Organizing Photos: Presentation is Only the Icing

by Sally J.

in * How to ORGANIZE Your Photos, Free Articles / Blog

Scrapbooking is a very popular hobby here in the United States. Surely you’ve seen stunning examples in your own family or group of friends. And who wouldn’t appreciate a personalized scrapbook made for them by someone they love? What a beautiful, thoughtful gift!


Scrapbook Supplies by Shimelle Laine Scrapbookers are creative visual artists who have collectively raised the bar on what we consider a quality photo album. Huzzah for that!


But there’s a dark side to this — and it doesn’t have anything to do with preservation…

I consulted with a client once who was sort of beating herself up about scrapbooking. She had made a vow to herself to deal with her photographs before the end of the year, and the kids were back in school already.

Here’s what she said to me:

“I feel like I’ll be judged a bad mom if I don’t transform all these photos into beautiful scrapbooks.”


How on earth did this happen?

Please understand: I’ve got nothing against scrapbooking. For many people, it’s a beloved hobby. For me, it’s a nightmare. If there’s such a thing as a”crafty gene” I can assure you that mine is damaged or missing entirely. And while I can recognize and appreciate good design, I can’t seem to create it, much to my dismay. Add to that the fact that I can’t seem to trim a photo correctly or set one down on a page without it coming out crooked, and you can see why I don’t go on weekend-long scrapbooking retreats.

We owe scrapbookers a huge dept of gratitude for making so many presentation options available. Especially photo-safe options. The scrapbooking industry has literally held manufacturer’s feet to the fire and demanded acid free materials. But no one should feel guilty if they prefer to use slip-in pages and plain 3-ring binders rather than a 12 color layout with embossed letters and a lovely translucent overlay. Presentation matters, yes. But don’t let other people’s elaborate designs prevent you from organizing, archiving and sharing your photos. At the end of the day it’s the photos and the stories behind them that matter.

Organizing Photos for NON-Scrapbookers:

  • Remind yourself before you start that the presentation is the icing, not the cake itself.
  • Choose the photos you love the most. The ones that stop you in your tracks. That make you grin, or cry. Whatever. The ones that really MEAN something to you.
  • Write down the stories behind your photos – the stories that will disappear after you are no longer here to tell them. I use Denis LeDoux’s Photo Scribe method, which is designed specifically for people who are intimidated by writing. It’s one of the 5 books I recommend to every family historian, see Practical Archivist Recommends for more details.
  • Regardless of your personal style, be sure to use only PAT-passed materials. See this article of mine to learn why so-called “archival photo boxes” might not be as safe as you imagine.
  • Start with one album that chronicles you and your partner’s lives together. If you have kids, start with an album about your lives together before kids.
  • Next, you can create one for each of your kids. Skip the baby pictures if you already have an elaborate baby book with pictures.
  • After that’s done, make the “extra” scrapbooks for individual vacations, etc.

Two final thoughts:


Perfection Is the Enemy of the Good



Photo of scrapbooking supplies by Shimelle Laine
CC Some rights reserved



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