How To Store Old Photos

By | April 3, 2017

Your old family photographs are a link to the past. Have you asked the question before “How to Store Old Photos?”. After all these photos connect us to our ancestors and for me these photos make me feel closer to them. But do you know where they all are? And most importantly how do you store them properly so that they will be preserved for generations to come? I will explain in this post what you can do to keep your ancestors memories alive.

Store Old Photos

Before I begin!

Before I start to discuss how you can store your old family photographs I first want to ask you whether you know where all of your cherished photos are? If the answer is no then you will have to dig and poke around your home and try and find all of these photos.

They can be in any room around your home, maybe up in the attic or down in the basement. They maybe in shoeboxes, or drawers, in bags or maybe out loose and gathering dust. So before you continue to read this post you may want to have a think about where they all could be.

Trust me it is far easier to have your all of your photographs in one place before you decide what you are going to do with them. There are a number of ways that you can store your photos. If you have them all in front of you then you can make a better decision when it comes to storing them. I will explain further what I mean later on.

My How To Organize Old Photos? post explains how you can organize your old family photographs once you have collected them all around your home. This process will also be useful for you when it comes time to storing your photos.

Digitize Your Old Family Photographs

Scanning your old photos is a great way of preserving these family heirlooms. Once you have digitized all of your collection then you can do so many things with them. You can save them on external hard drives or flash drives, in the cloud or maybe on any number of photo storage websites that you can find online.

Scan Photographs

Scanning your old photos!

Before you start to scan your photos you will need to become familiar with your scanner and its settings. So it is a good idea to do a few tests with a couple of your photos to see what works best. Of course though different types of photographs may require different settings.

Ultimately though you will want to scan your photos at a high setting. A high setting will mean that the quality will be retained when you zoom into the photograph. You may want to display a zoomed-in photograph in a frame and so you don’t want a picture that is all pixels.

So for this reason you will want to choose the TIFF picture format at a setting of 600DPI (dots per inch). You maybe more familiar with the JPEG format. However, you may not be aware that this format is compresses your scans and so loses some of the information in the process.

TIFF is a lossless file format that doesn’t compress your scans and so doesn’t lose any of the information. The DPI setting that I refer to actually means pixels per inch and is there the number of pixels that will store information per inch of your photograph.

My How To Scan My Photos? post goes into more detail about the process of scanning your photos, especially what to do with your negatives and slides. This post also provides useful guides and tips that will help you along the way.

So What Can You Do With Your Scanned Images?

When you have scanned your old family photographs then you will need to think about where you are going to store the digital images. You have two main choices. Either you store your photos at home or you can store them online.

Store Your Photographs

Portable, External and Flash Drives

Besides storing your scanned images on your home computer you will need to think about where to store backups of these pictures. There is no point in going to the trouble of scanning your old photos only for your computer to crash and losing all of them in the process.

You will have wasted all of that time and energy in scanning them!

So what are the options available to you besides your computer?

Well, you can either chose between portable or external drives. The difference between them is essentially an external drive will have its own power adaptor which needs to be connected to the wall to get its own power. A portable drive however will draw its power from your USB connection.

These drives have come down in price significantly over the years and as such lowest size ones typically come as 1TB of storage.

If the memory size of these drives seem to be too high for you then you can always go with the flash drive option. Like its bigger cousin, (portable/external drives), flash drives have come down quite a lot in price and have increased in memory size.

For me I not only have my photos stored on my computer but also on a portable drive and a flash drive as well. So it is worth having that extra piece of mind backing up your pictures on a number of devices.

This is especially practical if your second fail safe malfunction. At least you have a third drive to fall back on.

Cloud Services and Online Photo Storage Sites

Storing your scanned images is just one digital option that is available to you. You may however decide to put your hard work onto the Internet. You could do this as well as storing them on drives at home. The advantage of this online option is that you can easily share with your friends and family.

Cloud Storage

So what is the cloud?

Basically the term “the cloud” means over the Internet. Hopefully now that you know the meaning behind this term it is less frightening to you. I myself didn’t exactly know what this meant to begin with until I discovered. So I was a bit dubious as to what it actually was and whether I would use it until I found out what it was all about.

There are a number of cloud services available to you. The more popular ones are Amazon Cloud Drive, Dropbox and Google Drive. The latter one I personally use and recommend.

As I have pointed out by putting your pictures online with these services you can easily share with anyone. If you have your pictures solely on a drive you would either have to physically hand it to someone or painstakingly email the pictures.

With the cloud you simply share what you want you have already uploaded. It’s that simple.

What are online storage sites?

The cloud and online storage sites are basically the same. By uploading your pictures online with either of these services you can then share with your friends or family.

Some of the most common photo storage sites include Flickr, Google Photos, Photobucket and Shutterfly. These sites do typically offer you free storage. But if you want to increase the size of your free option then you will need to pay. So check out these sites and see which ones work for you

Physical Storage and Displaying Options For Your Photos

I have just discussed what options are available to you after you have scanned your images. However, what do you do with the original photographs? Do you put them away where you found them or do you put them out on display? Well, you can do both of course as I will explain below.

Display Your Photographs

Storing your old photographs!

Before you put all of your photographs back where you found them there are a number of considerations that you will need to think about. After all you do not want to store them in an area which is prone to damp or infestations. Like I keep pointing out, what is the point of going to all that time and effort just for it to be wasted.

What to consider when storing your photographs:

  • Store in polypropylene pages or sleeves, or acid-free sleeves.
  • Do not use glue or adhesive, instead use corners that are acid-free, or that are made from either polyester, polypropylene, or polyethylene.
  • Put in acid-free boxes.
  • Keep the temperature to below 75 degrees Fahrenheit, (this will slow the rate of chemical decay and also reduce insect activity).
  • Keep the relative humidity to between 15% and 65%, (too low will cause brittleness and too high will cause mold and insect activity).
  • Areas to avoid storing include the basement, attic and garage.
  • Away from damp sources such as leaking pipes.
  • And also away from food and water as these will attract insects.

Displaying your old photographs!

If you decide to display some of your old photographs then there are also some useful guidance that I must give you. Even if you do display your photographs in frames there are also considerations as to where you put them and what material you use.

What to consider when displaying your photographs:

  • Place them on walls that do not get constant light.
  • Use lower intensity lights.
  • Turn lights off and close curtains when no one is in the room.
  • Alternate photographs that you wish to display.
  • Use ultraviolet filtering glass or acrylic.

Final Thoughts

There are many options available to you for storing your old family photos as I have pointed out in this post. You may wish to just pick one of these options or you may decide to use all of them. I hope that I have made your decision easier by explaining each of them and giving you guidance along the way.

Preserving your family history is very important. Not only are your tracing your family history but there are family heirlooms around the home that equally need your attention. They are a connection to the past. And when you see your ancestors faces and learn about their stories through relatives it really does bring it to life.

It makes you feel closer to them. It certainly has for me and it just makes preserving my family history so worthwhile. I have got something that I can pass down to my children, and they can pass my research and these family photographs down to their children.

Thank You and Please Leave A Comment

I hope you enjoyed this post explaining how you can store old photos. If you think that this post will be helpful to others then please share it with friends and family using the social media buttons below.

If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

Author: Owain

Hello, Owain here. After researching my family history for a number of years I wanted to give back to the genealogy world. So here you will find guides, tips and product reviews that will help you on your genealogy journey.

10 thoughts on “How To Store Old Photos

  1. Los

    Very interesting! There are just so many ways that I can store my old photos. I just didn’t realise that I could do so much with them.

    Thanks for this great article!

    1. Owain Post author

      Hi Los,

      There are many ways that you can store your photos as I have laid out in this post. You can do one of the ways, or more. It’s entirely up to you.

      The ultimate goal though is to preserve your family history and remember your ancestors. You want something that you can pass on to your children, and leave a legacy.

  2. Evon

    Genealogy is fascinating to me and I pick the brains of older family members every chance I get. Actually, my son just started a genealogy tree for our family this past weekend and here I am finding your site. Coincidence or what?

    My family’s last name changed sometime in the late 1800s from Sewell to Campbell and we are not entirely clear as to the reasons behind it. That gives those of us interested in the subject a lot of motivation to find out ( I say “most” because some family members have little interest in past generations).

    To this end I’ll certainly be digging around your website some more…!

    1. Owain Post author

      Hi Evon,

      That is great that you ask your relatives questions about your family tree. That is just one way that we can get so much valuable information. And it’s free too!

      I am glad that you have come across my site. There is plenty here that will be of interest to you. So please check the site out.

      That is interesting about a change in your last name. It is a bit of change. With my ancestors they just dropped one of the t’s in their name. So it went from Watters to Waters. Not much change there. I’m not sure as to why that was. It could’ve been a typo and the family stuck with the change.

      Anyway, all the best with your family history research.

  3. Kien

    Thanks for sharing man. I need to let my mom read this post. She has so many old photos at her home. Every time we came over, she shows these photos to all of my friends. It’s fine. But the problem is how long these photos are going to last? They look pretty bad already. She need to find a way to store it better.

    1. Owain Post author

      Hi Kien,

      That is great that your mom has so many photos. May I ask if they are organized? My How To Organize Old Photos? post will be helpful to her.

      I hope that her photos will be stored properly. It’ll be a terrible shame if they are lost forever, especially if they are the only copies.

      I do plan on writing a post about how to restore old photos. This post will look at how you can scan and repair any damage that has occurred to photos.

  4. Maria

    Oh gosh, my photos are everywhere. Somewhere around 2010 I stopped printing them and now have photos on different flash drives…and am not sure where they are either!

    I think it’s important to print them because I’m not sure how much we actually look at them if they’re not. My kids love to pull out old albums and look at them so I wish I hadn’t stopped and now I would need to print thousands to catch up!

    I absolutely agree it’s important to preserve them, and everyone should do as you said and put them *somewhere*!

    I have many now on the cloud which is definitely a great idea and would highly promote.

    Thanks for your ideas!

    1. Owain Post author

      Hi Maria,

      This is something that I did not discuss in my post. It is great to have digital copies of your old family photographs.

      The trouble though with this is that with this method they are too easy to forget about them. This is compared to a photo album that we can bring out at anytime.

      Another problem with our digital copies is that we can have different photos on different devices. So it is better to put some order into it and have the same collection on all devices. Or at least know where each set of photos are. We also need to backup each photo, so that if there was something to happen to one copy then we would have something to fall back on.

      It’s not easy to print out every photo though as we may have thousands of them. So might I suggest you print out the ‘best’ ones and either have them in albums or in frames.

  5. Kevin Bulmer

    When I was reading about “The Cloud,” I thought, “We’ve come a long way from the time of a single flash bulb or the Polaroid camera, huh?” This is another great post.
    What I especially like about your last few posts in the thread of taking some time to consider the long-term implications of your choice. Something as simple as where you hang the picture on the wall (in direct sunlight = not so good) or what storage equipment you’ll use, or file format to use …. these are great things to think about. I’ve been reluctant to to the USB stick route because I’m afraid of losing them. Mind you, all these old photos are slowly deteriorating in old boxes anyway.
    As usual, you’ve given us a lot to think about. Great work!

    1. Owain Post author

      Thank you Kevin. I’ve been a great user so USB sticks as i have found them quite useful for me transporting my files. Although I do use these I still use portable drives to back up my larger collection of files.

      So you don’t have to use any particular media type and you don’t have to use all of them. What I do recommend though is that you do have several copies of your photos.


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