How To Curate Your Photo Collection

What is photo curation, and how do we do it at HeartWork Organizing?

How To Curate Photo Collections

Curating photos means picking the best photos to keep in your collection.

People ask all the time how a professional photo organizer can organize their photos. How do we know what photos are the most important to you? We can absolutely curate your collection, both physical and digital, to help you find the best of the best, and we can teach you how to do it yourself. Let’s talk about print photos, first. When we handle print collections, we use the same criteria on your photos that we would use on our own treasured family photos.


What to Remove from your Photo Collection

There are four types of photos that we quickly remove, once your photos are organized by date:

  • Exact duplicates- Remember those duplicates back in the days of film developing? They are probably still in your photos. Once organized by date, we are able to find most exact duplicates, and we set them aside.
  • Obviously bad photos- Blurry, eyes closed, back of head, back end of the dog…you never got around to removing these mistakes, but they don’t belong in your forever collection. Will your kids or grandkids want these shots? No.
  • Landscapes- These photos have no people, but they do have seasonal back yards and gardens, travel photos without people, holiday tablescapes, construction photos, random giraffes and other zoo critters. If we see large batches of these, we generally take them out. A few pictures without people in them can help to establish the place or time, but when we find hundreds of garden or boat or zoo pictures, those are not the really valuable ones. If you’ve asked us to curate, we’ll set those aside for you to review.
  • Series/bursts- Remember when we hit the shutter over and over hoping to get a decent picture? (Maybe we still do that?) Group photos trying to get one where everyone has their eyes open. Fast kids on the sports field. Horizontal + vertical of the same scene. If we see a series of photos that are the same pose or in a series, we’ll pick the best one or a few of the batch.

We rely on the ABC model of photo organizing.

  • A photos are the best of the best, and the ones you should definitely digitize. These even might be worthy of reprinting in an album or sharing with your favorite people electronically in a digital album.


  • B photos are still good quality. They might be worth turning into digital copies, but you may or may not do anything with them in the future. You can be on the fence about these. It’s ok.


bad photos to curate out of your collection

How to DIY Curating a Lifetime of Photos

Can you curate your photos yourself? Absolutely. All you need is time, some good sorting boxes like the archival photo boxes we use in our office, and the willingness to make quick decisions.

Large photo storage boxes from HeartWork Organizing


If your photos are completely disorganized, they need to be organized first so that photos naturally sort together. Yes, that means removing them from albums. Those old sticky albums are working against you, so you want to very carefully remove photos from sticky pages. While you can organize several different ways, we use chronology as a guide. This is how you took your photos, after all… over time. It’s also how you are used to looking at photos today on your phone’s timeline. (BTW, this picture below shows the wrong way to remove photos from a sticky album! )

remove photos from albums for curating

remove photos from albums for curatingSpeaking of digital, we can curate your more recent photos, too! Often, we start by automating deduplication of those pesky exact duplicates. Everyone has duplicates in their early digital photos. Once the exact duplicates are out, then we can look for those low-quality and near-duplicates already described. Why pay for space on your computer, phone, and cloud service for tens of thousands of photos and videos that you don’t ever want to see again?? We love to curate your collection so your entire camera roll makes you smile.


How Much Time Do You Have for Your Photos?

We curate as if this were our own collection. It’s true; it’s easier for us than it is for you. The little bit of distance that we have from those precious people and memories of yours means we can pick the best photos quickly. If we are in doubt, we will leave a photo in. Occasionally clients tell us that a bad quality photo is one of their most precious photos; in that case, we can bring that photo back into your life with photo restoration. 

save space by removing photos from albums


We don’t curate every collection that comes through our office. If you’ve already curated, then we can go right to scanning, storing your collection on your preferred cloud service, and enjoying in real time. Many clients enjoy their organized photos so much that they actually enjoy curating them. However, many people who have 10,000 print photos (or more!) just don’t have the time. We will curate a collection in a matter of hours, not the weeks, months, or years that it might take you.

Photo curation is one small step in the process of organizing your photo collection. If you seem to be getting stuck on every step with your photos, or if you just don’t have the time, we’re here to help organize your photos.  If you are ready to work on your own collection, I hope this information about curating the best of the best in your photo collection will help you enjoy the your trip down memory lane even more.