Motivation to Start #6: Duplicates!

Here’s another tip that might help you get started organizing your photos, both physical and digital: DUPLICATES!!!

If you’re like pretty much every person on the planet, you have a bunch of duplicates. And those are taking up a ton of space, either in real life or on your computer or device.

Why is knowing you have a gob of duplicates going to make you want to start organizing? Because you can shrink your collection quickly and dramatically just by getting rid of them! What originally seemed like a mountain of photos has suddenly become a more manageable collection.

The great thing about deduplicating is that it doesn’t take a lot of brain power or emotional effort. For digital photos, you can run a deduplication program that will find a lot of those duplicates for you. You don’t need a lot of technical know-how to find exact duplicates, so you can cull a lot of photos really quickly. Then, depending on how comfortable you feel with the software, you can tweak the settings to find different subsets of duplicates, and you can even find photos that are similar to each other so that you can pick the best photo from a series of shots.

When it comes to print photos, there’s a good chance there’s a span of time in the ‘90s and beyond where you got duplicates (or triplicates! Quadruplicates?!) every time you developed a roll of film. It was that golden era when printing photos was fast and cheap, and we figured we might as well get extras in case there were a few good ones in there we might want to share with friends or family.

If you know there are boxes or envelopes from that era that have duplicates,  that could be a great place to start your organizing! It takes no time at all to zip through those rolls of film and weed out the duplicates. And suddenly you’ve halved the number of photos you need to deal with!

A quick sort through some of our own photos yielded a bunch of duplicates!

But as I am going through my own family photo collection I am reminded that there can be print duplicates from any era. Even images from the early 1900s could be represented by multiple copies. As I’ve been ingesting photo collections from various family members, I’m discovering the same photos over and over. In my family, at least, it was common practice to send copies of photos to family members near and far. What’s so great about this is that not only will I have fewer photos to archive – I can pick the best from the bunch to keep – but when people sent these photos to family members, they often included a lot of information on the back of the photo! Now I’ve got all kinds of metadata and stories that go along with these photos.

Be sure to take note of any differing information that you might find on the backs of these print duplicates. As you can see from my example, I found two photos of my great-grandmother with a bunch of turkeys. 😹 The top photo is clearly the keeper because it is darker. But take a look at the backs of the photos: one says “Kate Klapp” and the other “Grandma Kate.” In this instance, knowing that Kate was someone’s grandma isn’t particularly helpful, but what if those labels were reversed? If the underexposed photo was labeled “Kate Klapp,” I would want to be sure I added that last name to the photo I was keeping before tossing out that lesser photo.

This goes for the information that comes along with digital duplicates as well. A recent client of mine had a lot of digital duplicates in her genealogy collection, but what made deduplicating them tricky was that each copy had unique information attached to it that the second didn’t have, and vice versa. So, in those instances, it’s important to be sure you’ve gleaned all the important info from the extra copy before you toss it.

Speaking of tossing, the next question is: what do you do with all those print duplicates? In most cases, photographs are not recyclable because of the chemicals used in processing. However, that doesn’t mean they have to clog the landfill! You can pass them along to people who might be in the photos and would enjoy having a copy; you can get crafty and use the photos for any number of projects, like this box I made decades ago by shellacking duplicates to a shoe box; you can donate them to local schools and colleges to be used for crafting or art projects; you can ask local historical societies if they’d be interested in your older photos; and you can even shred them for use as sturdy packing material! All it takes is a search on the internet or Pinterest and you’ll find no end of fun ways to use those extra prints. 

It’s really rewarding to suddenly have a box of photos (or a digital trash bin) that can go off to another life and not keep clogging up your collection!  

Published by Amy

Professional Organizer specializing in digital and photo organization. Bassist/singer for prog-rock duo Clatter.

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