Are 99.9% of Your Photographs Just Not Important Enough To Save?

My photo collection sitting at the top of my trash can

If this was your entire photo collection sitting in this trash can in the photo above, would this make you …

… actually feel relief … or utter panic?

 

What if I added to this scenario. What if to the best of your knowledge, all of your photos sitting in the trash were already scanned and safely backed up on a couple of your hard drives.

 

Do you now feel relieved … or still utterly panicked?

 

From everyone I have talked to about this scenario, it seems safe for me to say that I believe the world is in somewhat of a divide whether it’s actually okay to throw away your prints and slides once they have been scanned and digitally preserved.

And for some, hopefully not too many, I am sure they would say it’s okay to throw away many if not most photos before they were scanned and preserved.

Yes. You heard me.

Let’s Consider My Aunt’s Conflict

Logan Electric Slide File Model 200 Item #750523
Logan Electric Slide File Model 200

Not too long ago, I finished up a nice video review of the Logan Slide File 35mm slide box. It’s an archival quality metal box that is safe to store your slides in.

It’s the first video that not only am I in, but my Dad’s making his “SYEL” screen debut as well.

For this reason, I thought I would email a link for the video to my Aunt Karen.

Even though my Uncle has shot thousands of slides through the years and is in the process of scanning them, I really didn’t think she would be interested in the subject of the video. I just thought she would enjoy seeing video of her brother and I working on a family photo project together.

About a day or so passed when I got an email back from her. She was very complimentary of my work as you would expect your delightful Aunt to be. (Thanks Aunt Karen!)

But, she added something at the end of her comment that I totally wasn’t expecting.

 

We thought your video was very good. But I have to ask WHY we are storing all the slides???? I thought we were scanning them so we could get rid of some more STUFF! 

 

Well first, I wrote her back and apologized. I told her my intent wasn’t to push any kind of “metal archival box” agenda on her. And she told me later she didn’t think I was.

Secondly, I have to admit, that’s a pretty logical and fair question she asked!

I mean, why should the average person go through this huge job or expense of scanning all their photos, just to have a second set of them?

The Big Reply

So, I knew I had to write my Aunt back. I couldn’t leave a monstrosity of a question like this hanging out there — especially when she used like 4 question marks in one sentence.

But, it’s funny to me that I had to think about it for a day or two before I could even come up with a complete and possibly persuasive enough answer for her.

“Why should you keep your original prints and negatives?” I kept asking myself.

If the scans aren’t of high enough quality to warrant being able to toss the originals, what is the point of even scanning them besides sharing a few of them around with friends and family on social networking sites and email?

I became agitated with myself. 

“Shouldn’t I just know this off the top of my head!?” I mean I do have this little scanning website here with my name on it somewhere.

I kept thinking, “Why isn’t it just a known belief for people that you keep your originals — I mean, they are … they’re at least sentimental right? Isn’t everyone sentimental????”

 

Disclaimer: I think we maybe should just go ahead and get this out of the way. If you haven’t guessed it already from reading this website, I’m on the side of the fence that can’t help but practically gasp when I hear someone talk about throwing their original photos away. Yeah, even the “not so focussed” and “that’s my Mom’s thumb in the shot” ones.

 

Over the last several years, I’ve now heard the logic from enough people from the “other side”  that I guess I should at least begin to recognize this as a respectable option.

 

That being said out loud, I still felt I should send my Aunt Karen any non-sentimental logical reasoning that would at least explain why I personally would never want to toss out my family’s original photos.

I’m sure over time, the list will grow longer. But that week — silly, stupid, genius or pathetic — here’s what I came up with.

THE 4 REASONS WHY I WILL NEVER THROW OUT MY ORIGINAL PRINTS AND SLIDES

1 Scanning Mistakes:

What if I discovered I had made some mistakes scanning some of my photos and wanted to rescan them.

It’s like when you write something and go to proofread it for mistakes. No matter how many times you re-read your work, you always seem to miss a couple things.

This has happened to me several times as I’ve scanned my collection. I realized I had rushed through my workflow too fast that morning and a couple of slides were cropped too much and I was missing information from the original image.

I like the peace of mind knowing I can return to the original if I ever want or need to.

2 Future Technology:

How will I feel when new technology comes out that can scan and extract even more quality and detail from my photos than I was able to the day I scanned them. The day you scan a photo is the day you “lock in” that days’ technology.

What if one of my nieces or nephews took an interest in them one day — possible when I am no longer around — and wanted to rescan some of the collection with this new “futuristic” technology?

Storing the originals — especially film negatives — gives you technological opportunities later.

3 Scanned Before Cleaned:

I know I scanned some slides that really shouldn’t have been. What I mean is, they were way too dirty or moldy to produce a good scan from. I really should have set them aside and cleaned them with a special chemical first.

So I know I want to go back and re-scan some of them that really mean a lot to me that are in bad shape.

(I went ahead and scanned them, because as some of you already know, my goal right now is to get them digitized as fast as I reasonably can so that my parents can go through them and help me order and label them. Later, I will clean them up and make them look pretty.)

Storing the originals gives you the option to perform temporary scans.

4 Digital Longevity Technically Unproven:

The process of digital preservation hasn’t been around that long yet. We are all still learning how to save and archive digital files and have them last theoretically forever.

Are all of us digital junkies really prepared? Because DVD’s can rot, hard drives can fail and natural disasters do occur all over the world.

This involves backing up to several hard drives, storing them in more than one place (just in case a natural disaster destroys your home for example), and also looking into backing them up to the “cloud” (internet storage companies that charge a monthly fee).

Even though I am confident I am going to be responsible and look out for my digital files, I love knowing that if something DID go wrong with my failsafes, I have the originals to return to.

 

But Still — Seriously, What’s the Point of Scanning Then!?

All this said, I know… they do take up space!

Most of our lives we’re pre-occupied acquiring things, and then the last part of our lives we spend giving away these things.

And I feel like I am already ahead of schedule. I am middle-aged (I had to cough that one up) and already starting to really reduce the amount of things my wife and I have in our house. I am putting work into carefully consolidating down to as little as I can.

But for me, personally, these analog “memories” will probably be the last thing I will pitch — and that will probably be like the ol’ saying, “over my dead body!” Someone can bury me literally under my collection. It can be grass, then dirt, then my collection and then me.

personal photo album open with hand-written captioned photos

Am I really just being overly sentimental to a bunch of old paper and chemicals?

 

Shortly thereafter, I ran across a couple forum comments on photo.net that smacked me right in the face with this very question.

They were just a couple of thoughts out of many, buried in a discussion about 35mm slides.

 

Sorry to tell you guys, but 99.9% of your pictures just aren’t that important. If you don’t throw them out before you die, your wife’s next husband will. Including the so-called keepers.

~ Alan Klein

I agree with Alan. Our slides are not important to anyone really other than to ourselves and I think it is a fantasy to assume they need to be treasured like works of art.

~ Robin Smith

 

I guess it’s possible Alan and Robin wrote these words with little thought. They could have been a knee-jerk reaction typed out on their smartphones while they were waiting for their movie to start in a theater. They were just trying to be funny — right?

Or, they could have taken their time and typed out their true and sobering belief in the matter after months of deep-hearted analysis.

Either way, what they said is still truly scary to me.

 

Are we really lying to ourselves if we think our print and 35mm slide collections will be appreciated generations from now?

 

When my will is read aloud in front of my surviving family (or is that only done by rich people in the movies?), will any one of my nieces and nephews be upset if I chose them to take over as caretaker of my treasured old photo collection?

If their truth be told, would every one of them actually prefer to be awarded my almost valueless Groo the Wanderer childhood comic book collection instead?

Maybe, sadly it’s true.

On the surface, it does appear that our little “future generations” are being groomed to appreciate only digital images — consumed quickly and then clicked out of view.

 

“Oh look Uncle Curtis — there’s a cat doing something funny in this ‘pitcher’ !”

“Oh yes. Yeah that’s cute.”

[click]

[sigh]

So Analog Is Done Then?

I certainly wouldn’t say it’s done. I’m sure this is a conversation that will continue on for years to come.

But in the meantime, here’s something truly interesting I remember stumbling onto earlier this year that should make the answer less obvious for even the cynical. The information passed by me so quickly that it almost didn’t register.

But it did.

Jaws 4k Transfer Restoration from Pocket-Lint.com
Technicians spent 4-5 months restoring “Jaws” to extract 4k digital files from the original camera negative. (via Pocket-lint)

Jaws the Restoration

I was watching this absolutely fascinating 8-minute documentary showing how technical masters recently restored Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece “Jaws” for release on Bluray.

I mean — thank goodness! Right?

Who wants to watch that dirty old version of “Jaws”  that’s been out on just standard-definition DVD when you could watch an even newer cleaned-up digital version on high-definition Bluray, brought back to life from cleaning up that out of date, clunky original film negative! (Read a little sarcasm there)

What’s exciting about this age is we’re able to restore these movies—we can bring these classic [Universal Pictures] movies back to life in a way that makes them more vivid than even we remember them when we went to the cinema to see them.

~ Steven Spielberg
(Director)

Even though I work in the industry, I am still amazed at the level of technology that is constantly flowing from it.

It was easily apparent this movie was going to look and sound utterly fantastic when they are done restoring it. I was all set to buy a copy of it just halfway through watching this video!

Here’s is the whole thing if you want to watch it for yourself.

The Interesting Relevant Part

Here’s the part that really caught my attention.

As the documentary is coming to an end, at exactly 6 min 30 seconds in, the music slows and becomes sentimental. We hear angelic voices say the following in order:

 

The outputs of this project are both film and digital. We are restoring high-resolution digital files as well as recording a new negative.

We do both because digital files, while they are convenient to work with, and they allow us a wide range of options, for archival means, we still want a piece of film to put away.

~ Peter Schade
(Vice Pres. of Content Management and Tech. Services – Universal Studios)

This is our cultural heritage. It’s very important to preserve the physical film—the 35mm film and the negative.

~ Steven Spielberg

Film is a known commodity. We can put that on a shelf and store it in the proper conditions and that thing will last 100 years plus.

~ Peter Schade

 

These “harp strums” were like music to my ears!

All that money was spent to make an almost near-perfect digital version of this feature film, yet they spent even more money to make sure there was yet another (analog) piece of film created to ensure this movie lives on forever.

Well Which is the Right Choice Now?

Well I don’t think this says that my thinking is right and anyone who feels they wish to throw out their original prints and negatives after scanning is wrong. Not at all.

But, what this does prove to me is that even the technicians working with the highest levels of technology available, still feel there is reason to doubt that today’s level of digitization and digital preservation is “good enough”.

They must believe there are still just too many unanswered “what ifs” to take any chances by removing analog sources from the future equation.

 

So I hate to tell you, but whether you decide to hold on to your original prints and negatives is still going to have to be a decision only you can make.

And after reading this, you may now feel your whole life’s collection isn’t even as important as “Jaws” so what’s the point of even treating it like it is!!!

 

And this still doesn’t solve the possible problem if our surviving family members end up not giving two feathered hoots about inheriting our old fading collections.

What About Me You Ask?

So maybe you could say I have decided I am going to hold onto my prints and slides — not necessarily for my family — but for me. Yes me! Just having them makes me feel better.

And as for my surviving family?

Well I’m going to continue spending my own free time scanning and restoring all of my family’s photographs so that when I possibly have to take this analog collection with me to the grave, I will have a pristine digital copy of it waiting for all of them.

This way, hopefully every once and awhile, when the time is right, my nieces and nephews will be able to click or swipe or whatever their futuristic tablets can do then, through all of these old amazing “story-filled” photographs that meant so much to their loved ones before them… who made their beautiful lives possible.

Polaroid icon

I really hope you enjoyed this. I would love to know how you feel it.

For example, why do you think people should save or should not save their original photo collections? Please let me know in the comments below.

Also, I’ve created an anonymous poll I would really appreciate if you would take a few seconds to be a part of.  (I’ll wash your dog for you!)

Cheers!

 

 

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25 Comments on "Are 99.9% of Your Photographs Just Not Important Enough To Save?"

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Art Taylor
Guest

Hi Curtis,

Another interesting post. You mentioned ‘story-filled’ photos near the end. Maybe you should place more emphasis on the importance of the story behind each photo. A photo of a group of unidentified people at an unspecified location, on an unspecified occasion, regardless of its technical quality, will likely be of little or no interest or value to future viewers. This is probably as true of digital images as of analog images (slides, prints, negatives).

As you know, scanning analog originals is just part of the preservation story. Adding answers to the Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? of each image is at least equally important, even though it might take even longer to research the proper information for an image than it did to do the highest possible quality scan. While it may be difficult for us now to identify individuals, places, events, etc. in older photos in our collections, it will likely be even harder for future generations to add that information to our photos, even if there is a desire to do so.

Yes, it is time-consuming to add keywords, captions, and descriptions to our scanned images but today’s software like Aperture, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements, etc. makes it easier than ever to do so, especially with our born-digital camera original images. While a time-consuming process, it does add greatly to an image’s potential value to future viewers.

Some might argue that they have no family who might be interested in inheriting photo collections or albums. That is no doubt true for some people, but there may well be a local historical society or family history organization or museum that would love to acquire IDENTIFIED photographic documentation of people, places, and events in their area of interest and operations. However, without appropriate information accompanying each photo, such organizations seldom have the time or financial resources to research such photos so even if such photos are offered for free, they will most likely be refused since such organizations usually have limited storage facilities and can’t afford to accept gifts of virtually no value.

There are books and web sites available that offer guidance in identifying and dating older photos in existing collections. Various clues to dating can be found by looking at architectural styles, vehicle styles and colors (at least in color photos), clothing styles, hair styles, details such as signs and posters visible in an image, and other details.

For family photos, older relatives may still recognize and be able to name individuals. Perhaps someone in the family has an interest in genealogy and/or family history and can not only help with identifications and dating, but might eagerly look forward to inheriting a photo collection.

Getting back to your current post, I agree with you that it’s important to retain your analog originals, even after scanning at today’s maximum quality. As you mention, technology is constantly improving so today’s best quality scans may look like garbage in a few years and there will be a strong desire to re-scan at that level of technology.

Art

Trevor
Guest

I agree that it is a smart idea to save the originals after scanning. My hope is to cut down the amount of space however. I was thinking that after I scan a photo album I will not put the pictures back in the album, but put them in some type of container and store them. I have 30+ photo albums that I would like to reduce down to a box or two.

Susan Basham
Guest

Curtis, I have become, somewhat by default, the archivist of my family’s photo collection — all that my mother and father had, as well as all that I have collected over my own 60+ years. They take up a good part of a storage closet. Not the worst conditions, but hardly climate-controlled or disaster-proof, and I worry about them inordinately. I found your site searching on something like “choosing scan DPI” and I’ve now read a half-dozen of your posts. I breathed a huge sigh of relief just finding someone who thinks of this as a “archiving” project. That’s exactly right — it requires care and forethought to get it right. You had an eight year delay — mine has been at least half that long, with the Epson V700 collecting dust while I couldn’t get past “square one” on the most basic technical and organizational decisions (and I might add I am a decent photographer when I have the time and work passably well in Lightroom, so that wasn’t the stumbling block — it was thinking about the significance of the archive I am about to create and not wanting to start until I had gained confidence and knowledge to do better than stumble around with trial and error.) Which brings me to a multi-part answer to your question posed in this post. I love opening the old shoeboxes and albums — the album with the loose cover and black paper and photo corners in which my mother wrote, in white ink, under the pictures of me when I was an infant, or the box that originally held a pair of shoes I wore in the 1960s that became the repository for snapshots from junior high and high school. I might take the opportunity to organize them better, but it would be a loss to me to not be able to hold the originals in my hands. And there are others — those from the late 1800s and early 1900s — photos of my grandparents and my parents’ generation as children that are beautiful in their cases and cardboard frames with the name of the photographer or studio. No digital image can replace the pleasure of holding and looking at those originals, even if I can digitize them well. However, at the other extreme, I also inherited a box full of Long’s Drugs envelopes full of prints and negatives that my mother kept for decades — mostly snapshots from the 1970s after I no longer lived at home. I have no idea who those people are! I can’t imagine anyone in the future taking an interest in those pix, but I don’t think it’s up to me to eliminate the possibility. I will scan them because I want to honor my parents’ whole lives, not just the years when they were busy being mom and dad, and I will do my best to identify date and event even if I can’t identify all the people. I might consider tossing the faded prints, particularly where I have the negatives, but that’s probably as far as I’m willing to go tossing out originals — where they are not “one of a kind.” So in addition to the technological reasons you’ve given for wanting future access to the originals, I would simply add that some originals are historical documents and all of their flaws are part of their history. A digital replacement, even if technically superior, can’t replace the history the original holds (like your mother’s handwriting on the back). Who knows whether someone in the future will find more significance than we do in their imperfections? Original is original, and a digital scan is a copy. Two different kinds of archives, valuable for different reasons. Now I just need to find someone in my family to whom I can pass the torch of caring for the archive that needs its own closet!

oggo loggo
Guest

Scanners are already at such a quality, that you can see the grains on the images. I think it’s good enough already, and none of us are important enough, for someone in the future to care to investigate us (ideas like that are the reason I end up spending too much time on doing this. The idea that someone might some day want all this information.)

At some point, it’s just enough.

I have to say, that I put much more effort into digitizing my family’s old photos (up to 100 years old), that my own photos from the past 30 years. I find it much easier to discard my own photos, and not care about the quality. With my family’s old photos, I scanned every single picture, even just the ones of some field.

My point of scanning it all, was not to throw it all way, but to put it in a box, and throw it in my moms attic, and not worry anymore about if they should get lost in a fire, or somehow go bad.

oggo loggo
Guest

Besides how to best manage the photos myself, I was looking into a good online system, so the family members could easily browse them there, and easily get copies. I haven’t found one that satisfies me. I wonder if you have looked into that too.

treetop
Guest

Thanks for making this website.

Besides the technical tips (which I would use a lot more of, if I didn’t have less than a week to archive several thousand photos), it is nice to know I am not the only person who values my family/grandparents’ meticulously collected and organized photos. I too, think it is horrifying, to absolutely disregard and throw away treasures items – like PHOTOGRAPHS – that are collected over a person’s lifetime. It seems SO deeply and incredibly disrespectful and devaluing of a person’s life to do that – especially a person who birthed you. (or birthed your parents)

Anyway, I found your site this evening – as I am doing a rush job to try and scan my entire family’s photo collection before my 5 aunts and 9 cousins come into town for the funeral of my grandmother – in just a few days – to cannibalize all the photos that my grandmother so carefully sorted (by date, with words and details on the back of every photo – into albums). The bulk of the photos date back to 1950, when my (recently deceased) 104 year old grandfather and (even more recently deceased) 94 year old grandmother were first married in China. They span decades, continents, and generations. And they end in 2014, in Canada, just days ago.

My family seems to think that it is okay to lay all the albums out, with the whole family present, and conduct a free for all grab for photos – ripping them all from their albums, storylines, and contexts – to be folded into whatever grubby hands see seize them first

To me, that sounds like an absolute horror. It fills my gut with dread. I am HORRIFIED. I know my grandparents, who collected and took most of these photos, would be horrified. And, I am horrified that my family won’t even give me an extra week to do all this archiving. And it HORRIFIES me that some of them don’t even want me to archive them, at all. (you try reasoning with a persistent and outspoken Chinese family. In my regular daily life, I can win ANY argument – always. Against 20 of them, I am squashed. The only way to win is to not sleep until they arrive OR run off with the photos and miss the funeral)

I can see my recently deceased grandparents rolling in their graves. I have been literally scoffed at directly by a good 20 people for wanting to archive these photos. One person “forbade” me to archive them. To me, that is absolute insanity. (but i suppose i am also of the SCAN EVERYTHNG and SAVE hard copies school of thought too)

Anyway, you speak of how the younger generations or kids might not value things like photos and ancestors’ life stories. I suppose the point of my comment is to say…

I am the younger generation in my family – at 30. My sister is 25. We are the ONLY ones interested in preserving these photos for the benefit of everyone, for “posterity” (whoever that is), for our kids, for our cousins kids…. NONE of my cousins, or my aunts or uncles care at all about the material things (and treasures) that my grandparents have left behind. Yet, the two of us care and value the connection very much.

I don’t know what it is in people that causes sentimentality, or the valuing of stories (my sister and I were also the only ones who wanted to hear our grandparents) stories, but I do not think it is generational.

I think there is a good chance that whoever you save your photos for, or whoever your readers save their photos for…. someone, someday in the future will value them. They could be someone’s most treasured possessions (as my hastily made scans of my grandparents photos will be) – a connection to a person’s past, story, and family history. If we humans are not our own stories and experiences, that I think we have nothing. And if we cannot learn from history, cannot learn from the stories of other peoples lives, than I seriously doubt that we can learn anything of value at all. And, if that is the case, I think the human race is doomed to destroy ourselves (if that is not inevitable already)

treetop
Guest

Anyway, thanks. Also, reading your posts all night, as I try to get as far as I can on this project, has helped me feel some affirmation that what I am doing is of value to more than ONLY ME (and my sis).

Jim Van Cura
Guest

Hey Curtis,

Thanks for the article. I’m currently in the process of scanning thousands of slides and negatives from the past 100 years of my family. It is so time consuming that I can say with certainty, even if technology improves, I would never go through this process again. What’s more, I feel that once you have a high resolution copy of an analog image there is no difference between that copy and a photo taken with my DSLR. It’s all digital at that point and the current photos don’t have a physical copy attached. I also think the comments above about 99.9% of your slides are not interesting holds true. I couldn’t tell you how many slides are blurry, grainy, dark, poorly framed, or otherwise just plain ole terrible. My father also loved shooting landscapes while sitting on a boat fishing in Minnesota. There must be a thousand photos of shoreline off in the distance.

The point I’m making is that no one, including me, cares to view these poorly shot photos. Many of them I tossed even before scanning because they just aren’t interesting and stir little emotion. On the other hand, some photos are fantastic and not only have I scanned them I also had fresh prints made to frame some. Overall, I would say that if you are sentimental toward things then you will keep whatever you acquire over the years. And if you aren’t sentimental then you don’t care. I haven’t tossed them yet, but after I have quality scans of my images I probably will.

What are your thoughts on snaping RAW photos of slides with a DSLR by popping a flash behind them rather than scanning them? It seems as though the process would be much faster, and since it’s a RAW image the quality would be there to adjust in photo editing software later if needed.

Dave
Guest

Great topic! I’ve found that many family members could not wait to “dump” their old photos on me when they heard I was in the process of scanning photos. Once I’d scanned many of the really old family photos, I could not find anyone who wanted to take the originals. They were happy with the digital copies only. What I’ve decided to do is to set aside a few of the most important pictures (in my opinion) and make a small “keepers” box for me (ultimately for my son). The rest of them, I’ll be sorting into piles based on subjects so I can give them to the most appropriate family members where possible. Let them decide when to throw the pictures out. Others not otherwise given away will be put into boxes for now, to be tossed when we need the space (i.e move to our retirement home).

John Hanley
Guest

Couple of extra thoughts:
1. I am finding that, in addition to printed photos, I have quite a few photos as images acquired from non-print sources. This would include places like Facebook, or emailed to me, or via a ‘cloud source’ (like Dropbox). So my regimen has to include folding these into my digital history. This is particularly true with family images of, say, my nine grandchildren. This begs the question: ‘Should I make print copies of digitally acquired images?’. In general I have made it a rule NOT to make prints of digitally acquired images unless it is really a special one.
2. As a corollary, I am definitely keeping (previously) printed photos of my generation on back. The generation of my grandchildren are already into the digital age for the most part, so I am only keeping a few exemplars to compliment the digital collection.
3. Since someday I will pass on, I am making some effort to be sure my digital collection(s) can actually be *found* by my successors. To that end, I make periodic backups to a flash media card (or similar) and keep it in the envelope with my last will and testament. I have the media card inside a Ziploc on which I have written what is on the media card/stick so they can have some idea of the importance of the card. Otherwise, all this careful work I am doing could get lost in the shuffle down the road. (Which computer or hard drive did Dad have all that stuff on anyway?). You see?
John Hanley

John Hanley
Guest

Another source of images that I did not mention above are those I took with my own digital camera. Generally I am handling these as I would any other non-print source. I don’t think I have printed a photo or had one printed in the last ten years. I also have some photos that were given to me from a Photo CD made at a drug store; these I also treat as ‘digital only’ images.

Angela
Guest

A thought I’d like to add- I believe by greatly paring down our collections we may very well be increasing their chances of surviving. Thinking ahead a generation or two- who wants to look through 1000’s of photos (print or digital) of people we hardly know? Captioning and descriptions will be a significant encouragement, but as the decades progressed our photo taking is far more casual and many of mine, I know, don’t have a memorable or significant story to go along with the hundreds I can take in a single month. A box or two or a few discs invites the next owners to browse on through. A closet or harddrive full are just overwhelming and I fear will too often only get a glance and put away for “maybe later…” or be tossed for space as even we struggle now with that decision. I’m contemplating creating a core family heirloom archive that will be compact and of obvious value, and then the “extended version” for whomever-still-cares-enough to spare the space and/or time (hopefully).

Additional on the topic of tossing originals- I am definitely biased towards anything black and white or older. They just feel old and therefor valuable. Those first decades of color that are so faded, and into the years that I remember, and as quantities greatly increase- I am realizing I wrongly feel much easier about decluttering, probably over-zealously. They don’t feel “old” to me and the poor quality is influencing me, but I am NOT the only one I am creating this archive for. My children or grandchildren will probably look back with awe at 1970’s photos in a similar fashion as I do the 1920’s now. Reading your article and writing you have clarified this for me just in time to keep me from making a mistake.

I wish I could turn off the need for sleep and eating- I’d read your site from front to back and scan through the days and nights, I’m now so eager to begin.

I commented on another article tonight how much I appreciate your site, but I can’t pass up another opportunity to say THANK YOU!
~Angela

George
Guest

Good article. I’m in the middle of scanning my travel negatives from 20 years ago.

A couple of thoughts. First, I don’t see any reason to keep old faded prints and albums that I made AS LONG AS I AM RECORDING THE INFORMATION AS METADATA IN LIGHTROOM. The difference between a scanned negative and one of those old prints is just astonishing and if I need a new print I’ll just send them off to Walgreens for a twenty cents a pop or whatever it is they charge. Between the digital versions and negatives in archival holders, no real need for the prints.

Second, I’m a big believer in scanning virtually EVERYTHING, for a couple of reasons as long as it is not hopeless. First, you don’t have to make decisions as you go–just scan. Second, it can turn out that the uninteresting pictures contain clues that allow you to assign data to a whole set of pictures. For example, let’s say there is a rainy day shot in the middle of several other pictures. Let’s say you knew that these pictures were taken in one particular month. Go check the weather data for that month and BAM it rained only one day. Now you know the precise day all those pictures were taken! The order and subject of photographs in a roll can give us great clues for organizing them.

Thomas Wilmot
Guest

GREAT post!!
Very comforting to hear those words from the professional film archivists.
I don’t know if people in the future will really care about our thousands of photographs, slides, and hours of home movie footage, but it’s definitely worth it for me to have it preserved in the hopes that they will!
Thanks!! smile

Linda
Guest

It has been five years since I took the time to scan all of the family photos I had in my possession. We were downsizing drastically-selling most everything to move onto a sailboat and cruise for a few years. It took a lot of time-mostly organizing the photos into piles so I could scan like subjects in the same file. The dilemna was what to do with the originals? I sorted the photos giving each of my four children their original school photos, birthday pictures, graduation, etc. I held onto original photos of my grandparents, etc. I am thankful that I did not throw these photos away. It hurt bad enough to discard the many photos of zoo animals, Yellowstone scenery, but these did hit the wastebasket. I feel that it means more to hold an original photograph in your hands then it does to look at a digital copy. In fact, all of my digital photos, I have taken of my grandchildren, will be gone through, deleted if necessary, and hard copies made and put into photo albums. I am sentimental-and I am hoping the generation of my grandchildren will be that way also. Family is to be cherished and loved and remembered-posterity is important.
In closing, I would recommend not destroying the important originals. Keep them in a safe place where the next generation can strike a conversation over: look at those clothes, look at their hair, I look like my great aunt.

Happy scanning!
Linda

Sue
Guest

To add another thought: I will never get rid of the old photos just as I will never get rid of all my books. There is something familiar and tactile about sorting through the “picture box” and finding treasures you forgot were there. My mom was never organized enough to put anything in an album so all our pictures are in a couple of boxes. Just sorting through the boxes has been comforting when my parents passed away recently. I do want to organize them in the boxes, probably in envelopes. I can’t afford albums.

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