Home Ideas The Best Ways to Digitize Your Old Photo Collection

The Best Ways to Digitize Your Old Photo Collection

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I come from a family that collects old photographs, which means my mom’s basement is full of huge plastic containers of pictures—and that collection is only increasing with time. Some pictures are a century old and feature people we’ve never even met before. Most are a few decades old and show distant relatives eating cake or accidentally blinking when the flash went off.

We almost never look at any of these, but they take up so much space—and that’s why my mom decided last year she’d had enough. She wanted them out of the house and enlisted me to help her. We decided to go through them once, looking for anything genuinely important, throw out the vast majority, and digitize anything decent. Here is what we learned along the way.

Decide what photographs to keep

Whether you decide to ship your pics off to a digitizing company or upload them all yourself, it helps to work with the smallest volume possible. The same way I recommend holding a remembrance night to go through old stuff before you chuck it out, I recommend going through your physical pictures before you digitize them. From a practical standpoint, this will help you pare down duplicates, toss out anything useless, and only keep what actually deserves to be kept. From a nicer perspective, you can have a lot of fun and make some nice memories by reliving the past for a night—which was the point of holding onto these to begin with.

When I sort through photos, I categorize them into two piles: Throw away and digitize. Here and there, though, I snap a quick pic of one on my phone, just so I have it right away if I need it. It’s easy to get sentimental and start making excuses about how every photo should be kept for some reason or another, but do your best to be pragmatic. You’re not going to look at these often in the future. There’s no reason to have five photos of your grandpa watching a football game or your toddler self visiting an aquarium you don’t even remember. Select only the most important things to keep, reminisce a little about the stuff you’re tossing, and keep going. My personal rule is that I pick one picture from each event—birthday parties, vacations, ceremonies, whatever—and make sure it’s the best one. The rest have to go.

My best advice is to do this on a totally random night. Don’t do it on a day you’re feeling sentimental or nostalgic and especially don’t do it around the date of something important that happened in the past, like the birth or death date of someone who’s going to come up in the pictures a lot.

Digitizing photos on your own

If you want to tackle this on your own, you have two options: A photo scanner or an app on your phone. If you opt to get a scanner, get something that gets through the stacks quickly. PC Mag recommends the Epson FastFoto FF-680W, but keep in mind this thing is $599.99.

It’s also a solid document scanner that can create searchable PDFs, so if you’re looking to upgrade your scanner and you’re in the market for something to digitize your pics, this could be the one for you. Others on the market are cheaper, like the Plustek Photo Scanner ePhoto Z300 ($199), but you’ll have to manually feed the photos in one by one, which might not work if you have a whole family history’s worth of memories to upload.

No matter what kind of scanner you’re using, I recommend setting up a Google Photos account to keep all the pictures in one place. If you want to make the pics accessible to a wide group of people, setting up a separate account, like [yourlastname][email protected] might be the way to go. I love Google Photos because it’s searchable and easy to customize. It recognizes faces (making it easy to highlight or hide certain people), you can make folders and add details, and it’s free and easy to access across multiple devices.

Naturally, then, the app I recommend for digitizing pics with your phone is Google PhotoScan, since it uploads your scans straight into your Google Photos library. However, this one is time-consuming: You may have to take a few pictures, which will then be put together to create the best digitization, so you have to go through every photo one by one. If you want an app that will scan multiple photos at once, your best bet is Photomyne, but you’ll have to pay $199.99 upfront for a 10-year plan. You can then save all the photos individually and upload them to whatever cloud service or device you want.

Photo digitizing services

I didn’t say this was a cheap endeavor; I only said it was an important step in decluttering your home and modernizing your record-keeping. Scanners and apps cost money and so does shipping your photos to a service that will digitize them for you—but the lack of hassle might be worth it.

iMemories is a service that charges $.99 per photo (but is frequently running specials, so you could pay as little as $.49). You can then pay $7.99 per month or $49.99 per year to access the iMemories Cloud full of your media, $39.99 for an 8GB USB drive, or $19.99 for a DVD or Blu-ray disk of the pics. Downloading them after the scan is free.

You could also try ScanMyPhotos, which also frequently offers specials but usually charges $229.98 per box of pics you send in. They estimate each box holds about 1,800 photos. Higher quality results will run you another $150 and you’ll pay more the longer you want your download link to work before it expires.

Obviously, none of that is cheap either, which is why it’s important to sort through your photo stack before you send it all in. But it’s better than having stacks of pictures collecting dust and being far from useful in your attic.

Source: LifeHacker.com