If you’ve ever heard me speak, you know I’m a strong proponent of the ABCs of Photo Organization. This process, named the “ABCs” by the founder of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers, Cathi Nelson, outlines the basic steps involved when you are organizing your photos.
A=Album. Or, all your very best, favorite, photos. These are the ones you want to view, share and enjoy regularly. If they are prints, you want to scan them. If they are digital, you want to rate them so you can find them in the vast sea of photos.
B=Box. Maybe an antiquainted reference but “box”, in this instance, means a Photo Box. It can also refer to your digital photos folders. It means these photos are the ones you want to keep but aren’t planning to frame, add to your annual photo book or print to share with friends and family. Maybe it’s one of ten photos from a birthday party; they are all important to you but you have another that you prefer. This one is stored safely in your digital hub, backed up (you know the 3-2-1 Strategy for backup yet?) and you do enjoy having it to remind you of the events surrounding it. It’s safe.
C=Can. As in trash can. You have one for prints and you have one for digital photos. This is often a sticky subject. We are attached to our photos. When it’s suggested we should throw it out, many of us are offended. Folks, a whole industry of photography was based on that emotional reaction to the idea that photos of our loved ones might be trashed. But seriously, how many photos do you need of Sally blowing out the candles on her cake? Maybe the ones that are blurry can go – especially if you have some that aren’t!
People generally are okay with getting rid of BAD photos but what about redundant ones? That’s a little harder.
I think of it like this: If I keep 5-6 photos of everything I photograph, and I photograph…say 1 thing per day…at the end of the month, I have 150-180 photos. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Now, let’s say I do that every month for one year. Now, I have 1800-2,160 photos. Keep doing the math… After ten years of this, I would have 18,000-21,600 photos. When Sally is graduating from High School and you want to find the one you really liked of her blowing out the candles on her cake at her tenth birthday…where do you start? All of the photos you don’t even care about are in the way of finding the one you do. If you can just choose your favorites and let the rest go NOW, you will have significantly fewer photos (Cathi Nelson, APPO Founder, says probably only 20% of your photos are keepers) to actually organize in a meaningful way so you can FIND the ones you value most. Which, in my humble opinion, is the most important aspect of having a photo collection in the first place.
The last letter of our ABCs is the little “s”. Often overlooked, it stands for Story. At the end of the day, the entire reason we all keep our photos is so they can continue to inspire memories and tell our stories. For us to enjoy and for future generations to learn a little about the lives we lived before them. You are really doing everyone a favor when you take the time to eliminate the C photos. Just like you, future generations might be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of a disorganized inherited collection and decide it’s just not worth the effort. Which is sad but it does happen.
It doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you start somewhere! How about beginning with the photos you took today? I purge mine about once per week, depending on how many I’ve taken (sometimes less often, sometimes more…) Delete the ones that are badly composed, poorly lit, blurry AND redundant. It will make you feel good and help motivate you to take the next step toward an organized collection that you can enjoy.