The Best Way To Store Photos
September, 6, 2023
Chances are you’ve got a shoe box at home full of photos, or a jumbled mess of prints sitting in a drawer somewhere waiting for that rainy day you’ve set aside to organise them. Whether you’re trying to protect old film photographs, or want to print out a collection of digital photos to pass on to your children, it’s important to know the best way to store photos to keep them organised and safe from damage over time.
Best way to store photos
Here are our top five tips for how to store photos so you can find them easily and preserve them for a lifetime (or more).
Photo storage tip#1: Curate your collection
In today’s modern world, where digital photos are the norm and a standard 6×4 print can cost as little as ten cents, it can be easy to accumulate thousands of photos. Who doesn’t have a box of old travel photos, with grainy quality pictures of European buildings hiding somewhere in the house?
Before thinking about the best way to store photos, first go through your collection and get rid of photos you no longer want. It will help you save on space, and increase the chance that you’ll actually look through your collection by making your most precious photos stand out.
Photo storage tip#2: Scan photos so you have a digital backup
Everyone’s familiar with backing up digital photos, but it’s easy to forget we should do the same for printed photos as well. It not only gives you peace of mind in the event you lose the hardcopy, but also makes precious memories easier to share with relatives and friends. It’s particularly valuable if you’re thinking about how to store old photos that you’ve lost the negatives for, or don’t already have a digital version of.
Once you’ve curated your collection, decide which photos are the most precious and scan those at a high resolution on your home scanner. If you have hundreds of photos to scan you can also pay to have them scanned by a professional.
Photo storage tip#3: Buy archival-quality boxes or albums
Once you’ve finalised the set of photos you want to store, you need to decide how you want to store your photos. Generally speaking, there are two main methods for storing photos: boxes, or albums. Boxes are great if you’re after a quick method to store lots of photographs, while albums are best if you want to view your photos regularly. Either way, make sure to purchase archival-quality paper boxes, and archival-quality albums as the acid-free paper will prevent your photographs from being damaged over time.
The best way to store photos really depends on what you’re storing them for, so ask yourself a few questions:
- Do you want to be able to look through the photos regularly or do you want to pack them away for safe keeping?
- Where do you plan on storing the photos? Will they be kept in your house, or are you planning on storing them long-term in a self-storage unit?
- How many photos have you got and how much storage do you have? If you’re living in a small apartment, you might need to think about some clever storage ideas to make the most of your space.
Photo storage tip#4: Choose a filing system that will work for you
To keep track of your photos, create a filing system to organise the photos in a way that makes sense to you. You might like to store photos in a box or album according to the year you took the photos, by theme (e.g. travel photos), or by occasion (such as weddings).
Whichever method you choose, make sure to clearly label the outside of your album or box with as much identifying information as you need to be able to quickly identify what’s inside.
Lots of people also like to include information inside the album or box, such as the date a particular photo was taken, the names of the people in the photo, and where it was taken—who hasn’t found an old photo with indecipherable writing on the back!
Rather than writing on the back of your photos, invest in a set of good-quality archival index cards to slot behind photos in an album or use as a divider in a box. Alternatively, buy albums that have space along the margin for adding details. To ensure your photos last, and you don’t lose the information you want to keep, avoid the temptation of writing on the back of the photos themselves.
Photo storage tip#5: Store your photos somewhere safe and accessible
Once you’ve neatly filed away your photos it’s time to decide where you want to store them. The best way to store photos will depend on how easily you want to be able to access them. Before packing everything away, it’s a good idea to think about which photos you might like to rotate through frames in your house, or which albums you’re likely to want to look through more often and separate these photos from the ones you’re packing away for longer term storage. It’s also a good idea to think about whether there are some photos you’d want to be able to grab quickly in an emergency situation such as a bushfire, so you can make sure they’re within easy reach.
When choosing where to store photos, pick a dry location that has a relatively steady temperature, and avoid exposure to direct sunlight. Storing them in a top cupboard or an upstairs closet is typically the best option, as this will also keep them high and dry in the case of unexpected flooding.
Finally, while you want to store the photos themselves in archival-quality paper boxes, or albums, it’s a good idea to store the boxes and albums in larger plastic tubs to save space. The plastic boxes will also provide added protection from potential water damage and are particularly handy if you’re planning on hiring a storage unit.
- New York Times, 2020, How to Store Print Photographs So They Last for Generations