Friday, February 22, 2019

Making Friends with Your Old Photos

I'm wondering if you might not be like me -- you have boxes of photos representing decades of a life. Or, more likely, many lives.

They may be ones you took yourself, photos taken by parents of you and your siblings or their life before they met or even those taken by grandparents. Some are in albums, others scattered.

And you look at them and might have these thoughts:

Who are those people anyway?
What in the world am I going to do with them?

It can feel a little overwhelming -- and a little scary, so one step at a time!

As anyone who has tried to pull together photos for a picture board at a graduation, funeral or milestone birthday knows, it's tough to do it when you are under pressure. And these days, often a video is the preferred form of viewing and how in the world do you make that happen with this odd collection of paper memories.

I have those boxes and photo albums (my own and my parents), along with literally thousands of photos on my computer and external storage devices and I've wrestled with that issue -- trying to get them in some rightful order and to get the photos to those who might really care about them after.

Here are my tips -- feel free to add some of your own in the comments.

Rule Number One! Identify people. You may know who these folks are but as I've been doing my family history I've encountered a lot of anonymous faces that show up often. They must have been important to someone but I have no idea who they are! (Below, I can pick out four people in this group.)

A pencil marking on the back of hard copy (or a thin sharpie or specially designated photo markers) are fine. Just something to tell future generations if those are people they should care about or their great grandmother's next door neighbor's grandson playing with the family dog.

Two: Get them digitied. For the golden oldies -- two options.

The one I don't like is to take your camera or phone and photograph the piece. Sometimes this works. But you need a good camera and you need to be sure the photo is flat (lots aren't). And you if you are shooting an entire scrapbook page, you need to know how to crop. Not hard, but not the best method.

I prefer getting a scanner. A good scanner that can also do slides. The default for many scanners is 200 dpi and this is fine for most uses -- certainly the computer or smaller prints. If you are planning on making a printed book or bigger enlargement, go to the 300 resolution setting for the best outcome.

Rule Three: As technology changes, transfer the media while you can. Trust me -- if you look at a pile of old floppies you can't open containing old photos you'll cry. Everything changes. Transportation. Communication. Technology.

Think of the betamax, eight track and records. OK, I know vinyl is coming back, but the principal is the same.

One other tip. If you are going through the mechanics of doing all this, consider color correcting or brightening up the faded colors while you're at it. Your gray snow will look whiter, you may even pick up details on the photo that had faded. Many scanners have this feature. If you are looking at your regular photos, consider a program like Picassa where you can edit by color/brightness modification and crop. Some of these basic programs are free.

What's Next -- Or, How do I Find It?

So, you scan (and scan and scan). And now you have all these photos on your computer. On top of the ones from your digital camera you've already put in there. And you still can't find anything.

Everyone will have a different system but mine works pretty well. Here's how I do it, bearing in mind that I use a camera, not a phone. (The same principle would apply to phone or tablet shots, once they are downloaded.)
Here you can see some of the folders I use when I initially subdivide.

  • For new photos, as I download them, I name a file with the year, month and then an idea of what's in the file. For example: 2018 June -- Lizzie, Ditch, Lake
  • Then I make a file for all 2018 June and when the month is over (and you could do it before, I just don't) put all the individual files there. And then one for the year -- 2018. When the month is over, I move all the 2018 June to the 2018 file.
  • At the end of the year I have all the photos for one year in one file.
Do a junk edit -- these are things you know you don't want to save to an external.  Photos of book covers done for a reading post? Gone. Six photos of the same smiling group from a birthday party? I delete at least four and keep the best one or two.

Back up your best to an external drive or the cloud.

Then I edit. Again.  I delete things with a vengeance. I do this with everything. This edit will probably be less if you did your work well before the back-up!

And it makes a big difference to your computer. I still have to edit half of 2018 but so far I picked up 34 gigabytes of memory on my computer!

After I have saved the "Best of" on an external drive or flash, I go back through and subdivide. Flowers go into a file called "Flowers."  Family goes into "Family" and then gets subdivided ("Mom Only," "Mom and Dad," "Dad Only." The same for friends by name or group (like "Cork Poppers"). There are Travel US and Travel International and each is subdivided.

The "Family" folder

SO, when I am looking for photos for a blog post or to pull together a Shutterfly book for a friend or family, I know right where to go.

Photos Not Scanned or Otherwise on the Computer

The other ways to save and share photos are online, printed books, videos, old-time photo albums and scrapbooks.

Online: You can save the photos on the cloud. I have a google drive I use for family photos that I can share with the cousins. I also have a Shutterfly share site that has some of Rick's family things. I'm sure there are others; I just don't know them because I don't use them.

Google drive

Shutterfly folders

Printed Books: I use Shutterfly because it is what I started with but I have seen beautiful MacBooks, things from Snapfish, Blurb and other sources. These can get expensive but when they do I think about how much I used to pay for a) film b) developing c) all the bad ones you throw away after you got them back from the processor.

Shutterfly project page

Almost every year I make yearbooks for Rick and me -- an overview of friends, family, trips and such. These we actually look at because we have chosen the best of the pix and don't have to thumb through all the bad ones!

 You can even add text. Or bad poetry.

Videos: There are loads of easy ways to make video slide shows on your computer and share them with youtube.

Traditional Methods:  And sometimes you want to paste things into a book. I do. Maybe it's a beautiful handmade book or journal. If you're doing that, make sure it is a book worthy of your time and that it uses acid free paper as a background.

And if you still have photos in those magnetic page things -- pull out the good ones, dump the bad. Just get them out of there.

And when you are done -- well, if you no longer want those photos, you have a couple of options. I've used both. Toss them. Or, send them off to whomever is in them -- or knows those people -- and let them make the choice to save or toss. Half the time our friends never see all the great pix we took of them in the way-back machine and it's kind of fun to see yourself looking a whole lot better -- or at least younger -- than you are now!

Oh, here's a parting tip. We're all going to die. If you want photos shown at your memorial, choose them now. Make a folder called "funeral" and tell someone where it is and put in all your favorites. They will thank you and that really lousy photo of you in your swimming suit at the family reunion isn't going to show up -- unless you looked better than I did!

OR, make them yourself. When a friend's mom was nearing the end of her life, she began making the photo boards for the memorial so that she wouldn't have to do it in a short period during the grieving time. I have been thinking about making large collaged posters of the ones I would like for that time. I haven't done it yet because it doesn't seem too imminent. But then, we never know. And it would be so nice if Rick didn't have to worry about that.

If you've read along so far, thanks! And if you do anything -- please label!

Sharing with:   Pink Saturday     /   Let's Keep In Touch    /    Best of the Weekend    


Valerie-Jael said...

My house is often in chaos but my photos are all well organised, digitalised and easy to find. Have a fun weekend, hugs, Valerie

Preppy Empty Nester said...

Jeanie... will you come to my house and organize all of my photos???!! I love all the old photos. Do you know how many greeting card companies are making $$$ from using old photos with funny sayings? Hope you have a great weekend!

Blondie's Journal said...

Great tips, Jeanie! I don't have the really old pics of my family, as in black and white. Between my six sisters, they were passed around and I don't know who has what. I do like the idea of scanning them. Even pics of my kids when they were young. Thanks!

Jane x

David M. Gascoigne, said...

I have virtually no pictures at all, Jeanie, literally, so it's not a consideration for me. As for my funeral, it is going to be a very simple green burial with a brief outdoor ceremony. And I mean brief. After that my naturalist friends can drink wine, eat food and reminisce if they wish. That's it. There was no grand event when I arrived and there will not be when I leave.

Misadventures of Widowhood said...

Great tips! This past week I've been scanning old photos to post on Facebook, asking cousins if they know who some of the people are that I don't. We've been having fun doing it.

I didn't know that a scanner can copy slides! I have tons of slides and had picked out the best 100 to take to a place that makes a CD out of them. If I can copy them myself, I'll be able to keep more.

Making photos for a funeral: Did you know you can have those photos accessible from a gravestone? People hold their cell up to a QR code to view.

Thelma said...

I have been planning to organize one day. I have a few boxes of photos that need to be scanned. Thanks for the advice.

Joyful said...

These are fantastic tips. Unfortunately my photos are not organized at all and it will take me a very long time to correct that.

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

Jeanie, you have great ideas for organizing our photos. I use some of them. Scanning is a lifesaver and storing on the cloud is wonderful. Throwing away photos is one that I can't bring myself to do, even if it is a duplicate. Love your yearly special photo journal. ♥

Joanne Huffman said...

Good advice. Annie is my photo organizer of the old photos in boxes,

Judy at GoldCountryCottage said...

Jeanie, these are all such good ideas and I don't do any of them! I need to take a page out of your book..Thanks for putting this out..xxoJudy

Sandy Koch said...

I am just starting this monumental task, though I have a fairly good handle on the digital photos. I need to sub-divide better. My problem will be the photos with no negatives, and the slides. And the slides. I think I am ready to be ruthless, we will see! Where do you suggest I take slides to have them digitized? There used to be a place in Midland, but it closed. Thank you for all the ideas. It is nice to know others can be overwhelmed, and develop a system.

Anonymous said...

Jeanie, there is so much wisdom in your post! Thank you so much! My husband does all the above and I am thankful he does! xo

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Wonderful tips, Jeanie. I still have to go through all my mother's photos to scan them and aend the sxans to my siblings.

Iris Flavia said...

Oh, wow, a treasure box sooooo big!
All I have it two generations (scanned and all) - well, with my Granny here and there three and that it is.
Ingo's family...same.

Bro and I wondered where or from whom we have our noses from (unique unless you count in the next generation aka my Nieces)...

You do have the real thing, awesome! Lovely!

Carola Bartz said...

One thing I want to add is when you write on the back of the photos use an acid-free pen. And don't store those photos in shoe boxes but in acid free boxes (photo boxes are very inexpensive).
Most of your tips are spot on. I have scanned many photos and slides, and my preferred albeit not free editing software is Lightroom (I can't live without it) and Photoshop. I think the Shutterfly photo books have a very good quality and they have so many special offers that you don't have to pay full price. I wasn't impressed with the color quality of Snapfish. I also like Nations Photo Lab.

Lynne said...

Excellent . . .
Every single little tip!
I have done a bit of arranging . . . this post has motivated me to Get Busy.
I started by arranging my photos in Albums.
What I am doing now is to go through my iPad “camera roll” and delete duplicates.
That in itself seems like a daunting task at times.
So important to have some of this organized for my family for when I die.
It lets them see the pictures I want them to see, cherish.
I just now counted my iPad albums . . . fifty five . . . I have some organizing to do.
It’s a “feel good” though . . . like a spring cleaning, or clean a cupboard, desk, attic.
Thank you again Jeanie . . . for the tips!

Karen said...

I've got those boxes and boxes if you feel like making a trip up here to sort them! :-) Excellent advice

Louca por porcelana said...

Great tips.Love your vintage photos.Hugs!

eileeninmd said...

Hello Jeanie,

Wonderful photos and tips! I am not sure who has most of our old family photos, I only have a few, maybe my sisters and brother are holding them. I must try to find them. I do try to back up all my current photos. Thanks for sharing this post and info. Enjoy your day and weekend!

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

This post hit home for me, Jeanie, as I have been working on getting all my photos from CDs to portable external hard drives. There has been a lot of trashing and the project is ongoing. I haven’t yet tackled trying to scan the older family photos, most of which I discovered after my mother’s death a few years ago. There isn’t an overwhelming number if photos, thankfully. But, my husband has a huge container of family photos, but little time or interest right now in organizing these and unfortunately I don’t know many of the people in the images, so would be of no help without his assistance. In time, I have been assembling photo albums over the years we have been together but have not digitized all these images, although many are on the CDs that are being copied to the hard drives. It’s an ongoing project.

Arti said...

A most helpful post for me now. A lot of work though to get so organized. Just wonder what kind of scanner do u use? Mine is very slow.

NanaDiana said...

Those are really great tips and something I have been thinking about doing. I keep thinking that next year when I am not working full time I will do that--but I should be working on it now and then when I have the chance. Thank you for all the tips and pointers.

Have a great weekend- we have MORE snow coming....yuck! xo Diana

Lauren @ My Wonderfully Made said...

Love your photos! And yes, lots of great tips. I like the idea of keeping track of your OWN photos and organizing them by years and even the book of the year. I also agree that this is a great help when those times arise, such as a funeral when you need to grab photos quickly and easily. My scanner is very slow so I typically don't use it. I'm thinking of getting one of those portable scanners and starting that way. Great ideas - thanks!

La Table De Nana said...

Great tips..will reread.. no one's interested here at my 2 daughters have no interest in the past.Zip Zilch.
So..maybe one day our grandsons will:)
I haven't done anything with the cloud clue..that too will read up..

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

More "what to do when I retire" things! Currently I have stacks of photos saved to CDs. Wonder when they'll become obsolete? -Jenn

Debbie-Dabble Blog and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

First,Thanks so much for stopping by and for your well wishes...It was getting so hard for me to go to work so I guess it is a blessing that I am no longer working.... It will be much better for my knee as I can elevate it and pack it in ice, resting it until the surgery..... And I do believe that everything happens for a reason so this is what was supposed to happen...
Second, this post came at such a good time. I have tons of photos from both my parents and our own that I want to put in acid free albums....That will be a great project for me to work on while waiting for my surgery, don't you think???


My name is Erika. said...

I'm happy to have some old photos. My grandmother gave me some, on my mom's side. But I have next to nothing on my dad's side. When I retired I shall organize them. (As well as about a million other things.) Eeek. So where in Massachusetts are you heading to? Back to Western Mass? It must be time for Rick's business trip. I'm off this weekend for a few days in the Florida sun. Hugs-Erika

Sandra at Maison De Jardin said...

Jeanie, love your photos and you have given some great tips and information. We have boxes of photos that need to be put in some sort of order.

Have a great weekend!

The French Hutch said...

I'm afraid this is one of those projects we keep putting off. We both have done a lot of this but with boxes and boxes of photos , old photo books (sadly, some stuck) this will be a major undertaking! You have worked out a good system. First things first, I need to clean out my photos on my computer. I always enjoy seeing all your photos from your childhood. Some of your pics are similar to the ones I have. Such sweet memories.
Thanks for sharing your system. I will need it!

Sami said...

Scanning dozens of photo albums is on my to do list, just don't know when I will start...
My digital photos are at least very well organized - a year folder, inside go all folders for that year labelled with year_month_day and name of event, outing, trip, etc.
I like the idea of a year book with the best photos, they will be expensive but at least it's something friends and family can look at, because as it is, the photos go into the computer folders and no one but me sees them!
Love all your oldies Jeanie :) thanks for all the tips.

Olka said...

Wow, you're well organized!
I have a mess in my computer, all the photos are mixed, I have a lot of duplicated ones. I should make some cleaning, but I have no motivation do spend my time on that.
I've tried once, and to be honest I've used more than 2 weeks and only 10% of photos was managed! Damn, I'm taking thousands of photos. I had to make some space on my phone recently; after a year I had more than 15000 photos!
But sometimes I like to return to some nice moments in my life and these photos help me to do it. Ok, they're not organized, but I'm watching random files and it's a fun anyway.

William Kendall said...

Scanning and organizing photos- one of those things that I keep telling myself I really need to get done!

Karen @ Beatrice Euphemie said...

I've had organizing my photos on my to-do list for a long time. Thanks for this post - it gives me a road-map of where to start. Love the sweet photos - so precious! xx Karen

Red Rose Alley said...

A lot of good tips of here today, Jeanie. I usually don't like taking pictures of photos, but getting them scanned can be pricey, so I do with what I have. And I don't mind if they are a bit hazy when taking photos of myself haha. I do have my photos organized in files, like you do, and that makes it so much easier. Your mom took so many wonderful photos of you as a child, and is that a make belief store that the two of you are playing with, how precious? I also like to clear out my files and go through them often, delete the not so good pics and make room for the new ones. Thanks for this post, Jeanie. It was helpful with lots of info.


Karen said...

Your post brought a memory rushing back. In lots of old photos of my great grandfather in his logging camp, the same people appear. We can all pick out grandpa Harry, but who are the other people? After my aunt died, my cousin sent me a big envelope full of OLD photos. She thought they were of my father. Turns out they were my GRANDFATHER who we had never met (that we knew of). ONE of those dozens of photos had his name written on the back to solve the mystery of who my fathers father was.

Ricki Treleaven said...

I appreciate your helpful tips because one of my tasks this year is to organize family photos. Thanks, Jeanie!

krishna said...

Very good tips. Before the digital era, we used to take very few pictures, but every pictures used to have a story behind that.

Bonnie said...

Thank you for your example! This is something I badly need to do. I have thousands of printed photos. You are so right about labeling. Putting dates are important also.
I need to organize my photos on my computer also. It is a huge mess.
You have inspired!

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

Wonderful post, but I have no photos from when I was young. I remember the first time I went to NYC, I shot 48 rolls of 36 shot 35mm film. Talk about expensive. Probably more so than the actual vacation, but most of them were good. Of course, I have no one to save them for and there are no people in most of my photos, none of which would be of anyone I knew at least.

One of the reasons I hate to get rid of my nearly dead scanner is that it has slot to scan slides. I made sure I bought one that did.

Again, I enjoyed your take on saving photos. At one time I had a cloud, but I learned google/blogger suddenly wouldn't allow the use of any photos from an outside source. Google took it upon their selves to delete the photos. And yes, I have tons of old digitally stored photos. I'm glad once they were on the cloud I did NOT delete them. I got rid of the cloud server instead. Now I'm slowly restoring the photos to my blog as I come across them. I have SO much storage on this latest computer, I'll never use it all.

Nikki - Notes of Life said...

We have boxes and boxes of all photos. I'm trying to get Dad to make a note who some of the people are (even he doesn't know who all of them are).

When I first bought a digital camera I would print out all my best photos. However, I now take so many, I rarely print any! I really should print the most precious out.

Rita C at Panoply said...

Great post, Jeanie! I have always organized my digital photos (since 2004), and we use Microsoft's OneDrive cloud service. My phone will upload directly to cloud and I have my computer synced to mirror the cloud drive.
Right now I am investing a lot of time scanning documents to archive my antique purse collection. My intention is to do the same with other past record receipts so we can toss paper. I think I will send photos off to be digitized. This is a real job! I'm so happy i created blog yearbooks, and I've also made photo books of garden and purses. Your post here is so relevant. I like the idea of a funeral folder. It goes hand-in-hand with my current death cleaning, lol.

Lowcarb team member said...

What a great selection of tips you've shared, thank you.

All the best Jan

BeachGypsy said...

I love this post and especially all the precious childhood photos! thanks for all the great tips too, some of these I didn't know. Hope you had a great weekend! I did because......FLEETWOOD MAC! and also shopped for some new spring fashion and got a few things I liked as well as a little thrift shopping too, you know how I love the thrift shops! Happy Monday, my friend! said...

oh Jeanie, I have a shelf full of old photo albums, I can't bear to throw them away, but don't want to go through them and sort them, and I don't want to leave a bunch of stuff for my children to deal with! My daughter is putting a gallery wall together with some special old photos of grandparents etc...I admire you getting this huge task in order and can easily recognize you in all the photos when you were little!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

My mom is one of 8 and I really have no idea where their family photos are or if they've been spread out among the siblings (7 are still living)? My mom hasn't handed down any photos to us. She has a bunch of albums she made back in the day when you developed film. I don't think the albums she used are great for photos, though. She's still working but when she retires maybe that is a project she'll take on. Related to this - my aunt is making a blog with all of my grandma's recipes so they can live on in our family. So that is a super useful project that we will all appreciate for years to come!

I "mostly" grew up in the digital age. I do have some boxes of photos but once digital cameras took over, I developed very very few. I made scrapbooks of my study abroad experience in Australia so at least I did something with those photos! I'm trying to get into a habit of making a photo book every year. On my 19 in 2019 list, I have tasks for making a 2018 photo book and starting a 2019 one. I really should get going on the 2018 one while the weather is still awful. I mostly take pictures on my camera and they automatically get uploaded onto google photo and to the apple cloud. But I need to be better about developing more photos! There is company called Chatbooks that will make little photo books from your Instagram or Facebook feed. I have it set up to build a photobook from Instagram photos that I tag with #babypaul. Once the album has 60 photos, chatbooks emails me to tell me to look at the book and then it prints within 3 days. I have 4 books since Paul was born and I look through them quite a bit. Paul really loves looking at them now!

Great post!! It's giving me an extra push to get that photobook made for 2018!

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, these are excellent tips! I struggle to be organized with photos, but I want to be. Photos and recipes are just hard for me to manage. Thanks for the push, it is time to get started!

Marilyn Miller said...

To tell you the truth this winter was going to be the year I was going to get my pictures in order, but each time I look at the boxes and think about it I get overwhelmed. I am this week trying to get a cloud up to task for my computer and phone pictures. Yikes, a learning curve there. It's all those old hard copies. They are in one trunk and about two boxes. I guess I have them at least in only two places. Thanks for the tips.

Debbie-Dabble Blog and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

I just wanted to let you know that I realized that I would need hundreds of albums to put all the photos I have into and the cost would be astronomical!! I was able to find a great acid free storage container that has 16 smaller cases that fit into of it, each holding 100 - 125 photos, on Amazon. So each storage case holds 1800 photos. The smaller cases can be labeled by events or years and the larger case has a nice handle. I will most likely need to order a few more....And thanks for the advice to not save all the photos and toss those that are damaged, you do not know who they are and are repetitive.... I think I needed someone's permission to do so!! LOL!!I am sure I will be working on this project for quite some time!! I did collect all the photos i have and put them in boxes and then moved them into the Craft Room and set up a folding table to work on so I can organize them! I can go in there when I have time and not have to clean up everything each time I work on the project.... The case will make it much quicker to file them once I have them all organized by year,,,,

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