Your kids grew up in the era of the disposable camera and now all evidence of their childhood is tucked away in boxes. You were the person in your family to inherit all those old sepia-toned photos of your parents and grandparents. Like 86% of recent survey participants, you have family photo albums that you almost never look at.

No matter which of these scenarios sounds familiar, they all leave us asking the same question: what am I supposed to do with these old family photos? Fortunately, you have more options than you might think.

Read on for our guide to transforming your old family photos from clutter into keepsakes.

Start with Organization

If you’re the owner of your family’s old photos, it’s likely that you have more than a few sleeves of pictures. Because family photos became more accessible as early as 1900, it’s possible that you have boxes and albums packed with thousands of photos that you haven’t laid eyes on in years. Now that you’re digging back into the collection before digitizing your photos or using them in projects, it’s time to get organizing.

Cull the Collection

It can be a great pleasure to look back at photos of your family members throughout the years, from your grandfather’s baby pictures to snapshots from your child’s sixteenth birthday. The same isn’t exactly true of all those pictures of trees, monuments, and unnamed mountain ranges.

Yes, the photo probably meant something when it was taken. If you have no more context for it or the memories are more significant than the photo, it’s okay to get rid of it. As you go through old family photos, separate them into “keep” and “discard” piles, asking other family members to weigh in when you can’t decide.

Put Your Collection in Order

If you’re lucky, your old family photos are still in some semblance of order. They may be organized into photo albums or kept in the original sleeves from the first development. If this isn’t the case, however, you may want to come up with some kind of system to keep track of what you’re looking at.

One option is to put photos in chronological order, which is easiest when you’re dealing with date-stamped photos. You can also organize them by subject matter or family member. For example, you can create categories like birthdays, weddings, and holidays.

While this step isn’t a must, it can make it easier to enjoy your photo collection.

Set Aside Favorites

If you’re planning on digitizing your photos (something we highly recommend), you may also have plans to get rid of most of the physical copies. Even if you’re tired of hanging onto thousands of photos, it’s never a bad idea to set aside a few of your favorites as keepsakes.

While we’ve largely moved on from film photos in our digital world, there is a bit of a resurgence in film photography thanks to the power of nostalgia. Some of your younger relatives may appreciate the chance to look at real film photos or want to own a few of the physical copies, themselves. 

Prioritize Digitization

Whether or not you’re still a photo album lover, digitization is an absolute must. We’ve talked before about the damage that VHS tapes can sustain over time and while the mechanics are different, the results are the same. For the sake of preservation and longevity, photo digitization should be your top priority. 

Let’s take a look at some of the things you should know about digitizing your photo collection.

Easy Sharing

Should you put your digitized photos on USBs or store them as files directly on your computer? With our help, you can do both with ease.

Putting family photos on USBs is a great way to share them with other family members. While mailing entire photo albums around the country would be a hassle (not to mention only one household could enjoy them at a time), USBs are easy to mail. In addition, you can create digital albums on your computer or store them in the cloud for easy social media sharing.

Time-Tested Storage

Professional archivists will be the first to tell you that film photos will deteriorate with time. Environmental factors like heat, humidity, air pollution, and light can all cause film photos to fade, curl, tear, or become discolored.

Digital files do not break down like physical copies. While you may need to store them on an external hard drive when switching from one computer to another, you don’t have to worry about environmental factors corroding the quality. The sooner you digitize your photos, the less damage you’ll see in the digitized copies and the better they’ll look for the long-term.

Guilt-Free Disposal

If you’re looking to foster a clutter-free home, it makes sense that you would want to cut down on the number of photos and physical paraphernalia you’re hanging onto. Yet, when photos are irreplaceable, it can feel impossible to throw them out.

Digitizing your photos will allow you to free up a ton of space in your home without feeling guilty for disposing of physical copies. Again, you may want to hang onto a few and consult family members about any copies they’d like to keep. That said, by digitizing the collection, you won’t lose any of those images no matter what you do with the originals.

Professional Services

Are we suggesting that you scan photos at home or at your local library? While small scanners are great tools when you want to quickly digitize a few photos, they’re not your best option when you want to digitize a huge batch.

At Envision Video Services, we do more than scan photos to create digital copies. If your photos have already sustained some wear and tear, you can also take advantage of our restoration services. We can brighten faded colors, sharpen contrast, and more so that your old family photos come to life in ways you never knew possible. 

Putting Your Photo Collection to Use

Once you’ve organized and digitized your old family photos, it’s time to put them to use. We’ve got a few tips for both physical and digital copies that will allow you to enjoy those photos again. 

Frame Favorites for Decor

If you set aside some of your favorite photos for your own use, why not display them? Framing and displaying family photos is a great way to personalize your home and, depending on the photo, add authentic antique or vintage flair to your interior design. We suggest having a few photos per frame so you can change them out and give your collection a break from heat, light, and other environmental factors.

Create Collages and Scrapbooks

If you’ve taken the time to organize your photos into categories, use your remaining physical copies to create attractive collages or immersive scrapbooks. Unlike the traditional photo album, collages and scrapbooks combine photos with art and text so you can add context to each photo. Not only is this a fun activity for you and your family members, but it can also transform old family photos into a story that is easy to pass from generation to generation. 

Share DIY Gifts

Once you’ve digitized your old family photos, they’re easy to transfer onto all sorts of materials and items. For example, you can have photos printed onto fabric to create blankets, t-shirts, or throw pillows or have portraits printed onto ornaments and mugs. If you’re looking for personalized gifts that you can give to the whole family, these DIY options are a great choice. 

Do Some Genealogical Work

Old family photos are a valuable archive that can hold stories and family secrets. When you’re organizing and digitizing the family photo collection, work with older generations or use genealogy websites to start piecing together your family history. Use the photos from your collection to create a family tree of portraits and learn more about your ancestors and distant relatives in the process.   

Share Digital Albums

It’s no secret that social media albums have replaced the traditional photo albums of the past. By digitizing your collection, you can easily share dozens of photos of your family with your friends and followers online. Believe it or not, you may find that you have photos that interest people outside of your family.

Your local historical society might love to see the photos that feature your town fifty, eighty, or one hundred years ago. Vintage photo lovers online might get a kick out of those old school family portraits. Though we may not always appreciate our old family photos, they can offer connections to the past and foster relationships in the present.

Send Us Old Family Photos for Professional Digitization 

Whether you cherish your collection of photo albums or you’re ready to part with those physical copies, it’s time to digitize. At Envision Video Services, we help families preserve their history by restoring and digitizing old family photos, videos, cassette tapes, and more.

Envision Video Services has been in the video and editing industry since 2005, making us one of the oldest and most-trusted companies of our kind. Start your order today.