What to Do With Old Photos


Back in the day, you bought rolls of film and took vacation photographs, then had them developed and printed. You enjoyed putting them in photo albums and getting the best shots enlarged and framed. If you’re over a certain age, you definitely remember those good old days. But if you grew up in the digital age, this might seem like a rather quaint concept. Nevertheless, nearly every family has boxes of photos and albums inherited from their grandparents and other relatives, even if they’ve been stored sight unseen for decades! 

Decluttering Old Photos 

While sorting and organizing old photos is a daunting job, you’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment after completing this task. Identifying, categorizing, and minimizing photos is the most efficient and cost-effective method for decluttering, digitizing, sharing, and creating a wide array of photo-related projects. 

Storing Old Photos Properly 

Now that you’ve digitized your best old family photos, you need to organize the digital files. If you don’t, you’ll soon discover the disarraying world of digital clutter! Culling photos and good file management skills are essential to being able to retrieve photos quickly. This means setting up folders with name labels that make the most sense to you. And instead of storing thousands of images on your computer or smartphone, here are a few other options: 

  • DVDs
  • Flash or thumb drives
  • External hard drives
  • Cloud storage 

If you’re wondering what to do with old family pictures or any other images with artistic, historic, or sentimental value, it’s fine to keep the best originals after digitizing them. Just keep in mind they’re much higher maintenance than their digital twins! The TLC they need depends to a large degree on how they were stored over the years. It’s much more economical to have them professionally scanned and restored digitally. Traditional conservation of physical prints should be reserved for original photos that have significant value, whether monetary or personal. 

What to Do with Old Photo Albums


If any of your photos are in those once-popular magnetic photo albums with sticky pages with acidic glue and damaging plastic, this can be a huge problem. You can attempt to carefully remove the photos from the albums using dental floss and scan them yourselves. Better yet, send the entire album to ScanCafe and our technicians will remove the photos from the album in sequence and then scan and replace them in the same sequence. If we can’t remove them, we’ll contact you to discuss possible solutions. In most cases, originals kept in this type of album aren’t worth keeping after we scan them because the digital files are far better quality. 

DIY Photo Projects 

If you have the desire and time, it’s easy to transform obsolete media formats into ingenious gifts. For example, old VHS tapes are fairly easy to disassemble to create storage boxes and shelves for small items such as photos, jewelry, and books. Digital photos can be used to create slideshows and digital frames, while either traditional prints or digital images are great for creating hand-made postcards, greeting cards, heirloom photo ornaments, and unique collages. 

Creating Scrapbooks 

While the scrapbooking craze hit in the early 2000s and has since waned, some people still create old-fashioned albums with printed photos, fancy papers, paper ephemera, etc. The first step is to cull and organize all your print or digital photos. It’s easy to create a digital scrapbook with Adobe Photoshop Elements or using any number of websites that offer colorful page layouts and decorative elements. A simple layout can be completed in less time than it takes to do a load of laundry! And digital scrapbooking doesn’t require photo corners, glue, or supplies. While old-fashioned scrapbooks can be fun to create, going digital offers a number of benefits. Digital scrapbook pages can be instantly shared with family and friends via the cloud, uploaded to online galleries or social media, or printed and bound into books. 

After decluttering, the sky’s the limit on creative possibilities for print and digital photos alike!

FAQs on What to Do With Old Photos

Once you’ve preserved these family moments to a digital format, you can store them in your designated photo backup space, such as Google Photos or Amazon Photos, or utilize a platform like Dropbox. This way, you’ll ensure the preservation of the images for potential future interest, either by yourself or others. In any case, you can then consider donating the original photos to a nearby library or archive.

Remember that decluttering a large photo collection is a gradual process. Be patient, take breaks when needed, and celebrate your progress along the way. It’s all about preserving and organizing the photos that truly matter to you. Decluttering a large collection of thousands of photos can be a time-consuming process, but it’s achievable with a systematic approach. Start with clear goals and a sorting criteria, and remove duplicate images along the way. A “maybe” section is a great way to stay effcient in the first wave of organization. Then, review, organize, tag and label the photos you’re planning to keep. Professional scanning companies can then take those photos and preserve them in a digital format, allowing you to store a back up in the Cloud or a local computer, while you keep your closets clear!

You can go old-school and put them in order from way back when to the most recent stuff. Or, you can get creative and organize them by themes, events, family members, or even specific folks. And hey, if you want to make it really interesting, you can sort them to tell the cool stories of your family. It’s all up to you!