Heritage Scrapbooking: Prepare To Digitize Your Old Photos and Documents

Before you can create a heritage scrapbook, you need to have photos that you can use in your scrapbook. I create all of my scrapbooks digitally, but if you want to create a paper family history album, you will need to have photographs that you can use in your albums. And that generally means a copy of the originals. So whether you are going all digital or need to make copies of originals, you will need to organize your photos.

Gather your photos and documents
Gather your photos and documents

Step One: Gather

You need to gather all of your documents and photos that can be scanned into one location. Anything that is larger than a scanner should be left out of your stack of stuff.

By the way, you’ll want to have access to a scanner. You can use a company to scan your documents and photos, and they’ll send you a DVD with all your files on it. However, I am not comfortable letting fragile, historical photos and documents out of my site without a digital copy of it. If you’re comfortable sending off your items, then you can use one of these services. Otherwise, borrow a friend’s scanner if you have to. But you need a scanner.

Step Two: Organize

Now that all of the photos you will digitize is gathered, you need to arrange the items. I suggest a chronological system. For one, finding things in a chronological system is easier than by topical chronological. Second, when photos are scanned from the same period (i.e., 1940s photos with 1940s rather than 1970s), the scans turn out better. I don’t know all the technical ways; I know what. They come out better when black and white is scanned with similar toned black  & white. For more organizational tips, read my book.

Step Three: Scan Your Photos

Scan your old photos and documents
Scan your old photos and documents

Scan your photos and documents at a minimum of 300 dpi or higher. Generally use higher for smaller photos and 300 dpi for large pictures. If your photo has a lot of scratches and other damage, you will want a 600 dpi, so you have more pixels to play with when editing your photos. Use the photograph scan settings for all pictures. For documents, play around with the document or the photograph setting. You should be able to use the document setting (color or b&w) for most of your documents. This setting reduces file size.

Whenever possible, don’t scan one photo at a time. It will take way longer than your patience will allow. Most photo editing programs will allow you to separate the photos later. It may take more work in the different photo editing programs, but it is possible. And by doing this, it will save wear and tear on your scanner.

Another note, if you can’t get a photo out of a scrapbook without damaging the photo, leave it on the original page. There is no point destroying a photo trying to preserve it.

Save the photos in a single scan file. You can sort them more fully later. Label your photos according to the organizational system you created in Step Two.

Step Four: Organize

Now that your photos are scanned, it’s time to organize your photos further. Now is the time to separate your photos from a single file with five images into five separate image files. Further, organize your photos using folders and sub-folders on your computer to match the organization system you created in Step Two. Take advantage of the ability to tag your photos as well. Allow your photo program to find persons based on face recognition or tagging software. It will save searching time later.

I know this is a brief rundown on how to digitize your photos and documents. For more information, you can refer to my eBooks Family History Scrapbooking Simplified or Power Scrapbooking.

You can reduce that mountain of photos and documents. When the process is complete, you will feel SO much relief knowing you have a backup of your items. And, you will be ready to use your photos and documents in scrapbooks, blog posts, family history books, and so much more: good luck and happy scanning.

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

2 thoughts on “Heritage Scrapbooking: Prepare To Digitize Your Old Photos and Documents

  1. Wow Wendy! I'm so glad you find the book useful. The 10-12 years worth of stuff will feel overwhelming. Remember to break things into chunks. I don't want you to feel discouraged at all. I do want you to feel empowered. You can do it!!! I'm here if you have any questions.

  2. I just bought your Power Scrapbooking book and it sounds like it is exactly what I need. Long ago I started paper scrapbooking but stopped around 10-12 years ago so I have a lot of catching up to do! Thanks.

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