Keep the Story and Photos Together (Part 1)

I was recently asked how I organize and preserve my memories. That’s an amazing question and I want to share with you a few ways that I have done this process. For me, photos without stories are meaningless. I want to remember the hows and whys I took the photo in the first place. Especially since I have dramatically increased the number of photos taken since my first digital camera purchase in 2004.

With printed photos, the story can be written on the back, on a photo album page, or in a scrapbook containing the photo. The best thing would be to write on the back and the album or scrapbook page. That way, if the photo was ever removed from the album or scrapbook page, the information stayed with the photo.

What to do digitally? Since acquiring my first digital camera, I have asked myself that very question. In actuality, it has changed over time. Part One of this series will show you what I did initially. In future posts, I will share you what I do now. You can then decide what works best for you.


Regardless of whether my photos are scanned images or from my digital camera, I organize them on my hard drive chronologically and then by topic (sometimes).

Here’s the quick step view:

  1. Store photos by year
  2. Store photos by month
  3. Add topic sub-folder when necessary
Pretty straight forward. I’m all about simplicity whenever possible. Let’s see a case study.

Organizing Memories
Organizing Memories in Windows Explorer
Let’s say I’m sorting photos from the year 2013. In Windows Explorer, I create a new file folder under My Photos and name it 2013.
Then I create 12 folders and name them with the twelve months of the year. I like the folders sorted according to the month order, rather than alphabetically. So the folders are named with a two digit number before the month name: 01 Jan, 02 Feb, 03 Mar, and so forth.

Preserving Memories
Organizing Photos in Windows Explorer
Then I create additional folders under the appropriate month, when necessary. Some months do not have enough activities to separate the photos. However, some months, especially in December, have a lot of activities that are photo worthy. Within 12 Dec, I could create folders like Caroling Party, Christmas day, Nativity Display, Snow, and so on. If I have only a few photos from December that don’t necessarily fit into a larger category, I leave those photos in the 12 December folder. If there are 7 or more photos for a topic, I make a sub folder simply to separate these groups away from the others.
Photos without stories are meaningless to me. December 2013 was six months ago and I can’t remember everything from the church Christmas Party.

Organize Memories
Photos sorted by category with text file

Imagine if the story was December 2003. That was over ten years ago. I have moved two states and no longer live in a college town (which is known for it’s transient population). Without recording the story behind the photos, and the names of people in the photos, I will have forgotten the names and events easily.

So, I would open Microsoft Notepad and write the story behind the photos. I would be sure to name the people in the photos (and mention the photo number when necessary). Then I would save the *.txt file in the correct month or month/topic sub folder.
You would find these small .txt files in 2013 – 12 Dec that tell about all the miscellaneous photos in that folder. The .txt file would be named 201312ChurchParty.txt.  In the month/topic sub folder of 2013 – 12 Dec – Office Party, you would find .txt files that were named 201312OfficeParty.txt.
With the story files saved in the folders where the images are contained, I have a place for the digitized memories to be preserved together. Whenever I wanted to use these items in a personal history project, the stories and photos are right there. If I can’t remember something while watching a slide show that draws from the photo folder, I can stop the slide show, open the folder, and review the story file.
Growing up with computers and embracing a digital camera almost immediately, this process worked well until I developed other habits. I will share some other systems in the coming weeks.

2 thoughts on “Keep the Story and Photos Together (Part 1)

  1. Amanda, I'm so glad you like the idea. I'm sure there are other ways people have kept the stories together. This one worked for me for the longest time. I hope it works for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

10 Online Resources eGuide