We are all familiar with the disaster scenario case for digitizing photos. From basements that flood unexpectedly to aging and fading, there are many urgent reasons to act to preserve our photographic assets before it’s too late.
But the positive case for digitizing them is equally compelling. Once our photos are out of shoeboxes and in digital archives, we can retrieve them more easily and create beautiful stories using them.
So, it’s great if you have decided to start this important project. But here are a few pointers to guide you through the process:
DIY or finding a good service to do it for you: At the outset, you will have to decide if you want to tackle the project yourself using a quality home scanner. Most people think of the DIY route as cost-saving but it may not be if you consider the time you will need to invest in the project. According to Scancafe estimates, a DIY-er can expect to spend an average of 7.5 minutes per image, an estimate that includes scanning and post-processing time. Given that the average American adult owns close to 3,000 analog images, that’s a lot of time to dedicate to the task. So, while the DIY route may seem more economical at first glance, it may not be once you factor in the number of Saturdays you may have to give up for it.
If you can find a service with a good track record in handling photos and videos, then you can get all your analog assets digitized with minimal pain. Negatives often yield better images than print. A film scanning service can also take your negatives and help you salvage the memories in them. Lastly, if you also have slides in your collection, you will want to go with a service that has experience handling these.
Scanning resolution: Scanning resolution, measured in dots per inch or dpi, is the number one quality factor in a scanning project. A higher number means better results — upto a certain point. If the scanning resolution is set too high, you may wind up with a lot of unwanted grain in the final image. A dpi of 600 is usually optimal for photos, allowing you room to make good quality enlargements using your digital files. It’s also easier to do post-scan restoration on your photos when they are scanned at this setting.
Color correction and restoration: Scanning is just one part of it. Most types of scanning software allow you to carry out some basic editing tasks such as color fixes. But if your images are badly damaged, then detailed photo restoration is the answer. A quality photo restoration service can take photos damaged by light, water or mold and return them to their former glory. Even dull and worn photos will shine again after a round of professional restoration.
Organization and storage: Now that you have had your image collection digitized, organization and backup is the next most important step. To keep digital clutter to a minimum, take a closer look at all your scanned images to see what you want to save and what you can safely delete. If you haven’t done a lot of culling before handing your collection over to a photo scanning service, you may have some blurry images and duplicates in your final set of scans. If the service you pick allows you to discard a portion of your scans before you pay for them, that can be a valuable money saving option. Finally, when you have all the images you want to preserve, you can go through and organize them in folders using a filing system that makes sense to you. For example, you could have separate folders for ‘family’’ and “friends” or for key events such as milestone birthdays or vacations. Once you have grouped the photos in this way, you can go through and rename specific image files to make them easier to find. You can also use software to add image metadata or details for others to read.
You can’t be too careful when it comes to backup. Your laptop’s hard drive may be an obvious place to save your files but it’s not necessarily the best permanent home for them. Secure your memories by doubly backing them up on another physical disk drive as well as on the cloud.