In many ways, the point of a good filename is double duty. First it gives you the ability to organize and search for your photos on the “folder level.” So without even seeing the image loaded (previewed) on your screen, you are able to sort and find particular files in either Windows Explorer in Microsoft Windows or Finder windows if you are using a Mac.
Additionally, a filename can permanently take the place of much of the handwritten “caption” information you may or may not already have on the back or even front (sometimes) of your photographs.
As my own scanned photo collection grows, it has really become obvious to me how thankful I am for the added attention I have been putting into the filenames I give to all of my scanned images.
When you're scanning, it’s really easy to get into a “robotic” mindset where you are just trying to scan as many photos as possible in a sitting. So when you get to that blank field each time that asks you to type in a name for the file, it's tempting to just quickly bang out a few descriptive words with little thought to how useful they will be to anyone later.
One of the most important decisions you face when scanning anything with your scanner is choosing what dpi (“dots per inch”) to scan with. And specifically for this post, what is the best dpi to use when scanning and archiving your 8×10″ and smaller paper photographic prints – which for most people, make up the majority of our pre-digital collection.
Making this decision was very challenging for me and certainly a huge part of my 8 year delay. The reason for this is that dpi is the critical variable in a fairly simple mathematical equation that will determine several important outcomes for your digital images.
“I'll get to it someday.” “Maybe when I get around to buying a decent scanner.” “It's just too much work.” “I'll make one of my kids do it. They know that ‘tech' stuff – I don't.”
Those are just a few reasons why your irreplaceable paper and film photograph collections are probably in jeopardy of being no more – just a distant memory. You see, there are forces greater than your lack of will power hurting your chances of having an everlasting collection to pass on to future generations.
Posting tips on how to scan, restore and organize photographs seemed straightforward enough to me when I was creating this website until it occurred to me there might be some interesting stories I could share that might not fit into the most obvious of “post categories.” These stories could explore the personal experience I am going through digitizing my own family's collection.
By placing these posts into a separate category called “My Blog,” I decided I could safely cover more information without boring those just seeking “how-to” information to accomplish a certain task. This idea came to me – I believe – in the strangest of places.
Here's the first photo from my family's collection I scanned. (Yup that's me apparently on my very first pony ride)
I didn't scan it for an immediate use such as to print it out for our refrigerator or to send it to my Aunt K. through email (though I am sure she would have appreciated it). I scanned this picture with quality in mind so if properly cared for, this digital master would not only outlive the paper print, but would also be more useful due to the benefits of digital replication. What I am talking about here is archiving.
Well that flash of genius was on August 8, 2001 – about 8 years before I started scanning again.
So why the long delay? Why couldn't I get my act together?