It's the key to scaling down your photo stockpiles. Every shot is not a winner. Throw out or delete any shots that are too dark, out of focus, or unflattering. The harder task is to eliminate shots that look basically the same. Pick just a few that sum up the thrill of the moment. Get rid of the rest.
Label Your Images
While your memory is still fresh, it's a good idea to write a note on the back of the photo or put a caption on the computer screen about where the picture was taken and what people were doing or saying at the time. "Maybe you have a picture of Aunt Mary and Uncle Harry, and it was on this trip that Uncle Harry dropped the cake," says Ronni Eisenberg, author of Organize Your Home!: Simple Routines for Managing Your Household (Hyperion, $15, amazon.com). "Write that on the photo, because otherwise in 10 years you won't remember the story, and pictures are the story of your life."
2 of 3Michele Gastl
File Photos in Boxes
Adopt a System
Put photos that made the cut into photo boxes or download the images on a CD from your computer and slide them into plastic sleeves. Store them by date and event so they're easy to retrieve.
Location is Key
If you want photos to last, make sure to store them correctly. Extreme temperatures and humidity can dramatically shorten the life span of your photos. "A good rule of thumb is if you're comfortable, your photos are comfortable," says Daniel Burge, an assistant scientist at the Image Permanence Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology. So forget about stashing them in the attic, basement, or garage. Burge also cautions against storing photos near the kitchen or bathroom, where humidity is high, or in closets that back up to pipes, which could leak.
3 of 3Michele Gastl
Put Your Vacation Photos in Albums
Now that your photos are tucked away in their boxes, you can pull only your favorites, maybe 10 or 20, to put in a mini-album for easy and repeated viewings. Consider making an album devoted only to one trip, using books slightly larger than the photos themselves; this will keep the project more manageable, and mini-albums are more portable for those eat-your-heart-out showings at the office.
Sketchbooks with ring bindings, available at art-supply stores, make ideal mini-albums. Simply paste photos down with an acid-free glue stick and then remove any pages you haven't filled.
Mini-albums are great for showing off highlights of your trip, but that requires being in the same room with your important others. For those long-distance loved ones who won't believe you white-watered through the Grand Canyon until they see proof, other tactics must be employed.
On the low-tech side is the frequent-flyer flyer. After returning from a trip to Japan with her husband and son, a friend of mine cut up some photos of them at different temples and sushi palaces, pasted them on paper with funny captions, and then created color-photocopy collages for her pals.
Store and Share Your Images Online
The Internet makes it even easier to share photos. You don't need to have a digital camera to take part in the electronic exchange or be techno-literate. Many laboratories will scan your conventional photographs onto a CD-ROM, so that you can download images on your computer and send them via e-mail or post them on a website.
When you get your Kodak film processed, in addition to conventional photographs, you can request a picture CD, which allows you to touch up (goodbye red eye) and crop pictures on your computer or to make a "slide show" presentation of the entire roll (it's a more advanced way to bore friends than with your parents' carousels of vacation slides). Or at the lab, request that Kodak put the pictures directly online at picturecenter.kodak.com, where friends can view the shots and even order prints directly, preventing you from getting stuck with the dreary errand and the expense.