Updated: Jun 16, 2021
I've been talking for months about photo organizing but what I’m covering today will be crucial to your success. Everyone talks about how the sheer number of images they have in print or digital format discourages them from even starting to get organized. So an extraordinary woman, Cathi Nelson, who is the CEO and Founder of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO), developed the ABCs method of photo organizing that allows people to separate the keepers from the not so valuable photos.
To do this method successfully, you’ll want to gather a few things:
2 boxes or bins to sort your “A” and “B” photos into
a trash can
a photo safe pencil
lint free white gloves for handling
You’ll also want a clean flat table surface to work on while sorting your photos.
Taking one photo at a time or if you are on your computer, click on your most recent image, figure out if the photo is an A, B, C, or S photo. What does that mean?
A – Album
Your “A” photos are those that are album worthy, belong up on a wall, or displayed in a slide show. They are the best of the best. Basically, the photos you love looking at. You’ll end up scanning these photos and having multiple copies stored on several different back-up areas. You are investing in preserving these photos and identifying the who, what, when, and where about them.
B – Box
Your “B” photos are those that would come in second place if shown next to your “A” photos. They support your “A” photos. They are good photos but not necessarily the ones that you put up on your wall or in a slide show. These photos are kept in an archival box for safekeeping but are not necessarily scanned for the future.
C – Can
Your “C” photos are your duplicates, temporary (just took a picture to get an opinion on something), food, landscape, or bad photos such as those that are blurry, eyes closed, bad angle, etc. You can also toss the photos of people you don’t remember (those old company party shots). You can give duplicates away to other people (only if you consider them an “A” or “B” photo) but the rest are destined for the trashcan. Yes, I said trashcan. You are allowed to throw out photographs (and no, you are not throwing out someone’s soul if you do that).
S – Story
Your “S” photos are those that tell or spark a story. These will eventually end up in your “A” pile but first you’ll want to record either on paper or in audio format the story related to the image.
At first you’ll get hung up deciding between putting a photo in the “A” or “B” pile. Don’t worry! Put the photo in the “A” pile and know that you can always decide to re-categorize it later. As for throwing away photos, it may be difficult at first. You have to remember your purpose in getting rid of photos is so that your can concentrate your time, money and effort on saving the photos that mean more to you. You’ll find the process liberating and you won’t miss those “C” photos.
By prioritizing your photos, you prioritize your time and money on those images worthy of being saved. Cathi Nelson says that a successful photo sort will leave you with 20-30% of your original collection. Now doesn’t that smaller number seem easier to organize, scan and identify?
(Originally posted May 2017)