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organizing and storing your photos
Old 01-26-2010, 08:54 AM   #1
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organizing and storing your photos

Recently we moved into our new apartment, and I am in the process of unpacking and reorganizing all of our "stuff". I have a huge box of old photos staring at me (pre-digital camera). We have had them in this box for the past 3 years while we have moved around from place to place. Have never opened them up and looked at them in that time. Some of them are in albums, and some are just in the envelopes they came in when we had them processed.

I am contemplating scanning all of them, storing them on CD's, and then throwing away the photos (except for our wedding photos - will keep those originals!). I'm not sure if I will actually be able to throw the photos away once I scan them, though. However, I want to be able to continue to downsize our "stuff".

Has anyone done this? Tips/thoughts? It's a huge project I am contemplating undertaking. And we don't even own a scanner yet, LOL...hate the thought of buying yet another "thing", but can't imagine it would be cost effective to have someone else scan the photos for me.
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Old 01-26-2010, 09:35 AM   #2
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No, you won't be able to throw them away -- the good ones anyway.

My suggestion, scan in the best ones (perhaps one in five), then seal up the box and put it back in the attic.

It shouldn't be hard to find a scanner or all-in-one printer at a garage sale, and if you're lucky, you won't even need to buy ink.

Note that you can scan five or more photos at a time. Load them up on the scanner, then "cut them apart" in your photo software.
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Old 01-26-2010, 09:45 AM   #3
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Post Katrina/Rita I moved towards everything digital. My goal was to be able to grab one fireproof box of necessary paper documents and one external hard drive and have just about everything I really needed in case of evacuation and/or total destruction. It wasn't just me because a number of scanning businesses popped up back then and they were advertising heavily. Not sure what the prices were, but for some reason 13 cents a photo popped up when I try to remember. I had plenty of time and already had the equipment, so I opted to do it myself. Being a type A control freak perfectionist may have had something to do with my choice as well.

I guess I scanned something like 6-7 thousand photos, negatives and slides in one month. Once I got started I was determined to get it done so I turned it into a full-time thing and was scanning for 8-10 hours a day.

Off the top of my head, and in no particular order, are my thoughts/tricks:

If you have negatives or slides you will want to have a scanner that can deal with it. I have a HP Scanjet 4890 that includes a set of holders for various size negatives/slides and a built in secondary light source in the lid. Negatives and slides are more time consuming because you have to load and unload them from the frames, plus while the scanner does a great job of picking out the borders of photos, I found I had to go through and reset the boundaries on negative images. All the zooming and resetting takes a while.

Buy some white cotton gloves to handle everything. I'm still holding on to all the originals while I decide if the digital stuff that I have is going to be a permanent fix, so I wanted to keep my nasty little fingerprints from ruining my originals. You can buy them for a couple of bucks at your local photo/camera store.

Get yourself some compressed air and some small cotton towels (something really smooth like a diaper). Photos collect dirt and dust and you will need to keep the scanner glass clean or else you wind up with a ton of dust in the scan and that is a real pain to clean up/restore with software. I blew the surface clean between each scan and wiped the surface regularly.

Everything resides on two different hard drives (one internal and one external) and backup copies are also on two different external drives in two different safe deposit boxes. I considered CDs or DVD's but everything I read made me go to the hard drive rout. HDs will hold a lot of data, are cheap as heck now, and they aren't susceptible to some of the problems you can get with CDs (data corruption/loss is apparently a problem). Also, advances in technology and software might make it more of a pain to go from CDs forward.

Lastly, the thing I did not spend much time doing was organizing and tagging everything. My wife had all the photos arranged by subject matter, but I really need to go back through everything and do some tagging to make it easier to sort and find. Right now I have something like 50 thousand photos (mostly digital) in a very simply organized set of folders. That will be a huge job that I've been procrastinating on.
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Old 01-26-2010, 09:46 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
It shouldn't be hard to find a scanner or all-in-one printer at a garage sale, and if you're lucky, you won't even need to buy ink.

Note that you can scan five or more photos at a time. Load them up on the scanner, then "cut them apart" in your photo software.
I was thinking of getting one at a garage sale or via craigs list. Does anyone know the minimum "best" settings I should be looking for? I hate to buy something that is total cr*p, but I still want to get a good deal.

Thanks for the tip on loading up multiple photos - time saver for sure!

Cute photos!
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Old 01-26-2010, 09:52 AM   #5
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Post Katrina/Rita I moved towards everything digital. My goal was to be able to grab one fireproof box of necessary paper documents and one external hard drive and have just about everything I really needed in case of evacuation and/or total destruction.
.....

I guess I scanned something like 6-7 thousand photos, negatives and slides in one month. Once I got started I was determined to get it done so I turned it into a full-time thing and was scanning for 8-10 hours a day.

Off the top of my head, and in no particular order, are my thoughts/tricks:
Excellent advice!!! I would have never thought of all of those issues, but it all definitely makes sense.

Holy cr*p that's a lot of photos! My job is not nearly on that scale, but it still will take me quite a bit of time, especially once I start working again (I'm off right now due to our move).

Thank you!!
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less stuff, more time

(49, married; DH 53. I am fully retired as of 2015 (well ok, I still work part-time but only because I love the job and have complete freedom to call off if I want to travel with hubby for work), DH hopes to fully retire 2018 when he turns 55 to access 401K penalty-free...although he may decide to do part-time consulting)
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Old 01-26-2010, 10:04 AM   #6
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No, you won't be able to throw them away -- the good ones anyway.
Yeah, and you can fix a lot of photos that have problems and make them better. Here's a before and after of my late father-in-law fishing in Alaska.
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Old 01-26-2010, 10:07 AM   #7
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Yeah, and you can fix a lot of photos that have problems and make them better. Here's a before and after of my late father-in-law fishing in Alaska.
That is so cool. I suppose you need photo editing software for that?
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Old 01-26-2010, 10:15 AM   #8
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That is so cool. I suppose you need photo editing software for that?
Oh yea, and some time to learn how to use it efficiently and effectively.

I got Photoshop Elements and just started using it (I don't need no stinking manual!) One day my oldest son (the CS major) caught me doing some photo editing and nearly laughed himself sick. Then he showed me a ton of tricks and later I bought a guidebook. I've gotten decent with it.

The photo above was done in a hurry (for displaying at my FiL's funeral) so it's not a great example. But it shows what you can do in about fifteen - twenty minutes, and it only took that long because of all of the background stuff I had to remove.
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Old 01-26-2010, 10:20 AM   #9
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It shouldn't be hard to find a scanner or all-in-one printer at a garage sale, and if you're lucky, you won't even need to buy ink.
Sure - next month I'll be giving one away that came with the new computer, an Epson NX110. As a printer it's a worthless piece of junk but the scanner works fine.

One thing to consider is long term storage. By that I mean over 20 years. Being somewhat "still in the loop" with computer forensics guys, they are running into difficulty preserving digital evidence. Tapes are only good for a couple of years, CDs and DVDs last 5-10 before they're no longer reliable, and hard drives, unless refreshed, are only good for about 5 years, maybe more. At least that's what I'm hearing from them. And will computers 50 years from now still be able to read a .jpg file, or will that format have faded into oblivion?

Outdated though it is, good paper kept in proper conditions will last a century or more. So if you think your great-great-great grandkids will have an interest paper may still be the best choice.
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Old 01-26-2010, 10:24 AM   #10
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One thing to consider is long term storage. By that I mean over 20 years. Being somewhat "still in the loop" with computer forensics guys, they are running into difficulty preserving digital evidence. Tapes are only good for a couple of years, CDs and DVDs last 5-10 before they're no longer reliable, and hard drives, unless refreshed, are only good for about 5 years, maybe more. At least that's what I'm hearing from them. And will computers 50 years from now still be able to read a .jpg file, or will that format have faded into oblivion?
I knew that about the CDs and DVDs, but tell me more about the refreshing of HDs.

I'm only a couple of years into the process, so I have two offsite HDs that are just copies from the original files. Then I have a couple of externals here that I use as onsite backups. I just erase the old files and make copies, again from the original files. Is that what you're talking about? - God forbid you mean I have to rescan all these things.
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Old 01-26-2010, 11:33 AM   #11
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Scanning (and tossing) all my photos (and articles, papers, etc) was one of my first projects after retirement. I store 4 copies of everything - 2 external hard drives, 2 (sets of) dvds, and test each one each new year (takes maybe an hour total). It is fun going thru them again each time. No problems yet.
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Old 01-26-2010, 11:36 AM   #12
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When we got rid of our house, I went through boxes of photos. I put the best in some archival photo sleeves which went in this archival box binders. I tucked the negatives in there too - those can always be scanned later if desired and don't take much space. Threw out all duplicates, and I did manage to throw out quite a few prints.

Stuff like this: Archival Methods | 06-102 Binder Box | 06-102 | B&H Photo Video

Then - these boxes are stored in a climate controlled place. You don't want to expose this stuff (especially the film) to excessive temps.

This worked out pretty well for us - we didn't end up with too much stuff to store and the result was binders organized by trip/subject and dates.

I didn't bother to scan any of the photo prints, it's so time consuming! I did scan some of my better landscape photo slides, however, which are stored in the same kind of boxes and sleeves and kept in a climate controlled environment.

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Old 01-26-2010, 12:19 PM   #13
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Whenever a friend brings up this topic I always harp on the "make sure you have offsite backups".

I currently use datadepositbox.com which is a program that runs on my computer and copies my photos (and other files) to the Internet so if my house were to burn down everything would be ok. The benefit to this over CDs in a safety deposit box is the data is always up to date and there isn't risk of needing the backups and then learning the backup media has gone bad. Of course there's a cost though, so CDs in a safe deposit box is still a good option.

I guess what I'm saying is, don't make backups and then put the backups beside the computer. If there's a fire you'll lose everything!
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Old 01-26-2010, 12:27 PM   #14
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I guess we came of age mostly in the digital age. We have maybe a small shoebox of paper photos and a few albums (DW still likes to print out photos and put them in albums). But we probably have 10-20k digital photos and a bunch of digital video on the computer. Maybe 80 gigabytes. The hope is that the growth of the "photos" folder size is slower than the decrease in price and the increase in size in hard drives. In a few more years multi-terabyte hard drives will be under $100.

We keep a back up of the photos folder on another computer. If we had to evacuate in a hurry, I could unscrew the hard drive from the case in probably 2 minutes. Or grab the whole case and run. Wouldn't work if we had a fire though.

Hmmm... now that I think about it I could put all the photos and videos onto my netbook. 2 lbs and I can grab it instantly.

I need to get an off-site back up at some point.
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Old 01-26-2010, 01:24 PM   #15
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I just brushed through the posts above. My recommendation is not in favour of DIY unless you are an expert in it. I used Scancafe and I am impressed with the quality that I got out. Cost is very democratic too.
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Old 01-26-2010, 02:34 PM   #16
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I couldn't resist messing with Leonidis' father-in-law's photo. I happened to be doing precisely this task (cleaning up a couple of old scanned snapshots) before I read this thread. I have been experimenting with Photoshop's curves adjustment which has eye droppers to set the with, black, and gray points. I'm not sure if this is available in elements although it should be in GIMP (a free, open source version). At any rate, setting the gray point of the photo to the piece of aluminum to the right of the main's elbow helps switch the color balance nicely. The second one uses a section of gravel as the grey point. I hope the pictures display inline:
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Old 01-26-2010, 05:47 PM   #17
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My goal was to be able to grab one fireproof box of necessary paper documents and one external hard drive and have just about everything
That system may not work, because you may not be home to grab anything. We were not home when our home burned.
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Old 01-26-2010, 05:54 PM   #18
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My Turn:
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Old 01-26-2010, 06:25 PM   #19
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I couldn't resist messing with Leonidis' father-in-law's photo. I happened to be doing precisely this task (cleaning up a couple of old scanned snapshots) before I read this thread. I have been experimenting with Photoshop's curves adjustment which has eye droppers to set the with, black, and gray points. I'm not sure if this is available in elements although it should be in GIMP (a free, open source version). At any rate, setting the gray point of the photo to the piece of aluminum to the right of the main's elbow helps switch the color balance nicely. The second one uses a section of gravel as the grey point. I hope the pictures display inline:
Yeah I thought his photo, although well improved over the original, still had too strong of a red/magenta cast. I was going to use the white snow on the mountains in the background to help with the color correction.

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Old 01-26-2010, 09:53 PM   #20
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For years I thought I would do this at home since I have photo editing software and a scanner. And, they just sat there for years (I still had baby photos of my son that needed to be scanned and he is 15!)

So, I finally went professionally. I used digmypics.dom

They were reasonable in price. I had both photos and negatives scanned depending upon needs and all were great. You can view the scans online and then delete up to 30% without paying. They did some basic color and photo correction. Many places just use a high speed machine scanner than is cheaper but not the same quality (digmypics will do that if you want but we opted for paying slightly more).

I am so glad I went that route. It was all done (over 1000 pictures) in just a couple of weeks. Well worth the cost.

DigMyPics Pricing Scanning Slides Negatives Prints Reels Video Tapes to CD or DVD
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