Organizing Family Photos

Parent Q&A

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  • Best File and Photo Storage Options

    (2 replies)

    Hi All,

    I'm in the process of organizing my family documents and photos of the last 10 years. Unfortunately we have not had any systematic protocols in place and it's all a pretty big mess of various hard drives, flash memory, some more recent I-phone cloud storage etc. We never used an online service for backing up photos so most of it is in various folders on hard drives. I'd love to hear from you organized families out there what you use for A) Photos and B) Document back up. My plan is to store everything on some new hard drives and back it all with an online storage. For our documents I've been thinking of opening a google account for document storage ONLY and pay a one time annual fee for say 200GB and fill it up to full capacity and then stop paying. I don't want to have to continue transferring files to free up space or keep paying year after year. I may consider an upgrade to the storage if need be but the big question is what happens when you fill up your storage space and stop paying? Can the files just permanently live there? It seems from the google description that you can still access your files just not add anything or send and receive any e-mails but that should be fine since the account would be for storage purposes only. Any thoughts?

    Hi, I'm a computer tech and I just want to warn you that your understanding about cloud storage, whether Google, Dropbox, iCloud or other service, is incorrect. If you stop paying, your stuff is going to disappear. In addition, you should NEVER rely on cloud storage as primary storage. ALWAYS have at least two physical copies as well. Preferably in different locations for irreplaceable things like family photos.

    Hard drives are dirt cheap these days. What I recommend is that you copy ALL the various bits and pieces onto a big drive (don't bother organizing yet). Then make a duplicate of that drive and store it in a safe place. Then start organizing on the first big drive. Once you've organized, you can upload to a cloud service if you want to share with others or simply have a cloud backup. But you will need to pay EVERY YEAR to continue that privilege. (It's unlikely that all your photos are going to fit in the small amount of space they give you for free.)

    As a first step I would sign up for a online backup service like Backblaze. Backblaze will make a copy of all the files on your hard drives and keep them in the cloud. In the event of a HD failure you can restore the files from their copy. It will back up multiple hard drives. But you do have to keep the files on your local hard drives as well, as Backblaze is meant to be a mirror copy and not the only copy. It costs about $60/yr for unlimited space. Even if you don't want to keep it long term you can use it to back up the existing files while you organize or work on a long term solution. 

    I don't know how the google storage will work if you stop paying the fee. Depending on how much you have to store, you may not need 200GB. If it is for document storage only it shouldn't take up that much space, but photos can easily add up to that size. Dropbox is another good option for document storage. It comes with some free space.

  • So I always thought I would be that super organized and creative mom. The one who makes calendars every year, sends out Christmas cards with the perfect photos capturing our year, and makes an amazing photo book each year containing our favorite photos. Fast forward to me now--frazzled, sleep-deprived, and ashamed to admit that I never even made my first child a baby book! I have devices full of photos (we never quite got our act together for those professional family photos) and my almost 8 (!) year old daughter cherishes a plastic photo book I purchased from CVS and put 10 pictures in for her 5th birthday celebration at school. :(

    I'm trying to get an early start on a birthday present for her and to hopefully get things together and start creating photo books for our family. We take so many photos that we never look at! I have a few months and I'm thinking if I can go through a little bit each night I can pull this off. My question to you wise BPN community, what would you recommend as an easy to use online service to create simple and beautiful photo books? I'm imagining I will slowly go through all our photographs pulling my favorites and have a spot to dump them into that will miracuously create a book from this. A collage style is fine but something simple (no quotes, flowers, etc).

    What services have you used and loved?

    Better late than never...thank you!!

    I personally love Mixbook, and they usually have great deals (40% off promo codes). They have pre-populated themes and I’ve made an assortment of photo books from pregnancy, baby’s first year, and family trips, and they’ve all turned out wonderful!

    I was in the same boat until earlier this week!!

    My kid is walking and talking up a storm, and I only have one photobook from when he was a baby to show for it. The thousands of photos on my phone, ipad, cameras, are all still there, but so few are printed. I *used* to be a big fan of Shutterfly for calendars, fridge magnets, etc for the holidays, but had some negative experiences this year and the costs for everything and shipping have gone up to more than I'm comfortable with (for what I feel like are it's drawbacks), so I'm moving away from them. I recently discovered Pinhole Press. Their interface is much simpler. I made a memory card game in about 30 minutes (including time spent looking for the right photos, which took most of the time). I only started making a photobook last night and I'm almost all done. I'm just waiting for a coupon code before I drop it in the cart, haha. They don't have all the bells and whistles like Shutterfly, but it definitely feels less overwhelming and easier to create stuff on there. Good luck creating memories!

    The simplest interface I have used is Mixbook. I highly recommend their website. The books are also very nice with good photo quality. Good luck! 

    Please don't beat yourself up.  Really.  You can be a terrific parent without a baby book or organized photos.  We never had baby books for our kids.  I managed two albums for the first few years of parenthood (that was the 90s, no digital cameras), then nada.  We managed to do holiday cards.  But never, ever, did professional photos.  And you know what?  Our kids, now grown, are awesome.  

    That said, I did pull together a great photo book for my mom using Snapfish last year.  The site is pretty user-friendly and intuitive, you can add text, and the quality was really good.  

    Totally use google photos.  Just download the app to your phone.  You can then view photos from the app (it looks at your device folders on a phone, or via web, you can easily drag over your photo files).   It's SUPER easy (one click) to add photos to an album - we created an album for each year of life, as well as major things (Ex: newborn photo shoot; family photo shoot Christmas 2018, etc.).  From an album you can click a single button to create a photo book and order in just a couple extra clicks.  Google usually has discount promotions and free shipping going on.  Shutterfly may have a zillion freebie books but the app is a ton of work (IMO), and then they send crazy amounts of spam to your inbox and via snail mail.   This has been the only sane way to easily order photo books to our non-digital grandparents when juggling two careers, commutes, and a child with special needs.  I will note that we have Google phones and are fluent google users and neither of us have ever had a non-work iPhone, so YMMV if you're a big iPhone user and an iCloud ordering service could be your version of this kind of streamlined ease.  Good luck!  You've got this, mama!  Such a thoughtful, wonderful gift I'm sure your daughter will treasure!

    I've had good experiences with Mixbook and am not at all crafty/artistic/on top of things!  It will even create books by default with whatever photos you throw in (or for a fee a live human will do a better job), but I tend to pick a cover that I like then customize the layout of the pages to cram in more pictures than their defaults suggest.  

    I’ve used Shutterfly, they look great, and there are always coupon codes to make them reasonably priced. 

    Hey mama! I hear you— in the same boat over here. I have had a good experience with Chatbooks. If you use social media (I have a private Instagram account where I post pics of my daughter for family and close friends), you can connect Chatbooks to your account and they will automatically propagate a new book with your photos. It’s not the highest quality pics (iPhone to 6” square books) but it gets the job done. The auto fill feature doesn’t work as seamlessly for me because my husband and I take many more pics than I post online— but you can go back and add them in manually too. I think they’re having a sale now too. :)

    Artifact Uprising, hands down! I dump my favorite photos from every trip into their interface and enjoy their beautiful linen covers, gold foil, and excellent customer service. Everyone I know uses them for family books, gifts, and they even have a baby book should you want to attempt this retroactively. You will feel inspired, creative, and supremely talented after making one of theirs. ;) 

    I've used Shutterfly for years.  You can make your book any size, any style, as simple or complex as you like.  East to upload photos from your computer.


    I’ve made many photo books through Shutterfly. It’s best to download the free app and sign up. Everything is in your account. I just made a photo book of my sons trip to London. It’s pretty easy. And they are easy to reach if you have trouble. I’ve made books off my phone and iPad. Try it!

    I just used MPix to create my wedding album (5 years after the fact) and thought there service was pretty simple to navigate, however a few of the photos may have been slightly over saturated. The book is gorgeous and the paper is super high quality. No one else notices the color issues, but I do.

    After doing a little more research, I'll probably use Artifact Uprising for a baby book next year. Good luck!

    I highly recommend Snapfish online service. Many options available for photo books (size, pages, fonts); good quality color and resolution (of course based on your original art); easy to upload jpgs, save drafts, reorganize and edit. And they are fast with production and delivery. There is often a discount coupon for substantial savings. Although I make my own vacation scrapbooks, I have found this service to be superior for all-photo books. And did I say easy? (Btw, I had barely started on baby book for #1 when #2 arrived - that was the end of that.)

    Hi, I use Shutterfly for this. I make an annual (sort of) photo album, and I've ordered Christmas cards and other photo products. They have an option where they make the book for you, and I think you can edit it if you want; I make my own and select the pictures and layouts for each page, but that takes more time. I think they also have a phone app where they'll just take pics from your phone and make a little album. Worth looking into. Quality has been great, and they have options like lie-flat pages if you want to spend more for better quality.

    I think Shutterfly has the easiest interface for photo books. They do have a lot of embellishments, but you can also select simple straightforward styles. They also tend to have a lot of coupons throughout the year. The least expensive option, however, is Costco. You can purchase good quality and inexpensive photo books through their online photo center, but their interface is not the most user-friendly. If you want something very simple, I think it could still be a good option, but if you want to do anything creative with the layouts, Costco is not the best option. Hope that helps!

    I second the Chatbooks recommendation. They are super easy to create—they let you either subscribe to series where they create books automatically from your favorites (or social media), or you can make one-offs. They have a very easy-to-use app, so you can put the books together on your phone. The layout options are very minimal but I like that—fewer choices = easier design process. Quality is medium but they are pretty inexpensive which means I don’t worry about the kids playing with them all the time! You can reorder anytime too.

    What great replies--I learned a lot, and want to add one other point from a recent experience.

    I did a special book for friends--ordered the top of the line leather binding from Snapfish--and was very disappointed with the quality--leather but cheap looking, and the prints weren't that great --Costco has MUCH more impressive leather album covers--although I agree Costco's interface is clunky.

    Original poster here, thanking you so very much for these thoughtful and helpful posts! I’ll post again once I get the finished product but am going to try out two different suggestions to start. Thank you to this amazing community! 

  • An older sibling, suffering from dementia, has moved to a nursing home, and her friends have been sorting through stuff and sending me old photographs and such. I'm keeping the good ones, or those of sentimental value, but most are pretty poor and date back to the '60s and '70s. What can I do with them? As I understand it, they are not recyclable, and I doubt many, if any, are of historical/social value. (And, sadly, I don't do craft projects.) Fortunately, they only fill up about half a shoe box. Any ideas?

    If it is only half a shoe box, I would just sit with this for a while.  You will get some clarity over time.  It's painful to have to cull family photos ("this is good enough - this isn't good enough" - ugh) and you shouldn't feel bad about not being willing/able to just dump it all in the trash at this moment, even if you are the kind of person who can usually be pretty ruthless about these things (I am too).  I kept a bunch of crap from my dad for a while, but gradually was able to let things go and winnow them down, and I don't have any regrets (over that part at least). It's a little like the aging process itself, I guess.  I don't think you have to go full Marie Kondo in this particular situation.  Anyway, for what it's worth, I'm feeling for you. 

    if you’re comfortable with it, the center for creative reuse would probably accept this as a donation!

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Photo Editor to help organize digital photos?

Dec 2010

I am looking for an organizer/photo editor to help wade through years of digital images and organize them onto disks. This would likely involve deleting duplicates, creating folders by date/event and producing a photo book, perhaps one for each year of the best photos. If you know of anyone who takes on these kinds of jobs, please let me know! I am guessing it would mean several hours, some of it working independently and some of it helping me to edit down our existing files. Thanks for any suggestions! Laura

I can strongly recommend the services of Cathy Cade who specializes in projects related to personal histories and photography. Her website is at Cathy has helped me cull YEARS of photos, sort, delete duplicates and poor quality shots, (only after checking wit me!) and organize photo projects for gifts. She is smart, thoughtful, has a great eye for beauty and an appreciation of organization and archiving. Jen

Managing family photos

Jan 2008

So I've checked the archives but can't find quite what I'm looking for. I've been dutifully getting prints from Shutterfly and putting them in albums for our son since I have always been sad that I don't have any photos from my childhood and I don't want him to feel the same way when he grows up. But now that we have a second child I just don't have the time, energy, or money to keep doing it. We store our digital photos on Shutterfly and just got a Mac so we'll start using iPhoto, but I don't like the idea of having the photos just on the computer. I love the idea of the kids being able to look through albums when they are older. Any suggestions about a good middle ground of being able to actually see the photos but keeping the time commitment more reasonable? Will hard copies even stand the test of time? Too many photos!

My recommendation is to get one of the new digital picture frames for displaying the photos. I have been assisting all my friends/clients who got these over the holidays. The frames can pull photos from your PC or you can load a memory card with photos and it will display a new pict every 5 seconds and play music. It is a great way to keep photos top of mind and you can have photos of both kids showing in one place. The more expensive and advanced digital picture frames can pull photos directly from photo sharing sites like Flickr, Picasa, etc. So if you wanted you could take pictures, have them on your computer, also on a photo site and then have them automatically displayed on your digital picture frame through your home wireless network.

Even with that I would still recommend backing up photos to an archival quaility CD/DVD and storing them somewhere safe. Then you can just hand your kids a box of CDs or DVDs when your cleaning out your house in 30 years. Steve

Since you already have your photos on Shutterfly you might try ordering one of their photobooks. We just did this for a Christmas gift for family and I have to say everyone was pretty impressed with the quality. Unlike a traditional photo album the photos, backgrounds, and captions are printed on the same page, almost like a coffee table book. I'm not sure what the longevity is, but I'm guessing it's pretty good, and the process is certainly easier than printing individual pictures and putting them in a book. Good luck with keeping up! Fellow photo fanatic

Storing and Printing Digital Pictures ?

June 2006

I have hundreds of digital pictures of my son, some of which I would like to have printed to send to relatives in friends every 3 or 4 months to keep them abreast of his growth. I've tried Ofoto and SnapFish, and while I do like their results, I am looking for something a bit more portable than a 4x6 picture. Any ideas or suggestions of an exisiting format? Miguel

How about putting them on a CD and sending that out? Or email? Or a memory stick? You could also get a free account at and post your pics there for people to view anytime.

I cannot recommend highly enough High thee to WINKFLASH for excellent prices and better printing results than SnapFish or Kodak/Ofoto. They print up a wide variety of sizes, including WALLET size (39 cents for a sheet of 4). They have great prices on 4 x 6's, at 12 cents each print, and 99 cents shipping NO MATTER HOW MANY PRINTS YOU ORDER!!! Plus, they have professional quality printing. I LOOOOOOVE WinkFlash, and I want them to stay in business, so give them a try, you won't regret it (their site is very user friendly). My only complaint is they don't have enough variety of designs for greeting cards, but that will change as they become better known and appreciated. Best of luck! Alesia

We've started using, and are very pleased with them. Although you need to pay for an account ($40/year) we think it is worth it. The main advantages: You can upload high-resolution images, with unlimited storage, so it acts as an off-site backup (in case your computer dies); friends and family can print directly from the site, or if they are computer savvy, they can download your high-res images for their own collections; it allows viewers to see a full-screen slideshow (with captions) that looks smashing on a 24'' monitor; you have lots of control over how to organize and view your photos, and who can see, print or download them (you can even password protect your galleries, if you want). Their more expensive packages are meant for professional photographers, but even for the amateurs, it offers much more than the free sites offer.

You're not alone with this problem. I run a photolab and have seen that people are taking more picture and yet are printing less. Where do all those photos end up? Crammed into the corners of multiple hard drives, flash cards and dvd's. I recommend EDPB

EDIT: Be ruthless about this and do it immeditely after downloading your files.

DELETE: Delete the pics that are similar but not as good or the pics that are just so-so.

PRINT: Get the best photos printed on paper. The home inkjet systems are OK but when you add time and materials cost together you'll find it's more expensive than getting them printed on photo paper at a lab. I strongly suggest getting things printed on Fuji or Kodak photo paper - they'll last 40-60 years. One product I like for pictures of kids is It's a littel business card sized folding photo album that holds 10 pics.

BACK-UP: Put your favorite photos onto cdr or dvd every couple of months. Best idea is to burn two disks and keep one at a family member's home just in case of fire or earthquake. Good luck! Damian

Drowning in Digital Photos

May 2006

How do other people manage their digital photos? I have an imac which comes with iphoto. My camera takes pictures at 5 mb, which I like because I like to blow stuff up and I hate the pixelly look of digital. However, my NEW computer can't handle the number of pictures I have. I download them off the computer into iphoto, then I have to burn a cd which I rarely have time to do, I really haven't found a fast easy way to burn photo cds with iphoto, printing from iphoto also seems challenging because digital cameras don't take pictures in the 35 mm format, so I have to crop them to print them, which I don't neccessarily want to do. Help- does anyone have a system out there? I can't take more pictures without burning more cd's to make room on the computer, then I am perpetually behind. Drowning in adorable pictures

I think you should look up the local Macintosh Group, where volunteer members help other members. Then let me know what you find because I also take a lot of photos, and I am getting a mac. One thing that I do though is to take the chip from my camera to Walgreens or Longs Drugs and put everything on the camera on a CD right there for 3.99. That way I don't have to have all the photos on my computer. I just have the ones that I work with, and at the end of each week I do a back up on a disk at home, and then delete the pictures from my computer Suzanne C

I also have an (older) iMac, iPhoto, and lots of digital photos. I use an Olympus camera, don't know if it downloads differently from yours. Here's what I do:

iPhoto is great, but I don't use it for storing the photos. When I download the photos from my camera, I manually copy them from the camera to the hard drive. -- When I plug the USB cable from the camera to the computer, it automatically mounts on the desktop like a CD would, and then I just drag the contents into a folder I made on the hard drive. The key is naming the folder, which takes just a few seconds. At the time I download the photos I put them in named folders like this, with year and month first:
2006 May 15 Alices birthday 2006 May 28 Hike at Tilden 2006 May photos 2006 May pics from Sharon
You can have all of these as subfolders withing a larger folder called PHOTOS. This makes it easy to find things, easy to archive, easy to use with the next new photo program that comes along, and easy to copy onto CD - you just drag, drop, and burn. Also, if you are looking at them in List view, the folders are then (more or less)already in chronological order because you named them with the year first. I don't always have time to rename individual photos. When you name your folders, keep the names short, and avoid characters like ''/'' that are not compatible with PCs. That way, no problems when you copy onto CD for someone else.

Another good reason for storing files this way is that you can also save a document or text file (MS Word, for example) in the same folder. You can write notes about the event, who was there, who is in the pictures, memories of the day. Or in my example above, ''Pics from Sharon'' maybe Sharon sent me an email with some photos. I can paste the email text into a document and save it together with the photos.

Note that if you also import the photo into iPhoto, you are making a duplicate, so it will take up twice as much space. I know there are probably some easy ways to manage things in iPhoto, but I'm not very experienced with it, so mainly I use iPhoto to make slideshows or as a digital picture frame with which to enjoy my photos. Someday I'll take more time with it, but not now.

As the owner of an older Mac, I also have the problem of limited hard drive space. My solution has been to purchase an external firewire hard drive. They are plug- and-play, and VERY easy to use. I have one made by Rocstor (which I use for backup), and one made by LaCie (which I use for hard drive overflow and portability), and have also considered another good one from Maxtor. You can purchase from those companies websites, or at various retailers.

Because your photos are precious, you will want to make sure that you have backup. Making CDs is one way. Using an external hard drive to back up is another. Besides making my own personal backup, I always try to make an extra CD to give away to a friend or relative. Sharing photos is nice, but I also have a selfish motive. If a catastrophic event happens like my house burns down and I lose the computer and the backup and all my photos, I can at least ask my friends and relatives for copies of the CDs I gave them.

As for printing photos, I stick with the commercial services (yahoo photos, snapfish, shutterfly, walgreens, costco and so many others). I think it is way easier than printing at home, the quality is good, and besides the ink for the printer is just as expensive, or possibly more expensive.

Good luck. I'm looking forward to reading the advice posted by others. Linden

I got an external hard drive ($100) and I save there my photos and videos EP

I too am drowning in digital photos and your post made me think of a friend of mine who works as a personal photo editor. She can help you edit down your collection to those photos that really tell a cohesive story. She helped me a lot with my collection. I had hundreds of photos that were so similar and I realized that I only needed one or two of the best ones but it was so hard for me to figure out which those were. It was great to have a second pair of eyes help me. She's an amazing photographer and is an excellent editor. She's also really easy to work with. Her name is Amy Kubes and you can reach her at kubes[at] Good luck! paula

Backing Up digital photos

Nov 2005

What is the best way to back up digital photos? We have over two years worth of photos we need to back up. Looking for some technology that will be around for a long time and is not too expensive and doesn't take up too much space. Thanks! gonetomorrow

I back up my digital photos to DVD. It requires having a DVD burner, but those are getting cheaper all the time. You can also back up to CD, of course, but DVDs hold 4 to 5 times as much data, so it's a lot less trouble. Although the current DVD format won't be around forever (high definition formats are already in the works), they'll certainly be around for at least 5 years, probably much longer. At some point, you might have to transfer from the current DVD format to some new format. I don't know of any technology for backing up digital material that's guaranteed to be around forever, but if someone else has an idea, I'd be interested to hear it. In the meantime, DVDs are a cheap and easy solution that doesn't take a lot of space. Photo nut

I put all of mine onto CDs. I hope that technology lasts a long time! Jill

I upload all of my pictures to shutterfly. I figure now they are ''off-site'' in case there is a fire here. I have more than 1500 photos there. I also just had them make archive disks of all my pictures, so I have a backup in case they shut their doors. Those are going to go in my safe deposit box. It cost $50 (I think) to archive up to 2000. It's less for 1000 pix. It was time-consuming process to upload them, but once that was done it was just a few mouse-clicks for the CDs. It costs nothing to store them on their site. I've also used them for printing, calendars, Xmas cards. The service is great and the quality can't be beat. Linda

I'd say you have a couple of reasons and needs in backup up digital photos. One is to insure you don't loose them all when your computer finally crashes for good, while another is to give you a longer-laster archive. So I actually do multiple things. I have an external USB hard drive that is easy to connect and copy file onto (I actually back up my entire hard drive this way). It's great in that you can stick it in a drawer or even out of your house to be a true disaster policy, but it's bad in that you have to physically connect it and make the copies (which I only do about twice a year). I also upload all my photos to an on-line photo printing service. I do buy a few prints from each batch, but I upload ALL of them so that in case of a real disaster on my end, I know they will be there. While these companies may not be there in 10 or 20 years, at least for the near future they'll be there and you could of course upload to a couple different companies. Best of all they have professionals keeping their servers backed up and running and it's is free! You can also do things like write CD's which is cheap if you have a CDR drive, but those can easily get lost and broken too.

Anyway, I'd say use multiple methods to ensure that you really won't lose your photos. Mike

I would suggest that you back up to either CD or DVDs. The cost of both drives and discs have come down considerably. The life expectancy of CD/DVD media is somewhere between 20-100 years, but manufacturers don't really know because they are arriving at these numbers using accelerated aging techniques. They do know that the write-one media (CD-R and DVD-R) is closer to the 100 years while the re-writable media(CD-RW and DVD-RW)is closer to 20.

A big factor in CD versus DVD is is how much stuff you have in terms of size. CDs have a limit of 650MB while DVDs store 4.7GB so if you use the highest resolution on your camera and each picture is 2MB, then you can get approx 325 pictures on a CD. We switched from CDs to DVDs after we had accumulated 4 years worth of pictures.

Lastly you should think about what you are going to do with the back up. Our home survived the oakland hills fire and ever since we have kept a backup of our photos away from our house. We keep one copy with family out of state and a copy in our safe deposit box. One piece of advice on safe deposit boxes. The standard size safe deposit box is not big enough to fit a regular size CD or DVD. I store photos on double sided mini-DVDs which hold 2.8GB and fit in the safe deposit box. Steve

I use Shutterfly to back up my photos. Shutterfly is a free on-line service you can find at I upload all my photos to them and then once a year or so, I order an archive CD. There are a few advantages to this. I share photos on-line with friends and family and then they can order whatever copes they want. I can make cards, invitations and other projects on the service and they are speedily mailed to me. If my computer is stolen or my house destroyed, the photos will be preserved off-site. This actually happened to a friend of mine. All her photos of their baby were on her laptop, which was stolen. Thankfully she had them all on Shutterfly and so she could still recover them. There is also another place called Picture Gallery, which is by Kodak. Finally the yearly archive CD is a nice way to store all photos in a small space. lynn

Burn the pictures onto a CD or DVD disc. Although supposedly storing things on discs doesn't last forever (one of the drawbacks of digital photography), so you might want to save your pictures to more than one location and type of storage. For example, a bunch of online companies (like Yahoo) offer a certain amount of free storage. You could park your pictures there as a back-up to what you save on your hard drive or disc.

I have heard horror stories about archiving digital photos online; one person lost years of family digital photos because of some e-mail address mixup when she changed jobs. She wasn't notified that a payment was due, and the online storage company deleted all of her family's photos. She had no way of getting the photos back and of course no legal recourse: any halfway- decent EULA strips you of all rights whatsoever. If you don't care too much what happens to the photos, I suppose it might be cheaper. However, if the photos are important, you are putting a lot of trust into an amorphous Internet entity over which you have no control and against which you will have no recourse (except perhaps some sort of refund,and even that's doubtful). Ed

Printing digital photos: cheap/easy?

Aug 2003

Attention digital camera buffs! I have just purchased a Minolta Dimage and have uploaded the shots to my computer, but what is the best way to print? Do you recommend buying a printer and special paper? (Isn't the paper expensive?) Or do you recommend using a service like or Isn't it likely that these services will start charging to store photos? What do you recommend? telegraphhill

I use both Ofoto and Shutterfly and they are very similar. There rates are almost identical- about $.50 per photo. It seems like alot, but if you print only the good ones, it ends up, for me, being about $3-4 per set of photos. The quality of both are VERY good. They both do digital ( upload the photos from your computer, and then they are on the web) or you can mail in regular film for development. Shutterfly pre-charges you for development - you pay $4 and they send you a mailer. Ofoto sends you the mailer, and then tells you when the pictures are developed, and you pay $4 to see them. Ofoto, it appears, is a part of Kodak. The prints that I have gotten have seemed slightly better from Ofoto, but that could also be the fault of the photographer (me). While they both allow you to make great looking cards, Shutterfly offers more extensive services, which I think look like great ideas - calendars, scrapbooks, etc. Shutterfly seems to offer more 'sales' too (August sale 20% off stuff). I know ofoto will keep all pictures for a year after ANYONE makes a purchase from one of your albums. THere doesn't seem to be a space limit. Uploading has been much faster through Shutterfly than Ofoto, but both have their limitations. All in all, I think they are both great, and a great way to preserve memories. For a quick and dirty picture, that may not last as long, but is simply used to decorate your cubicle for a short while, then almost any of the printers out there are good. But for photo quality, I'd go with either Ofoto or Shutterfly. Love the web!

I love! Their turn around on orders is super fast and the prices are quite reasonable. I doubt they will eventually charge for storage unless one exceeds a certain limit. But you can just store the pictures on a CD Rom anyway and not have to rely on theirs as the only storage. (I wouldn't do that anyway in case they ever go out of business.) elisabeth

We use and love it. They print your pictures with the cute little white borders of yesteryear photos. Price is good- cheaper than at the store when you think that every picture is a good one and you aren't paying for all the closed eyed, blurry ones. Careful, on printing them yourself they may not last. The inks in a regular printer may fade over time. Juliette

What's the best way to print digital photos?

April 2003

We just got a digital camera and it is very fun but now I want to print them and am baffled. Is buying a printer the way to go or is it better to just burn cds and take them somewhere to get printed? I can't upload to shutterfly or some other service because my dial-up connection is too slow. What tips do you have? thanks Leah

I wouldn't advice against buying a high quality ink jet printer plus photo paper for those instantly must have photos (let's say you need a photo for a greeting card now), but definitely burn the bulk on CD rom and take them to be printed - the quality is much better (especially on skin colour and texture) and it is cheaper as well (printer ink and photo paper are very expensive). Enjoy your camera!

I have a printer and LOVE it. Here's what I do: I pick out my favorite digital photos after I have downloaded them onto my computer from my camera. I then import them into the software program Powerpoint (Word would work, too; in either case, it's a one-click maneuver). There, I can easily crop them, resize them, brighten them, etc. I put about 3 to 4 on a page. Then I put in text captions for the photos and the date. I can then print out the entire page on photo paper on my printer for my photo album and e-mail them to family. Voila, instant annotated photo album. No cutting necessary, no copies of photos you don't like, no clutter in the background (assuming you can crop it out).... my family loves it, too. And I don't think it takes much more time than driving to the photo store, remembering to go back to the store, picking the prints up, etc. And you get to select what size, what cropping, etc., you want. I can also print out blocks of photos in standard print sizes by creating a powerpoint file also, printing that out, and then cutting them from the 8X11 photo sheet. Sometimes it is hard to keep up, but I hear that is true with regular prints from the store, getting reprints for relatives, etc., etc. KB

I print most of my own digital photos and while I have been able to get them to look very good, they are not as good as getting them printed professionally. If you want them to look like real photos I think you have to get them printed somewhere. This is what I've found to work best for getting good photos from the printer: you need a good color printer, quality photo paper and set your print properties to print quality best and ink volume midway between dark and light. Either way it's pretty expensive but probably less expensive than film. The nice thing about it is you only print the good ones. Good luck, Danielle

buy an Epson printer for about $150 at Costco. The print quality is awesome and you can make any size you want, any time, w/o having to drive anywhere. We've printed literally hundreds (probably thousands) of photos in 2 years and it keeps printing beautifully. It's rated as a business printer, designed for thousands and thousands of prints a week. Grazziela

You might try I haven't tried it yet but I hear it's great -- easy to use and good print quality. I bought a $200 photo printer and never use it anymore. The quality is not too good and it's time consuming to use. Also the cost of the ink and paper is expensive. Amy

Just keep in mind that unless you buy archival inks and archival paper, your pics will not last the way a real photo will b/c of the acids in the paper and ink. So for treasured pics, make sure to keep your digital files to make more prints down the road or have them professionally printed. There is actually some doubt among photographers if the Epson archival inks really are that archival. Elizabeth

Displaying lots of photos creatively

Nov 2002

My father-in-law is a photographer, and he spends several hours per week playing with my son. So every month I end up with pictures of my son, of which usually 3 or 4 are ones I would like to display somehow. The problem is that we're already up to our ears in albums and framed pictures, so the packets of photos are just being filed in boxes -- such a waste! Does anyone out there have creative ideas for displaying numerous photos that don't include albums, frames, or the refrigerator? It would be even better if it were something my son could look at and handle with his sticky fingers without ruining anything. Anon

You might try the Exposures company (website is They are all about creative displays of photos, including beautiful frames that can be arrayed on a wall, narrow shelves for displaying photos and creative things like wooden screens/room dividers with slots for many pictures. They often have very good sales and certain dates when everything you order is 25% off. Claire

You could turn the photos into placemats by pasting them on large pieces of thick paper and laminating them. You could hang a wire against the wall and clip photos to it-- like a clothes line, but with photos.

Hang a length of yarn, string, ribbon or wire on the wall, attached at each end so it is parallel to the floor. Hang photos from it with clothespins or paper clips (decorative clips are nice, but plain ones work just fine). You can put the photos in plastic sleeves (available at places that sell scrapbooking supplies) if you want to protect them from sticky fingers.

This method allows for much easier rearrangement than a collection of frames, and your son can move and change the photos to his heart's content if you hang them within his reach. You can use multiple parallel rows of string if you've got a tall wall space, or one long row if that fits better. You can mix in your son's artwork, too.

I'd keep the boxes or albums as a chronological record and use duplicates for display, but if you'd rather you can just put the older photos in a box when they are replaced in the display by newer. Holly

I've seen some great ideas in a catalogue (and online) from Exposures ( They have what they call hanging display panels - clear plastic sleeves that fit 4x6 photos in long row - either 15 horizontally or 14 vertically. I've also seen similar plastic sheets in rectangular shape with grommets at the top for hanging (not sure where to get those). Either solution is reasonably priced, kid-friendly, and easy to rotate. Stacey

One Step Ahead sells a wall hanging display that holds up to 40 photos (for about $10). You can find it at by searching for ''picture pockets'' or ''photos''. ---Rachel

I have some ideas for your photos that your son could put his ''sticky fingers'' on: Use the photos to illustrate books that you write about your son. You can use other books for story lines. You can either laminate the pages or put them in binders with plastic page protectors. You could blow the photos up and cut them up with each piece focusing on a particular body part. Laminate the individual pieces or affix them to some sort of board in the same shape. You will end up with a puzzle that you can use to teach your son the names of his body parts. Lauren

Two ideas come to mind. One would be to laminate the pictures, either attached to a piece of paper, or just the pictures themselves. This could be made into a simple little book by punching holes in the corners and putting the photos on a ring (get it at an office supply store). We've done this for my son with pictures of his extended family, whom he gets to see very seldom, and the ''sticky fingers'' comment brought it to mind. The other is a method we've used in my son's room for his artwork (he brings new paintings home a couple of times a week from daycare): We've strung a line (attached to hooks, cleats, or even just nails) fairly tightly across one wall, and have been attaching the paintings with clothespins. Perhaps you could do something like this, on a smaller scale, using miniature clothespins and picture wire. Allows for frequent changing of displays with minimal effort. Karen

If you want something your child can play with, I've had photos laminated. You can just wipe them off if they get dirty and they won't bend or tear. You can punch holes in the plastic and wire several photos together, or use a key chain. susan

I have two thoughts, neither of which count as creative. First, have your FIL develop his film through an on-line photo service like Shutterfly. That way, you will only pay to print the photos you actually want to use, and won't have full envelopes of photos and duplicates that you don't like enough to display or put in albums. Second, I like those little dinky 4x6 floppy photo albums they sell at the drug store for a dollar or so. I put pictures in those, stick the date on the front, and then I don't worry about the kids flipping through them. I've been doing them for 5 years, and my kids love looking through the boxes of old baby pictures. Judith

Archiving & displaying old photos

Nov 2002

I have many old family photos from both my and my husband's families, some in those awful magentic photo albums, some loose in boxes and envelopes. I'd like to organize them and put them in new, archival albums but I'm not sure the best method. I use scrapbooks for recent photos, but I don't want to use those sticky photo tabs on these photos, since many have interesting things written on the backs and we may want to take them out later to copy them. Photo corners don't seem right either, since many of the photos are old and brittle, and others are the heavy antique kind. I know the magnetic pages are bad and regular slotted photo albums won't work, given that the photos are all different sizes. So what's the solution? Any scrapbooking experts out there? I didn't see anything about this in the archives or in the recent discussion about dividing family photos. Thanks. nelly

To answer all you questions in writing would take more time than I have, I'm afraid, but I would be glad to answer by phone. Also, I'd recommend getting a Light Impressions catalogue by calling (800) 828-6216 or going to their web site I am not associated with them---it's just that they are a wealth of information and archival supplies. (I am an artist but not an archivalist.) Romney

A company called Your Family Legacy has a website with lots of info. about this. Of course they will try to sell you supplies, some of which you don't really need! Good luck. JP

The Website of the American Institute for Conservation has some very useful information on this subject. See and in particular

And be sure to see the US National Archives & Records Administration's site:

Good luck! Patrick,

Use a scrapbook type album with stick-on plastic sleeves! An odd-size photo will always fit into a sleeve that's larger, so use an assortment of the current standard sizes (you can cut them to fit better, if you like -- for example, cut one edge off of a 3.5x5 sleeve and you've got a good size for old Polaroids) and fit them in any arrangement on a page. You can get the sleeves in the same places that sell corners and similar scrapbooking supplies.

Also, you can go ahead and use archival quality stickum if you simply copy any writing on the backs of the photos to a scrapbook label! Holly

The first rule of archival preservation is ''don't do anything that can't be undone later'' - in other words, don't permanently change the item you want to save. This rules out any kind of direct adhesive, no matter how ''archivally safe'' it claims to be. Not only do adhesives violate the first rule, almost all will fail after some decades pass. As you know, those ''magnetic'' albums are about the worst offenders: over time they permanently glue the items in place, and often the glue transfers acid discoloration in streaks to your pictures.

To put my old family pictures in albums I am using two archivally sound methods. Neither allows seeing the back of the photo, but if you search on the supplier's website I mention below you can find some pocket type pages that would allow this.

1- Photo corners, and then the whole page goes into a clear plastic sleeve. Since the adhesive is on the album page and not the photo it is acceptable, but as I expect the adhesive to eventually fail I'm hoping the plastic sleeves will at least keep the photos from being lost. I burnish the corner onto the page before slipping the picture in so they'll stick on longer I hope.

2- Heavier weight album pages in which I cut slits with a utility knife, two slits per corner, and slip the corner through. This takes more time, but should last longer.

For both methods all my supplies are acid free, archivally sound paper and plastics. I use Light Impressions ( as my source, which is an accepted supplier of archival supplies to museums and archives, but I think there are a few others. Charis

Dividing up old photos in magnetic photo albums

March 2002

My 72 year old father recently mailed me 8 large albums of photos from my childhood, baby pictures onward, that my mother (now deceased) kept. I have a sister on the East Coast - we manage to see each other about once a year so it would be wrong to just keep all these myself; they mean a lot to her, too. I have the feeling it would be too expensive to have each and every photo copied (I know there are places that will copy from prints), but I don't know what else to do. Another problem is that the albums are the kind with magnetic pages and after 40 years, the photos are practically glued into place. Any ideas on how to handle this project would be appreciated. My sister and I getalong pretty well so we can probably handle some form of compromise, but dividing up photos is hard -- each is unique! I would also welcome suggestions of good places to handle copying.

If you are having trouble getting photos out of a magnetic album one thing you can do is use dental floss to ''saw'' them out. You can also use a tool that is similar to an orange stick (used for manicuring nails). It's so important to get them out of the album. The poly-vinyl chloride in the clear plastic will continue to yellow your photos as long as they are in the album. They are emitting chlorine gas right onto your photos. And the adhesives are just not meant for photos. They, too, can accelerate the deterioration of your photos. Longs and Walgreens have a service where you can make excellent copies of your photos and frequently they have a buy one get one free offer. If you simply make color copies at the copy shop you will have a product that will not last because regular paper has acid and lignan in it. Acid causes paper to eventually crumble and fall apart and lignan is the wood pulp in paper that causes it to yellow. If you are spending so much time and care on your project keep in mind how long you want it to be around, long enough for your children and their children to enjoy. Definitly contact someone (some sort of archiver?) about how to get them out. One thought that I had, too, is that having them copied- while expensive, will give the photos a new lease on life. My dad is a photographer, and one of his projects for a photo class was to set up all of you old family pics up, put his mid-grade camera (nothing special, just pentax- not point and shoot) on a tri-pod and took picures of the pictues. It turned out MUCH better than some of the phot copiers that you see at the store. Lastly, in my family, we divided up the pics this way- I got all the pics of me, my sister got the ones of her. If I wanted a certain pic of her, if she wanted it- I paid for a copy, or she just gave it to me.... Other pics it was easy enough to divide them fairly.

I would consider doing color photocopies for the photos you both want but don't intend to frame. This way you can do a bunch at once, and I think each photocopy is about $1 or so (I could be wrong on that price, though). Even the ones in the 'stuck' pages can be copied that way. The photocopies will probably fade over time, but you will at least each have a copy, even if it just lives in a photo album for most of the time. Spend the extra money to get 'real' reproductions done if you want to frame them. Another suggestion may be to scan them and print the photos on photographic paper. This has some draw backs because you may not have the time or equipment to get this done in an orderly fashion. Also, if there are a lot, it might take up a lot of 'room' on your computer. AND the price could really add up. One final (unsolicited!) suggestion is that these photos may make a PERFECT gift. A friend of mine recently did this for her sister's 30th birthday -- she went through the family photos and made a photo essay of their life growing up. It was a most appreciated mark of the sister's special day!

What I did with my old family photos was buy an inexpensive scanning machine (at the time $125 - now probably $25) and got to work scanning in the photos. It took quite a while, so I just made a plan to scan for about an hour a day for a week or two. I then burned them on to CD Roms and gave them out as Christmas gifts. Many printers today can do photo quality prints and Ritz camera will also print out even nicer photo quality prints for a reasonable price. By the way, the scanner will probably be able to scan quite nicely right through the plastic on the magnetic pages so you don't have to worry about removing them.

Why not scan the photos in and create either a electronic scrapbook (there are many companies on the Web that provide this service) or use a software (like Adobe Premiere) to create an electronic slide show that you can write to a DVD or dump to a VHS tape? Photos (especially old ones) will only continue to degrade and scanning them will mean that your kids, grandkids, and so on will be able to enjoy these photos in the future. Last summer my sister and I archived my grandmother's photos and created a ''movie'' with music that was shown at her memorial service. We probably compiled a similar amount of photos plus video clips - because we were novices it was ALOT of work (100 hours between the two of us?) but the end product was well worth it. Plus it will never degrade and it can be copied to all of our family members with very little effort. We liked Premiere but there are undoubtably a number of packages out there and a little research on what would best suit your needs is probably time well spent. Our only regret is that we weren't able to do the movie for my grandmother to enjoy (she had suffered from Alzheimer's for a number of years). However the movie was a wonderful way for the family to remember how she was for most of her life. We are now putting something similar together for my parents (they have their 40th anniversary this year), so the whole family can enjoy it together.

In our family, we took the albums to Kinko's and had them color photocopied. This is much cheaper than reprinting from negatives. It is possible to then bind the copies and make duplicate albums. Good luck finding a solution.

I have a great suggestion for you. Forget making a copy of the pictures or scanning them in. Don't even disturb the pictures. You can buy or borrow a nice digital camera and take a photo of each picture using the macro function and upload the digital pictures to and put them in a digital album. Be sure to take the picture outside with lots of natural light for best result. You can share the album with your sister and she can order the prints that she want. Signing up with Ofoto is free. I would recomend a nice digital camera that is at least 3.3 megapixel, such as the canon G2.

My East-coast sister and I have recently experienced the exact same problem (Dad is moving), and we've found a high-tech solution that helps at least a little bit. If you have access to a computer with CD burner and a scanner (good scanners can be bought for around $50 these days), you can scan the photos and make CD albums that can be copied for the whole family (and, if you like, you can incorporate text that includes family stories, or even some digital video.) I realize there's no replacement for the actual print if you were hoping to frame and display them, but for ''album'' pictures it's a decent alternative to paying to have them all copied--the CD picture quality is quite good, they should last for years and years, they're infinitely reproducible, and the ''albums'' don't take up much space.

I can imagine how glued in those photos might be after who knows how many years in them! Have you considered sharing the albums with your sister? Since you see her yearly, you could have 4 albums and she could have the other 4, then yearly trade your sets so each sister has a chance to enjoy all the photos. They are both of yours, of course, and this way you both have a chance to have them and relish them without damaging the photos. Just a thought. You know best if this would work for you and your sister.

My grandmother recently had all of her daughters and granddaughters go through her jewelry box and tell her which items we would like to have one day -- as she put it, ''I don't want to give you something you don't like and which Kate coveted.'' I think it would be best if you employed the same theory with your sister and the photos. Bring along all the albums for your next visit and plan to spend a few hours going through them together. You'll probably be surprised -- you will find some that really speak to you, and she will have others which are on her ''must have'' list. Of course, there will be some you both love -- *those* will be the ones you copy. I think this system is much better than just copying them all, as that would be very expensive. As for the issue of the magnetic pages, I can't offer any real solid advice -- but talk to the folks at Looking Glass Photo on Telegraph. They are a professional photo lab and although this question is not probably a little out of the ordinary for them, they will likely have some sound advice for you. I have found the staff there very helpful.

One possibility is scanning the photos and printing them out on photo quality paper (either yourself or through a camera store or online service like Snapfish). This could take a very long time, however, for lots of photos. I think that I would just color xerox them on good quality paper, and then divide them up (each of you taking half of the copies and half of the original prints). I have done this in the past, and been very happy with the quality (and it isn't too expensive because you can fit several photos on one 8 1/2 x 11 sheet).The magnetic pages are awful; I have removed photos by using a thin metal implement, like a letter-opener, behind the photo. In many cases I lost the back of the photo, but figured it was better to get it away from the destructive chemicals in the pages.

How to organize large numbers of negatives

April 1998

I am in the process of designing a photo album for my daughter. I do not have a good idea on how to organize the huge number of negatives for easy reprints and future uses. Any suggestions? Lijing

to organize negatives... glue a manila envelope on the back page of the album and keep the negatives for THAT album in it. Of course I'm 3 yrs behind on my albums, but in principle it works well! Also, Seattle FilmWorks (and maybe other places too) will print (for $1) a mini-proof sheet for each roll that helps you remember which negative goes with which picture. Deborah

Regarding photo albums and organizing negatives, I buy those handy storage boxes that you can find at Ross or Stacks and after I've put the pictures in the albums, I store any extra pictures with their negatives in the boxes. I label them carefully (for example, X-mas '98) and keep them in chronological order. The boxes come with a little tag on the outside so that you can write down the contents. The boxes cost a bit, but I think the money is worth it. Good luck!

You can buy plastic sheets with pockets for negative strips- each page will hold enough negatives for around 36 prints. (Century Plastics, a mail order company, has them and you can usually buy them in photography stores as well.) Once you have the sheets, just put each roll in order in a sheet and label the sheet. Then it's easy to find the right roll and negative (hold the whole sheet up to the light). I have given each roll of film a consecutive number which I label both the prints (or envelope/ album page holding them- some albums have index pages) and negatives with. Good luck! The hard part is keeping ahead of it- I'm already a year behind and my son is only 16 mos. old!! Naomi

In reply to your inquiry... I am a Creative Memories Consultant...I teach workshops and Home Classes on layout ideas, journaling ideas, and photo preservation principles, in the making of scrapbooks. You may get some good ideas from one of my classes...please email me if you are interested in my schedule. (A first class is $15 with on-going workshops to complete your album every week, and extended workshops every month.) Hope to hear from you. Good for you for making an album for your daughter. What a precious gift to make for a child. Sincerely, Molly

for many years i have kept all photo negatives in a safe deposit box at the bank. after having a house fire and friends whose house burned to the ground, the comment made most often was i lost my baby pictures and family pictures which i can not replace. it seems like a small amount to pay for the knowledge that if something should happen that i could alway have the negatives reprinted. i put the dates on the packages so i can check them out quickly if i need a reprint. the safe deposit box is kept dark and cooler than my shelf in a closet or cupboard. Joyce

You can purchase full page negative sleeves at a photo supply store, like Looking Glass photographic Arts on Telegraph and Oregon. These work great, are easy to see the negatives and are great for storage. Toby

For emergeny reasons I keep all of my negatives together in one container, that I can just grab and run out the door with. This container is kept in an easy accessible storage space close to the front door. I have kept the negatives for each roll in the envelope they came in and labeled the outside, so I know what's in it. Where it makes sense, I'd group a few rolls together under a theme (vacation in...). This way I can easily locate negatives for reprints. The search might be 3 minutes longer than having all negatives organized in individual storage sheets, but I don't have to spend so much time in advance organizing everything for the few times I really need to look up something. So, the only prep work to do is to label the envelope and deposit it into the container. I have been photographing a lot over the past 15 years and I've always been able to find any negative I was looking for within 10 minutes. Good luck! Heike