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What to do with all those old photos?

Saving photos on your computer is the way to go.

Of all the things we hold dear, photos might be the most precious. Looking back at photos can be like time travel, letting you relive memories of past events. But too often, photos pile up in boxes and in closets, rarely seen and also unprotected.

Digitizing your photographs is a perfect solution to organizing and protecting your memories.


There are several benefits to shifting your photos into the digital realm. First, the pictures themselves are protected. Ironically, the adhesive and cellophane used in some older photo albums can be corrosive to the prints. Extended sun exposure can fade photos, losing clarity and detail in the process. There is also the possibility of physical damage, from water or humidity, from excess heat, or from being folded or bent. Finally, there is the issue of possession. When you only have one picture of the grandparents with all the grandchildren, who gets it? Digitization solves these difficulties, of both protection and sharing.


The first step in organizing your photos is deciding which ones to save and which to discard. This can be very difficult.  Throwing away a picture can feel like throwing away a memory. When sorting photos, remember that you want the very best. If you took three dozen photos at every birthday party, chances are good that at least half of them will be blurry, show more backs of heads than anything else or be near duplicates. Pick the few that best represent the event, and let the rest go.


Scanning photos isn’t difficult, but it is time consuming. Each photo must be laid on the scanner individually before being scanned. The scanning process itself depends on the manufacturer, but each photo becomes an individual file saved to the hard drive.


One of the drawbacks of scanning photos is that in order to look at them, you have to open them on your computer. This can be readily solved with tags.  When you scan the image, there will be a spot for you to add tags to the files. These should contain relevant information about the image. 

For instance, a photo from someone’s birthday might have the tags, “Grandma,” “birthday,” “cake,” “1992,” and “Cleveland.” Including names, dates and places helps you keep track of what’s in the pictures. It also gives you the option to sort.  If you want to see everything from 1992, you can search for that tag. You can also look for all the birthday pictures. It’s crucial to be consistent and thorough in using tags; when you’re using the computer’s search function, it will only find what you’ve entered.


If you’re not keen on scanning your own photos, there are companies, both national and local, who will do the job for you. John Day, at Transfer me to DVD, explains that there are other benefits to letting professionals do this job. First, they scan at a higher DPI (Dots Per Inch) than home scanners, so the finished product has a much sharper quality. They can also often repair and enhance photos. They also categorize and tag photos, making them easy to find, digitally speaking. According to Day, “there are many people who intend to do the job themselves, but come to us in the end.”

What Next?

Happily, there are multiple ways to continue to enjoy your favorite photographic memories, from digitally created photo albums to slide shows that you can watch on your computer or television. No matter how you choose to enjoy these memories, relax, knowing that they are safe and protected.

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