Digitizing Old Photos

I came across a collection of old family photos. I am betwixt and between. On one hand, I have not bothered to look at these things in decades. They have little value to me, and will have less value when I pass away. On the other hand, some of this stuff is from the 1930s, and a blessed few have names on the back. (Most have no additional information. Who are these people? Where? When?)

I want to be rid of the physical things. I want to scan and preserve the images.

What is the best way to proceed? I have a scanner. I have the standard software that comes with windows. (I see the photo program is called “Photo.”) I can scan stuff. How can I scan an image and add context such as “Miami 1970” to it? Other than emailing the files to my family, where may I store them online?

How many photos? Small number, yes, go ahead and scan them yourself. A large number, send to a company that will do it for you. Probably at better quality for a reasonable price. I used ScanCafe but there are lots of them

Not many, about fifty I suppose. But how do I record captions (metadata?) on each file? I do not want to lose information.

You could open the image in an editor, add some white space at the bottom, and type in the meta data. That way it’s part of the image file itself.

OK, I think I can manage that. I seem to recall Apple software allowed text to be entered in a way that did not modify the image.

Or, if you want to preserve the original handwriting, scan the back and front and merge into one file.

You can add/edit image metadata on the file level (Mac Get Info or Windows Properties I think) by adding comments, or there’s programs that let you edit the more specific types of metadata that are supported in different file formats (IPTC, EXIF, etc.). The problem with metadata however is that someone who doesn’t know it’s there might now ever look for it, and if an image is shared around, whether by email, social media, or image sharing sites, that metadata is one of the first things to get stripped out and lost, especially if it’s not the “right kind” of metadata for that particular service. So there’s definitely a benefit to “baking it in” like @Turek said.

Simply change the file name to ‘Miami 1970’. :slightly_smiling_face:

A tool I use is memorykpr. It also allows you to add a voice tag to digital images. And you can add family members to the “story” and they can contribute with their own pictures, or help identify subjects in the pictures, or times and places. It is a good tool for preserving and sharing your family history.

OK, so modifying the image is the way to go. OK, now other than just keeping the images on my drive, is there anything else I ought to do with them?

You could upload them to dropbox. com and send your relatives a link.

You could also set up a free account on ancestry. com, make a family tree, and place the photos there.

If you want these photos to be available decades from now, you might consider doing both.

Thank you all.

I’d also keep the paper photos. With changes in digital technologies, it’s possible that the the paper photos are still readable when the digital files no longer are. Or the paper photos might get damaged or destroyed. My mother had some photos in a box at the top of her closet that were destroyed by a leak in the roof above.

In short, spread your bets.

After the photos are digitized, and cleaned up to look like new using Photoshop or your program of choice, just print additional copies with a good inkjet printer. Some places can actually make “real” photographic prints from your files and they might have a longer lifespan.

I don’t consider myself a pro photo restoration expert, but I’ve done lots of scans and cleanup for friends and they have been quite happy with the results.

Well now I am ha having a computer problem somehow related to moving files from the scanner to the computer on a USB stick. . I have started another thread for it. I would appreciate your help.

Have you tried simply taking photos of some of the images with your phone?

If they are anything like my archive of paper family photos, the quality is pretty crappy to begin with. With the newer phone cameras you are going to get a very good representation of what you started with if you are careful about camera angle, lighting, etc. when taking the shot.

We have been doing this to transfer some old photos to our digital picture frame, and there is no loss of quality to the nekkid eye.

Give it a shot, the price is right.


Although no longer officially supported by Google, Picasa 3 can do that. Plus identify the people in each photo and where the photo was taken.

My experience with that is the results are significantly poorer than what you get with a flatbed scanner. It’s just not worth it, IMO.

OK, it is working now. I will never quite understand what happened. Thank you all.

I still use it. You can add text on the photos without destroying the original, resize batches for easier emailing, and more. One really cool thing is it will try to ID who’s in the pictures if you start identifying them…it pattern matches or something.

One thing, though: AIUI Google Photos came along and you may be offered the chance to transfer all the photos to that. I think it will undo every change you made; if you adjusted contrast, cropped, etc. all that work will be gone.

Many years ago some sibs and I decided to try to digitize the family photos. We got 2000 images scanned, but it took forever. We would rename them so we could search and we had a convention that the oldest person was listed first (and down the line), each person was named, and so on. We also decided that our parents were sort of bedrock. The grandparents were their parents etc.

I suggest you decide what resolution and size you want. With only 50, it’s not as critical. If someone wants a 4x6 later, you probably want at least a 300K file.