Old Family Photos


A reader asked what to do with old family photos. It can be a big project, so make sure you break it down into little steps. Still procrastinating? Break it down into tinier steps.

The first thing is to bring them to family members who might know who they are if they are not labeled.

If you want to create an album, gather the pictures together and decide how you want to organize them. By date? By location? By who is in the photos? By theme? This is probably the longest part, so only do a few minutes at  a time if it overwhelms you. Wear cotton gloves to protect the photos.

Ones that you don’t want for the album you can still put in photo safe boxes (archival quality, acid-free). Not in a shoebox which doesn’t keep them from decay. If you have pictures in those old sticky type albums TLC says to keep them there. Trying to get them out can tear them.

Remember, you don’t need to keep them all. See if family members want some. You can even throw out the bad ones.

Don’t store your albums in damp places like the basement or the garage. Store negatives in a safe. According to the Library of Congress, photos should be stored at 68°F and 30-40% relative humidity

If you scan your pictures (or pay someone to have them scanned) you can create faster albums through places like Shutterfly. You should scan at least a few, in case of fire, to preserve your family history. And you can put them online on a family website, put to DVD as a slide show, put in a digital picture frame. Make sure the scanner is dust free. And scan at least 300dpi.

Other ideas (scan them first):

Turn them into an ornament

Put them under glass on a coffee table or on dresser

Put them in old windows

Put them on pillows

in Mason Jar

Get photos copied on a t-shirt, mug, calendar or mouse pad.

What do you do with your photos?


  • Jo says:

    Have you any thoughts on divorce items.
    I have been stuck for 3 years with photos, a ring, memories of having 3 children together…. how and what do you let go of… and when?

  • Leslie says:

    Having been thru 2 divorces, I decided to divide all the photos, momentos, rings, etc. among my 3 children. For a few yrs after the last divorce, I compiled everything in albums, movies on CD’s, etc. and gave it to them at the same time. It was very meaningful to each one of them. Now I have 3 granddaughters (9, 13 & 18) and I am making keepsake gifts about our extended/blended families to present to them. I have found joy in passing along these memories to all my family. Something painful & burdensome has become a loving gift for me to give to my loved ones to cherish for a long time. I am 61.

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