June 29, 2010

Floundering in a Sea of Photographs

One of my sons was visiting a few weeks ago. He asked to look through the family photo albums from when he was young. I gulped and explained that I took all the photos out of the 20 or more albums that were kicking around gathering dust and damaging the photographs with that horrible stick-down clear plastic film.

Out of storage came several tubs (neatly labelled) of photos and he started going through them. I felt discouraged watching him! They were not in any particular order, most were not identified and I realized what a jumbled mess I had on my hands.

As a genealogist it's important for me that I document our family history and preserve photos and other family treasures. I've scanned most of my older photos (pre 1950) but have been sadly negligent with the recent ones!

But as I watched him, his face alight with memories and the happiness of looking at all these wonderful family pictures, I realized I have to stop procrastinating and do the job. But it's overwhelming. How does one start? I don't think I can face scanning the hundreds if not thousands of photos I have.

Then I realized that when a task seems overwhelming it's best to break it down into smaller chunks - smaller jobs.

So I have a plan. Right now that's all it is - a plan, and a tentative one at that!

My plan is to follow these steps:

1. Sort the photos by event or year (in other words put all of Christmas 1980 together and/or put all of 1980 together)

2. Identify the individuals

3. Pull out duplicates and set aside for now.

4. Pull out the photos I can't live without and set them aside.

That's where I'm stuck.

Do I take the photos I can give up and put them in albums for my children? That would be easiest but then there are no copies.

Do I take the best photos and scan them, then print them off and put the copies into albums for my children and grandchildren? I could store the originals in labelled envelopes or storage boxes or albums.

I'm leaning towards choosing the best photos and scanning them, then either printing them or putting them on CDs for my children and grandchildren.

If anyone has suggestions, I would love to hear them! Maybe you have a great solution for this mountain of work facing me!

9 comments:

Saundra said...

Lorine,
Love your writing. The photos are a real dilemma. My solution has been to sort them by year, then by child (we have six adult offspring), THEN the hard part: throwing out all of the pictures that cannot be clearly identified, are out of focus, or are too many of a subject, i.e, seven pix of my son blowing out candles on his sixth birthday, and finally---putting them into one album for each of our kids. Sandy L

Saundra said...

Lorine,
Love your writing. The photos are a real dilemma. My solution has been to sort them by year, then by child (we have six adult offspring), THEN the hard part: throwing out all of the pictures that cannot be clearly identified, are out of focus, or are too many of a subject, ie, seven pix of my son blowing out candles on his sixth birthday, and finally---putting them into one album for each of our kids. Sandy L

GeneBugGrams said...

When my Mother passed away and I inherited her MANY boxes of photos, they were in no particular order, but I was lucky to find most of them were identified and enough of them had years on them to make it easier to estimate ages of the rest.

Using a l-o-n-g work space, I sorted the pictures into piles of decades beginning in 1850, 1860 (my 3ggm's brother in his Civil War uniform), etc up to 1990s, when I tackled the project.

After getting everything into a decade, I then took each pile and further refined it into each year of the decade. From there, each year was easy to arrange based on holidays, such as Valentine, Easter, Birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

At that time (before scanners in my household) I then put the best pictures in good, archival quality albums with space for notes about each picture, and the duplicates or other pictures I couldn't yet part with in dated envelopes in a storage box -- just in case. LOL

As Sandy commented, I did pull out a number of the duplicate photos of my daughters and started albums for both of them, too.

I have scanned a lot of photos - in short work sessions - to include them in my genealogy program on the computer and a few have ended up on my web pages, but there is always more scanning to do. *grin*

Digital cameras have sure cut down on that middle step, but sadly, I am not getting as many photos into the albums as I used to. I need to print more of the ones I am taking digitally.

Knowing you, you won't be floundering for long and you will choose a method just right for your project.

Carol said...

I do what Sandy L is suggesting, sorta.! LOL

I scan the gotta haves, the best of the best and attach to that individuals multimedia file in my family data base.

I do agree, I do not need 15 of the blowing candles, but, I might need ohhhhh, 2! LOL

Brett Payne said...

Hi Lorine.

I agree with your four steps. However, given that the task ahead is so enormous, and that it won't be accomplished in one go, I would suggest that after sorting the photographs into groups, whether this is by date, subject, theme, or whatever, I would scan them (archive quality) before doing anything else, and save all those images onto a DVD. Yes, it will be a long, laborious job, but once it is done, then you can start the more interesting task of identifying, annotating, selecting, etc. Whatever happens afterwards, you will always have the back-up images.

Regards, Brett

Geniaus said...

My four grown children all enjoy flipping through our family albums and reminiscing.I am preparing a digital album for each of them.

I have combined my parents and inlaws collections with mine - the photos are all in albums arranged chronogically.

Over the Christmas break I borrowed a scanner with a feeder that would scan 20 photos at a time - a great timesaver. Over a couple of weeks I scanned around 5,000 images into folders by year with subfolders of specific dates for occasions like weddings, 21sts with lots of images. I scanned the images as .tif images at a high resolution. These are saved on an external drive and backed up to another.

I already use Picasa to organise my digital photos so I imported all my newly scanned images into that program. So far I have tagged 35 years of photos with names,location and various other labels eg Christmas, Swimming, Family Cars. Initially I applied a year tag to each image (easy to do in big batches).I have 19 more years to tag so I can see that an end is in sight.

Once the tagging is completed I will easily be able to retrieve collections to burn onto CDs notjust for my children but for aunts, cousins and family friends.

My advice is get your images scanned and then organise them with software like Photoshop Elements, the Windows Live product or Picasa. Don't try to scan with a flatbed scanner - it is too time consuming. Get hold of a scanner with a feeder for a more painless process. Scan at a high resolution and edit your images with software. I particularly like the straighten photo facility in Picasa.

Thanks for raising this issue. We all need to think about preserving current family history for future generations.

Judge Judy's Cooking said...

Hi Lorine,
I am going through the same dilemma you are, I threw away 40 photo albums yes 40. I stored the photos in labelled boxes with about 5 years in each. Now comes the task of scanning them, it is so time consuming but will be worth it in the long run as so many are fading already.
I have a great programme that I can put the photos on to a DVD with music in the background it makes it more interesting to watch than just a straight slide show.

Apple said...

Knowing that I will never scan all of the family photos that I have, I sent them out to be scanned and received two DVD's back. I did worry a bit about the photos being lost but everything went smoothly and quickly. I can now copy the DVD to pass on to my children. I have another batch of older pictures to send out but it will be well worth the cost to insure that it gets done. I continue to scan myself the old family photos that have been passed down to me.

Karen Webb said...

One thing I've done is to take those group photos, make a simple black and white copy, and use that to write the name of each person on the person's picture itself. Sometimes I mail it off to my MIL to identify some of the people. Then I store it with the original.