14 Inexpensive or Free Ways to Store Your Photographs

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If you have photos stashed in closets, under your bed, and all over your home, you’re not alone. It’s easy to accumulate a large number of physical photos without knowing what to really do with them. While digitizing your photos is a great way to gain back some physical space, you still need a way to keep them stored securely on your device or online. 

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Luckily, there are a lot of ways to protect your files and store them with ease. Whether you’re organizing digital photos or print photos, there’s a method that’s right for you. No matter what you choose, it’s important to prioritize the safety and quality of your photos.

These are a precious part of your family tree and memories. Make sure they’re protected for years to come with these inexpensive or free ways to store your photographs. 

Tip: Ensure that your assets are taken care of according to your wishes by making a will. You can easily create one from home with an online will maker like Trust & Will.

How to Store Old Photographs at Home

One of the most common ways to store photographs is to do so at home. When you store photos at home, they’re near always. These are physical, practical ways to keep your photos close while adding to your memories throughout the years. 

1. Use a plastic sleeve protector

If you’re handling old photographs, you need to be especially careful. These photos are easily damaged, and there’s no restoring them once something happens. A lot of people use the easy feel-and-stick albums, but these are harsh on your photos. Since you want them to stay preserved, use sheet protectors or plastic sleeve protectors

These plastic sheets are inexpensive and easy to find at any craft store. You can store photos individually in each protector, or store pages in an album. The goal is for them to stay flat and to avoid placing too many photos on top of each other. 

Tip for getting it right: Don’t overstuff your plastic protectors. These might be adjustable, but that doesn’t mean you need to fit as many as possible into a single sleeve. Position everything so it stays flat and secure. 

2. Store in a binder

Another alternative to the traditional photo album is to use a binder. Yes, the same binders you used back in your school days are perfect for photographs. They’re secure, sturdy, and unlikely to damage easily. They also make organizing your images a breeze compared to other methods. 

To store your photos in a binder, use the plastic sleeves we discussed above. There are specific sleeves designed to fit in the rings of a binder. Add tabs, folders, or other organizational tools to make your binders more effective. 

Tip for getting it right: Like with the step above, avoid overstuffing your binder. Make sure everything rests flat when it’s stored away so it lasts a long time. 

3. Utilize large photo bins

If you’re handling a large number of photos in the hundreds or thousands, you might be beyond plastic sleeves and binders. In this case, use photo bins. You can make your own photo bins out of just about anything in your home. From decorative bins to printer paper boxes, this is a really easy DIY project. 

Divide or organize your photos by date, event, person, etc. Now you have an easy storage solution for your large quantity of photos. Just make sure to store the bins somewhere safe. Don’t keep them somewhere that pests or insects could get them! You’d be surprised how much they love chewing up photos. 

Tip for getting it right: Always be mindful of moisture, humidity, and light when storing your photo boxes. Moisture and humidity warp photos over time, and light affects the quality of the pictures. 

4. Make a photo collage

Another fun idea if you have a few handfuls of photos is to create a photo collage. This is best if you already have copies of the photos stored away, preferably digitally. While a collage won’t protect your photos long-term, it’s a great way to display your favorite memories and places. It’s even more powerful if it includes a memorial collage to loved ones who died. 

The key to making a photo collage that lasts is to use quality materials. For this, you’ll need archival quality paper. This is a paper that’s designed specifically for storing photographs. Craft and construction paper just won’t hold up, and it can even damage your pictures.

Using a high-quality photo paper and framing your image creates the perfect collage of all your favorites. Hang your collage in your living room, bedroom, or office for a reminder of all your favorite things and people. 

Tip for getting it right: Research different collage styles to determine how you want to organize your photos before you start piecing things together. Don’t forget to make sure it’ll fit in your frame!

5. Have your photos professionally printed

Finally, some of our favorite photos only exist in a digital format nowadays. While this feels like a big shift from 10 years ago, it generally makes life a bit easier. However, if you’re trying to display or store your photos in a physical form, you might find yourself wishing for the old days of getting the film developed at the local photography studio. 

Luckily, it’s still simple to print your photos. While you can always use your own printer at home, it pays to get them professionally printed. A professional printer costs less than you think, and many services mail your printed photographs directly to your house.

You can easily print from Google Photos or any other photo service you use. From there, the possibilities are endless. You might choose one of the above ideas to store physical copies at home, or you could frame your favorites for everyone to see and enjoy. 

Tip for getting it right: Consider the sizes of the photos you need before you have your photos printed professionally. If you’re planning to frame them, choose a frame size first.

If you’re using sleeve protectors, consider the size before purchasing photo prints. The size is tricky if you’re not familiar with different photography sizes. 

How to Store Photographs Online or Digitally

Another way to store photographs is online or digitally. When you store photos digitally, it’s easier to organize your images in real time. Another important reason to store photographs online or digitally is because it’s more secure, and you can access them from any location. 

6. Upload to cloud storage

Digitizing your photos or using cloud storage is one of the most secure ways to store your photographs. If you have a large number of photos, this is the best way to ensure you never lose them to the weather, damage, or any other accident.

Cloud storage is an online storage tool that doesn’t use a single centralized server. Instead, your files are saved in “the cloud” or across multiple servers. This means there’s no single point of failure, and you’re unlikely to ever run into issues in the future. 

There are a number of online cloud storage solutions available today, and you’re likely already familiar with many of them. Tools like Google Drive and Dropbox are the most common, but there are many others. Better yet, these tools are free to start with. Unless you need to upgrade your storage space, you can hit the ground running right away. 

Tip for getting it right: If you’re concerned about your online privacy, encrypt your cloud folders with a password for added security. 

7. Add your photos to social media

A lot of people are using social media as a way to document their lives. Not only is social media a great tool for sharing what we’re doing at the moment, but we can also share our past. Uploading your photos to a social media platform like Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest is a unique way to store your photos on a public platform. 

While there are limitations to these tools, they are effective when it comes to sharing photos. If your goal is to make sure they’re easily accessible for friends and family, this is a great option. You might even discover you have a following of people interested in joining your photo journey. Sharing your digital legacy has never been easier. 

Tip for getting it right: Always store a backup of your photos somewhere other than social media. While social media is a great tool, it’s also unreliable. These platforms might not be around forever. 

8. Use photo organization software

If you’re not a DIY organizer, there are tools that do it for you. With a photo organization software, you only have to click your mouse to turn your photos into their very own catalog. Having an easy search feature and simple correction tools is a lifesaver for those who might not know how to do these things on their own. 

There are many photo software solutions to choose from, and these come in all price ranges. Some are even free, so do some research to determine which program is right for your needs. With such an easy tool, there’s no excuse not to get serious about picture organization. 

Tip for getting it right: Even if you use a digital program, store a version of your photos somewhere else on your hard drive or on the cloud just in case. You never know what could happen to your computer. 

9. Use a photo storage app

Another great option for digital photo storage is to use a storage app. While there are a lot of software solutions, some of these are app-only. This means they’re designed both for mobile and desktop use. With more people using their smartphones as their camera, this is an easy way to organize your photos in real-time on-the-go.

There are so many photo storage apps to choose from, and you might already be familiar with some. Common options are Apple Photos, Google Photos, Amazon Prime Photos, and Flickr. It’s easy to share these apps with friends and family, making a collaborative photo space. Better yet, some of these have advanced tech capabilities, making it possible to auto-organize your photos using AI. 

How to Store Old Photo Negatives

If you have old photo negatives, these can be tricky to store. These need to be handled with care, and they’re very fragile. Here are some practical, safe ways to store old photo negatives in case you need them again in the future. 

10. Polyethylene sleeves

When you’ve cleaned your old photo negatives, the best way to do so is in polyethylene sleeves. This is a type of plastic that is safe for negatives. They won’t cause damage. You have to be careful with the types of storage sleeves you use, so these are a good option. 

Before putting your negatives in polyethylene sleeves, make sure your hands are clean and dry. Only ever hold your photos by the edges. The oils in your hand can be damaging if you’re not careful. In addition, make sure your negatives are dust- and dirt-free. You can use canned air to blow any unwanted debris off before placing them within your secure sleeves. 

11. Archive kit

A more advanced way to store old photo negatives is with an archive kit. These kits are designed for keeping photos safe, and they include a polyethylene sleeve. Better yet, they have space to share key information about your photo negatives. Using a magnifying glass, identify information about your negatives. 

An archive kit is a great way to stay organized. Because you can’t always see the visuals in your negatives quickly, having them in a clear organizational system makes it much clearer what images you have. If you ever need to draw upon these images in the future, they will be easy to find. 

12. Storage bin

While you might want to keep your negatives in a binder or album, this isn’t a good idea. Old photo negatives need to be handled with care. If you’re not careful, you could ruin these photos forever. They need to be stored in a cold, dark place free from moisture or debris. 

While a traditional album might be a great way to flip through photos, it’s not secure enough. The photos might be accidentally exposed to light or warmth, causing long-term damage. A secure storage bin for your image sleeves or archive kit is the best way to contain everything without worrying about outside elements. 

13. Glass frames

You can also store your photos in glass. This is a way to keep your negatives safe, and you can handle them more securely within these frames. Because you have to be careful when you handle old negative photos, a glass frame is the best way to make it easy to hold and organize these images. 

While you still want to store negatives in a cold, dark place, glass is commonly used to keep your images safe. However, it’s important to be really careful when transferring negatives to glass frames. This needs to be done with care to avoid trapping dirt or debris that can damage your negatives. 

14. Digitize your negatives

Another way to store your negatives is to digitize them. Digital photos are a recent phenomenon, but it’s changing the way we hold onto our favorite photos. You can scan your negatives at a high resolution, allowing you to archive them long-term without worrying about keeping them pristine in your home. 

Because negatives are hard to preserve, this is an easy solution that gives you the peace of mind that you won’t damage your photos on accident. There are professional services that digitize negatives using high-quality negative film scanners, but this is also something you can do yourself. 

Keep Your Photos Close

Photos are a glimpse back into the past. They show us memories, people, and places we love, even if they’re no longer with us. Having a secure, reliable way to store your photos without risking damage is a must. Whether you choose an online storage solution or an old-fashioned physical method, you have a lot of options. 

Going through your photos can also help you continue a loved one's digital legacy — you can use them for a virtual memorial with a service like GatheringUs. They even have specialists who can guide and support you through the planning process.

Having your photos close is a form of comfort to many. If you’re ready to take a trip down memory lane, it’s as easy as flipping through some albums. Now that you have your past settled, it’s time to start end-of-life planning. Giving thought to both your past and your future is the best way to find peace in the present. 

Looking for more ways to stay organized? Read our guide on how to organize your life

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