Many of us have a set of old photo albums handed down from our parents, or maybe several boxes of loose photos, and a drawer full of old framed photos. It can seem overwhelming; however, if you want to preserve them to hand them down to your children, or share them with other relatives, where do you start?
First, gather those shoe boxes, old albums and tubs of old framed photos and start sorting them. Create categories: put them in piles by generation – grandparents, parents, your generation and your children, or come up with a different system.
Next, tackle those old framed photos. Remove the frames. You may want to keep a few, especially if they are fancy or have sentimental value, but you can donate the rest.
If you have the old-fashioned kind of photo albums with sticky pages and plastic sheets, tear them apart as carefully as you can. I did this with several dozen albums and got better as I went along at peeling off the photos, but sometimes had to use scissors. If you don’t think you can safely remove the photos from especially fragile old photo albums, scan them page by page on a flatbed scanner.
If you don’t have a scanner, a basic Epson photo and document scanner sells for $70.
Scan the photos using a scanner connected to your computer or an app on your mobile device. Some people use apps like PhotoScan on their phone or tablet, but a scanner will give you the best results. Check your scanner’s settings — use 600 DPI for good results.
Most scanners are easy to use: place the photo, start the scan and check the resulting image. Most scanning software lets you fix red eyes, straighten and crop.
Work with photos in groups and save photos in a consistent format (not “birthday,” but “mikki fifth birthday”). You may find duplicate photos as well as some that are blurry, taken too far away or too similar to better pictures. Give yourself permission to throw them away.
Create folders on your computer to store the scanned images, with folder names that reflect your organizational scheme. If you are determined to keep them on your computer, invest in an external hard drive to back them up.
Then decide what to do with the actual photos. I filled a number of new photo albums, including some for my children. Next, I filled several big three-ring notebooks with protective plastic sheets and used them for those larger pictures that had once been framed. I added labels to the spine and front cover of all of my photo albums.
Some families might divide up the photos between several households and let people decide what to do with their pictures, while others might go ahead and fill albums with treasured photos and present them as gifts. If you store them, avoid places where temperature and humidity fluctuate like the basement, attic and garage.
Using the folders you saved your pictures to, upload them to a cloud service that you can then share with family members. Google photos, iCloud, Dropbox, Shutterfly and Flickr are all good options.