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Preserving Your Photos & Digital Images

Tips to Consider

A Good Organizational Strategy is Still the Most Important Starting Point

Some folks may say "just get all your photo scanning done first, then you can organize them". That is certainly one option, but having been through that kind of scenario, I will personally tell you that it becomes a much more difficult project to try organizing hundreds or thousands of photos "later".

  • It is much easier to create an organizational file folder structure when you can visually see and touch the photo albums, boxes of photos, and such that are right in front of you. What kinds of "photo groups" do you see? How many photos will be contained in each group? Will you need to create a host of subfolders within each photo group? You will probably find out that you have groups of photos ranging from small to very large.
  • By visually seeing your photo albums, you can play with a file structure that seems to work the best up front. Create new empty subfolders and move them around until you find something that allows you to easily find your image files.
  • If you “scan then organize” your photos, they will likely be contained in numerous oddly labelled file folders assigned by the scanning software scattered across multiple hard drives, USB flash drives, etc. Each of those file folders will have numerous non-descriptly labelled filenames, like "img001256.jpg". You will be hunting all day long just to remember what all those photo files are.
  • Once your file structure is pretty organized, then after a "day" of scanning photos, you will remember what photos were scanned and where they should go. They can be quickly placed into the appropriate folders. You will NOT be able to do this months later after getting all your photos scanned.

Scanning Mistakes Are Done Every Minute of the Day!

A common scanning mistake as a beginner is to scan using incorrect scanning resolutions. Another is to not understand output compressions. Many have spent hours scanning their photos on a community scanner only to later discover that all their scanned images were overly compressed and are highly pixelated. I see these images posted on FamilySearch every single day, and wish that I could have helped them properly scan the photo. It's sad, because they have the original photograph, but the "archived" quality is so poor. Those descendants will likely never see a good quality image of the originals they never will have access to. I served with an ecclesiastical leader years ago. After he passed away a couple of years ago, his wife probably spent a LOT of hours scanning all their photos. Unfortunately they were all scanned with minimal resolution. All of their family group photos are limited to a 1" or 2" final photo size that can not be zoomed in on without a lot of pixelation resulting.

Before scanning, think about what you are going to use the images for. Will you be scanning full size scrapbook pages? Are you going to want to extract or crop out some of the photos from those page? Depending on what you are going to be doing with those scrapbook pages, there will be differences in what scanning resolutions you will use.

Some things to consider before you start to scan your images.

  • What scanning resolution will you select for each of the different size photos you have in your collection? Will you be using some of those digital images in a printed book at some point? How large will you want some of these photos to be “blown up” to?
  • What file type will you save them as (tiff, jpeg, png, bmp, etc)? Some of these file types are automatically selected by your scanner software and may not be an appropriate file type to archive your photos to.
  • What condition are your photos in? Are you planning on editing some of the photos? This may change some of your scanning plans.
  • How much drive space do you have to store these images? You're not going to store them on USB flash drives are you? Are they going to be safely stored using proper backup strategies?

My Photos Are of Poor Quality...Can I Improve Their Appearance?

Most folks are probably quite happy just to get all their photos digitally scanned, an of course, organized. However, the original photos or slides that they have scanned may be of low quality due to scratches, or color changes, water damage, mold, etc. Digitally editing photographs can easily correct many of these problems to improve the quality of your photos.

There are basically two areas that poor quality images fall into:

  • Images with poor color tone (like a red, green, or bluish tint) and lighting problems such as being too dark or too light.
  • images that have been physically damaged with scratches, tears, water or other blotches, etc.

Correcting poor light or color quality can be done fairly easily AND quickly with free software and without much of a learning curve. Removing the physical defects in a photo does involve a learning curve, and the use of better software to do so.

I have a variety of tutorials to help you go through some of the more common editing issues.

Have I Thought Out How I Will Protect All My Work?

As your collection of digital files increases, consider how you are going to keep them safe. It is far too common to see months of work suddenly lost with a hard drive failure or accidental folder deletion without any recovery options in place.

Backup strategies are one of the final steps in preserving your photo heritage. Don't forget about this very important step!! We want this heritage to last for MANY generations!

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Preserving Our Heritage

Our own personal heritage and that of our ancestors will be lost to subsequent generations unless we take steps to actively preserve it.

Site Maintained by:

Stephen A Meyers of Idaho Falls, Idaho