Stack of vacation photos on a table

5 Easy Steps To Organize Your Photos

Are you overwhelmed by the idea of organizing your printed photos?  If you answered yes, you’re not alone!

Photos are more than simply a piece of paper with a printed image. They hold our memories, our stories and our heritage. It feels impossible to part with them. But if you’re ready to tackle yours, I’m sharing 5 steps to make organizing your photos easier.

Why is Dealing With Photos so Hard?

Canva Shanna - 5 Easy Steps To Organize Your Photos

My name is Shanna, and my business is GingerSnaps. I am a Certified Photo Manager from Listowel Ontario and I have helped clients all across North America organize their photo collections.  I’m excited to be guest-posting on BirchTree Organizing’s blog to share my tips with you!

When it comes to printed photos, we have albums tucked away in attics and basements, photos we inherit from parents and grandparents, frames with stacks of 5-10 photos hiding behind the glass, drawers full of negative sleeves, carousels of slides in the back of the closet, boxes of loose, disorganized photos and we have random photos hiding all over our homes.


The sheer volume of photos is daunting, not to mention the emotions attached to them. So, how do you even get started?

Organizing Your Photos Step One: Determine Your Goal

Canva goal - 5 Easy Steps To Organize Your Photos

The first step is to determine your goal: what’s your ideal result? Each person will have his/her own feelings when it comes to family memories.

Would you like your albums preserved as they are?  Do you have historically interesting photos to curate and share with a museum?  Would you like your photos/slides/negatives:

  • digitized and new photobooks created?
  • digitized so they can be electronically shared wit family across the world?
  • digitized so you can let go of the printed copies?
  • sorted so the physical copies can be shared with family members?
  • sorted chronologically and stored in albums of archival boxes?



Determine your goal and then you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Organizing Your Photos Step Two: Gather All Your Photos

canva red album - 5 Easy Steps To Organize Your Photos

Start gathering ALL your photos. Set up one area in your home where you can create piles. Ideally you have a bin and a table.



As you go through the rooms of your home, take all your photos to that designated area. Don’t worry about the actual sorting at this time. Simply gather.


Place all the frames and envelopes in the bin. Locate your boxes of albums. Find everything in your home that is holding a printed photo and take it to the gathering spot.

If there’s an old drawer full of photo envelopes, take that drawer and place it on the table. If there’s a frame on the wall with an image you love, pull it off the wall and place it in your bin. Gather, gather, gather.


Organizing Your Photos Step Three: Sorting Your Photos

Canva pile of photos - 5 Easy Steps To Organize Your Photos

When you have ALL your photos in one location, the sorting begins. Create 3 piles: KEEP, PASS, TOSS.

It’s easy to get stuck at this stage because you’ll want to relive all the memories. Make a conscious decision to use the 2 second rule: in 2 seconds you look at the photo and decide which category it falls.  Place it in a pile and move on. There will be plenty of time later to look through your organized photos and enjoy the flood of memories.

  • Keep: images you don’t want to part with.
  • Pass: images you don’t want to keep but feel family or friends may want.
  • Toss: images you’re ready to let go of.

Organizing Your Photos Step Four: Organize the “Keep” Photos

canva vacation photos - 5 Easy Steps To Organize Your Photos

Now, tackle your KEEP pile. Start with the bigger picture. Create piles by decade.


Some find it handy to create a family timeline outlining big family events: years of marriage, children’s birthdates, moves, vacations, jobs, etc. You’ll need sticky notes and a pen and simply start creating piles.


Organizing Your Photos Step Five: Storing Your Photos


canva photo album - 5 Easy Steps To Organize Your Photos

The steps following the sort will be determined by your goal. If you would like your images digitized, you’ll need to reach out to a Photo Manager to help you with this.


If you want to keep your prints as they are, there are companies who specialize in archival storage solutions, and we can help with recommendations on this.

Or, if you want to keep your newly curated collection in photo albums, there are great options available with so many choices in colour, style, and size. Just be sure be to purchase the albums with sleeves to slide your photos into.

There are also various sizes and styles of photo boxes available. Additionally, you can purchase archival papers to set in between larger images that you may have to place flat in a larger box.

Whichever style you decide to move forward with, be sure the product says Archival Quality and Acid Free on the packaging. You’re taking the time to sort and curate your family memories, and you want to be certain what you store them in is not going to do damage.


Canva camera and photos - 5 Easy Steps To Organize Your Photos

Organizing your photos can be overwhelming but following these easy steps will help you on your way to less photo chaos and more joy with your memories.  And don’t forget, help is available! Whether you just need help walking through the steps or want someone more hands-on, I love helping clients organize their photos!  Reach out to see how GingerSnaps can help you!