Put your travel photos in their place with this simple, yet effective, organizing system.
By Eldon Parker, F144217
It seems that many of us accumulate packets and albums of photos that we have organized by trip. After awhile, it can become frustrating to have to look through all of these separate collections when all you really want to do is show someone several places from a single state. In addition, some of the areas you have visited through the years may begin to look alike. As the old saying goes, if you have seen one mountain, you have seen them all. Well, not always, but you get my point.
When my wife and I began full-timing five years ago, we put most of our travel photos from past trips in storage and began keeping photos from each year of full-timing in separate albums. This worked great for the first three years as we visited different areas of the United States. During the fourth and fifth years we began to re-visit some of our favorite areas, exploring these places in depth and taking more photos. That’s when our problems started. We would be showing an attraction we had visited and one of us would ask, “Where is the photo of the waterfall?” or a question to that effect. Lo and behold, after looking through a later album, we would find the photo. This made it appear that we didn’t know what we were doing, and by the time we found the missing photo, no one was interested any longer.
To solve this problem, we began pulling photos from the newer albums and inserting them into older albums at the end of each year’s travels. This worked for a while, but as the albums filled, we started having to move photos from entire states into other albums where they would fit. Doing so created another problem: we wound up with photos from western states in eastern state albums. We needed a plan.
Here’s how we resolved our photo organization dilemma. We believe it can work for anyone who likes to travel and take photos.
First, we divided the United States into six regions, and gave each region its own album. (If your travels included trips to Canada or Mexico, you can create a separate album for these countries.) In the future we could add more albums for each region, depending on our travels. Our regional breakdown was the Northwest; the Southwest; the North Central; the South Central; the Northeast; and the Southeast. Each album contained all of the photos and information from a region up to the current year. We decided to keep an album of our current year’s travels to show family and friends when we would meet them. At the end of each year’s travels, the best photos would be inserted into their proper regional album.
This method is simple and quite workable. And the organization really paid off when sharing traveling information with other RVers. We can now find the correct album, state, and area without searching through scads of photo packets and albums. And the system ensures that all of the photos and information are kept together. In addition, as we prepare for future trips, we have a photo journal to aid us in our plans.
Implementing such a system is easier if you haven’t started snapping shots yet; but, if you’re like us, you probably won’t realize you need such organization until you find yourself staring at hundreds of photos that need a home. The process seemed daunting at first glance, but a few planned steps took the sting out of it. Here’s how we did it.
Step 1: Prepare envelopes in different sizes “” one large envelope for each region, one medium-sized envelope for each state, and one small envelope for each attraction in a state.
Step 2: Purchase a photo album for each region that measures 8 inches wide, 10-1/2 inches tall, and 2 or 3 inches thick. This size album will hold between 200 to 300 4-inch-by-6-inch photos with a 1-1/4-inch-by-6-inch information divider between photos on each page. We found that this size album fits in most motorhomes’ overhead cabinets.
Step 3: Buy the following accessories: two road atlases; a pack of heavyweight multicolored paper; rubber cement; a razor knife; a small cutting board; 1-1/32-inch-thick clear plastic; and other supplies you deem necessary. Create two cutting guides from the plastic, one measuring 4 inches by 6 inches, the other 1-1/4 inches by 6 inches, for use with the information dividers and photo sleeves.
Sort through all of your photos and information and file them in the appropriate envelopes. After completing this process, analyze what you have come up with and determine whether you will need additional albums. Don’t throw away any extra photos. You may need to retrieve a few to fill in empty spaces after you review your albums.
In addition, you can use selected parts of these photos to make a 4-inch-by-6-inch collage, or to use with an information sheet. You also can use peel-and-stick labels to add comments to your photos as well as to cover up parts of an image you don’t want to show.
Portions of brochures from attractions that you visited can be incorporated into your albums to add information. Save a few of the small city or area maps you’ve picked up to pinpoint locations. You may even want to call or e-mail state tourism departments for additional information.
Cutouts from the road atlases can be a primary source of location information. Make sure to buy two of the same atlas, because there is printing on both sides of the pages. Road atlases are a good source of national park maps; scenic drives; city maps; small state maps with information; various attractions; and routes leading to attractions. Before purchasing the atlases, review several different ones to see which contains the type of information you are most likely to use in your albums.
The two plastic cutting guides will be very helpful as you clip information from brochures or atlases. By inserting a cutting board under the page, you can position the guide over the information and cut around it with a razor knife, creating an exact-size piece for your album sleeves. Save your atlases for future use.
If you have a computer, printer, and word processing software, the sky is the limit for what you can do to enhance your photo albums. With these tools you can add personal information regarding a photo or an attraction, create album titles, etc.
I designed and printed six album titles for each of the regions; each includes the names of the states from that region in alphabetical order. The titles were printed on card stock and attached to the album end with double-stick tape. Print two sets, and you also can secure an album title to the front cover.
We found that the easiest way to start compiling the albums was to take one state at a time and arrange the photos according to attraction and the information on hand. While doing this, make notes about additional information you would like to incorporate. Select parts of brochures, atlases, personally designed information, etc. Many neat ideas will come to you as you design your first album. Once you’ve completed the first one, you will get into a groove, and eventually you’ll be finished. This is a winter or rainy-day project, as you may have guessed.
When you are finished making the albums, you will wonder what to do with the discarded photos that are too good to throw away, but not needed for the albums. One suggestion is to use these photos to create note cards. They make a great way to show off your travels when dropping someone a line.
To make your own note cards, look for paper and envelopes at print shops or paper supply stores. You can purchase a kit or have any type of specialty paper cut to size with the matching envelopes. I purchased paper cut to 9 inches by 6-3/8 inches. When folded in half, the front panel measures 4-1/2 inches by 6-3/8 inches with a 1/4-inch-by-3/16-inch border for a 4-inch-by-6-inch photo. This border serves as a nice frame for the photo. The photo can be attached to the card with rubber cement. Allow any cement around the edges of photo to dry, then rub off the excess using a lint-free white cloth. Compose a nice message, slide the card into a stamped envelope, and make someone’s day.