort box from Creative Memories (in fact, I encourage you to buy it from me!). Any photo box will work, but it may not be as safe for your photos. Store your photos in the photo compartment boxes. Use dividers for grouping your photos. Think of this as temporary storage until you have time to make scrapbooks that you and your loved ones can enjoy.

Organizing Digital Photos

I use Historian (formerly Memory Manager) software from Forever Panstoria. It has a great facial recognition feature that works really well most of the time: My oldest took a picture of some Greek god crudely carved into a rock wall. Historian suggested that it might be my youngest daughter. Ouch.


This might actually be the hardest part. Check everyone’s phones, your email, websites for social groups you belong to, Facebook, Instagram, etc. to make sure you have all the photos you want to use before starting.


Get your photos into your organization software.

Create Tags

You decide how to organize your photos. Use tags that you would search for. Your tags can include people, places, events, activities, weather…anything. I have a category for “home” and within that category is food, plants, wildlife (the deer hang out by our back door because of our apple trees), and storm damage. We had a terrible hailstorm about 10 years ago. I thought this would be a temporary category to use for insurance. Westfield Insurance didn’t need any of the pictures I took to have a check for us but the pictures are so incredible that I haven’t deleted them. I hope I never have to add any new pictures to that tag!

Tag & Rate Your Photos

  • You can tag multiple photos at once. Just select them by holding down control while clicking the photos or if the pictures are all in order hold down shift, click on the first one and hold down shift and click on the last one.
  • You can make sure you have tagged all of the photos in the dates you have selected by clicking on “not tagged” as a category.
  • Give your photos a star rating to make it easier to decide which photos to use in a scrapbook. If you are giving a photo a rating of 1 (no good) and you have better photos from the same event, just delete the icky photo.

Use Albums

  • I make chronological family scrapbooks. I use the albums section in Historian to create an album for each month. I look back through the pictures from each month and pick the best ones. I move those to an album that I categorize by date. I also have albums for vacations.

Do you have organization tips and techniques? Please share!