Based on the questions we get at our help desk every day, the interest in scanning personal photos continues to grow.
Baby boomers are becoming the custodians of the family photo archive, with many feeling obligations to preserve and to protect them for future generations. Add to this the growing interest in genealogy - along with cutting-edge digital tools making internet sleuthing possible - and the appeal of photo scanning becomes apparent.
The challenge, however, is most people have no idea where even to begin with a project to scan their old photos or even the available options. The unfortunate fact is many never get started on their project. These 4 steps make getting started and completing the undertaking easier.
The first step is to consider the entire project. Don’t just gather up all those shoeboxes and albums and start to scan your old photos without first considering what the end goal of the project is. There are some questions that are very important as you begin.
Is the goal to simply to digitize photos? This gets the hard-copy images in digital form, without much regard to their context or the relevance. Is the goal to create the basis for archiving family history? How important is the information scribbled on the back of photos? Will the scanned images be left as is - scratches, tears and all - or will they be edited to return to their original color, contrast, and sharpness? What about documents, papers, and letters? Where do they fit in your family history archive?
Nothing is more frustrating than discovering you did or didn’t do something you wished you had, halfway through a project. It some of those little things that can snowball as your project progresses. Things like choosing not to scan grandma’s handwritten notes penned on the back photos or forgetting to use high enough resolution, so those favorites look good enlarged in a photo book can drive you crazy.
The average U.S. household has 3-5,000 pictures waiting to be scanned; you want to get it right the first time. (We’ll cover the various options for photo scanning in our next blog post.) These kind of issues all end up falling into the woulda-coulda-shoulda category and doing just a little planning ahead will make the whole process smoother.
The next consideration is what to do with your project of scanned images.
One of the most common things to do after you digitize photos is to share them with family and friends. This can be done in so many ways using an ever-growing number photo sharing tools and applications. Be sure you have a pretty good idea of the tools you are planning to use. Many have specific guidelines about image size, quantity, etc.
Some families like to make personalized items. It is now possible to digitally imprint your scanned photos onto nearly any media or thing. A growing fad is to create food adorned with edible photos. There are also photo books with cherished family pictures. Make sure the scanning resolution is going to be high enough to avoid images that are pixelated or display improperly.
Others simply want to make get rid of the old fading prints and make sure they have a digital copy to pass along to generations to come. They can put the images on a CD, a USB flash drive or a portable hard drive. There are also great online services for inexpensively storing images, like Google Photos, Microsoft OneDrive, DropBox, Amazon Cloud Drive, Flickr and many more. These services are also very convenient for sharing photos on social networks like Facebook and Pinterest.
Today, the only limitation to what you can do with your projects digital images seems to be your imagination!
Another aspect to consider before starting is how you will organize your pictures.
It is possible to organize photos in a number of ways. Some people like to organize photos in folders on their hard drive, using dates from their photos albums or even by family events and subjects. There are people who organize before the scanning is performed and others that do it digitally afterwards.
While there is no “wrong” way to do this, be sure to use a method that makes sense to you. A quick search will reveal a large selection of sorting boxes, tools, software, and organizing apps. Many of the items designed to help organize your digital photos have features like simple or advanced color correction, photo editing, and even facial recognition.
The fourth consideration is not to forget to keep copies of your digital photo archive in multiple locations. This is very important not only in case of theft, fire, flood or other natural disasters. Sometimes hard drives fail, USB's get lost, computer manufacturers quit building CD drives in their computers, and software programs stop being updated or are discontinued. All leave you hanging.
Take for instance examples like Google’s Picasa, Carousel, and Kodak Gallery. Each is an online tool that has now passed on. Then there is the constant potential threat of sites having 'near misses' like PictureLife, Fotolog, and others where user’s photos went offline for months, or made notifications of an impending site shutdown. And, have you bought a computer lately? The CD/DVD drive is going extinct as computers are getting smaller, lighter and more dependent upon being connected to the web.
Having multiple copies in different locations, on multiple media, can help to future proof the digital photo project you worked so hard to create.
By following these four steps before embarking on any photo-scanning project, you are laying the groundwork to avoid the frustration of those unanticipated speed bumps that can arise, all while saving you time. It also guarantees your project to scan old photos results in a more enjoyable outcome.
In the next part of this series, we will look at many options for scanning the pictures in your project and how getting it done fast while having fun is not only possible, but a requirement!
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