lets discuss digital photo archiving

OK, so my mother passed last March, and I am now in possession of a ton of photographs that are not in the greatest shape… photo album wise.

I’ve been tasked by my siblings to manage these photos.
I scanned the photos and they’re currently on my hard drive. I plan to eventually upload them to picasa web.

Here are some of the problems I’m experiencing, that I’d like to discuss: (Add your own as necessary :slight_smile: )

Some of the old photos have information written on the back. i.e. data, persons in the photo. In a tool like picasa this is easy enough to add in the ‘captions’ section, but I don’t exactly think of that as a permanent solution. I’d like a solution that stays with the photo, not the software. Any suggestions? The three most obvious solutions are
[li] use an editor and ‘write’ information on the photo. This of course has the obvious problem of compromising the photo. [/li][li] use an editor and add a blank strip on the bottom of the photo, and write the information there. The problem with this is that it’s a pain to add a strip of blank space to the bottom of a jpg. Do any of you know an easy way to do this?[/li][li] take advantage of the multiple attributes (and properties?) of the file and edit those. That doesn’t help any if the photo is printed though. [/li][/ol]

What would be really cool is the places that print digital photos also allowed the option of printing useful information on the BACK of the photo too! Does anyone know of a place where this could be done?

Printing digital photos has it’s own limitations.
If I scan square picture, I can’t (to my knowledge) get a square photo printed. Well at least not without receiving a photo back that has a strip of unneeded paper on the side. I suppose I could either cut this off or use this space to write on, if I didn’t want to put useful information on the back.

what sizes (ratio) do online photo printers use?

Now for the general thoughts area… What are some of the techniques (or challenges) you fellow dopers use to archive photos? I’m having difficulty categorizing some of the photos. Some of them seem to be better categorized by date because they’re so old, whereas some seem better categorized by subject. This has caused me some real challenges when trying to organize the photos into subcategories.

So… what are your thoughts?

Enright3 (who is waiting on his charter member status to return)

As perhaps the last owner of a darkroom, I like to point out that most of the digital media now available wsn’t 20 years ago, and if you have critical date on 5.25 floppies, you need to get moving.
Care to guess what will be around in 50 or 100 years?
Emulsion and writing-pen ink will be. Some professional digital (color) output on RA4 paper - the same stuff you get (OK, got, back in the dark ages) from the drugstore/minilab when you had your film processed. Burn DVD’s if you must, but 100 years from now a dvd’s contents will not be obvious - a film or print image will be - properly printed archival-grade prints are good for a minimum of 100 years.

No matter what, don’t discard the originals!

Digital schemes come and go. Unless scanned with super-high quality equipment and saved in a non-lossy format, something will be lost in the process. Sure, the paper photos may degrade over time, but they might be the ones future generations return to. Store them as carefully and securely as you can.

For the digital data…If you can use the file name to store at least some data about the picture, that’s a good idea. But since file names cannot contain many characters, this scheme won’t be very good for group photos where you want to store individual names. I suggest making a text file with all the detail data you have about each photo, keyed to the file name. Then store both together, and better yet, print out the text file to store with the digital media.

Then just be prepared to take out your disks or whatever media you last used every 10 years or so, and migrate as carefully as possible to something more modern. Again, don’t destroy the source for this migration! What if your transfer wasn’t perfect?

You might also store data in more than one media, like both CDs and DVDs. The next generation will probably be Blu-Ray. Just be safe…verify what you write, make multiple copies and store them in multiple locations (a cousin’s house as well as yours). The more you collect things together, the greater the risk that you lose all of them rather than just some of them. If you put 100 years of family photos on only one DVD, you may lose all of them in a fire.

I also suggest scanning photos at least at 300DPI. Unless they are very high quality, most old snapshots won’t reveal much detail at higher numbers. Also if the originals are not color, don’t waste the file space by scanning in color; it won’t gain you anything unless you need to separate images from coffee stains. Just be sure to use grayscale, not document modes.

My dads photos were as ‘disorganized’ as you say your moms are, when he passed away.

I got the job of sorting and scanning and putting them onto cd disc’s and trying to decide who would get which photos between my self and my 2 brothers.

What I finally did was I scanned the photo and flipped it over to scan the backs so on the disc’s the photo and info are right next to each other, I resized the info images to about 1/3 size of the photo to save space .

That way when ever someone wants to print out a photo and info , all they have to do after printing the photo, is flip the paper over run it though the printer to have info on back.

Putting the photos into categories was a mind twisting job until I decided to make three categories,1st mine , 2nd one brother and 3rd other brother’s,

I tried to spilt them up fairly so we all have the about the same amount of each ‘subject’s and dates’ And we all have copies of all the photo’s on our CD disc. This also eliminated the problem of trying to print out square photos on photo paper that isn’t square. they can print whatever size they want either at home , in a store or online

That’s a good point about the lossy format. I’m already facing that since jpg is a lossy format. I first loaded my flatbed scanner up with as many photos that would fit.
From there I would crop out an individual photo and save it; then I would crop out the next one and save it… etc. etc. Which means my original jpg is already degraded. :frowning:

Anyway… they’re stored on an external hard drive for now. Then they will be uploaded to picasaweb.google for my family to have a quick look. I’ll also send them a copy on a flash drive.

I wouldn’t dare discard the originals! I’m putting them into albums (ok my wife has volunteered for that job)

Do you use Photoshop? The Record function makes it easy to turn a long series of steps into a single command, and the Batch function lets you then apply it to multiple photos automatically. I’d recommend getting a bunch of non-essential images to practice on first, though.

I’ve been doing the same thing, though the majority of the photos I’ve gotten so far have been borrowed. I also didn’t know that jpegs were not the best way to go until I’d already done a couple of hundred. What I’ve done is taken the last name, maiden for women, of either the major person in the photo, or the one that I most want. Then I name the file that person putting the last name first. So if I have a photo of me I’d name it HEAD Edward. This way all the photos should be grouped together. Depending on what else is in the photo I may add other names to the file name as well. So if I have my daughter it would be HEAD Edward w Claire.

While I do see the point in worrying about what will happen in 100 years with media, I would still think there will be some way, maybe not easy, to be able to read it. You can still find 78 record players, and other media that’s close to 100 years old and still listen to it. I know it might be tough but there’s not much you can do about it and I can’t afford to copy the 700 photos I have now.

There are ways to minimize the damage. Since your ultimate goal is long-term preservation, not minimal file size, always use the least compression value available. Using a TIF file (LZW compression is fine, since it is lossless) is better, but less universal.

And if you avoid serially reading & saving JPGs, it’s not so bad. I’m a little confused as to how you are doing that, but if you scan a large number of photos at once, then save the complete image as JPG (TIF would be better), then read it to your editor and crop out one photo, then save that one, you haven’t lost much. Then read in the composite original again, crop out photo #2 and save, rinse and repeat. Reading doesn’t degrade the image, just saving does, and in this example, the maximum saves any one image has is two.

A purist wouldn’t use JPG for archival storage, but practical considerations may take precedence.

I am still (I have been doing this for a couple of years) sorting the last 7 years worth of digital photos. My primary tool is DigiKam, the KDE photo tool (soon to be available on Windows).

Photos are stored as follows **YY\MM<Event or Trip title><sub-location if needed>

All photos are renamed to YYMMDD@HH-MM-SS_<SEQ>. This helps when photos from multiple camera get integrated (as long as the clocks are all correct).

Then I tag the photos (IPTC/EXIF) - I add the Country, Location, Identity of People, Basic Subject and a Quality Rating. I caption the images as well. Using Metadata means that the info travels with the files - it would be good to get this data printed on the back of the photos when I get printouts.

DigiKam can display the albums, but can also display based on tags, so I can see all photos of my children, for example.

Of course, if I ever get a negative scanner and scan all the negatives we have (over 1000) I will have a much harder job to figuring out where, what and when the photos were taken (of course, they are all older photos as well).


I’m not sure I understand that last post. What meta-data are you saving with the pictures themselves? I didn’t know that .jpeg supported meta tags. Or are you using a format that is specific to that software?

JPEGs support EXIF data (identifying camera information, time and date, even geolocation if your camera has a GPS unit or bluetooth). It also supports IPTC - keywords and captions and photographer info.

Actually, the data may be stored in XMP - a serialized XML format embedded in JPEGs devised by Adobe. XMP supports EXIF and IPTC schemas.


I would like to know this as well. I have a bunch of digital photos that I want printed with the comments on the back. I’ve tried a couple of services but they only print the photo info like name/date on the back. I want to be able to have something like “Mom and Dad at 20th anniversary” printed.

I don’t currently use photoshop. I have an older copy of it somewhere. Truth is, I’ve never been very good at it, and have never taken the time to learn it. Maybe that will change now that I have my Master’s degree out of the way.

Woah, look what I found. I never knew this existed… but what a great idea.

A photo book. It looks like the two big vendors are Kodak and Shutterfly.

Any of you fellow dopers have any experience with this? It looks like a great idea for a gift for my siblings, and I won’t have to worry about putting every photo in there.

This is definitely work a look.

Of the popular online photobook publishers, the best quality I’ve seen is from mypublisher.com and mpix.com.

I also use digiKam. Taga are stored in the IPTC fields and stored with the image.

The software may be ditching a lot of information after the crop. example.

I don’t understand what that link has to do with my statement. And what the heck is IMAL?

I absolutely guarantee that cropping in Photoshop or Corel Photo, and probably any decent photo editing program, will not alter the data inside the crop. If you make a scan of a large area, save it as TIF (non-lossy, even with LZW compression), then read it to RAM, make a crop and save the cropped area as TIF, you have lost no significant data anywhere in the process. If you read in the original once more, and crop a different area, the same thing occurs – nothing is lost inside the cropped area. The loss happens if you repeatedly save using a lossy format like JPG, where each save recomputes the data with some loss each time.

And READING a file doesn’t produce any loss, only WRITING it does.

You said that if he crops individual jpgs out of a large jpg of many jpgs he isn’t losing much, but it’s possible to lose a lot during a crop because some programs only save the bare minimum of data to display the image. I guess the proper term would be “discarding” not “losing” as in “lossy.” IMAL is just an image processing app that has an example of what I was talking about on it’s site.

Probably true, I see now that he posted between our replies that he’s using PS, so he’s probably ok, but other software may ditch anything but the bare minimum needed to display the image.

For those looking to do this in the future, check out David Pogue’s review of ScanMyPhotos.com:

I’ve never seen a program do that, but I usually work with the top half of the photo processing software available. If any low-end program does that, I’d recommend you stop using it immediately.

Some programs will discard data for display only, but retain 100% of what’s available for future print output. This was a scheme that made large files practical on older, slower machines – you could edit the low-res version and when you were ready to get serious, the edits would be applied to the hi-res version. Adobe pagemaker has such an option. That’s not a bad idea as long as you know what is happening, and with faster machines and larger RAM areas, probably less useful today.