ABC’s of Photo Sorting

ABC’s of Photo Sorting

After identifying the pictures to be worked on, the next step is to sort them.  To me, Sorting is the hardest part of the process.

The following four steps will simplify the sorting process:

  • Drawer full of unsorted, loose photos and memorabilia

    Think about the ultimate result you desire from this project

  • The “A”, “B”, “C” of Sorting
  • Make quick decisions
  • Group the “A” pictures

Before diving into this project, you should ask yourself some questions, such as:

  • What is the main purpose of preserving the memories in the pictures?
    • For you to look at to remember specific events or people;
    • To hand down to your children or grandchildren so they will know you and your life better;
    • To share events, such as vacations, with friends and family;
    • To preserve family history;
    • To create a slideshow for an event such as a wedding or special birthday;
    • To have a backup of your important pictures.
  • What is your budget?
    • The more involved you are, the less a professional Photo Organizer would need to do.
    • Are you willing to compromise in quality or organization?
    • Would you prefer to invest in equipment, such as photo scanners, and do it yourself?
    • Do your prized photos need professional restoration?
  • How much time, interest and patience do you have for this effort?
    • Looking through pictures, scanning them and removing duplicates can be very time-consuming.
    • Are you disciplined enough to make – and keep – an appointment with yourself, in order to work on your pictures?
    • A professional Photo Organizer has the equipment, training and experience to complete the job.
    • After all, how long have the pictures been sitting there, and what have you done with them?

Having thought about the questions, you can start the sorting process either on your own or with the help of a professional Photo Organizer.  The most effective method is to first use a broad-brush approach: sort the pictures into piles of “A”, “B”, and “C”.  The “A” pictures are the great pictures you know you want to keep.  The “C” pictures are the duplicates, the blurry pictures, the so-so pictures, and pictures of scenery with no people.  The “B” pictures are the ones you’re not quite ready to throw out, but you know they’re not “A” pictures.

Drawer has been emptied. “C” pictures at left by trash bag; “A” pictures in the middle; “B” pictures at right.

Another suggestion for effective photo sorting is the three-second rule. This rule states that you cannot allow yourself more than 3 seconds to decide if a picture belongs in the “A”, “B”, or “C” pile.  If you allow your memories to wander, the task will be difficult to complete. If it takes more than 3 seconds to decide, the picture has to go in the “B” pile.

Once you have gone through all the pictures, the narrow-brush approach should be used.  Go through the “B” pile, to see if some should be in with the “A” pictures, or with the “C” pictures.  The “B” pile will be reduced, but it will probably not be completely eliminated.

The last step of Sorting is probably the most fun part!  This step is where you take all the “A” pictures, and organize them.  You can group all the similar pictures together.  For instance, all the holiday pictures could go in one group; another group could be graduations; another could be weddings.  Other possible groupings include grouping by year or by the person in the pictures.

If you need help or guidance on any part of the process, you can contact me at  I can help you with sorting, digitizing, organizing, or in creating photo books or backups.

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