Declutter the Childhood Artwork Collection

Hopefully, you’ve had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Perhaps you’re following up on last week’s challenge of photographing family heritage memorabilia. Today, I thought I’d cover a clutter problem along with a family history problem. The culprit… children’s artwork.

In a historical sense, you may have artwork from children from the 1980s and not have any clue what to do with these items. They’ve probably been in a box or folder someday, for future use. Your children and grandchildren are probably telling you these things are fire hazards, and I’d probably agree with them.

In my case, I had a vast collection of artwork from my childhood when I married my husband. He couldn’t see what on earth I’d do with everything I’d saved. So, he told me to toss it, and I did. So wish I’d known how to photograph my artwork, magazines, and sticker books. Ah well, in his defense, we really didn’t have room for boxes of ‘stuff’ in our tiny little apartment back then.

Fast forward to present day, and you either have artwork from your children and/or grandchildren coming out your ears. It seems like the volume of crafts and artwork have increased substantially since back in the day, but I could be wrong. In any case, I don’t have room for everything in my home that my children make, so I pawn stuff on their grandparents. One grandma says she’s drowning in the children’s artwork. Guess that means that option’s out. So, what can we do?

Scanning Children's Art


Okay, you could also scan smaller items, but for the most part, my children use paper that is not 8 1/2 by 11 when in art class. So, I photograph their work. I just recently learned about using levels to brighten photos on the computer, but I haven’t used that skill on these pictures yet. But you will see how excellent photographs of children’s artwork can be. Plus, it takes up a lot less space!

Scanning Children's Art
f/3.2, EXP 1/60 sec, ISO 200

To photograph artwork, I set up a station (no lightbox) near a window with soft natural light.  I place the artwork on a white sheet. With the camera mounted on a tripod, I set the timer function. This allows me to hold a piece of white foam board on the side opposite the window. I maneuver the board until the artwork is flooded with the right about of light bounced back.

For many objects, I can fill the camera frame with the entire art piece. In cases such as the piece above, I fill in as much of the frame as I can and then I’ll use photo editing software to cut out the background.

Scanning Children's Art
f/2.8, EXP 1/15 sec, ISO 200

For the photo above, the art is sized such that I could have used the scanner. However, since the art medium involves chalk, I would never put that on my scanner. Photography is the only solution for these items.

Scanning Children's Art
f/2.8, EXP 1/60 sec, ISO 200

I’ve also noticed that scanned art involving crayons also results in weird colors. So, I photograph crayon work about 50% of the time. This piece could really use the lightening techniques involving levels and contrast.

Scanning Children's Art
f/2.8, EXP 1/25 sec, ISO 200

As you can see, photographing children’s artwork can be done relatively easily without a need for a professional level of skills. But I’m sure you don’t want to have the white background distracting from your prodigy’s creations. Using a photo editor, you can quickly solve that problem.

Scanning Children's Art
Photo as it appeared on the camera


Scanning Children's Art
Photo after cropping

As you’re preparing for the Christmas holiday, perhaps you can scan the artwork that is around your house. Just think of all the free space you’ll have. That’s about the best Christmas present you could give yourself and your family.

6 thoughts on “Declutter the Childhood Artwork Collection

  1. My oldest daughter proclaimed herself an artist at age 3 and we had sooo much artwork from her. I started making calendars for our 3 sets of grandparents as Christmas presents each year. (This was before we had a computer, scanner, etc.) – it took 36 pieces of her art and gave them a new home and function. She continued the tradition through high school – by then scanning or photographing art and using the same 12 pieces for each calendar. All of the grandparents still have the calendars. I started photographing a few pieces of my kids' art as I was working on scrapbooks of their school years. You have reminded me that I never finished my project, much less the scrapbooks!

  2. Alice,

    You're welcome. Glad I could give you a great idea.

    How awesome for your grandmother to have saved everything. Photograph it and then compile the art into a flip style photo book. I did this for my daughter's horse art and it's been awesome to have. Give grandma a copy. That way you can show how much you appreciated her saving efforts but she doesn't have to have something huge any longer.

    – Devon

  3. This is a great suggestion, and I don't know why I never thought of it before! Haha. I don't have any children, but my grandmother was recently trying to unload on me some of the artwork and other childhood memorabilia she had saved from when I was a kid. I should accept and take some photos. Definite space saver. Thanks for the tip!

  4. They could be used to make personalized note cards and birthday cards as well. I would love the receive a card with grandchildren's artwork on it. Then I could scan it and toss it!

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