The Top 13 Reasons Why You Should Already Be Scanning Your Photo Collection

by | Last updated May 4, 2020 | Scanning Photos, Featured Post | 10 comments

Plastic bin filled with paper photographs ready to be scanned

Photo collection of Michelle G. Lexington, Ky

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 film and paper 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.

And unfortunately, because of the way we often store our prints, negatives and slides, it's kind of that, out of sight.. out of mind situation. Your photos are screaming for your help — you just can't hear them because they are tucked away deep deep in your closet.

So for those who need a little push in the right direction, here are thirteen reasons why you should already be scanning your photo collection, and therefore should not be reading this article right now. Okay, well then finish reading this and then go get to scanning!

The first six demonstrate why time is not on your side — why waiting is only making matters worse. And the last seven show the often surprising benefits that come with having your collection in digital form.

1

Identification of the Unknown

This is one of those situations you will probably never think about until you actually start the digitizing process. A few days in you are going to be scanning photos, saving them with unique filenames and typing in the names of everyone in your photos, when you come across images of people and places you aren't familiar with. Either you have forgotten the information or maybe the photo was taken before you were even born and you have never met them before.

We have security in believing our “all-knowing” family and friends will always be here for anything we need — all of those questions we ask them — but there may come a time when we will wish we had taken the time to go through those old boxes of photos and shared some stories together.

2

Never-Ending Deterioration

For those of you who weren't around for the 1970's, or just can't remember too much of it for a number of questionable reasons, let me inform you that the way it now looks in your old photographs, isn't how the decade actually looked back then. Your photos have color-shifted baby! And nothing you or the best Tupperware could have done to stop it. Well unless you upgraded to some museum-grade archival storage.

3

Fire and Water Damage

We never think it's going to happen to us until, well, it actually happens to us. (Knock on wood) My immediate families have been very lucky so far. We build our homes with wood and run pipes in and around them so it only seems reasonable to expect a few of them them here and there might catch on fire or get really wet. Your insurance might replace a lot of possessions but it's not going to bring back those albums full of paper prints if there's a bad fire or burst pipe.

Since it's not practical or even smart to keep our photographs conveniently stored by an exit for a quick grab during a fire, it's up to us to have a “backup plan” already in place just in case the worst should ever happen.

4

Much Needed Backups

Two is definitely better than one when it comes to how many copies you have of your one-of-a-kind photographs. And yes, more is even better!

I know, it's your collection and maybe you don't want those ungrateful cousins of yours to have a copy of that amazing shot your father took back in 1964 of your Uncle Phil after falling on that icy sidewalk. But, that's no reason the only copy of it should be a paper print you stowed away in a shoebox under the bed in your guest room.

Photos get damaged, scratched, moldy, torn, and bent. And when we aren't careful, sometimes they are just misplaced.

5

Messy Hands and Accidental Spills

When I was a kid, on weekends we would watch movies on television eating air-popped popcorn with real butter melted all over it. And to drink, we all had a big ol' reused plastic sporting arena souvenir cup filled with concord grape juice. I'm not sure how that combination came to be, but they really do go well together! But indulge in either one of these while handling your photos or even being near them and you're just asking for irreversible damage.

I don't even like to leave my loose photos out when I am not using them. Even if they are in some kind of envelope or folder, it's just too easy spill something on them.

6

Photo Scanning Services Are Now Affordable

When considering how serious the six reasons above are, it's comforting to know there really are photo scanning services for those who don't want to do the scanning themselves. There are services that cater to every budget.

You place your prints, negatives or slides in a box and mail them off. Before you know it, your photos are returned with a DVD or hard drive full of digital images. You of course still have a lot of organizing, labeling and possible corrections to do with the images, but at least a lot of the hard work has now been done for you.

7

It's a Blast from the Past!

You are going to find pictures of people and events in those boxes you have totally forgotten about. It's so much fun discovering photos you may not have seen for decades!

Some of my favorites have been photos of Christmas mornings where my brother and I have just opened toys we played with for years and years. To see pictures of them again when they were brand new and in their original packaging, with our excited little faces, is so worth whatever agony my parents put us through posing for each on of those shots!

8

Distribute Copies to Family and Friends

Do you have family begging you for a box of original prints or negatives you would rather not part with until it's over your dead body? Would you like to be able to upload copies of them to photo sharing sites or social networks such as Facebook and Twitter? Making them digital will give you the freedom to duplicate each photo as many times as you would like while keeping the original prints and film safely archived.

9

Easier to Sort

Digital photo managing applications make it really easy to re-order photographs based on many criteria. In addition to being able to sort chronologically by the date they were shot or by the event, the newest software lets you “tag” people in the photos so you can then click on each tag and bring up all of the photos that particular person is in.

Adding keywords works in a similar way allowing you to attach photos with significant words. For example tagging all shots taken at your birthday parties with ‘birthday party' makes it really easy to create a new album called “All of My Birthdays!”

10

Re-Organize Originals

It's safe to say your original prints and negatives have probably been moved around a lot through the years. They've probably been relocated from under one bed to many others, maybe in a few closet floors — maybe a lot. Hopefully they have never been in the garage!

All this shuffling around may have caused some of their corners to be bent and curled. Others might now be exposed to sunlight coming in from a nearby window causing premature deterioration. Maybe the containers they are stored in are falling apart. Scanning your photos will give you a chance to re-organize and store them in better conditions.

11

Strengthen Relationships with Family and Friends

Don't be surprised if you end up calling family and friends — as excited as you can possibly be — screaming, “You will never believe what picture I just found! Do you remember when you [fill in the blank here with something really really embarrassing]” And before you know it, you and this old schoolmate you friended on Facebook (but still hadn't caught up with) are now talking like you were never separated by time.

Though, don't be surprised when once all the laughter dies down, she asks you to burn that photo, “Burn it right now. I'm totally not kidding with you!!”

12

Ability to Create Photo Books

I pretty much never thought I would see the day when we could have our own hardback photo books printed without a negotiation with the words “bulk quantity” and “over 1000 copies.

Until you hold one of these beautiful photo books in your hands, flipping through the pages in awe of the quality, you will have no idea how amazing they really are.

And since the prices are so reasonable, it would be a shame not to make as many as your bookshelf can hold. You can create them right in many photo organizing programs like Apple Photos or Adobe's Photoshop Elements, or download an easy to use standalone program from a company like Blurb or Picaboo.

13

Reuniting Split-Up Collections

It's very common to hear about families “gifting” all the photos taken of a particular family member to that person when they start a family of their own. It's a beautiful and generous thing for parents to do, but unfortunately the consequence of which is detrimental to ever having a complete collection in one place again.

And worse, as these members pass, their personal collections are often given to members of their family you may not have any close connections with — basically disappearing from your grasp.

By making the effort now to scan in all of these sub-sets of photos, spread out between multiple households, you are increasing the chance of being able to tell that complete visual story.

I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Of these thirteen reasons, (or possibly one of your own) which is the most important reason why you started scanning or are now finally going to start scanning your photo collection?

Are You Ready to Get Serious With Your Photo Collection?

Join 10,280+ people enjoying the exclusive newsletter, tutorials, occasional blog updates, and tips and tricks you won't find anywhere else on this website sent right to your inbox.

Are You Ready to Get Serious With Your Photo Collection?

Join 10,280+ people enjoying the exclusive newsletter, tutorials, occasional blog updates, and tips and tricks you won't find anywhere else on this website sent right to your inbox.

Popular Posts

Epson Scan 2 — Will It Work With My Scanner?
Epson Scan 2 — Will It Work With My Scanner?

Epson quietly released a new version of their popular scanning software “Epson Scan” that comes bundled with their document and flatbed photo scanners. But, there’s already been confusion as to which scanners and operating systems it supports. Could it be possible that “Epson Scan 2” won’t even run in the latest versions of Microsoft Windows?

Epson V800 vs V850 — The 5 Differences and Which You Should Buy
Epson V800 vs V850 — The 5 Differences and Which You Should Buy

So you’re ready to buy a very high-quality flatbed scanner to digitize your analog prints and film, but now you’re having a hard time deciding between the Epson Perfection V800 Photo and the Epson Perfection V850 Pro Photo Scanners.

Whether you or an avid hobby photographer, a true professional, or just want to get all the quality you can out of your prints and film, either one of these models is going to give you exceptional results. But, I want to help you feel confident you’re going to make the right choice.

Below, in plain English that will make it very easy to understand, I’ve written out and explained in detail, the 5 differences between the two models.

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

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.

If You Don’t Add This to the Filename of Your Scanned Photos, You’ll Probably Hate Yourself Later
If You Don’t Add This to the Filename of Your Scanned Photos, You’ll Probably Hate Yourself Later

Whether you keep all of your scanned master (original) image files in folders on a hard drive, or you allow an image manager like Picasa, iPhoto or Aperture to manage them inside a library file, you will still be required to give each photo a filename.

It could be as simple and non-descriptive as “photo-1.jpg” or maybe even simple yet somewhat descriptive like “mom at the beach 1984.tif”.

But, it’s actually a very important part of the process of scanning photos, that if done with a little bit of forethought, can save you a lot of time and headache later.

My Inspiring Photo Scanning Progress Report for April 2012
My Inspiring Photo Scanning Progress Report for April 2012

Welcome to my third monthly progress report!

Last month I covered two complete months of scanning, but I learned that was just too much to talk about!

So this time is only one month and it’ll be a lot shorter.

What This Progress Report Is Really About:

Every month, I am posting a detailed report — just like this one — sharing with you how far I have come with my goal to scan and restore my entire 10,000+ family photo collection.

By doing so, I hope to inspire you to do the same!

In my first progress report, I set a goal for myself to do a little bit of work on my collection every single day. I shoot for about an hour a day which turns out to be about 30 scans a day. And I am going to record and detail each one of them so that you can learn from my transparency.

I don’t want to be “that guy” — a guy that tells you how you should scan your own photos but then sends all of my own to a scanning service to do the work for me.

How Quickly You Could Scan Your Entire Photo Collection — What I Discovered From My First Week of Scanning
How Quickly You Could Scan Your Entire Photo Collection — What I Discovered From My First Week of Scanning

So you have a closet with boxes full of old prints and slides that you are dying to have scanned and neatly organized on your computer.

The problem is, you’re worried about it either costing you way too much money to send it to a scanning service, or taking too much of your precious free time to scan them yourself on a flatbed scanner.

Does this sound EXACTLY like your dilemma?

I’d like to share with you my experience back scanning photos for the first week. If you want to make scanning your own photos fit into your busy and hectic life, I think my experience here might give you an idea how much time will be involved and how many photos you can easily get through.

The Best Way to Add a Description (Caption) to Your Scanned Photos
The Best Way to Add a Description (Caption) to Your Scanned Photos

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?

Use 1 of These Photo Managers If You Care About Your Photo Collection
Use 1 of These Photo Managers If You Care About Your Photo Collection

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.

What Everybody Ought to Know When Naming Your Scanned Photos – Part 1
What Everybody Ought to Know When Naming Your Scanned Photos – Part 1

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.

The DPI You Should Be Scanning Your Paper Photographs
The DPI You Should Be Scanning Your Paper Photographs

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.

Related Posts

How I’m Bringing Order to Chaos By Scanning and Organizing My Photo Collection

How I’m Bringing Order to Chaos By Scanning and Organizing My Photo Collection

I have always held onto things that memorialized moments of my life. Ever since I was a little kid, I would make sure to carefully store my grade school class pictures or baseball team pictures. They were important to me then and I knew that I should keep them safe. It took a few years for me to realize what service I had done myself by not letting these precious items get lost or thrown away. They are utterly priceless to me now.

Epson Scan 2 — Will It Work With My Scanner?

Epson Scan 2 — Will It Work With My Scanner?

Epson quietly released a new version of their popular scanning software “Epson Scan” that comes bundled with their document and flatbed photo scanners. But, there’s already been confusion as to which scanners and operating systems it supports. Could it be possible that “Epson Scan 2” won’t even run in the latest versions of Microsoft Windows?

Aiming for the Stars to Hit a Cowpie — My Enlightening Scanning Journey

Aiming for the Stars to Hit a Cowpie — My Enlightening Scanning Journey

As a Wyoming farm gal, I was raised with the phrase “It’s better to aim for the stars and miss than to aim for a cowpie and hit.” Well, that’s great advice … unless your goal actually is to hit the cowpie.

My scanning goal really was that simple, but for some reason, aiming at the cowpie just wasn’t working. So I changed strategies and aimed for the stars. The result? Read on to find out. And hopefully, by sharing my scanning journey, it will help you on your scanning journey.

Leave a Comment Below

Subscribe by email to new comments without commenting
Notify of
guest

10 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments