Thursday, February 23, 2017

Digitizing Photos

This week, I started the daunting task of scanning all of my paper photos.  First, before you develop visions of a wonderful consumer-grade product that you just put a stack of photos on and it scans them into individual image files, I am disappointed to inform you that No. Such. Product. Exists.

The consumer-grade multi function printer/scanner/fax machines that have auto document feed (ADF) that we have in our homes do not have even optional feed trays for scanning photos.  Without the correct feed tray, you can't use ADF for photos because there is nothing to guide your photo though so it either jams or scans crookedly (or really weirdly stretched out.  I might have experimented.) .  Flatbed works just fine - it's just tedious with hundreds of photos to position the photo, scan it, pull it out, position the next, etc.

So, my options for photo scanning are:
  1. Send them to a service.  Going rate is an average of about .25 per photo.  That gets pricey pretty fast, plus you're sending your family photos outside your home, which has inherent risk.
  2. Single page photo scanners like this that you can feed one at a time through
  3. flat bed photo scanners (no feed).  
  4. and then Epson makes one with an auto feed for about $500, which is the cheapest I could find (average is closer to $900).  At a going average of .25 per photo to get them scanned by a photo scanning service, you'd have to scan over 2,000 photos to make that worth while
For now, I'm using a flatbed scanner.  I might try something like this, which just seems easier to feed stuff into.  I guess it would depend upon the software.  It's a whole can of worms though.  So for now, flatbed.

Regardless of what option you choose, you want to make sure to scan at a decent resolution.  600dpi should be sufficient.  Most home scanners can get into the neighborhood of 1200 dpi, which is higher quality - but it's overkill for anything less than high quality printing or image editing and will take you forever to scan each image, costs more to store etc.  300 dpi is too low.

Turn off any special image features like unsharp mask or other bells and whistles.  You want to scan the actual image as it appears in the photo.  You can always apply effects to copies of the image later. 

On a flatbed scanner, make sure the tell the scanning software what size image you are scanning.  it will greatly reduce your scanning time if you tell it a size smaller than 8.5x11.  If you leave it at the default, it will scan the whole empty bed every time.  

In your scanning software, set it to save a jpg and turn the quality all the way up.  Your scanning software interface will vary but essentially, when you're saving something as a jpg, you have the ability to reduce the file size by saving it at a lower quality.  You don't want that.  So slide your quality slider, wherever it appears in your scanning software, up to 100% quality.  You can use gif or another image file type but don't scan your photos to PDF.

Naming convention depends upon how you will use your photos.  If you will ever sort them by file name (like in Windows explorer), the first thing in the name should be the thing you want to sort by. You also want to make sure that your photos are searchable based upon text in the name.  If you intend to share the photos, you want to be very specific about the content of the photo in the file name because the context or surrounding documentation might not follow the image and might want to add your info for reference.
  • If you ever want to sort your photos into a timeline order, start your file names with the date in yyyymmdd format.  
  • If you prefer to sort by Surname, use the prevailing surname of the people in the photo or the surname you care most about or the surname you'd most likely want this photo to pop up for.  So, if in the photo, you have your grandfather
After whatever is first in your file name, you want to make sure to get in the names of the people (generally left to right) including maiden names of women as well as any other notes on the photo.  However, you can't make the filename a whole paragraph because you're limited to 255 characters in Windows.  So for images that have a whole group of people, like a family reunion, you might need to devise some other way of detailing who's in it.

So, in the end, my image file names look like this : 
  • 1980 Maynard Robert Earls house from Sinks Helen Pauline Maynards house
  • Sinks Helen Pauline Maynard outside her home she loved roses 
In these examples, the one beginning with 1980 would be able to be sorted in a timeline view by filename and both would be searchable for the surname Sinks or the person Helen Pauline.  

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