Simple Steps to Organizing, Saving and Displaying Your Family Photos

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simple-steps-to-organizing-saving-and-displaying-your-family-photosA photograph is a priceless memento that acts like your own personal time machine, transporting you back to a moment in your life that you may have trouble recalling when you’re older. Vintage family photos taken before you were born do even more: they allow you to get up close and personal with relatives you may never have had the chance to meet. That’s why we wanted to share some simple steps to organizing, saving and displaying your family photos!

There’s a mystery about these photographs. They help us feel connected, and they’re often the only link we have to our ancestors. It’s important to preserve these connections to the past so that future generations can share in this almost mystical experience.

The best part of printing these archival family photos is uncovering and sharing your family history. In order to create a family gallery wall in my own home, I collaborated with my Mom, our official family archivist. She sorted through family photographs and scanned some of our oldest and most prized family photos. One of the photos my Mom found was taken in Czechoslovakia in 1888 before my relatives came to the United States in 1890. As we emailed back and forth, my Mom and I shared an excitement and appreciation for our family history that I will treasure. My family gallery wall is now complete. But, I’m already planning an expansion. We had too much fun creating this family gallery wall to stop now!

How to Organize and Save Family Photos
Keeping your own (new) photos organized is most manageable if you regularly upload and save your favorite photos. Digital cameras and smartphones have time stamps that make it easy to use your favorite photo storage program on your computer to save and organize snapshots by date or event. You can even add a quick caption or note to remind yourself of the names of people and places featured. Upload photos regularly for an ongoing archive of your memories.

For that box of heirloom photos, it can be harder to figure out what to do. When faced with a stack of unlabeled snapshots, first try sorting them into smaller stacks. Group photos by family member, event, vacation location or where you lived to get a handle on themes. Once you’ve got them organized, start scanning old photos to create digital copies of them to store for future generations.

To protect your photos while getting the best quality scans, follow these steps:

  • Wipe down the glass plate of the scanner with a lint-free cloth to avoid having any dirt damage your photo or show up on your scan.
  • Gently dust photos before scanning as well. It’s a good idea to wear cotton gloves to protect photos from your fingerprints.
  • Use the photo setting when you scan, and take the time to label each photo with a note about the people, places and time period depicted.
  • Consider a cloud-storage solution to free up memory on your computer and keep all of your memories safe. Even if a disaster destroyed your photos and your computer, your digital files will still be available on the cloud from any computer in the world, which provides total peace of mind.
  • Once your photos are digitized, safely store originals in archival boxes for safekeeping. These boxes are available with binder rings and plastic sheets that protect your photos while allowing you to easily find one you’re looking for in the future.
  • Label the boxes and keep them in a climate-controlled space. Though it’s tempting to keep them out of the way in an attic or basement, make sure that extreme temperatures and humidity fluctuations aren’t a factor in your storage space.

Why It’s Important to Print Family Photos
The most enjoyable part of having all these great pictures in your life is displaying them! Printing and showcasing family photos makes them easier to share. A framed print that’s hung on your wall is there for all to see — you don’t have to go rifling through a photo album to point out something to a friend or family member. Framed pictures also make great conversation starters: break the ice by talking about the location on display in one vintage snapshot or describing an ancestor featured in another.


How to Make a Gallery Wall
One of the best ways to display your favorite photos is to create a gallery wall — a collection of framed photos that is unified by theme or frame type. It functions as one standout work of art made up of several individual pieces.

Here’s how to make one for your home:

  • Measure the section of the wall you’d like to use for your gallery, taking into account any existing windows or furniture.
  • Decide how many photos you want to display and use this number to help you choose the photo size you want. Do you prefer many small photos or just a few large ones? Bear in mind that the final frame size will be slightly larger than the size of the print you purchase.
  • Print and frame your photos. For the most convenient option, use the online service at Pinhole Press, where they print, frame and ship your photos. When they arrive on your doorstep, all you have to do is hang them up.
  • Place your frames on the floor to test the arrangement and spacing. Use this dry run to try different arrangements to lock down your design before you start hammering nails into your walls.
  • Measure your wall space again and double-check your spacing on the floor to make sure it will fit.
  • Measure the spaces between frames to be sure everything is even — don’t just eyeball it.
  • Go slowly as you transition from the floor to the wall. Determine your center point and mark the measurements of the rows first.
  • Using painter’s tape will make everything easy to see, and it peels off easily when you’re finished.
  • Next, measure and mark the column lines. If you’re having trouble keeping things square, peel up your tape and make several markings. A level can be helpful as well.
  • Stand back and look at your tape outlines. When everything looks balanced, hang two frames and stand back again. If these look balanced and level, continue hanging your frames to complete your gallery wall.
  • Once your gallery wall is complete, sit back and enjoy it! Guests to your home will love hearing about the memories and stories attached to these special photos, and your home will feature an artistic centerpiece that expresses your personality and enhances your decor.

Alison Dutton-headshotAbout the author: Alison Dutton is the Marketing Director at Pinhole Press, where you can create beautifully simple photo gifts online. Founded in 2010, Pinhole Press has empowered families to share their stories with custom photo books, calendars, holiday cards, memory games and board books. Pinhole Press has been recognized by The Today Show, Good Morning America and The Washington Post for its high-quality, modern and unique photo gifts.


Janet says:

February 26, 2016 at 11:50 pm

Great article with good suggestions on how to present family pictures. I will definitely need to try it out… so thanks for all the good ideas!!


rachellacour says:

February 28, 2016 at 2:22 am

Thanks for commenting, Janet!


Sarah D says:

March 6, 2016 at 11:26 pm

Very creative. some thing i will forward to friends. love nitro sitting there WITH HIS HEAD HELD STATELY, so proud , as if he had a part in creATING THE MASTERPIECE.


Ed Feiler says:

March 9, 2016 at 10:13 pm

I have Over 10,000 negatives, prints, slIdes (some loose, others in carousels). Taken at home and during EXTENSIVE foreign travel (30 COUNTRIES) since 1945.
I haVe RECENTLY sent a few via email to folks in some Of these PICTURES, but my storage and searcH is Very HAPHAZARD.
Do you have any suggestions that will enable me to be more organized, especially since i am 81 years old and want to make it possible for my three adult children to be able to enjoy this extraordinary resource


rachellacour says:

March 10, 2016 at 8:49 pm

Hi Ed,
Excellent comment and question! It sounds like you have a wonderful and valuable archive that needs to be preserved. I would highly recommend reaching out to the author of this post, Thomas, at Roots Family History. He and his team are very savvy and can help point you in the right direction, or even offer to help you by scanning photos for you!

I will email you guys to connect you two!


Ruth James says:

March 18, 2016 at 12:45 pm

it looks like a huge amount of overwork, but it is soooo worth it—-you will not have to straighten your line at every pass if you do it this way!!!!!!! ask me how i know…..


rachellacour says:

March 18, 2016 at 12:50 pm



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