Organizing and Printing Photos: Tips and Tricks

As most of you know, a big goal of mine is to sort, print, and organize my photos from the past 6 years. Like the majority of us, I have been paralyzed by digital photography. We all have overwhelmingly too many photos, not even counting the ones on our phones!

I'm proud to say I'm caught up through 2012. So yay! My plan is to sort through and digitally organize through 2013 by this Friday. I'm halfway there.

As I've gotten knee deep into the project I have made some mistakes, learned some lessons, and picked up some tips. And since so many of you have asked questions and been inspired to print your photos too, I'd like elaborate on my first post and share a few tips I've learned along the way.

I was first inspired by Soule Mama's method. She uses 12 X 12 binders with inserts that hold six 
4 X 6 photos per page. Twelve photos total, if you count front and back.

I like the big binder because it is practical for housing tons and tons of photos.

I've settled on these We R Memory Keepers three ring binders in navy blue and these photo sleeves.

Another feature I like of Soule Mama's method is ordering prints with a thin, white border. It frames each photo and really makes it pop. I love the look. Most printing companies offer this option.

As for printing, I've gone with Snapfish and have stayed loyal. The price is right, they run great sales, and so far I've been impressed with the quality. I still occasionally order prints or enlarged photos from Costco because they have a one hour service. But for photo album purposes, I use Snapfish.

Done is better than perfect. I think that's the best approach. Otherwise, a project like this can become so tedious that you quit before you start.

A picture paints a thousand words. I don't fool with captions or writing dates and names of people on the back of photos. When I first posted about organizing my photos, several readers suggested that I write on the back of photos to keep a record of when, who, and what the photo is about. Others sent me links of resources that allow for fun ways to caption your photos. For me, it's too much. We are talking thousands of photos. Adding one more step could take me out of this project for good. I don't caption or write on the back of any photos. Remember, done is better than perfect.

Less is more. If I have a series of photos, for example, 10 fabulous photos of my son playing in the park, I've learned to print a sampling of about 2-4 photos. It's plenty! The fewer in the series, the more precious to look at. Also, variety on the page makes for more interesting photo books. Truly.

It's okay if my photos get (a little) out of chronological order. Occasionally, when ordering a large order, Christmas gets filed before summer or that random photo my friend e-mailed me from the pumpkin patch ends up near February. My advice is just be glad the photo exists at all! Don't become obsessive over perfect chronological order.

Do a lot at one time. To get the ball rolling, it was really helpful to take a retreat type approach to sorting, ordering prints, and putting them in their binders. I spent a large amount of time over spring break launching this project. Getting a big portion of it done in the beginning inspired me and excited me and made me realize that it's worth all the trouble.

Do a little at a time. Since coming home from spring break, I order and organize photos in smaller batches. Now that I have inspired myself, the little at a time method works. But I do have a definite "catch up" goal, and that is August 1st, before the baby is due.

Enough of the iPhone photos. Rarely do I treasure a phone photo. I have an iPhone 4s and the photo quality (while great for a phone) is overall poor and grainy. It does not hold a candle to my DSLR photos. This project has discouraged me from taking SO MANY phone photos. If my kids start doing something cute in the yard, it's worth running inside and grabbing my fancy camera.

Be careful when ordering sleeve protectors. I have ordered the wrong size photo sleeve protectors more than once. I have also noticed that the sleeves can vary in size by 1/2 inch (even the same brand). My suggestion is to order several of them and put them all in the binder before you start inserting your photos to make sure the sleeves are the same size.

Each binder can comfortably hold 50 sleeves that hold 12 photos a piece. That's 600 photos per binder!

The expense. Buying the binders, the sleeves, and the prints adds up quickly in costs. I've had to pace myself. Watching the sales on Snapfish has been a big saver. I never order prints at full price. I think the cost issue will improve once I completely catch up. I will only have to buy one or two binders a year. Three hundred photographs a year (give or take) is the average amount of photos I'm printing. It's more than enough.

Get in the picture, mama! I love the photos of me with my kids, especially as time passes by and there is a little distance between the immediate self-criticism I have about my appearance and the time I have the printed photo in my hand. When looking at the photos of myself, I usually think about how happy I was that day or how grateful I am for my family.....or even how hard that time was, but that God was faithful through it all! So get in the pictures, mamas! You won't regret it.


  1. "Done is better than perfect" - love this. And I am glad you are in some of the photos. Your kids will cherish those.

  2. For me, done is better than perfect refers to decorating pages. Journaling which is identifying who it is, when, where, what, why, etc. is vital if you want those memories to be kept alive. Think of finding a photo album of your great-grandma's, wouldn't you want to know who, when, what, where, etc. about each photo? Cut down on the number of photos in the album and add some identity to really make those albums worthwhile. Just my two cents. Been there done that.

  3. Done is better than perfect is my new life motto. I get so amazingly hung up on getting things just so. I, too, am entirely backed up on my photos. 7 years and counting behind. (totally ironic because I have always been a photo/camera person.) It literally gives me paralysis. So thank you for sharing your process. It encouraged me! I need a photo support group.

  4. I enjoy your blog posts and have a question about your DSLR camera. Would you mind sharing what kind you use? I have one, but it seems so bulky to carry when I have the kids by myself. Are you self-taught or have you taken any classes to learn to use yours? I have a hard time managing mine and find myself resorting to the iPhone too often!

  5. Hey SB! I'm finally getting around to tackling our family pics and have them al uploaded to snapfish...and it seems they no longer offer the white border. I looked into using Costco, but it's nearly double the price. I'm bummed. Are you still using snapfish? And am I missing something on the white borders? (I "chatted" with one of their techs who told me their engineers are working on it...?) Thx!! :)

    1. Snapfish is revamping their whole system, and I'm so disappointed that the white boarder feature is not available. I hope it's temporary.

      Did I see a message somewhere that you figured it out on Shutterfly, or did I dream that? I might have to switch to Sutterfly.

      Costco is just too expensive for how many pictures I'm getting :(


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