4 steps to digitize your old photos

By Ben | Photo Organization

Legacy Tale DEALS 2016

Fourth in a series of posts to help you organize your family memories…

Part 1 (7 steps to manage your photos)

Part 2 (4 steps for curating home videos) 

Part 3 (Saving voicemail)

Part 5 (Curating kids’ artwork)

Working on your family or personal history means accumulating old photographs. Digitizing them is a great way to preserve and keep track of them. It’s also the best way to share them with other family members, and is necessary if you want to print a family history book.

This might seem like a monumental task, and depending on the number of photos, it may be.  Read on to learn how to break it down into manageable chunks.

1. Get organized. This can be the most challenging part, since you may also need to organize existing digital pictures, video and audio too. Organizing photos by date, event, place or person (or a combination of any of those) is a good way to organize photos.  For more information, check out this blog post.

2. Prepare to scan. A flatbed scanner is the best way to scan old photos, but if you don’t have one, you can also use your smart phone (see below).

Make sure your photos are clean by wiping them off with a microfiber cloth before scanning.

3. Scan your photos. Generally scan images at 300 DPI. (Some experts recommend 600 DPI, but this takes significantly more storage space and may only be worthwhile for printing very large photos.)  This will allow you to resize and even enlarge them. If using a flatbed scanner, save time by scanning many pictures at once. Put as many pictures as will fit on the glass. You can break them out into individual files later using the scanner or photo editing software. If using your phone, do one at a time. You can try scanning many photos at once, but it usually doesn’t work as well.

If you’re using your phone, there are many free apps to choose from.  Maybe you already have one you like.  If you don’t, try several and see which works best for you.  The two I prefer are Cam Scanner and Microsoft Office Lens.

4. Edit if necessary. You should keep edits to a minimum, since you are trying to preserve memories.  It will be necessary, though, to adjust the brightness or contrast, or remove red eye. When you need to edit, the scanning software will often have those basic tools.  If not, free tools like pixlr are great for edits.

Like just about everything related to family and personal history, don’t let the size of the project overwhelm you.  Plan out what you want to do, then work on that consistently. Even spending 20-30 minutes a week on this, you’ll surprise yourself how much you can accomplish.

Check out Legacy Tale’s Guided Tale for more detailed photo scanning instructions and expert advice on choosing the best photos to preserve for your posterity in your personal history. Membership is just $13.99/month for unlimited access to this self-paced course with step-by-step instructions that will guide you to write and publish your story or a loved one’s. The first month of membership is free, so try it risk free!

You make memories. We make them last.


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