Photo Organizing For Seniors

Just about everyone who is downsizing needs to address their collections of digital and printed photographs. While most people share many of the same struggles (thousands of untitled photos, anyone? ) the over-55 crowd has their own set of challenges and preferences that they bring to the project.

In a perfect world, we would all be able to effortlessly find and share our favorite photos without frustration. And everyone can, with a little help! As a former teacher and now a professional photo organizer, Melissa Foote has taught hundreds of older people how to organize their digital and printed photos. We asked her to share the top five lessons she’s learned from her experience teaching photo organizing for seniors.

Photo Organizing For Seniors

Lesson #1: Start Small

Most of us have tens of thousands of pictures documenting our lives including our favorite people, places and experiences. These are some of our most prized possessions and while you have probably wanted to organize your photos for years, not knowing how or where to start has stopped you dead in your tracks. 

Melissa’s advice? Start with one small step. By starting small, you are giving yourself the grace and flexibility you need to move forward on a path to success! 

Tips for starting small:

  • Decide if you want to organize your digital OR printed pictures first.
  • Add photo organization to your calendar so you can plug it into your busy life with just an hour or two a week.
  • Give yourself grace and know you aren’t going to organize decades’ worth of photos overnight. Starting small is better than not starting at all!

If these steps don’t feel so small to you, you may be better off bringing in some help.  A professional photo organizer can meet you where you are and help you get started, make progress, or even do the whole project for you!  Plenty of people end up asking for help with photo organizing, saving time and eliminating a lot of stress. 

Lesson #2: Pick ONE Photo App! 

So many people feel overwhelmed because they have pictures downloaded on their phones, computers, hard drives and online photo services such as Dropbox, Shutterfly and Amazon.  Sound familiar?

In the theme of starting small, Melissarecommends starting with the pictures on your phone. These photos are readily available, and probably the ones you want to find and share the most. Most likely, you already have either (Apple) Photos or Google Photos on your phone. Focus on learning the basics of using just ONE of these apps is a great place to start! And if you aren’t sure which one to use, consider the following:

  • If you have an iPhone, Apple Photos is already built in and often the best way to go. However, if you love Google Photos you can still use this app on your iPhone. 
  • If you have an Android phone, Google Photos is already built in and often the best way to go. You can’t access Apple Photos on this device.
  • If your friends and family prefer a specific app, organizing in the same one can make sharing pictures much easier.

Lesson #3: Keep it Simple! 

You probably have experienced an entire lifetime without using a smartphone, but now, you rely on them for communication, navigation, email, accessing menus at restaurants and most importantly, taking pictures! Whether you were an early adopter of the phone camera or a more recent convert, the number of photos you can take and the technology used to store them can feel incredibly overwhelming.

Keep in mind, though, that the technology also allows for very simple photo organization too. You don’t need all the bells and whistles, just the basics! 

Tips for keeping it simple: 

  • Identify your favorite photo app and keep it on your home screen.
  • Make sure you know how to access the main menu in your photo app.
  • Your photo stream will always be a mess! The trick is to focus on organizing pictures into ALBUMS.
  • You can create albums for people, pets, holidays, vacations and/or hobbies.
  • Once pictures are organized into albums, all it takes is a few clicks to quickly find and share your favorite photos.
  • Get into the habit of organizing your photos from your phone, knowing that you can view them on your computer or iPad any time. 

Lesson #4: Digitize to Organize Printed Pictures

Unfortunately, our tech-savvy kids and grandkids won’t be going through our albums and boxes to view our old, printed pictures. But if we digitize these memories, we can not only share them with future generations but keep them safe from physical harm such as fire, flood or even from getting lost in a move! 

Digitizing our printed pictures is truly the best way to get them organized. You can scan printed pictures right from your phone using an app like Photo Scan. The digital copies will automatically show up in your photo stream and can be organized into shareable albums by family, date, place or any other category that fits!  

If you are facing a very large collection of printed photos that you want to digitize, you will probably need to bring on some help.  A professional can help you devise a structure and system for digitizing your own photos, and there are also services that can do all of the digitizing and organizing for you.  Even if it ends up costing more than you thought, you’ll have the peace of mind that all of your photos have been preserved for yourself and your family too..

Lesson #5: Take Action Now!  

Now that we’re regularly using our phones to take pictures, some sort of organization method is necessary.  If you take the time now to figure out a good approach and system for yourself, you can then apply that system to organizing the rest of the photos in your collection, and your future ones too!  Once you get the hang of it, you’ll feel more confident using your phone as a file system for your photos instead of just a way of taking photos.

If you’re downsizing or moving, you have even more of a reason to get your photo collection organized once and for all.  If you’re feeling too overwhelmed to tackle it all yourself, consider leaning on a professional photo organizer or local digitizing service to keep your precious photos safe and sound for your move and beyond.


Melissa Foote is a Photo Organizer and Founder of Step-by-Step Tech. For additional information, or any questions about photo organizing, please visit her website or contact Melissa at

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