Digitizing Your Memories: Photos

Once upon a time, I decided to sort through my family’s old photos. They had accumulated many boxes and envelopes through the years, most stuffed to the brim. I took it on myself to make sense of the mess, one dusty stack at a time, with the final goal of digitizing all of the (good) photos.

How to Organize Them

In a perfect world, all of the photos would’ve had the printed date in the corner. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for 99% of them, so I decided to sort them first by person, then by year. It took many hours and some help from my parents, but I did it!

Digitizing Photos: Phone Camera Vs. Scanner

I know it’s common to take pictures of things with a phone camera to get them into digital format, but I want to outline why a scanner is the better choice for this task.

With a scanner, it’s much easier to get things perfectly flat. You also don’t need to worry about perfect lighting since it’s provided for you by the scan itself. It’s also really easy to edit the picture right there (especially cropping) before saving the file. The main downside is that scanning can take a while compared to snapping a picture on your phone. I think it’s worth the extra time, though.

Sorting and Editing the Digital Photos

One especially nice thing about phone cameras is that photos already come tagged with the date they were taken. With scans, the photos will register with the date you scanned them in. If you are just storing them on your computer’s local disk, that’s not a problem. Once you upload them to a cloud photo service (like Google Photos), it poses a bit of a problem. Luckily, it’s easy to change the date on the photo.

  1. Right-click on the photo.
  2. Select “Properties”.
  3. Click the “Details” tab.
  4. Under the section called “Origin”, click on the “Date taken” and change it to the date you want. Rather than give photos individual dates, I put them all as January 1st of the year they belonged to. I had to estimate a lot of dates anyway, so I didn’t go beyond guessing the years.
  5. Note: It’s possible to select a whole group of photos at once to change the “Date taken”. Select the whole group before right-clicking.

I use the Windows Photos app for other small edits on photos, but I’ve already cropped them by this point using the app for my scanner. I occasionally fix lighting issues or red-eye, but it’s hard to do much beyond that point when the photos are old and low-quality.

This photo of my blessing day in 1988 is one of my most prized possessions. My paternal grandparents passed away many years ago now.

Storing Your Digital Photos

I love using Google Photos to keep all my pictures organized. I suggest using Backup and Sync from Google to get the ones from your computer to Google Photos easily. To make sure you don’t end up with duplicate photos, pause Backup and Sync until you’ve corrected all the dates and edited the photos to your liking. Then, you won’t have unedited or unwanted photos taking up space.

I’m so glad I took the time to put all my family’s photos into digital form. I can’t count how many times I’ve used them, and it’s so much easier to find things I need. I also don’t have to worry about them getting misplaced or damaged. Digitizing photos takes a lot of time, but it’s definitely worth it.

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