What to Do with Old Family Photos to Give Them
a New Lease on Life
Old images aren’t just a window into the past. They are the remnants of the days gone by and precious keepsakes for people who understand the importance of knowing their lineage. Most of the time these old images waste their short lives in dusty photo albums or behind fragile glass of photo frames. If it’s not the fate you want for them, then you might want to learn what to do with old pictures.
This is what we are here to help you with. In this article, we’ll be going over a handful of great and perfectly doable ideas for old family photos. There will be as many as 15 options, so you are sure to find the best way for you to prolong the life of your family archive.
What to Do with Old Photos: Getting Started
Before you actually start breathing new life into your old pictures, there is some prepping that needs to be done. Here’s a list of essential things you need to tick off before you start:
- Gather your old pictures in one place. You probably don’t have all your old images just lying around under one roof - or rather one photo album cover. Chances are you have them scattered all over your multiple relatives, hidden in boxes in the attic or stored away in your grandma’s vanity chest. Bring them all together. Take them out of shadow boxes and photo frames, shoe boxes and whatnot. If your relatives have some of the gems, ask them to mail you these old photographs.
- Cull the images. Now you might be wondering - what to do with hundreds of family photos now that you have them all on your hands. Well, it’s time to screen them. Look through the archive and sort away those images that are no good for use, way too damaged or that are doubles, and keep those that are in good condition and have a nice subject matter.
- Organize your pictures. Now it’s time to create a few neat piles and organize your photo archive. You can take different approaches to the task. You can sort the images by families or people in them or by dates (or at least approximate decades). This is where you can perform additional sorting of the images. Perhaps, you’ll find portraits of some people or images of some events that you wouldn’t want to feature in any of your artistic endeavors.
- Decide on what kind of copies you’ll use. If you plan to go with hard copies of your images, you need to make sure that they are in tiptop condition. Consider restoring those that have been damaged. Do it yourself, manually, or recruit a pro. If you decide on using digital copies, you obviously need to digitize your archive. You can either run the photos through a scanner or just shoot them all anew.
So it seems like your family archive has been gathered, sorted, and organized. Well, now that you are all set, it’s time to finally learn a bunch of cool ideas for old family photos. Let’s get going.
What to Do with Old Pictures: 15 Creative Ideas
It’s high time to get crafty, creative, and all artsy. Below, you’ll find a handful of doable ways to incorporate old images into your life, home, or art projects. We’ll be looking at ways that feature both hard and soft copies of your images.
1. Save Your Old Family Photos for Future Generations
Since your family archive isn’t just a bunch of old pieces of paper, but rather a peephole into the history of your whole lineage, it would be truly noble of you to save your old photos for younger generations. The easiest way to do that is to digitize your whole family archive and keep it in a cloud storage.
It might be truly tedious to digitize thousands of photos, but trust us - keeping your family history intact is worth it. Besides, no one is forcing you to digitize all your photos at once. Do it one batch a week, for instance. Another time-saving idea is to seek help from a pro photo studio, but it could be costly.
Another tip - make sure to restore damaged photos after scanning them. It won’t take long if you use proper photo restoration software for the job. In just a few clicks, your old family pictures will look like new and will be ready to be introduced into the digital age.
2. Make a Stunning Collage with Your Old Images
No, collages aren’t just about baby, vacation or wedding pics. You can turn your family archive into a graceful digital collage, print it, then hang it on the wall. This is actually a very nice way of displaying old family photos as it would both honor your heritage and spice up your home.
There is no winning formula for such an art project, but there are several ways you could go with this idea. First off, you can combine yours and your spouse’s family images into one artwork to signify the merge of your two clans. Alternatively, you can create a collage that would chronicle the life of some member you feel a particular connection to. Another option is to just mix the most impressive and picturesque images into one stunning collage - regardless of the time period or family members. Vintage photos are still enticing to look at even with no context.
3. Craft a Scrapbook with Your Inherited Photos
This entry and the one above are pretty similar ideas for old pictures, whereas a collage features digital copies, and a scrapbook incorporates physical ones. And a scrapbook is arguably a more exciting option. After all, you can not only use your vintage photos for it, but also some memorabilia from the times gone by. Just imagine - a picture of your great grandma on a page along with a lace strip she wore on her hat. Now that’s a way to go back in time for a while, right?
Once again, there are no strict rules to creating a scrapbook with your old family photos other than do not use very fragile photos and objects. If you lack inspiration, sites like Pinterest will get your creative juices flowing.
4. Make a Slideshow with Your Old Photographs
Here's another answer to a pressing question of “what to do with your old family pictures”. Just gather the images that are cream of the crop, digitize them any way you like, and make sure to polish them with photo restoration software. Finally, turn them into a vintage-inspired slideshow. Let the animation literally turn the pages of your family history book.
Since a slideshow is one of the most creative things to do with old photos, you can let your inner artist shine with this one. Use digital embellishments, graceful frames, and gorgeous filters to decorate your vintage slideshow. Just don’t try to cram your whole family archive into a video - it will be way too long and barely watchable. Try to stick to a 10-minute running time. This way you’ll still create an interesting-to-watch slideshow and be able to fit all your favourite images into it.
5. Create a Family Tree with Portraits
Want your kids to get to know their lineage, but do it in a fun and engaging way? Then a family tree is a project you really need to look into. This is a chart that shows your whole lineage in the form of a full-branched tree. To make it happen, you need portraits of your forebears, glue, scissors, a sharpie, paints, a piece of cardboard, and just a pinch of inspiration.
The idea is simple. Have your kids draw a tree on the cardboard, then glue pictures of your relatives to it. Just make sure that you do not use the only physical copies of those portraits. Better yet, render these images digital, print them, then have your way with them. In case the portraits look withered or damaged, and you know how to make old photos look new - do it so that your family tree looks polished.
6. Turn Your Family Photos Into Photo Books
Love old photo albums but want to glamour them up? Then invest into professional looking books that would be a delight to thumb through. Granted, this might be one of the more expensive ideas for storing your family archive, but it is worth it in the long run. Such photo albums will be something to pass on for generations to keep the memories alive.
Once again, there is no need to break the bank trying to fit tons of boxes of family photos into those albums. Send your images through yet another screening process. You can later use the books as gifts for your relatives. Alternatively, you can leave them on your coffee table, then flip through them on cozy winter nights, telling your kids all about the people who came before them.
7. Create Jewelry with the Images
Have a thing for little trinkets like lockets or pendants? Then create one with a twist - incorporate a vintage image of your lovely female relative from the yonder years. Such pieces of jewellery always look fresh and cool, but if people find out that it is your relative that is featured in the locket - this will spark so many interesting conversations.
The recipe for a photo locket or pendant is simple. If you have a locket, then simply print a digitized photo, then glue it inside. But first, start with mending you photos if you know how to repair them. As for a pendant - just put the printed and restored image into a mold, then pour epoxide resin over it and let it sit overnight. Then drill a little hole at the top of the pendant and connect it to a chain or a thread. And voila - you have a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry.
8. Make a Wall Art with Your Photos
If you are still wondering what to do with old photos after scanning, this idea might send you down some cool artistic rabbit hole. We suggest that you dedicate a whole wall in your house (not a big wall, but rather one in some cranny) and decorate it with your old photos. You can make this vintage-filled space a designated reading or tea nook if you put a comfy armchair there.
The realization is relatively simple. Once again, digitize your images and repair them, then print them on quality paper and stick them to the wall in any order or orientation you want. You are free to experiment with the paper you choose - go with glossy, matte, or even a semi-transparent film. With an old photo wall like this, your house will be known as the fanciest one in the neighborhood.
9. Turn Your Old Photos Into a Home Decor
How else can you display old family photos so that they grace and decorate your home? Well, if you are not ready to dedicate a whole wall to displaying old photos, then consider creating little decor tidbits instead. There is virtually no limit to what you can do - thanks to the advance of photo transferring technologies.
You can print your relatives’ old pics on coasters, throw pillows, candle holders, clocks, or anything that your imagination - or a photo studio’s set of services - allows you. Apart from using old photos on small but sweet household items, you can also opt to printing those selected images and framing them as posters. Just make sure that the images look good enough to be printed. For that, take time to learn how to make old photos look new.
10. Transfer Images Onto Fabrics
Want to wear your great grandma’s face on your - well, not necessarily sleeve, but on some piece of clothing? Luckily, you can. Just find a photo studio that can transfer your old photographs onto fabrics. You can later sew these pieces onto any piece of apparel they would look good on.
Don’t stop at decorating clothing. Embellish your accessories as well. Vintage-inspired additions will be much welcome on handbags and backpacks, on bandanas and handkerchiefs, or on some headwear.
11. Join a Specialized Social Media Society
In case you possess some stunning imagery of the past, then these photos really deserve to be seen by people other than your own family. So if you are willing to share these pictures, do it online on some platform that is specialized in old-time photography. Vintage aficionados will appreciate your input.
There is one thing that you absolutely need to do. Make sure that if your old photos depict people who are still alive, you have their permission to share their images online. Otherwise it would be a rude violation of their privacy.
12. Make Gifts for Your Relatives
Want those old photos to grace other people’s lives as well? Then turn them into little gifts and keepsakes and give those to your family members. You can take any of the above ideas and realize them, then give the results as lovely gifts.
Bonus ideas on what to do with your old pictures: create DIY Christmas ornaments, vintage-inspired lampshades, put these images on mugs and thermos bottles, use them to decorate fridge magnets or photo blankets. Well, basically, any everyday object goes, as long as you can put a picture on it.
13. File Away Your Family Archive
Sometimes there are just way too many pictures you have on your hands. Those that don’t get to become home decor or a lovely trinket, still need to be stored properly. Old photo albums aren’t the best option. Surprisingly, one of the best ways to organize your family photos is to store them in neat labeled boxes.
This way you’ll make sure that they don’t gather dust or don’t get damaged through careless flipping of an album. It’s important, however, to store your pictures in the right kind of boxes - any old shoebox won’t cut it. These should be study, voluminous and have a lid that won’t slide off. It is important to store these boxes in that spot of the house where they won’t fall victim to floods, kids, or pets.
14. Take Your Photos to a Thrift Store
This might not be a creative project in itself, but it is a creative way to deal with the old photo problem. If you have some images that you don’t want to have in your collection, why not try to make some money off of them?
There are people that collect old-time memorabilia or just artists looking for a piece of art or inspiration. Before you actually take your old photos to a thrift shop, make sure that your family members agree with your decision.
15. Donate Your Old Pictures to Historical Societies
Here’s a simple answer to the question “what to do with old family photos no one wants”? If you can't find the perfect place for some of your old photos, museums and historical societies definitely will. What’s more, there might not be any need to digitize your historial images yourself, as these organizations can do it for you.
So now that you’ve learned what to do with your old family photos, take them out of the shoeboxes and dusty photo albums and get creative. After all, old images are an undying source of charm, mystery, and inspiration. You’ll have an awesome time turning them into works of art, pieces of home decor or into historical projects. Mayhap, you’ll learn something new about the history of your family that will help you view your lineage in a different light.