How I Finally Printed and Organized 7 Years of Family Photos

I have long wanted to make family photo albums – not fancy scrapbooks with all sort of fun stickers and notations – just plain old photo albums. My parents used to develop all of the film from the family camera once a year and do a massive sorting of the photos, putting them into albums that us children now greatly cherish.

Aside from our wedding photos in their own album, Ethan and I’s precious photo memories only existed on social media and an insane camera reel with over 10,000 photos taking up all of the memory on my phone. The task seemed too gargantuan to undertake. I was finally going to print and organize photos last Christmas, but then I miscarried Baby Andrew in early December and abandoned the project. It held a certain sting for me for the last year, remembering the sad reason that I was not able to complete it.

This year I decided it was time to attack this behemoth task and I did it! I am going to break down the steps on how I completed catching up 7 years of photos being printed and my tips for doing this project yourself

Step 1: Decide on Who the Albums are For

First decide who your albums will be for. My parents made albums for each individual child. Some families keep just main family photo albums that will always remain with mom and dad. I decided I wanted to do both – a general collection of family memories will be kept for us to keep in our home always, and then albums for the girls to take their own homes one day.

Step 2: Upload Your Photos

I used Walgreens for printing and I do have to say I feel that their quality has gone down a little. My non-professional photos came out darker looking with them then I feel they have in the past. You may find it worth it to use a higher-quality printing company like MPix. That being said, it did get the job done and if you watch out on their “deals” page you will usually be able to find a good coupon for large quantities of 4×6 prints.

It was fastest for me to log in to my iCloud account on the computer and download the photos I wanted from my iPhone back up there. This let me do huge, quick uploads on the desktop Walgreens website, rather than try and upload them directly from the phone which always seems to crash with large uploads. You could also do this with Google Drive if you have an Android phone.

I uploaded all of the photos that I wanted to into Walgreens so that I could then order my prints.

I was so overwhelmed on choosing photos. I tried to focus on major milestones and particularly cute ones of the girls.

Step 3: Order Your Photos

This was by far the most time consuming task. Because I wanted four different albums, one for each of the girls and then a family album, I needed to do four separate orders. This was important for organization.

If you order one massive set of photos and then have to sort them into different albums, it’s going to become a nightmare sorting. This is especially true if you want one particular photo in multiple albums, like a family Christmas picture, for instance. It will take so much longer trying to remember to order multiples of certain pictures and then get them in chronological order for each album. Just order the photos for one album at a time.

First I did Felicity’s which was the easiest since she is just a couple months old. I went through my mega photo upload and selected a couple photos of me pregnant with her, and then the photos from the birth center, her newborn photo shoot, and candids from the first few weeks of her life. I placed the order and moved on to the next girl.

For Philomena and Zelie, I sometimes put the same photo featuring them together in both of their albums, but I focused on their own birthdays and pictures that prominently featured themselves in their respective albums.

When it came to the general family album that Ethan and I will always keep, I did a smattering of the “highlights”. These included particularly favorite pictures of the girls, and memories from major milestones like births, favorite trips and outings, etc.

Step 4: Purchase the Physical Albums

I shopped around for albums and was frustrated. Walmart’s quality was incredibly poor and the selection limited. Hobby Lobby carries beautiful albums with really high quality plastic insert pages you purchase – but it would have cost many hundreds of dollars to go this route for a growing family like ours. The internet revealed lots of albums with these sticky pages – you want to stay far from those. And of course there are lots of scrapbooking options which I had no time for.

I ordered a few different types of “old school” albums off of Amazon and while the ones I settled on aren’t as sturdy as what my parents used back in the 90’s for me, they are definitely good enough quality and made the project affordable.

Our main family album that Ethan and I will permanently keep are in this 600 photo capacity album found here on Amazon. It is a large one with 6 photos per page in varied layouts for both vertical and horizontal pictures. I liked that layout feature a lot so that even if every last photo can’t be the right direction, most are.

I wish the pages were a touch thicker, but overall I’m incredibly pleased with the quality for the price, and the 600 photo capacity is more than adequate for the 350ish photos I printed covering our first picture over 7 years ago until now.

For the girls’ albums I wanted something smaller that would fit on their laps and be easier to flip through. I selected these 300 photo capacity albums also from Amazon.

These were ideal because they are a much narrower album that the girls can manage easier, and they come in lots of colors so each girl can have their own color for their albums. They’re really good quality and 300 photos is enough for several years for each child.

Step 5: Sort Your Physical Photos

Even though I ordered photos for each album separately, there still was sorting to be done. Not everything was printed in chronological order because they had not been perfectly uploaded. I wasn’t a stickler about things being in perfect order, but obviously a photo of Philomena’s 1st birthday should come before photos of her 3rd! It took time to go through each set of photos and get things into roughly the correct order.

Step 6: Fill Your Albums

This was actually a faster process than I anticipated. I would turn on a podcast or video I wanted to listen to and go to town. Once things are in order, actually assembling an album only took an hour or two, and that was covering the span of multiple years!

Step 7: Maintain

My goal now is to maintain. This week I am going to order a few photos that I missed initially (somehow almost nothing from my sister’s wedding made it into any albums!), along with some Christmas photos we just took last week. With that, the albums will be totally caught up through the end of this year. I will revisit the albums once a year, God willing, around New Years, capturing the highlights of the year before.

Misc. Tips

A few tips:

  1. Let go of perfection. If you’re catching up many years worth of photos, there WILL be some pictures that likely end up out of order. Just take a deep breath and get them into the album. I had some of these happen and I’m glad I let go of the perfect chronological goal!
  2. You can’t include every photo. It’s okay. You are not trying to save every last memory you have ever captured. The point is for us to be able to look back on where we have been as a whole, and appreciate different stages and ages in our family. We keep so many memories in our hearts – it is fine if it is not all printed on paper.
  3. If you are like me and have many years and multiple children to catch up on, take it easy and don’t go overboard. Looking back at my project on the other side, I actually wish I would have been a bit more discerning about which pictures went into the girls’ albums. They have a lot and I could have been choosier for the sake of album space and money spent on prints.
  4. Do what you can. If this project seems just too much, make a smaller, simpler goal like printing 5-10 photos for each year that you have not printed and letting that be good enough. I love that saying from Kathryn at Do It On A Dime – “A done something is better than a perfect nothing.”

12 thoughts on “How I Finally Printed and Organized 7 Years of Family Photos

  1. Thank you for showing me that I can did the same with our 12 years of photos! My husband printed me a book for 2018–very simple but special Christmas present. And I have wanted to do the continue that. Now I need to backtrack for us and our 9 children. I needed some inspiration.


  2. I applaud you getting it all done in one go. I made the mistake of not printing anything for years so now I am playing perpetual catch up. I will admit that I take more photos than the average mom and since I edit my photos I refuse to use any printer other than Mpix—because of the expense, catch up is slow going. It’s well worth it though. My kids love going through the albums. Your girls will certainly treasure having their own albums.


  3. Thank you for sharing the “hows” ~ it is a daunting task! So impressed with your tackling this project.
    As it is snowing heavily here…this might be something I should be able to get started. I have been so impressed w/Shutterfly-their online storage, quality of prints, and photo books I have made.


  4. this was a great post! I had fallen off the of the train of printing photos for my album about 9 or 10 years ago and just saved photos on the external hard drive. Once I started using instagram (used for 2 years) I had stopped taking as many ‘people’ photos b/c I was taking ‘ig-worthy’ photos. lol
    Then we adopted my son last year and part of our process was sending a letter and photos to his birth mother each month for the first 6, then annually for his birthdate. That really helped me get back on board with photos! I got in a routine of taking them, uploading to shutterfly (which I recommend), and then ordering a set (for me and for birth mother) each time I need to send some. Shutterfly lets you send your order items to more than one address as needed, so it makes it easy to get it done at once. Then with the set I sent to myself, I added it to his album. Maybe now I will be able to go back and fill in some of the past 10 years as well!


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