Old Photo, New Life: A Practical Guide to Scanning Old Photos
Maybe you are like me and your old family photos live a little bit of everywhere. Some photos take home in shoeboxes tucked away in a nearby closet. Others live in dusty albums and in countless zip codes: your baby photos are split between the home where you grew up and a token few reside in your nightstand; your teenage years are caught up in a half-finished scrapbook; and the photo from your grandparent's wedding day has always been in dispute amongst your siblings. Sound familiar?
You're not alone. Cue my experience last month. My sister called me with an idea to create a gift for our Mom's 60th birthday. A photo gift, or photo album, to be exact. It turns out that when you work for a photo printing company you become the expert of said project, and well, the dedicated family photo librarian.
Before kicking off the mission, I got to thinking about just how far-scattered my own family's photos are and just how collaborative this project might prove to be. So I called in for reinforcement. I called in my two aunts, but alas, neither of them were able to help. Aunt Jeanne didn't know where any of the photos were and Aunt Carol had heaps of old family photos, but had no idea how to get them to me. Cue worst group project ever. The bad news? Their photos didn't make it into the album this time. The good news? The album did make it to my mother (she even told me it was the one thing she would save in a fire. #awesome.)
Have you been putting off that family photo project? Let's break it down and give you all the info to get from here to there. Maybe you don't need that call from your sister to be your catalyst – a 'just because' gift can be the best of all. To all the 'volun-told' keepers of family photos, it's our turn to step up and make something worthy of passing down.
—Laura, Marketing Manager
The Photo Hunt
Put out the photo call and let your friends and family know you're counting on them to get this done. Give them enough time, but not too much time (there's nothing like a looming deadline to spur action!). It's likely the level of tech know-how varies in your circles, so let your aunt know she can snail mail some of her favorite photos and you'll have them safely returned. Then for your sister, tell her you accept texts, emails, Dropbox, Apple Photo Shared Albums, etc.
Curate Your Images
Good news, folks: getting the photos in hand is the hardest part – so consider yourself on the home stretch! Next up: getting organized. Familiarizing yourself with the photos from the get-go will help simplify the album design process. When shuffling through your pile of photos – in print or otherwise – start pulling out the images that tell a story or make you feel something. We recommend getting a second pair of eyes from a family member to chime in on key dates or the stories behind these photos. You just might learn a thing or three about the people you come from.
Make the Images Digital
If you're lucky, your family and friends can help you in digitizing those old photos that live across zip codes. But if they've sent the photos your way or you find yourself digging through boxes in your grandmother's basement, these next tips to make the images digital will come in handy. Use your mobile phone to capture images of your old photos. See also: your own mini photo studio. When you get the lens of your smartphone close enough to the image, the resolution will then be high enough to reproduce a beautiful print, album, calendar, etc. Simply find a well-lit spot and start snapping (think natural light in a nearby window or well-lit space). You'll want to avoid direct sunlight which can change the color and look of your photographs. I have found it useful to create a small shadow with my body by hovering over the photo to ensure there is no glare on the original print. Hold your phone overhead and make sure the image is in focus first. You are able to focus most smartphones by simply tapping on the middle of the screen on the subject. Then click away!
There's an app for that?
You heard that right. Forget the old-school scanner and let your phone do the work. New apps allow you to quickly scan photos and documents right from your mobile phone. Here are a few of our favorite scanning apps that are free to download:
Save And Share
You now have digital versions to share with everyone else (cue: family favorite). Our go-to for cloud file storage is Dropbox — through this platform you can upload your photos from either your laptop or from your phone by using their handy phone app. Create a folder and invite all of your friends and family to access the photos. Best part? These same Dropbox photos can be accessed through our online editor during the album design process.
Build Your Album
Now for the fun part. There's no second-guessing: what's going to make your album its best are all those photos you've carefully curated and given a second life. Now it's time to put them to print. We've made quite a few photo books ourselves, and have certainly collected a few telltale tip-offs for making them stand out. From our staff to your screen, we've shared our Insider's Guide how to make this photo book your best yet — take a look here.
I handed my mom 60 years of photos in one album. With a lot-a-bit of digging and a little bit of time, I was able to print history back to life. Perhaps this guide was just the nudge you needed to dust off those boxes and get to work. I promise you it's worth it - just ask my mom.