A digital version of something that is made out of paper is likely to last longer than the original version. This is why so many genealogy websites digitize copies of vital records. It is also the biggest reason why you should take the time to digitize your family photos. Does the thought of doing that make you feel overwhelmed? Try these tips for digitizing photos.
Ask for Help
If you aren’t comfortable digitizing photos by yourself, it is a good idea to ask for help. There may be someone in your family who is a professional photographer, or who works in IT, who already has the necessary skills required to successfully scan photos. Ask them for help.
Do you have a scanner? Some printers can function as scanners. Many genealogists use handheld wand scanners to scan vital records and photos. See if you can borrow one of those from someone you know. Ask them a lot of questions about how to use it. Write down some directions for yourself.
A website that is aptly named How to Scan recommends that you save your scans of slides, negatives, and photos as TIFFs instead of JPEGs.
A TIFF is a bigger file size than a JPEG. The digital image that is saved in a TIFF is going to be about 100 MB. Compare that to the digital image that is saved in a JPEG which is only around 12 MB. Ideally, the bigger the file – the clearer the image.
Another great thing about saving scanned photos in a large size is that you can always create a smaller size from it. If you start with a small JPEG, and try later on to enlarge that photo, the image is going to be fuzzy or grainy. Be sure to make a copy of any photo that you want to resize in order to avoid destroying the original scanned photo while trying to resize it.
Everyone Needs a Label
It has been said that putting a label on a person is inappropriate. The exception to this rule is when the person is in a photo. Make sure to label the photos you scan with the names of the people who are in the photo, the year the photo was taken (if known), and the event that the photo is from.
You can use that information as the name of the scanned photo. For example, you could name a photo something like: “Aunt Mabel, 1952, cousin Peggy Smith’s wedding in Chicago”. This may sound tedious, especially when you know, at a glance, who is in the photos. Future generations of your family, however, will thank you for the identifications of ancestors they had never met.
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