Save Pictures to Preserve Your Family History

Most of us have a tendency to collect memorabilia from events that occur throughout our lives and none more so than family pictures. Family pictures allow us to relive special moments and share those moments with others who may not have been present the first time around. Our hallways and walls are littered with old photos of parents and grandparents, children and pets, and special places we have visited. What fun to look for family resemblances as we share with each other those special moments that make up our unique family history and heritage. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had all of these memories saved and organized, stored in one place, where everyone could easily view them and share them and enjoy them?

A picture is worth a thousand words

I personally discovered as is likely the case for most of us that these pictures are typically scattered in boxes of unlabeled slides, old negatives tucked in envelopes in dresser drawers, and photographs of all shapes and sizes stuffed away in every place imaginable.  Often original one-of-a-kind family pictures are disbursed across multiple households with no “back-up” existing – if they are lost, they are lost forever. If someone would take responsibility to save pictures for future generations, they would be a hero.

I hate cameras. They are so much more sure than I am about everything ~ John Steinbeck

Realizing this and also interested in creating an archive of my family history in pictures, I boldly went where no one had gone before – Dad’s slides of the past 55+ years. At the end of the trek (get it!) I had viewed thousands of old photos and slides and scanned hundreds more to my laptop. With these pictures I would later create surprise coffee mugs – my mom’s parents standing in their doorstep; my brother-in-law in his white tux on the way to the first prom with my sister; my sister and I in swim suits a hundred years ago; my would-be-musician brother playing a guitar while gazing off into a Mendocino sunset. Each mug specifically created with memories heart-felt by the recipient. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

You know what a camera is? A mirror with memory ~ Anonymous

Senior Activity #1 – Saving Pictures of your Family History

Thanks to the digital age, we have ways to save valuable family memories, back-up irreplaceable one-of-a-kind photographs, and share everything that make up our unique family history. We can spend a lot of money or we can do it our self. Once retired, we have time and are looking for ways to keep busy. Not only will this project keep you busy but the end result will be something to be proud of that the whole family will appreciate.

Although there are multiple ways to archive your family pictures, the process that I went through is as good as many and worked like a charm for me. Since the results were excellent and I can speak directly to my experience, let’s get to it.

(1)    To start, we need a way to scan existing pictures into digital format and store on our computer. This is the most important step since it will determine the quality of the pictures saved.  What we do NOT want is saved pictures that are lower quality than the original. Here is my list of important criteria:

a.       Must be able to scan 35mm slides which is the bulk of our family photos

b.      Must be able to scan MULTIPLE slides at once versus one at a time

c.       Must be able to scan photographs of various size and shape since we have all kinds from 3X3 wallet size up to 10X12 portraits

d.      Must produce high-quality copies

e.      Must be easy to install and use as I am not a computer wizard

f.        Must be less than $100 preferably a brand name of some kind

Based on this criterion, I decided on the Epson V300 Photo Scanner.  I happily found that my decision was right on as I was soon able to begin wading through the initial boxes of slides. Installation was a snap – I just followed the DVD – and soon I was ready to get under way. It took a bit to get used to putting the slides into their frame but after a few times, I got pretty proficient at it.

(2)    Gather the slides, negatives, pictures, newspaper clippings, and such that you want to save. Let family members know of your project and borrow pictures to complete the collection. Start slowly to get familiar with the scanner and the process and how long it takes you. You need not gather all pictures at one time but instead I recommend you copy them in stages. Once you get the hang of it, you can better allocate your time.

(3)    Begin to copy your family memories. If copying 35mm slides, there is a device to load six at one time. If you are copying individual pictures, just lay each on the screen like you would for a copier. Similarly if you are copying clippings or graduation notices or wedding invitations. Just place the pictures on the scanner, close the lid, and press the start button. The nice thing is you can see the quality of each upload at any time by clicking on the picture. A few pointers:

a.       While you are in the copying mode, label the pictures as best you can to better navigate at a later date.

b.      Include a date – I was fine with just the year but you may want to record specific dates.

c.       Create folders for specific events or times – for example, some folders that I created were “Misc Christmas”, “Lake Tahoe” (many years spent here growing up), “Parents Wedding”, “Scenery”, and “Baby Davey” (that’s me – as the first born child with a photographic father, there were LOTS of fun shots if I may say so myself). Grouping will help especially if you have a BUNCH of pictures as we all do!

The first time I used the Epson Scanner I had about ten shoe boxes of slides. We were on vacation in Lake Tahoe so I set aside 1-2 hours each day to copy slides. One at a time, I held each to the sunlight to see what I had, made my selections, loaded the six-pack for slides, set the frame into the scanner and pressed the start button. Lather-rinse-repeat. After spending about eight hour total, I had slightly more than 500 memories saved forever.

(4)    Share the love! I made CDs for my mom and dad, brother and sister, favorite aunt, and of course myself. And there are many gift ideas that enable you to put these personal photos to good use from tee shirts to mouse pads to DVDs to coffee mugs. Check out Shutterfly for even more gift ideas.

The good news is that the actual process of copying your family pictures is straight forward if you have the right equipment. I am sure there are other options, but the set up above did the trick for me. And with my new collection of humorous, timeless, historically-accurate, and ever-unique family pictures, I have birthday and holiday gifts covered for a long time!

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About LoveBeingRetired

Dave Bernard is a California born and raised author and blogger with an extensive 30 year career in Silicon Valley. He has written more than 300 blogs for US News & World On Retirement and his personal blog Retirement – Only the Beginning. He has authored three books: "Are you just existing and calling it a life?"; "I want to retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be"; and " Navigating the Retirement Jungle". Dave was also a contributing writer for the books 65 Things to do when you Retire (“Positive Aging – Old is the New Young”) as well as 65 Things to do when you Retire – TRAVEL (“Travel to Discover your Family Heritage”). He lives in sunny California with his wife, his Boston Terrier "Frank" and a passion for the San Jose Sharks.

4 thoughts on “Save Pictures to Preserve Your Family History

  1. Ahh, you sound like a genealogist. This is the same type of project that I am in the midst of but mine are old, old photos divided up into the 8 surnames of my great-grandparents. Large project but so worthwhile. Scan on….

  2. My wife has digitally stored close to 35,000 photos, all organized in a system only she understands. We started scanning in another 2,000 or so old photos and ran out of enthusiasm. Only wedding photos and our family Christmas vacations in Hawaii have made it from analog so far.

    The next major project is moving 10-15 GB of the digital stuff from her completely full hard drive onto an external drive.

    Pictures have a tremendous power. Having them is so important for you and your family.

  3. Pingback: Save Images In Order To Preserve Your Family History | Wedding Gift Ideas And Suggestions

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