Digitize and Preserve Family Photos and Documents
Are you getting the best possible results when you digitize family photos and documents? Check your scanning savvy with these 5 Tips for Scanning Success.
1. Clean the Scanner Glass
Yep, sounds pretty basic but it’s easy to forget. Old photos and documents are often dirty and may even lose bits of paper when handled. Use a microfiber cloth (used for eyeglasses or computer screens) to clean smudges and dirt from the glass of your flat bed scanner. For tough jobs, lightly wet the cloth – not the glass – then wipe the glass firmly with the damp cloth.
2. Use the Right Equipment For the Job
Equipment does make a difference in the end result. Your keepsake originals should only be digitized with a flat-bed scanner or digital camera. DO NOT run heirlooms through a sheet-fed scanner where they could be mangled and torn. Wand scanners are fine for books and pristine documents, but less direct handling is safer for old paper.
Oversize documents can be difficult to manipulate for on an 11 x 14-inch flat bed scanner; minimize the potential for damage by using a digital camera mounted on a copy stand or tripod.
3. Set Up A “Scan Station”
Make use of every minute by keeping your equipment ready to go. If you have space, set up a Scan Station near your computer on a file cabinet or table. Keep your scanner connected to your computer with an external hard drive ready for file storage. Use two trays or boxes to organize your work: To Be Scanned, Scanned. Don’t file away the originals until you have added filenames and tags in your photo organizing software.
4. Break Your Work Into Scanning Sessions
Save time and be more efficient by breaking your scanning into two work sessions: In session one, complete the actual scans; in session two, finish the computer work: add file names; write metadata — captions from the back of photos, tags with people, places, events, copyright info; and place originals in archival storage.
And My All-Time Favorite #1 Secret to Scanning Success
5. Use Professional Mode
Most scanners come pre-configured for easy scanning. You don’t have to do anything after hitting the Scan button. But if you want access to some of the best features of your flat-bed scanner, you’ll need to unlock the Professional Menu. Look around on your scanner for a drop-down with more options, or check out the manual. You may have Auto, Home, and Professional modes (on Epson), or some other configuration.
When you get to the Pro Menu, you will be able to set the best resolution for your project, choose mode, target size, and unlock color correction and descreening features. If you aren’t sure what all those options can do, refer to the manual or the handy Scanning Guide in my book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes (chapter 9).
For most purposes, you only need to adjust resolution (or DPI) and select Photo or Document. If you wish, you can check Color Restoration to automatically restore faded 1970’s color prints, or Descreening to get better images of newspaper articles.
Find more ideas for organizing and digitizing family treasures and genealogy research in How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia & Genealogy Records by Denise May Levenick (Family Tree Books, 2012). Celebrate Preservation Week April 23-May 3, 2014.
Visit TheFamilyCurator.com for more preservation ideas and information.