8 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. 

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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. 

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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. 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. 

6. 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. 

7. 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. 

8. 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. 

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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