How to Catalog Photos


There are several ways to catalog your photographs. Which way you choose depends on what you want to do with the photographs once they're cataloged. Scrapbookers often sort and catalog by subject matter such as individuals or events. Parents usually want to catalog chronologically so they can watch their family grow through pictures. Decide what you'll do with the pictures first to determine the best method of cataloging. Before you begin, find a large empty space to work such as a fully extended dining room table or cleared kitchen counters.

Things You'll Need

  • Large working space
  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Photo boxes
  • Computer


  • Sort your photographs according to the age of the people in them or the time they were taken. Look for photographs you know the month and year of, like vacation or holiday photos and use those as a guide. Create piles of photographs sorted by year.

  • Take one stack of photographs and create four smaller stacks sorted by season. Continue the sorting by taking your cues from the events in the photographs.Consider the clothing worn, the ages of the people in the photographs and notable events like birthdays or reunions.

  • Complete one stack and continue to do the same with the next stack.


  • Stack the photographs into piles based on events such as birthday parties, holidays and vacations.

  • Go through each stack and further sort them by time line. Take your cues from things like when food was served for parties and reunions, or when specific locations were visited for vacation photographs.

  • Sort the photographs that don't fall into a specific event category and position them in between the appropriate events by date. Take your cues by the seasons, clothing and age of the people in the photographs.


  • Separate photographs by who is in them. If more than one person is in the photos, make copies for everyone.

  • Take one stack and further sort it according to major events like birthdays, vacations and holidays. Put those stacks in order by year.

  • Look through the remaining photos in the stack and place those in order. Take your cues from the clothing and age of the subject in the photograph.

Final steps for all types of cataloging

  • Write a brief description on the back of each picture including the names and ages of the people in the photograph.

  • Number each photograph and create a corresponding list, either hand written or on the computer with each number and description.

  • Store the photographs in photo boxes, which are boxes specially designed with acid free papers to keep photographs from fading, and keep a copy of the catalog with the photographs for easy reference.

Tips & Warnings

  • Catalog digital photographs the same way. Create folders for each person, event or year and sort the photographs by moving the photographs into the appropriate folders.


  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
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