If you are looking for a photo album solution, it means you probably have boxes (or drawers, or computer files) of photos that have piled up. This tidbit is not exactly about organizing those. For now, I would either ignore them or if they have been printed, buy a whole bunch of matching photo boxes and at least get them all in one place. Once you have seen how clever you can be at photo org, you can go back and tackle them.

This is about This Day Forward. Because if the very next time you take pictures you start doing this, the number of organized pictures will eventually surpass the number of disorganized ones. And hopefully you will inspire yourself to one day work on the others. (Besides, by then you’ll be a pro).

Here’s the first key: In most of our lives there are really only a handful of photo events in any year. OK, if you have a newborn, there is a photo event every day. But generally, most of us haul the camera out a half a dozen times a year, usually centering on holidays or other significant ceremonies, etc. Even if you do snap away every day, use the big picture events to do this.

As soon as possible after the next picture event, download your camera to your computer. Right now, before getting up, you are going to decide which ones to print. Just start going through them. If you like the picture, either name it or put it in a folder (whichever works for you). If you don’t like the photo, just skip to the next one. Don’t worry about throwing it out. (That’s the part that makes it way too hard). All you’re doing is identifying the ones you LIKE. Once you are sure the files are all in your computer, delete everything on the camera.

Now, go to a photofinishing website. I use my local drugstore. On the site you will learn to send your photos to the store (you’ve just identified which ones to print with your naming or file system) and they will make prints which you will go pick up. There will be options for paying online and/or having the prints sent to you. Do as you wish, but I find checking the box that says I will pay when I pick up is the easiest.

This next part can be done at the same drugstore, or in my case I like the big box stores: Find some reasonably priced photo albums and buy as many as you are comfortable, like a row as wide as your shelf. Do the albums HAVE to be the same? No. Get what you want. Sometimes sameness helps one to feel organized. And a whole row of identical albums is beautiful. My collection consists of chunks of like albums interspersed with the occasional fun surprise, partly because I like a little variety, and partly because of the way the collection has taken years to grow. Purchase a sheet of letters of the alphabet from the scrapbook aisle and letter the spines of the albums starting with A.


Then, attach a “sticky note” inside the cover of album “A” and write the month and year of the photo event followed by a dash. Now put in all those photos you picked up.


Repeat the process immediately after each picture event, with all shots that are in the camera, deleting the camera files when you have downloaded them to your computer. When the album is filled, write the current month and year on the sticky note (after the dash) and move on to album “B.” Once you’re sure the album is done, if you like, you can write the dates directly on the album page and scrap the sticky.

I have used this system for years. The resulting books are a constant source of joy for me and for anyone who comes in my kitchen (where the albums are stored, taking up more shelf space than the cookbooks). Of course I started the system long before there was digital photography. The main thing is to just start putting the pictures in books. And making it part of the photo-taking experience. You don’t have to feel bad if you don’t want to print them all, or put them all in the book. I’ve had occasions where I used most of an album on one single occasion. And others where there were only one or two photos that told the whole story. Since you don’t throw out the computer files, you will always have them as back-up. So you can proceed without feeling the burden of getting it exactly right. You rest assured knowing you can always go back in for “revisions” if you want to. Although we both know, you never will!

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