Preserving digitized photographs

My father, a photographer, put a camera in my hands at a very early age. I have taken hundreds, often thousands, of pictures a year for most of my life. And, as a result, I have boxes and boxes of print photographs taking up space in my closet.

One of my goals for 2009 is to have all of my old photographs scanned so that I can have digital copies of these pictures. We’ve talked previously about services that will scan your photographs (in addition to ScanMyPhotos, commenters also recommend ScanCafe and LifePreserver), and having my photos scanned is the first item on my to-do list for this project.

While I’m trying to decide which scanning service to use, I’m also deciding what to do with the photographs once they’re scanned. First up, I’ll be sure to backup the images; I’ll put copies of the digital image DVDs in my safety deposit box at the bank and I’ll upload the image files to my online storage system. I value these images enough to pay to have them scanned, so I should also pay to have them protected from fire and natural disaster.

I will want to organize the digital image files on my computer, but I haven’t yet decided which program to use. I currently use iPhoto, but with a hundred thousand more photographs, it will be overloaded. With the new version coming out in a couple weeks, I’m going to wait to see if it’s more capable and robust. If it won’t meet my needs, I’m considering the iPhoto Library Manager by Fat Cat Software for $20 as one option for improving my current system’s functionality. But, I expect I’m going to spend the $200 to buy Aperture 2 and revel in its powerful system. (If you’re on a PC, I hear that Google’s Picasa continues to be the most convenient photo manager.)

Finally, I plan to use Blurb to create a handful of albums that I want to store on the bookshelf for guests to peruse. I used Blurb in December to create four photo albums and was very impressed with their service. I’ve used the Apple system in the past, but the quality of the Blurb book is leaps and bounds ahead of Apple’s product.

The books I ordered from Blurb were hardcovers with glossy jackets, full color interior, and 100-pound silk-finish paper. With shipping, I paid less than $150 total for the four albums. It may sound like a lot, but their quality appropriately matches the price. Alternatively, if you decided to go with a paperback cover, no book jacket, and non-premium paper would significantly reduce the price per album.

(Off-topic tip: I’ve often thought that digital photo albums would be great for sentimental clutter photographs. Take images of sentimental items, ditch the actual item, and then create a photo album of all your sentimental things. Instead of a basement full of clutter, you can have a single book on your bookshelf taking up just inches of space.)

I will add that I do have one complaint about Blurb and that is if you use their templates you can’t move any elements around on the page or resize any objects. This isn’t an issue just with Blurb, though, a handful of other album printing companies have the same restrictions. You can import full pages from programs like InDesign (Mac and PC), but then you’re not able to use the templates. Inside sources have told me that there are some improvements coming down the pipeline, and I hope altering templates is one of them.

For those of you who have already gone through the process of scanning all of your old photographs, what have you done to manage the files? Please let us know your plan of action in the comments.

62 Comments for “Preserving digitized photographs”

  1. posted by Linda on

    To sum up what has been mentioned here: All photos are not equal. Vacation photos of scenery are not in the same category as your wedding photos. You don’t have to handle all photos the same. If you absolutely love it, keep it on paper, AND, up load it, AND put it on CD AND keep another paper copy at a relatives, etc.

  2. posted by Two Geeks and a Blog :: Geek News :: Quick Hits: Jan. 25 - 31 on

    [...] Preserving digitized photos – Unclutterer [...]

  3. posted by Candace on

    Last year I used to convert all of my hard photos and negatives to digital format. I was very impressed with their service and would highly recommend their company. Now I store all of my documents, music, and photos on Flipdrive as a safeguard if my computer dies. Hope this helps!

  4. posted by Don on

    I’m with you on setting my goal to hv all my photos & transparencies scanned in 2009. In this comment I’m addressing one point, the preservation of all those files we create. I’ve subscribed to Mozy for backup. Regardless that I work for EMC, Mozy’s part of the “Cloud” division, the $5/mth for all u consume storage is a bargain. In 2008 I ripped all my CDs to FLAC as a gold copy – some 130GB, Mozy’s got the lot. I know examples (non-EMCers) who hv used the recovery side of the service for real & it worked without hitch.

  5. posted by Jenny (usagi) on

    Talk about perfect timing! I’m just beginning the scanning of four large boxes of photos. So far I’ve been happy with speed/quality of using my Fujitsu SnapScan to do the photo scanning. I scan 10 photos at a time with the lowest compression and highest quality settings. At some point I’ll export them from the pdfs to tiffs and organize, but that is probably a project for the far distant future.

  6. posted by Diana on

    I love Picasa, but I haven’t found it entirely useful for organizing photos the way I want. I understand iPhoto is similar in that it sorts based on dates or folder names, but you can create your own method of sorting within the program. If anyone knows a method or program that allows that, I’d love to hear about it.

    I read about (and can’t find the link now) a website where you can mail in your old photographs and they’ll make matching, hardcover albums from high quality scans. They send you the books and the originals back. Might be a time saver if you have loads of photos.

  7. posted by I’m an Organizing Junkie » Link~Tastic - The Picture/Keepsake Edition on

    [...] Preserving Digitized Photographs ~ @ Unclutterer [...]

  8. posted by Erica on

    Great idea! I used a company called iPreserve.

    -They came to me to pick up and deliver my originals and newly digitized copies.

    -Their prices are very good for such a personal service.

    -I was extremely pleased with the final product.

    Check them out.

  9. posted by A Cagey Bee » Blog Archive » Ahhhhhhhhh! on

    [...] – I always find good tips here & have several [...]

  10. posted by Joe on

    I used to scan all my pics last year. They were very quick and easy to use. Also, I was happy to have all my images stored online for free. I think they are currently only 10 cents per photo right now.

  11. posted by Inki on

    Don’t know if anyone is still following this thread, but I recently started on a new Blurb book and noticed that the new version does have the ability for you to change the size and location of elements on the page – love it!

  12. posted by Lilli on

    I agree with all of your wonderful suggestions and have used Scan Cafe to scan in all of my old hard copies. The only thing is, I hate the look and feel of digital photo albums. Feels corporate, not homey. There is nothing better than an old photo album with black paper pages, filled with small black & white (or color) square photos, with a white border and jagged edges.

    For storage, digital photos is the way to go.
    For enjoyment, I prefer the old-school prints.

    Does anyone know of a service that will PRINT OUT (and/or use already existing prints) photos and then create a photo album with the prints?

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