What Do You Do When You’re OVERWHELMED With Family Photos?


What do you do with all the family photos you are carrying around in your pocket on your phone? Do you have printed photos or photo albums?

In my previous life, I was a professional photographer taking photos of brides and grooms  on actual film, that had to be developed at a store (crazy right?).  My favorite part was organizing the photos into puffy gold-edged albums. I had my own albums of all my growing up years, until the revolution of digital photography. 

When I got my first digital camera, after my oldest was born, I didn’t want to miss a minute. And I didn’t!  All of a sudden, our phones became our cameras.  What a blessing to have them with us everywhere, but what do we do with the thousands upon thousands of pictures we have? And how did we moms get the job of family photos archivist?  Here are some tips to help you if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with pictures.  

Get them organized and backed up: 

However you decide to organize, making sure your digital photos are stored in more than one place makes sense. A technology malfunction is almost a given at some point, and what a tragedy if it takes your precious photos with it. I have mine saved to my computer, on two outside storage devices, and to several services like iCloud and Google.  I organize them by year/month in folders, which works great until someone asks me for a picture of something specific (like that polka-dotted dress that Claire wore before Grace – ugh, no idea where that is).  I have friends that organize by subject matter or location – whatever works for you!  

Make them real:

I have found that the best way to enjoy digital photos, is to turn them into real photos.  Rarely do I get the kids to sit around the computer with me and look at pictures of when they were little. They are much more likely to snuggle on the couch and look at photo books.  One important thing to do with family photos is make them tangible.

Just start somewhere:

Even if you’re overwhelmed, and have too many disorganized photos from years of accumulation, just starting somewhere can bring a great sense of accomplishment.   Walgreens and Shutterfly both have relatively inexpensive photo books. I prefer Walgreens.  Archiving memories is one thing you can do with family photos, and it doesn’t have to be pricy. Between generous coupons and free shipping, I rarely pay over $20 for a book. Their software is continually changing and improving, and it doesn’t take long to get the hang of.  

A sense of accomplishment can be motivating:

Last Sunday instead of scrolling Facebook too long, I tackled a vacation photo book (that I had been putting off for over a year) of our trip to Montana LAST summer.  Four hours, 143 photos, and 23 pages later I had created a lovely family memory for $20. Tonight when I picked it up, we all enjoyed going through each page and reminiscing about when we used to be able to travel freely and visit family (sigh).   

Be realistic and not discouraged:

While I know I’ll never be able to get all my photos into albums, I do try to make sure I get most of the highlights, especially family vacations. I know what to do with family photos as I used to do one for each kid for each year to capture their highlights. With three kids and lot of responsibilities, I finally admitted I could never keep up. I try not to beat myself up though, and am reminded that any memories captured are a blessing.  

Gift giving: 

Photo gifts can be especially meaningful, and books can be a wonderful way to share old and new photos with someone you love. For my 50th this summer, instead of the party we had been hoping for, my mom and dad gifted me with a new book of old photos. It captured many of my childhood birthdays and family events in photos I hadn’t seen in years, restored on new shiny pages. What a treasure!  The kids have done books for dad too.  So fun to have them pick out the pictures they love, and write captions with the editing software.  A great project to keep those remote school kids busy!  

Don’t forget the walls: 

While we love photobooks, we have also enjoyed our family vacation picture wall.  If you haven’t had time to make one, maybe now is your chance! There are lots of places that offer inexpensive frames; Hobby Lobby and Wal Mart are my favorites. Walgreens can have your enlargements in an hour. Find those pictures of the family kissing the dolphin, or enjoying the summer, and get them wall ready. There are probably whole blogs on designing your picture wall, but we just chose a blank wall and went for it, arranging as we went. Now, often as we go upstairs, we stop to notice how Luke used to be shorter than his sister, and how we’ve loved the beach ever since they were babies.  

I think many of us feel almost burdened with the task of capturing and preserving our family memories.  I am trying to see it more as a joyful blessing. I loved my quiet morning of reminiscing and creating our most recent book so much, that I set a goal for myself to try to make that a weekend project at least twice/month.  Not only do I love the books, I love going through the pictures and seeing how we’ve all changed, and remember all of the fun times we’ve had together.  

What other ways have you organized and enjoyed your family photos? 

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Augustana College brought Rachel to the Quad Cities as a student, and she has stayed here ever since making Rock Island her home. Rachel works full-time as the Associate Director of Admissions at Augustana, and is raising three kids, Grace (17), Luke (15) and Claire (10). Her husband Bill teaches art at Rock Island High School and is a freelance artist doing murals, caricatures and architectural renderings. Rachel enjoys being involved with her kids' sports activities, and also is an advocate for JDRF (the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) in support of her daughter with Type 1 Diabetes. She also loves to plan awesome vacations and adventures with her family, and leaves the beach most of all.


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