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3 Ways to Digitize Your Old Photos

Break out the shoeboxes — it's time to deal with those film prints

With all the solutions now available, there's no reason to put it off any longer. Sure, organizing and scanning old photos is a time-consuming chore, but there's nothing hard about it. Plus, think of all the fun you'll have sharing embarrassing childhood shots of your brother on Facebook!

Get Organized
There are a few things you'll want to do before you start the actual digitizing process. Don't skip these steps; they'll make everything so much easier later.

  1. Sort your photos. Gather all the photos you want to digitize, and put them into piles based on an organizational scheme that makes sense to you. For example, you could have a pile for each of several events within a given year, such as "1995 – high school graduation," "1995 – San Francisco trip," and "1995 – Dad's birthday party."
  2. Prepare digital folders. The point of digitizing your photos is making it easier to find and work with them. Use the organizational structure you developed in step #1, and set up corresponding folders on your computer before you start the conversion process.
  3. Choose an online storage service. In addition to storing photos on your computer or an external drive, you should use a cloud-based storage service as a backup. Check out services like Flickr, Google Photos, Apple iCloud Photo Library, Amazon Prime Photos, Photobucket, and ThisLife to determine which one suits you best.

When you've finished with the preliminaries, choose one or more of the following methods for the actual conversion.

Method #1: Use a Scanner
For the highest quality results, use a scanner to digitize your photos. Before you start, be sure to clean the scanner glass and the photos carefully. Then begin scanning. Each scanner and the associated software will work differently, but here are a few basic tips:

Method #2: Use Your Phone
Apps like Google's PhotoScan and Shoebox from Ancestry.com are designed specifically to allow you to scan photos using your phone. The process is similar to using a scanner, and the quality is surprisingly good.

Here are a few tips:

Method #3: Outsource the Task
If scanning photos yourself sounds like too much hassle, you can send them to a service that will do it for you. Typically these services send you a box that you put your photos into and ship back. The following companies are just a few of the many that provide these services:

I've Scanned My Old Photos – Now What?

Converting film photos to digital format can cost you a fair amount of time, money, or both. So it's worth considering what you'll do with the digital versions. You've probably already thought about posting on Facebook or creating a mug or a calendar with favorite shots. Here are some other possibilities you may not be aware of yet: