You’ve taken a gazillion adorable snaps of your family—don’t leave them all stranded in the cloud!

By Marisa Cohen
Updated December 05, 2017
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This holiday season, you’re destined to add another few hundred photos to your smartphone’s album. After all, who can resist capturing dozens of snaps every time the the kids build a snowman, Dad tries on his new reindeer pajamas, or the family gathers around a fierce game of Spin the Dreidel.

But after you share a couple of your favorites on Facebook or Instagram, what happens to rest of your images? They will likely disappear into the black hole of your digital storage, never to be printed or perhaps even seen again.

“People feel overwhelmed and guilty—it’s like when you say ‘I have too many clothes but nothing to wear,’” says Isabelle Dervaux, a professional photo organizer in Brooklyn, NY. “You may have thousands of photos, but nothing framed or hanging on your wall.” But if the thought of wading through thousands of digital memories to find the one or two worthy of a poster-size print is keeping you from even getting started, follow these simple steps:

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“My favorite button on the phone is delete,” says Dervaux. “In the past, we used to only take pictures on special occasions, such as Christmas, birthdays, or graduation. But now, we take pictures of everything—a new pair of shoes, a recipe you want to cook later, receipts, screen shots, the corner where you parked the car.” Start by deleting every image off your phone that isn’t something you absolutely love and would still want to look at ten years from now (you can also say good-bye to those photos of your feet at the beach, or anything out of focus, unflattering, or with bad lighting).


Once you’re down to photos of actual people and memories, take another trip through, and toss even more. “Think about what your kids are going to want to look back on from their childhood,” says Dervaux. “If you take 3,000 photos a year, that will be more than 50,000 photos by the time your child hits 18. They will never want to sort through that many. Aim to keep 10 percent.” That also means saving only the best version of each shot (Dervaux points out that we often take a dozen of the same snap as we try to get one where the baby’s laughing or everyone is looking in the same direction.) A good rule of thumb: Which photo would make someone smile if they saw it on Facebook?


“Once you have your collection curated to only the photos that make your heart melt, go deeper,” says Dervaux. Go through and press the heart icon to select your absolute most beloved shots, which will get sorted into a “favorites” folder. You can also search all your photos by themes (type tree, baby, cat, New York City, or any other relevant term into the search bar, and you may be surprised what comes up!) to organize into other albums.


Next, download the “favorites” folder from the cloud to your computer, so you can look at everything on a larger screen and see which ones have the best lighting—not always easy to tell on a tiny phone screen. Then, pick 12 that represent the past year. Dervaux suggests you include:

  • 1 one great family photo
  • 1 solo photo of each family member that shows off their personality
  • 1 photo of all the siblings doing something fun together
  • 1 photo representing each family vacation
  • 1 Halloween photo
  • 1 photo representing each special occasion, such as Christmas, a wedding, or the first day of school

* If you have a large family or had a lot of momentous occasions this year, you can go higher than 12!


If you stick with the 12-photo rule, a great option is to create a family calendar (we love the options from Pinhole Press, Snapfish, and Artifact Uprising). You can also choose to print out different sizes and frame them individually for a gorgeous grouping on your living room wall (Parabo Press will print and frame with museum-like quality). If you still have energy and momentum after that, sort through and create photo albums for the grandparents—it will be the best gift you ever gave them.