The Best Way to Organize Photos: What’s the Important Missing Piece?

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There are a bazillion articles on the internet that tell you the best way to organize photos. But have you done it yet? If not, it’s likely because you are missing an important ingredient.

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There are a bazillion articles on the internet that tell you the best way to organize photos. You’ve probably seen many of them. But have you done it yet? If you have, congratulations! But if you haven’t it may be because you are missing an important ingredient in the photo organizing instruction set. And so are the authors of all those posts.

It’s not that they don’t know what they are talking about. They do. It’s just that these articles are usually written by professionals—professional photographers, professional organizers, or professional photo managers (like me).

These people are used to organizing photos and more on their own. They don’t even realize that family photo keepers need something more, and I believe what they need is community. That is the missing ingredient.

The Best Way to Organize Photos is in Community

There’s an African proverb that says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I want to share three ways that going together can enhance your photo management experience.

1. Community is Made with Shared Values

Humans have evolved to experience the tangible benefits of human connection, which include an increased feeling of belonging, purpose, happiness, self-worth and confidence. The pandemic put a damper on much community and connection. And even though things are starting to open up, not everyone is yet willing to fully embrace going back to the way things were before.

At my virtual community events, the shared values of family, family photos and memories make it easy to connect with other participants on a deep level, no matter where you live or what else you do. We share heartfelt (as well as funny) stories with each other. Looking through our photos takes us back to our memories, and it’s nice to be able to share with others who understand those feelings.

You may even make new friends!

“The biggest benefits for me are being accountable and enjoying the company of friends as we work together. I really look forward to these monthly Zoom events!”

~Ellen N.

“The biggest benefit is dedicating time to the project and knowing other people are also dedicating time to their stuff as well.”

~Lisa F.
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Adult beverages are fun, but optional.

2. Community Increases Motivation

As you make progress on your collection, you will be inspired to make more. In fact, research supports this. Just the sense that you’re working together with others can dramatically increase your motivation to complete difficult tasks—even when you’re actually working alone. Stanford psychological scientists concluded that even subtle suggestions of being part of a team dramatically increased people’s motivation and enjoyment in relation to difficult tasks, leading to greater perseverance and engagement and even higher levels of performance. And they found that even the mere perception of working collectively on a task can supercharge your performance.

The energy in the Co-Working Room will fire you up, and the fun factor is contagious. We make jokes, we encourage each other, we share our work, and sometimes we even indulge in adult beverages while working (not required, of course). But the important thing is – it will keep you going.

“It was nice to see I wasn’t the only one who is behind.”

~Lisa F.

“It keeps me working consistently on my projects.”

~Ellen N.

3. Community Offers Collective Commitment and Experience

A big benefit of attending my virtual community events is that you can ask questions in the moment, as they come up, while you work. Not only will you have access to me, a professional photo manager, other attendees often have experiences that they are willing to share.

For example, in a recent workshop an attendee had a question about photos on her iPhone. I haven’t had an iPhone in for six years, so I asked another participant with one to answer her question.

Working in a group you may learn things you didn’t expect to learn. Not everyone is working on the same things: some are organizing digital photos, others, printed photos. Some are doing traditional scrapbooking, others, digital scrapbooking. Some are scanning and others are sorting and culling. Each person brings a unique perspective and level of experience to the workshops that they are more than willing to share in a helpful way.

You’ll be able to expand your knowledge, find solutions, build confidence and more. You’ll also be able to ask for feedback from other participants. No one will let you fail and everyone wants your success. So you can’t lose!

“It was handy because as I was working I could ‘think out loud’ and ask for help which kept me going forward on my task instead of feeling frustrated and giving up for lack of an answer or help. People were eager to help, that’s for sure! All my concerns and questions were met and answered. I’m off and running with my projects and if I have another question I’m either writing it down, emailing Fancy, or will ask at the next monthly meeting I attend.”

~Judy N.

Organizing Photos is Self Care Which is Optimized by Community

I don’t know about you, but I’m always putting my self care last on the list. Which means it almost never happens. But my decision to start offering the virtual community events came out of two needs of my own:

  1. I wanted to dedicate time to make progress on my own photo management goals. I am not generally motivated by rewards, however, I am motivated by achievement. So the progress I make each month on my goals is self care for me. If you are motivated by rewards, then, by all means, please set up a reward system for yourself!
  2. I missed my friends. I’d held many in-person photo organization events from 2002 through 2018. In January 2020 I decided to recreate the events, but to make them virtual. Good thing, too, since along came a pandemic.

In addition, I find that when I’m working I get into a state of flow – a few moments in time when I am so completely absorbed by my activity that nothing else seems to matter. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says flow is the secret to happiness – a statement he supports with decades of research.

Another reason attending the community work rooms is self care is that you’ll make progress on a problem that probably has been weighing you down for some time, even if it wasn’t always at the forefront of your consciousness. And you don’t even have to pack up your stuff and haul it somewhere. That’s a double win!

“Working on my photos brings me joy and makes me feel happy as I remember good times spent with family & friends. So taking the time to do something that makes me feel good is a priority.”

~Ellen N.

“I absolutely believe taking the time to attend the workshops is a form of self care. I enjoy spending time with my friends, and friends-to-be at workshops. Interacting with those in my social network who also enjoy photo keeping makes me feel connected to them. As well as catching up in our personal lives, we share our memories and pictures. We also provide each other support whether it be socially, emotionally or technically….in regards to traditional or digital photo keeping. Attending workshops has been even more of self care in the time of COVID-19.”

~Laurie W.

Three Ways I Offer Community to Help Organize Your Photos

Right now I have three different ways you can be in community with other family photo keepers with similar goals. I invite you to give one or more of them a try to see how they can help you, too.

1. Free Facebook Group

The first way is completely free! Join over 500 members in my private Facebook Group, “Organize Your Photos & Memories – Finally!” Members ask questions, answer each others’ questions, and we have a lot of fun in there, too.


“I credit this group for encouraging me to make a start organizing my huge picture pile! I have been dragging my feet for years! 

~Joanne G.

“I need the encouragement and knowing I’m not the only one with this project. And the blog and emails keep in front of me. You know how you can procrastinate and push things aside…these keep me putting little tasks on my to do list.”

~Shari W.

“It reminds me that I need to keep on top of this project.”

~Nonnie W.

2. Co-Working Events

Twice a month I host virtual Co-Working Events, and I truly think these are the best way to organize photos and make progress on your photo management goals. We have attendees from all over the US and even the world!

Each 4-hour event is scheduled on various days and times to meet the needs of the attendees. If you register in advance and find you cannot come, I’ll gladly apply the full purchase price toward a future workshop that you can attend.

In case you are worried that working together won’t work for you, here’s how we schedule it so that’s not a problem:

  • We chat for 15 minutes, set our goals for the first our, then mute our mics, leave our cameras on (unless eating or something you don’t want watched), and work silently for an hour.
  • We then report in and set our next goals for 15 minutes and work silently for an hour.
  • Wash, Rinse and Repeat.
  • We end with 15 minutes of final check in.

It’s come when you can and leave when you have to. And if you have a question during the quiet working time, you are always welcome to either ask it at the time or wait for the next break – whichever works best for you.

“Attending a workshop gives me the excuse to do something positive towards getting something that’s important to me DONE! Being with people who have the answers as we work is motivating and the feeling of going forward with securing my family’s precious memories keeps me inspired.”

~Judy N.

3. The Family Photo Keeper Academy

The Family Photo Keeper Academy is a subscription-based, membership learning community. It’s filled with people just like you, family photo keepers with a lifetime of family photo memories in a variety of formats. 

The Academy has its own Facebook group for group interaction, a monthly Office Hour/Q&A with lively discussions, and an organized learning center which includes all my digital products. And Academy members get to attend the co-working workrooms free of charge – it’s included in the membership fee.

“I believe I have achieved more than I imagined possible since signing up to The Academy. I have achieved more in the last 6 months (being guided and encouraged by Fancy) than I managed to do in the last six years “flying solo” being overwhelmed and procrastinating.”

~Philippa M.

“I have found the Academy worth every penny. I am making so much more progress this way than when I was trying to do it on my own. I highly recommend Fancy Ruff-Wagner as a Photo Organizing Teacher and her Family Photo Keeper Academy.”

~Karen J.

What’s Next?

I hope you are ready to commit to the best way to organize photos, and that’s in community. And if you’re not ready to try out one of my communities listed above, I invite you to join my email list (which I also call a community) to get a feel for the the things I talk about so you can see if they are a right fit for you. I’ll also send you my free “Getting Started Checklist” as a bonus. I never share your information, and if it’s not a right fit, there’s an unsubscribe link at the bottom of every email.

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