What to Do with Old Photos: Organizing and DIY Ideas

It’s always fun to look through photos and reminiscence about old events, trips and memories with family and friends. But sometimes, it can be hard to find ways to store, display and organize these old photos, and you can end up with shoeboxes full of ignored pictures. If you want to get a beautifully organized photo collection, try using some of these tips.

Organizing Old Photos in Albums

When you create categorized photo albums, you’ll be able to easily display and find old photos. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you begin organizing:

  • Before you get deep into sorting, do a rough pass of the photos, and take out ones that are blurry, feature the photographer’s thumb or are too bright or dark. If you have a large collection, also consider taking out duplicates.
  • Consider writing out a list of the albums you want to make before you start sorting through your photos. Maybe you want each of your children’s birthday parties to have their own album, or maybe you want an album that’s entirely dedicated to your parents. Having a list will help make the sorting process easier.
  • As you sift through your photos, write a quick note on the back of each photo about one identifying feature in the image. This could be the event it took place at, the people in the photo or where it was taken.

Once you’ve sorted your photos, begin placing them in your albums. Try adding a descriptive label next to each photo that will help you quickly identify what’s happening in the photo. You can also add in small mementos from events, like fun designs or heartwarming quotes.

Organizing in Photo Storage Boxes

Photo storage boxes feature tabs that you can label with different categories. These are a good choice if you’re worried that you won’t have enough time to sort all your photos into albums. To use these boxes, write your categories on each of the box’s included tabs. Then, just place your stacks of organized photos behind their corresponding tabs, and you’ll be ready to go!

Scanning Photos At Home

One easy way to store and organize your photos is to digitize them. When you store your old photos on your computer, you’ll be able to organize them into folders and albums. You’ll also be able to create tags that make it easy to always find the photos you need.

Before you begin scanning, organize your photos. This will make it much easier to place them in albums when they’re on your computer. You can organize them by date, by event, by who’s in the photo or in any other way that will work well for you.

To save time, scan multiple photos at once. Lay four photos across the scanner bed, leaving about a quarter of an inch of space between them. Once the photos are on your computer, go into the file and crop out each individual image. Save them each into their own file, giving them descriptive names and tags. For the best quality and the easiest usage, save the photos as TIFF or JPEG files.

Once the photos are on your computer, be sure to back them up. You can do this using a cloud storage service, like Shutterfly. Or, you can save your photos to an external hard drive.

9 DIYs Using Old Photos

If you want to get creative with your old photos, try using them in DIY projects. You can create a unique photo gallery on your wall, turn your photos into 3D displays, use them in quilts and much more! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Copper Frame

Use copper wire and a beautiful stained wood frame to make a creative display for your photos. With the simple clothing pin display you can easily swap out old photos for new ones.

Custom Journal

If you have photos that you don’t mind cutting up, use them to create a lovely dot journal cover! This doubles as the perfect DIY gift for a recent graduate or back to school present.

Rustic Display


Photo via Kelli Murphy

Create a natural-looking hanging photo display by attaching photos to a branch with string. Best part is if you get tired of any photos you can easily swap them out!

Vintage Skirt

Add vintage photos to your clothing using a laser copied photograph, a gel medium and a paintbrush. This DIY skirt includes the photos on the pockets for a sweet and subtle DY touch.

Biker Shirt

Create a cool vintage-looking shirt using an old photograph and Photo Transfer Mod Podge. Pick photos with not too much color so the denim shades still bleeds through.

Embroidery Frame

Use colorful embroidery hoops to make cute DIY frames for your family photos. Bonus: the lightweight frames are easy to hang with just a thumbtack or small nail!

Travel Map

If your Camera Roll is filled with snaps of all your vacations, print your photos and trace them in the shapes of the states you’ve visited. By adding them to an old map you can slowly build a thoughtful piece of art as you check off your bucket list.

Sweet Spools


Photo via Miniature Rhino

If you have old photos, pair them with an equally sweet vintage sewing spool to act as a display. This makes for an adorable desk buddy or to addition to a small shelf.

Faux Table Runner


Photo via Krista Mason

This idea for using old photos makes for a stunning table decor during the holiday. Either use old photos or make black & white copies of your favorite pictures and glue together for an organic table runner.

If you’re tired of sifting through old boxes of photos, try using these tips for displaying and storing your photos. These tips will help you get a wonderfully organized photo collection.