I think we are almost to the point where I can safely say there is no such thing as a bad photograph.
Aside from the photos that are accidentally shot off or the ones where the camera is completely set wrong (for example in the more complicated manual modes), every photo — even the “bad” ones — will one day be a few clicks away from being usable.
Photo Magic is Already Here or Just Around the Corner!
In October of 2011, Jue Wang, senior research scientist at Adobe, showed off a jaw-dropping “sneak peak” of some technology that will make all of you who threw out all of your so called “bad photos” wish you had that day back to do over again!
Today, I would like to share something a little different here on “Scan Your Entire Life.” Usually it’s just me going on and on about my experience dealing with my photo collection. But not this time.
A couple months ago, Peter Fuller, a fellow reader of this website wrote and shared with me his experience getting started on the project of scanning his entire photo collection.
We wrote back and forth several times discussing the details of his workflow. He had questions for me and I had some questions for him. I became immediately intrigued hearing his story shopping for a particular model of scanner he wished to purchase where he lives.
At some point, I received an email from Peter asking me this:
If I sent you a piece about my experiences/ learning’s scanning photos, would you be prepared to publish it?
I had never thought about having guest posts on my site so soon — but how could I refuse!
Ah, there’s nothing quite like reading a great caption to go along with a special photograph. Sometimes they’re so effective, they just seal the emotional experience of being there—as if you were right there when that photograph was taken—even if you weren’t!
I think it’s so important that you record these “priceless” descriptions as soon as you can. Some of us might think we can remember all of the details. But face it, you probably won’t be able to. They’re fleeting. And even if you could, you and your memory aren’t going to be on this earth forever.
With prints, it was easy to record this information by writing the stories by hand on the back. But, now that we are wishing to move our prints, slides and negatives to a digital form in our computer, how do we easily add this information so that it can live with each master image file?
Q&A – “From your site and the other information I’ve found on the net, I think we should scan our photo collections in TIFF, at 600 dpi, using your naming convention / workflow. You don’t cover TIFF versus other formats in your articles, but I see you are using that format and there seems to be general acceptance that it is the best format for archiving. What do you think of the PNG format?”
Peter, that is a great question. And you’re right, up until now I have not covered what I feel is the best file format(s) to save scanned photos with. But, as you astutely noticed, I did sort of allude to my personal choice in a couple of my posts. Especially in some of my images I used in my 3-part “naming convention” series you brought up called “What Everyone Ought to Know When Naming Your Scanned Photos.”
Getting all of your photos into your computer seems like it should be such an easy thing to accomplish these days. You hook up a flatbed scanner and then push the scan button a few times. Or you connect your digital camera via USB cable and then magically, your digital photo collection is complete! Don’t we all wish it was that easy!
In fact, even those of us who make it a little bit easier on ourselves by hiring a scanning service for our prints and slides still have a lot of work to do before and afterwards. You see, getting your photos into a digital form is only part of the entire process.
Unless you have found a way to scan your entire photo collection in a pre-organized “beginning to end” kind of way, I’ve found you’re going to need a way to know tomorrow, or possibly months later, whether or not you have already scanned a particular photograph.
And you’re going to want to know by just looking at a print or slide in front of you – without booting up your computer to do a search. Trust me.
The problem I discovered when I started scanning my collection was unless I was immediately moving the slides or prints I had just scanned to a different storage place – a new photo album or new archival pages for example – I would sometimes forget whether or not I had scanned some of them!
I am really excited to share this information with you. Where I discovered to store all of my paper photographs wasn’t what I had in mind when I went looking for a place. But when I found it, I instantly knew it was going to be my favorite place to store them forever.
Imagine my happiness when I discovered something that was archival quality, better and more functional than standard photo albums. Several companies make these PVC-free plastic photo pages using a safe material called Polypropylene. They’re surprisingly clear and lightweight, and are meant to hold photos on both sides. And they’re actually fairly affordable when you buy them in bulk.
It was seriously a life changing day when I discovered the magic of a “non-destructive” photo managing program.
With “non-destructive” editing, all of the edits (enhancements) you make to your photographs are managed by the program itself. Your original photo remains untouched. It’s like having a guardian angel that protects your master images at all costs. It’s brilliant and is 100% absolutely indispensable to me now.
I would like to thank all my readers by giving one of you a Picaboo 11×14 Premium Photo Calendar that has a retail value of $29.99. You can personalize it with some of your scanned photos or possibly ones you just took over the Holidays.
Are you someone who is just itching to have your entire photo collection converted to digital images on your computer? I mean, you know you want to do it – badly. You know you should be doing it – you can see all of your aging photos over there in a few boxes in the hall closet. But there’s just something holding you back.
I wanna take a guess and say if it’s not a lack of enthusiasm, what you could be experiencing is frustration trying to imagine how you could ever get all of your original prints and negatives chronologically organized and in one place at the same time?
In part 3, we will now be discussing how to add the last part to the filename – a block of easy to create “code” that will reveal to anyone with your “key” the exact scanner settings you used to scan the photo.
Even though I think this will eventually benefit even those with the most basic of goals for their scanned photo collections, I know it might be too much to ask of someone who doesn’t have the time or patience to be this thorough. But I beg you to at least follow me through my process here and see if I can convince you of its benefits.
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?