Take the time, or spend the money to digitize your heritage photos! In the light of recent natural disasters — tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods, not to mention fire and theft — take those photos, slides, home movies or videos from parents and grandparents that are hiding in boxes or albums and scan them. It will never replace the heritage print of your great grandfather, but if you have a good quality scan, you can reprint that image.
The question we get asked the most is ‘isn’t it expensive?’ It will cost you either time or money. Scanning is something you can do yourself if you have the time and a scanner. Weighing the value of your time versus the cost of having someone else scan those photos or slides for you is important to look at. You need to think about what you will do with the images once you have them in digital form. Are they for backup of your printed photos? Are they for sharing with other family members who will want the full resolution files so they can make something with them? Will they remain as jpegs and only be looked at on a screen? All these things will play a part in the resolution you scan at. The higher the resolution, the longer it takes to scan. Again, it’s time versus money.
Some heritage photos are found glued in old photo albums or scrapbooks. There may be writing on the pages. This is when you want to scan the whole page instead of pulling the photos out of the book. You don’t want to risk harming the photos or losing the handwriting on the page. The great thing about scanning the whole page is that you can recreate the album digitally and print multiple copies for various family members to have. Each individual image can be saved from the scan of the whole page as well. I recommend scanning pages like this at 600 dpi so you can have good resolution on each individual image as well. You do need a large flatbed scanner to scan the entire page in one pass. This is where you may need to pay someone to scan it for you.
One of our clients had several heritage albums from her grandmother and mother that had gotten slightly mildewed. They presented a health risk, but she couldn’t just toss them out! Several were also starting to disintegrate as the paper was becoming brittle. We scanned the pages and put the images into a 12×12 photo book. There was some white space around the image of the original page, but that also gave some space to put reference notes. Several of these albums also had memorabilia tucked into envelopes or folded on the page so you couldn’t see what it was. By scanning each page, and then each item opened out, we were able to include all the memorabilia in the photo book as well. You might not have this, but if you do, don’t forget to look at the memorabilia. You might just find a letter from your great grandmother in her handwriting.
When our client saw the finished photo book version of her grandmother’s albums, she was overjoyed. It was like having her grandmother there to say hello. Making those connections from generation to generation is priceless. For those who remember the person, it brings them back. For the generation that never knew the person, it gives a glimpse into the past and how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same. You realize how much you look like your great grandfather or another relative. You will discover some real treasures that your larger family would love to have access to. If you share the cost, it won’t cost any one family member that much to bring the family heritage to life for all.
Do you have heritage photos hidden in a box or at a relative’s house? Are your heritage photos scattered among several family members? Then it’s time to scan them and bring them together so the whole family can enjoy them and hear the stories they tell.