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Arranging Family Photos in Your Senior Years Can Bring a New Perspective and Purpose to Your Life

By Peter Bennett July 18, 2023 Lifestyle

For most of my life, I looked at family photos as most others did – they were little snippets of time. I would pick up a few envelopes of prints and flip through the 20 or 36 photos inside, still safely ensconced in their designated sleeve right next to their corresponding negatives.

They would still be looking as fresh as they did the day I got them back from Walgreens, Seattle Prints works, or the myriad of other photo processing labs we all used for so many years. 

Each envelope would contain memories from a specific event (like a wedding) or vacation (like a summer trip), or perhaps it was just a window into a certain week or day I had decided to carry my camera around with me. 

Around the holidays, I might pick up one of the family albums my mom kept of her and her family growing up in Brooklyn. Each year I would ask her about the people I didn’t recognize, and each year I would forget most of them until the ritual would repeat itself a year later. 

This was all fine and good, but the result was never really seeing the events of my life as they had unfolded, they were instead presented as compartmentalized pockets randomly picked up and viewed. That all changed when two things happened: I got older and I digitized all my family photos. 

Scanning Changes Everything 

Shortly after I had turned 60, I set out to scan and digitize many of the older prints and albums I had accumulated or been handed down.

Having your photos digitized allows you to view them easier than a large collection of prints. You can see a lot of them at once and arrange and re-arrange them as you wish. 

I started to place all my scanned photos in chronological order, and something very interesting happened – I started to see a life, my life, and that of my parents as well. Not the little bits and pieces as I had described before, but the whole thing, from start to finish, and it was remarkable. 

To really see one’s life unfold from the beginning to the present is a very unique and fascinating adventure. I started with the baby pictures, childhood, teen years, and then into adulthood. Schools, vacations, jobs, friends, marriages, divorces, births, deaths, all in the order they happened.

Our memories are not linear, but when the photos, all there and displayed as a timeline, line before you, a view of one’s life becomes possible which you can’t accomplish any other way.

A New Perspective

It was also around this time that I was looking to gain some perspective on my life. As my memory went back over the years, I had started to ask myself questions such as had I had done this or that differently how would it have worked out? Did I have any regrets? What would I have changed?

Not surprisingly, the photos I had begun to look at started to answer some of those questions. They provided a spark, and some long-forgotten memories began coming back to me.

But what’s interesting is that the photos not only brought back the memories of the events they portrayed, they helped me to recall the times in between those events, the circumstances and life situations that led up to those events.

Those in-between times are the bits of life that can be so easily forgotten, and those are often the things that made us decide which path to take. We may remember many of the events from our lives, but we can easily forget why we did those things.

Connecting with My Photos 

Based on the photos, I began to write down the stories I remembered or had been told to me by other family members. These were stories about myself, but also of my mother and father, stories from their childhood and even how they met.

I started to post them on social media at first and then decided to place them on my website for others to read as well. I called it the Legacy Project.

The response was so enthusiastic, not just from other family members, but from friends and even strangers who felt inspired by my efforts and wanted to start doing the same thing with their family pictures.

Companies are starting to develop a host of story-telling apps to help people tell their family histories. Many of them, like Joyflips (which I’ve used and like), combine voice recordings and photos. But it’s easy enough to just start writing down what you can or recording your voice as you tell a story or two.

However you do it, the most important thing is your process for connecting with your photos and the stories behind them.

The Lessons I Learned

If you were to ask me my biggest takeaway from this, I would say that after looking at all the stories and photos, I really had no regrets about any of the decisions or things I did in my life.

I look at my life now, and while not perfect, I’ve built a good life for myself. I’ve met and known an amazing array of people and had some pretty good adventures along with all the challenges and tragedies.

Had anything been different, had I made even the smallest change in anything along the way, I might not have what I have now or the memories of a full life. Not that we can ever change the past, but it’s nice to know I don’t want to.

There is a deep satisfaction that comes from putting your family history in order. What was once a mish-mosh of photos and stories can become a cohesive chronology of a rich family history. When it comes to your own life story, remember you are the only one uniquely able to tell it.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

How many boxes of family photos do you own? Have you ever attempted to organize them? Do you have them digitized? What stories do you think will come out if you organize the photos in linear sequence? Please share in the comments below!

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Beth Londner

I’m tempted.Wonderful article.

Peter Bennett

Thank you. Just get started, it gets easier.


I love this article. Thank you! I am starting to finalize my family photos. I prefer archival scrapbooking. I have done a 1st year album for my two children and 3 of my 5 grandchildren. I will check out Joyflips as I think the stories are so important. Stuff is not important but memories, family and love are!!

Sunny Florida

I recently did an inventory of the photo collection I inherited from my mom when she passed. My dad passed in 1990 and was an avid photographer-

3 bins of slides -10k plus slides
1 bin Hi 8 Tapes –
1 bin VCR Tapes –
1 bin framed photos –
6 bins pictures in envelopes –
2 bins photo albums –
1 bin misc pic. –

This doesn’t even include my massive printed collection and digital collection. 😩

We also don’t have family that will be interested in preserving much of it all past my life. So need to get things figured out.


I LOVE your post. I too recently digitized my family photos which were saved just as you described. I also began arranging them by year and put all the family historical photos in a separate album.

I haven’t gotten to the storytelling yet because I have about 80,000 photos and am culling them down.

I just had a thought during my morning walk today to write the stories about beloved objects And family heirlooms. A photo of the item and photos of where or when or from whom it was received can accompany the one page description.

I found that upon my mother’s passing I had to decide the fate of her lifetime of accumulated stuff not knowing where why or how certain items came into her life. Knowing why something has been preserved is more important than random objects you could have just as well picked up in a thrift shop.

I recently let go of almost everything I ever collected. I took a photo of each item and blessed the time I owned it and released it all to an estate sale place. The objects that have been retained are truly the most meaningful. Now it’s time to write their stories. .

So much to do but such a wonderful task.

Peter Bennett

The story-telling and the ways you preserve those stories are the important thing. It is challenging as we are the first generation faced with preserving a digital legacy as well as an analog one. There are resources such as and that are helping with that. Good luck


Aargh; I just have to start!

Peter Bennett

Getting started is the hardest part, once you get going it gets easier and you can even enjoy the journey


Any recommendations on reasonable companies to digitize your photos?


The Author

Peter Bennett is a professional photo organizer and consultant, and the owner of Fotoflow Solutions. After a successful career as a professional photographer and photo agency owner, Peter now helps others manage their digital and print photo collections and organize their family histories. Please visit him at

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