How to sort and digitize your photos

Being a photographer, one of the items I hold most valuable are pictures. I think most people, photographers or not would say if there was a fire one of the things they would grab is their photos. Most things are replaceable, but if you have one copy of a photo of your great grandmother, then that can't be replaced. This is why one of the first things I wanted to tackle in this minimalist journey of mine were photos. I want to share with others how to sort, digitize, and organize photos. I hope this helps simplify the process so you don't feel guilty about getting rid of pictures of loved ones. 


Take inventory of all your photos and create four different piles: trash, scan+trash, scan+keep, and give. Don't worry about organizing at this point. Just quickly look at each photo and decide. Just a heads up, most photos cannot be recycled due to the chemical coatings. While going through all my photos I tried to make the process as simple as possible.

  1. If the photo was not of myself or a member of my family, I put it in the trash pile (old high school friends, ex-boyfriends, people who are no longer in my life).
  2. If I had a duplicate photo, I threw the copy away.
  3. If a family member or myself were in the picture I put it either in the scan + trash or scan + keep pile. Most of the scan + trash were photos that were from high school, sports, and college. I decided I wanted to just scan these and throw them away. The scan + keep were old family film photos.
  4. The give pile were old pictures I had of family members that I didn't need to hold on to, but thought they would like to have for themselves.

02 / scan your pictures

I decided against using my digital camera or scanner for ease of use. I downloaded many different apps to test for this post, and the best one I found was Shoebox from  If you use your phone or camera you will have to crop each photo. One of the reasons I decided to use the Shoebox app was because it crops and auto-flattens the image automatically. This is a huge timesaver. If you don't have many photos to digitize, you can just use your phone, digital camera or scanner. Tip: when taking a picture of a picture, do it near a window in indirect light so there is no glare and you have enough light to get a good copy of each photo. 

03 / store your photos

I have a rule of thumb that if a photo is not saved in 3 places, then it is not saved. I recommend after you have digitized all your photos, add them to an external hard drive as well as a cloud-based solution. I use Dropbox and an external hard drive. For the photos I am keeping, I am storing them in a photo box. The one shown below is from The Container Store. This is the only box I am keeping. I had two of these filled up the brim when I first started. Now I just have a handful of photos in one box. If you end up saving more than I did, here is another great option for storing and organizing on amazon. If you want photo albums with sleeves the Becky Higgins Project Life mini albums don't take up a lot of space and are really cute. You can use her Project Life Kits which are cards that fit into her album sleeves so you can scrapbook without too much effort. I have quite a few of these. I have not tackled this yet, but that will be another project I will write a post about. I have a daughter and one of the way, so although I am decluttering I think it is important to also have pictures printed to share memories as she grows up. One of my goals with becoming a minimalist is freeing up time to do projects that I feel are important and that I love to do.

photo box


04 / share photos

Since you will be saving a backup of your photos in the cloud, it will be easy to share with friends and family. In Dropbox you can create folders. So, for example all the photos I have of my grandmother are in one folder so I can share with extended family. I will be sending a message soon to all of my family members asking for any old family photos they have. When I have all the family photos uploaded I plan on making a photo book with all the old images and give them as gifts next year. I will do a follow-up post when I'm done! One of my favorite places to order images and photo books is Artifact Uprising. I've ordered many gifts from there. They have really good quality images and books and they are pretty affordable as well. 

Via artifact uprising

Via artifact uprising