The holidays are an exciting and busy time of year, but it’s also one of the best times to utilize your family to finish any holiday organizing projects for your photos. They are your best resource when it comes to figuring out what’s worth saving and what isn’t and the holidays are a natural time for everybody to come together and enjoy reminiscing over old memories.

Getting started on your own: the three-pile method

If you’re the family photo keeper, the best way to be prepared to tap your family as a resource over the holidays is to get started now on your own. Consolidate all your photos (and videos) into a part of the house that allows you to spread out a little, but you won’t have to move to make space for holiday visitors.

We recommend separating your photos into three piles, the “yes”, “no” and “maybe” piles. The best thing to do is make an initial first pass through your collection, because the ones that are the most important to save and the ones you won’t need at all are going to stand out right away. Here are some helpful criteria for your piles:


  • Wedding photos
  • School pictures
  • Professional portraits
  • Milestone events
  • Photos that move you, or trigger an important memory


  • Blurry photos
  • Landscape photos
  • Cut off limbs
  • Thumbs & fingers over the lense
  • Over or underexposed


  • Any photo you’re not sure you need, but would like to keep
  • Multiple photos from the same event that need to be narrowed down
  • Groups of people and you don’t know everybody
  • Photos that are very similar, but still different

There are a lot of different reasons you might put a photo into the “maybe” pile over the “yes” or “no” piles, and it’s the hardest pile to sort through after your first pass. That’s where your family will come in!

Ask your family to bring their photos with them during the holidays to consolidate.

The last thing you want to happen after you’ve put time into organizing and consolidating your family’s photo and video collection is for a relative to find a stash of important photos you didn’t know you had. Ask your family if they have any photos or videos hanging around that they’d like you to organize. If they only have a little bit, they could bring to Thanksgiving and you can sort them into your piles after dinner. If they have a good amount of your great-uncle’s slides or grandmother’s scrapbooks, have them drop them off beforehand or send them via priority mail for your long-distance family.

Get family input on anything you’re stuck on.

Spend the time you need to identify photos or memories you need assistance with before your family arrives for the holidays. Take the time to set aside any problem photos you’ve run into and then they’ll be readily available to share with your family once they arrive. We’re listing some common brick-walls we’ve come across that your other families members can help with.

  • Illegible photo captions.
  • Unidentified people.
  • Unlabeled tapes.

Get them to do some of the hard holiday organizing

Sorting your “yes” and “no” piles is the easiest to do, you rely mostly on gut instinct to determine what’s the most valuable and what’s not. Your “maybe” pile is going to be full of photos that require a lot more consideration, they’re not amazing photos but they’re also not bad photos, and more often than not, your family will have some of their own opinions on what actually belongs in the “yes” or “no” piles.

For example, you may have twenty photos of your son’s seventh birthday party, and there are a couple that you couldn’t live without, but the rest you were unsure of so you put them into your “maybe” pile. At this point it naturally comes down to what makes a good photo, because you definitely don’t need all of them. Some of the criteria will be based on the photo itself. If you’re sorting down a group of photos from an event, like a birthday, you probably want to make sure you get at least one cake photo and one present opening photo and then you can move on. If you have a pile of landscape photos from a trip to Jamaica, pick one or two photos that tie the whole trip together and then move on. Easier said than done, right?

Here are some things you and your family can consider when deciding what to keep or what to get rid of from the “maybe” pile.

  • Is everyone looking at the camera?
  • Are they having a good time? Is anybody making a bad face?
  • Pick the photo(s) that best represents the whole experience.
  • When a photo makes you pause, or triggers an emotional response, it should go in your “yes” pile
  • You can find a place for any photo. If you keep coming back to the same photo that isn’t that great, but you really like it – keep it!
  • Are you catching a moment? Sometimes it’s the truly random, unconventionally good photos that mean the most to you, don’t dismiss them too quickly.

Don’t forget the new memories you’re making!

Organizing your oldest memories for preservation is a wonderful responsibility and activity to tackle when everyone is together, but you’ll be taking new photos that day too! All the work you’re doing to get your collection together to keep it safe and organized is the perfect indicator of how important it is to stay on top of your digital library. If you’re already on top of that, you’re on the right track! If you’re a little behind, this is what we recommend:

Get everything off your phone or camera right after the holiday.
Create a Thanksgiving 2016 folder on your desktop and save everything into it.
Select your favorites right away and delete any photos you don’t want or aren’t very good to free up space on your computer.

Your family will be so impressed at how quickly you are able to share all the best photos from your holiday! They’ll be even more impressed with the work you’ve been doing to collect and organize the photo and video collection for the entire family.

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