3 Ways to Digitize Your Old Photos
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!
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.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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:
- If you're looking to buy a scanner, do some research to see which options suit your needs. High-level categories are flat-bed, sheet-fed, and portable scanners.
- Use the editing options to resize, crop, adjust brightness and color, and remove red-eye.
- To save time, scan several photos at once, and crop them into separate files later (some software will do this for you).
- Use the appropriate resolution setting. Experts recommend between 200 and 600 dots per inch (dpi), depending on how you'll use the photos once they're scanned in.
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:
- As with the scanning method, be sure to clean your photos and your phone.
- For best results, scan in an area with lots of natural light.
- Get your phone as close to the photo as possible, and try to keep your hand steady.
- Use the app functions to crop and make other adjustments.
- Use the associated storage function to retain your photos.
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:
- iMemories (imemories.com). This service can digitize a variety of formats including tapes, films, photos, slides, and negatives. The cost is $.49 per photo.
- ScanCafe (scancafe.com). The service includes photo enhancement and the ability to review the scans before your order is finalized. The cost is as low as $.21 per print.
- ScanMyPhotos (scanmyphotos.com). A team of professionals will scan your photos into digital format and preserve them on archival DVDs. The cost is $145 per box with free shipping.
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:
- Photo Cookies. Believe it or not, there are services out there that will bake your selected photo right onto cookies! This is a great idea for a birthday or other celebration.
- Photo Phone Case. Shutterfly and other services allow you to create a photo-enhanced case for a variety of phone types.
- Digital Photo Frames. They look like standard photo frames, but they hold digital photos and cycle through your shots at a rate you set.
- Photo Books. Some services enable you to create professional-looking bound books with photos and text. These make thoughtful gifts.
- Home Décor. Do you have some shots you particularly love or that remind you of a special day? Blow them up, frame them, and hang them on your wall.