Book Review: A Simple Guide to Saving Your Family Photos

Like many of our readers, I find one of the most daunting projects is organizing and digitizing our family photos. Fortunately, when I was at the recent NAPO conference, I had the opportunity to speak with Mollie Bartelt, co-founder of Pixologie and author of A Simple Guide to Saving Your Family Photos. She gave me a copy of her book to review.

If you’ve inherited family photos or you just want to get your own photos organized and digitized, this book is for you. It is well written and easy to read. It provides advice on many different scenarios (family photos, a professional photographer’s collection, etc.). As well, the book explains how to incorporate physical photos and digital photos into one organized collection.

In the first part of the book, Bartelt explains how to get started. She describes the time, space, tools, and equipment needed manage this type of project. I was rather confused when I saw dental floss on the list of required tools. However, Bartelt goes on to explain that dental floss can used to remove photos that are stuck in old-fashioned “magnetic” photo albums. Sliding the floss carefully underneath the photos will unstick them without having them curl up at the corners. This makes it much easier to scan them.

Bartelt also recommends which photos to keep and which to let go. For example, to remember your family’s trip to the zoo, you can keep a photo of your children in front of the elephant enclosure. There is no need to keep a dozen pictures of the elephant itself.

Prior to organizing your photos, Bartelt suggests building an age chart for family members to help determine what year photos were taken. For example, if Charles was born in 2010, the photo of him beside a cake with six candles (his sixth birthday) would be from 2016, and we would know that he was in the first grade that year. Anne would have been four years old and in preschool.

When sorting photos, Bartelt provides suggestions on how to choose major categories and how to divide the major categories into sub-categories. She discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each method and provides real-life examples of projects that have used each method.

When it comes to digitizing photos, it is important to determine a file name methodology before the process begins. Bartelt has several suggestions but her preferred file name system is YYYY-MM-DD-description; where the description can be the event or people in the photograph.

Bartelt explains that for the digitizing process, all-in-one printer scanners can produce good quality digitized photos. However, using the flatbed option is very time consuming if you have a lot of photos to scan. Some scanners have an auto-feed function but this may damage photos because they are forced to bend around rollers before they are scanned. Pixologie, the company Bartelt co-founded, offers photo organizing and digitizing services. They use an E-Z Photo Scan’s Kodak PS80 Photo Scanner. This is a high-speed, straight-feed scanner that produces scans of very good quality. It is very useful for scanning many photos very quickly.

A Simple Guide to Saving Your Family Photos provides valuable information on recommended settings for scanning photos. Most family photos are scanned at 300-600 dpi as superior quality JPGs. Historians and professional photographers should scan at 600-1200 dpi as TIFF. She also describes how to store digital photos both on- and off-site and how to incorporate a digital photo collection into a recently digitized collection of physical photos.

If you’re considering a photo organizing project, whether it be your family photos or the portfolio of a professional photographer, I highly recommend reading A Simple Guide to Saving Your Family Photos before you start. You will save yourself a lot of time and effort by taking the advice offered by Bartelt.

7 Comments for “Book Review: A Simple Guide to Saving Your Family Photos”

  1. posted by Dorothy Young on

    This book looks useful. However, oddly and ironically for a book about digitizing, it’s not available as an ebook. I hope the author figures out she’s missing out on a big segment of potential sales.

  2. posted by momofthree on

    i prefer the good old fashioned photo scrapbook where I can, as the mom, crop, create a journal spot, add other stuff to the page, etc.

    There is something about holding a book in your hands v. looking at a computer screen.

    Our scrapbooks are chronological….and one of the first things our kids dive into when home, because they remember people, places, and things that they know I documented.

    Nothing like the financee’ and our daughter looking thru all of them and her telling him stories of her (and her siblings) childhoods and recalling memories!

  3. posted by Katie on

    I’ve been slowly digitizing two plastic bins full of photos, journals, and other memorabilia.

    The free Google Photo Scan app makes it super easy to scan photos, even without removing them from scrapbooks. I put everything on a black poster board before “scanning” so the edges are easy to identify. This works for tickets, receipts, and other oddly shaped items too. The app sends photos right to Google Photos, where I assign them to albums right away. I’ve been grouping by year and sometimes by event.

    I try to do a little bit every day, and my progress is noticeable now! Once I’m done, I plan to design and print some digital scrapbooks, probably by year. Like momofthree, I like being able to leaf through something physical when I’m reminiscing. 🙂

  4. posted by AinOakPark on

    As the daughter of a mother who recently downsized (at 88) to a studio from a spacious two bedroom apartment (where she moved to when she downsized from our family home), I consider myself lucky. She has visited 45+ countries (some more than once). She went through all of her photos and got rid of every photo that was purely scenery. Her comment was that she had visited so many places that she needed to look at the back of the photos to see where she’d been, so out they all went. Although her friends were shocked, she was just fine with it. (So are we.)

  5. posted by Marion on

    Great article and it sounds like a very helpful book. I agree – I like to hold photos, but at the same time, I don’t like the clutter of photo albums, with photos sliding around and falling out, etc..With the digitalized photos, I know I’m not going to sit down and look at the photos on the computer. I agree with the above reader who said it’s nice to sit down and “hold” the photos. So, a couple of years ago, I started scanning our two (grown) sons’ photos from childhood, chose the best of the best, and made photo books with Shutterfly, organized by school year. So, each son has a book by year, with only the best photos in the book. So, instead of looking at tons of photos in photo albums, we now look at the best photos in books. And if you haven’t tried Shutterfly, they do excellent work, beautifully made books. I’m sure there are other companies out there that are wonderful also. I just happen to use Shutterfly.

  6. posted by Barb on

    The author and cofounder of her company are having a series of 3 classes at my local library on organizing photos. At each session, they will digitize up to 50 photos for attendees. The class was interesting, I bought both of their books (have already the one you featured), and took the flashdrive with the digitized ancestor photos on a trip to share with my dad.

    I, too, like having my photos in albums (and I’m about 22 years behind in doing that). I see the advantages of both methods. Albums make looking at the photos easier. Digitizing photos makes them easier to share with others.

  7. posted by Ken Bredemeier on

    Having photos in albums is what we are used to. It is often what we inherited. Their value depreciates over time however. My parents’ albums had to be divided up between me and my siblings. Digitizing allowed all of us (and our children) to have access to all of the photos. Plus, photo albums are difficult to share in group settings. Only a few people can see them at a time. Another factor our family experienced was that we kids were more interested in photos that contained us and sitting through pages of “irrelevant” photos was boring. Digitizing allows the possibility to create on screen albums on the fly with just the photos of interest. Like Marion, printing custom photo books filtered on those photos of interest is a great way to have the best of both worlds.

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