Digitizing all your old photos is a great goal, but there are good ways and bad ways to go about it. Here’s a scanning mistake I see all too often that you’ll really want to avoid.
Passing down a digital mess
A friend of mine informed me recently that he had finally finished scanning all the photos of his kids growing up. He put them on a DVD and gave a copy of it to each of his boys who didn’t seem that excited about it.
First of all, I applaud my friend for getting his photos digitized. We absolutely DO need to bring those old paper photos into the 21st century. Let’s be realistic. If we have boxes of photos from our own families and photos from our parents and grandparents that we’ve collected from the past century we can’t expect our kids to someday lug them over to their house and ask little Susie to give up one wall in her bedroom to store the boxes of photos.
So, yes! I agree that we need to digitize. We need to scan ALL the old photos that are truly worth scanning and pass down those digitized photos along with a reasonable number of the original photos.
But simply putting the scans on a DVD and handing them to your kids is the same as handing them your boxes of photos, minus the size. It takes up less space but it’s just as inaccessible—and maybe more so—because it’s out of sight, out of mind, and MUCH easier to lose.
For the scanned photos to MEAN anything they must be organized and paired with information and stories—especially stories. So let’s talk about how you might do that.
Organize before you scan
First of all, organize your photos before you scan them. If you scan photos here and there you’ll end up with a digital mess, so organize the photos into logical groups by date and topic and scan in order from the oldest to the most recent photos.
When you scan, create folders on your computer for each group of photos. Name them so they fall in alphabetical order. The name should start with the date and then you can add a topic.
So you might have a folder for photos from your courtship and marriage and another folder for early married life before kids.
Then the first child came along and you took tons of photos, so all those photos go into another folder, etc. And because you start with the date, the folders appear in a logical order on your computer. This will be hugely helpful for your kids and for future generations.
So now when you hand your child a DVD it’s organized by date and topic. They still might not be all that excited when you hand them the DVD because most kids who are on their own or raising their own families aren’t at the place in life where they’re interested in family history, but that will come someday or one of their kids will get interested.
A more user-friendly way to to pass down the photos
BUT if you want to make those photos user-friendly and interesting right now, I suggest you take the very best scans and create an actual book. There are lots of online photo book companies that have “drag and drop” book templates that make it easy for you to create a book and then they print the book for you. That way you can add the stories that go with the photos—that’s what really makes it interesting. And, if you have more than one child, you can print a copy of the book for each child.
To cap it off you can put the DVD in a sleeve and attach it to the inside back cover of the book so anyone who wants to see all the photos can easily access the DVD—and it’s less likely to get lost that way.
Note: As optical media, like DVDs, become less recommended for storage consider a portable hard drive or large-capacity SD memory card to pass to your children.
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