Boxes of photos stacked in closets, negatives from a decade-old soccer games--old photos seem to lurk in the background, remembered occasionally in to-do lists and ambitious passing thoughts. But how to organize piles and piles of old photos without hiring a professional?
Decide the scope of your project before your get started. When was the last time you tried to organize old photos? If it was before the dawn of digital cameras, you might even have old rolls of undeveloped film lying around. Decide if you've got the time and resources to organize them all at once, or just focus on the past five or ten years. If you have tons of photos, start with the oldest and move forward from there in stages when you have extra time.
Develop old rolls of film at a specialty camera store to ensure the best quality. Bring any old photos with you that need restoration and have those cleaned up or reprinted as well.
Ask for each roll to be developed and also made into a picture disk. If you're working with a digital camera, go through and delete the ones that aren't keepers. Make prints of the rest for the albums.
Buy several acid free photo albums that hold large quantities of photos. Also pick up a few photo storage boxes for the overflow, and a few CD wallets to keep back up disks.
Roll up your sleeves and dig in. Separate photos into piles according to when they were taken or based on the event they were taken for.
Get rid of all of the photos that aren't "keepers." There is no use holding on to hundreds of old photos that are blurry, have bad lighting, or are not memorable. Select the best ones from each pile and then discard the rest or give them away.
Slide the old photos into the album sleeves in chronological order. If you simply have too many great photos of one event for a single album, use a storage box and label the event on the outside. Place photos that seem to defy organization together into their own storage box and let that box become a catchall for miscellaneous photos.
Make back up disks of digital photos. Archive according to event or date and then use a CD wallet to hold them all in one place. Keep the photo wallet with your other albums and add to it as you archive future photos. If you do this as you go, the pictures won't pile up on your hard drive.