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5 Reasons Why You Should Consider Scanning Your Old Film Photos

Earlier in the week we talked about organizing all of those old print photos from before the digital era.  Now that they are organized, I’m going to tell you 5 reasons why you should consider scanning your old film photos.

Windsor Castle, Spring 1983

Windsor Castle, Spring 1983

What do I mean by scanning your old photos? You might be surprised to know I mean literally putting your prints in a scanner and scanning them into a digital file. Here’s why I think you should consider it  – and why it’s been on my personal photo organization project wish list for a long time:

Reason #1: Negatives are useless

Remember how earlier in this series we talked about organizing negatives? The reality is that negatives are obsolete. It is nearly impossible these days to find a photo place that will make reprints from negatives. Unless you are lucky enough to have one of the rare photos lab nearby that will print from them, they are mostly useless.

So why keep them at all? I keep my negatives in the hope that technology, via scanning and other means, will make them really useful again at a future point. They are also a backstop against losing my last copy of a precious photo. It would be some work, but I could get a print if it was really important. But for everyday usage of photos for things like scrapbooking or family history, negatives are really no longer useful.

Reason #2: To Print Copies

Given the first point (that negatives are virtually impossible to print these days) it naturally follows that scanning photos to digital files makes it much easier to print copies of your favorite old pictures. Whether it’s sharing with your family, or for decorating your home…once that photo is available to you in digital form, you can print as many as you would like very easily.

Reason #3: Sharing in a digital age

Most of use love to share memories of our lives with our friends on places like Facebook and Instagram. Anniversaries mean old dating and wedding pictures. Our kids having events like graduations and weddings gives us the urge to show the world that to us it was just yesterday they were an adorable baby. And many of us have lost loved ones we want to share memories of as well. All of this is much easier to do when your photo archive is available in digital form. 

Reason #4: To enhance them

Those decades-old prints from your childhood or your kids’ childhoods? You probably won’t have to look too hard to see that they are showing their age. Color shift and fading especially are big symptoms of deterioration in old photos.

Scanning old photos means that you can create a copy of the photo that will no longer deteriorate. It also means that you can use software (like the Adobe Lightroom that I talked about in my previous article) to enhance and restore the image back to its original look.

Windsor Castle, Spring 1983

Windsor Castle, Spring 1983

Reason #5: Disaster protection

One of the big benefits of digital photography is that it allows you to back up your photos in multiple locations. I have my photos on my computer as well as backed up to a cloud back-up service called Backblaze that backs up everything on my computer. (To be really safe, I should also have a third local back-up.) If something happens to my home, my digital photos wouldn’t be lost, because they would still be safe in Backblaze in a server farm somewhere.

But paper photos are another story. Except for the rare photos that someone else might have a copy of, all our photos are in one place. If my home was destroyed by fire or another disaster, all of my photo prints – and their negatives – would be gone. There’s no back-up for that.

But if the photo prints are scanned, then I can store those digital files with a back-up in the cloud just like all my digital photos. And they will be much safer from becoming a devastating loss to my family.

(If you click here to subscribe to Backblaze, we both get a month of service free!)

If all of the above has you thinking that maybe you would like to scan your photos, but you have no idea how….stay tuned for my next article!

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Why I Use Adobe Lightroom for Organizing Digital Photos

Since I went fully digital for my photography in 2005, I’ve accumulated a staggering library of almost 70,000 digital images! (Yes, I should take my own advice from the previous article about organizing photos and do some purging.) Obviously, keeping track of that amount of images is a challenging task. But with the help of Adobe Lightroom, it is surprisingly easy to take on organizing digital photos – and I get a powerful editing tool as a bonus!

[Disclosure: I am a member of the Adobe affiliate program. Some of the links in this article are affiliate links that pay this site a commission at no cost to the reader when a purchase is made after a click.]

If you aren’t a super tech-oriented person, you might hear the name Adobe and think that Lightroom is much more of a tool than you need or can manage. But I’m here to tell you that if you are, like me, a photography enthusiast and have some basic tech skills, Lightroom can change your photographic life!

(You probably also heard Adobe and thought “expensive” – but Adobe Lightroom is available as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography subscription for only $9.99/month!)

There are two versions of Adobe Lightroom – Adobe Lightroom CC and Adobe Lightroom Classic. With CC, you use Adobe’s cloud storage and with Classic you store your photos locally on your own hard drive. I use Classic because I prefer using local storage, but both versions are included with the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan I use.

I started using Adobe Lightroom myself over four years ago. Here’s a look at just a few of the reasons why it has become so essential to my photo workflow:

Easily Organize Digital Photos by Date or Event

The killer app of Adobe Lightroom is its amazing organizational power. When I import my photos I have the ability to select how I want them organized, and how I want my folders named. Some people (such as wedding photographers) choose to name folders by event. I have chosen to use a straight date format. I have year folders and then inside them folders for each month, and then inside the months I have folders for the days I took photos. When I click on one of those folders, it opens up a display in the center of the photos that are in it.

Adobe Lightroom dashboard

Like I mentioned, I have almost 70,000 photos in my Lightroom library. But every single one of them is locatable due to my date organization. My library also has the ability to prioritize my photos, with star ratings and flags that can help me sort photos by their quality. And as I sort photos from an event, I can discard and delete rejected photos from my hard drive with just two clicks.

Find Anything with Tagging

Another tool makes the organization in Adobe Lightroom so powerful: tagging. When you are in the Library tab of Lightroom, the panel on the right displays the keywording box. In that box (similar to hashtagging on social media) you can put any words that you’d like to label an image with. These labels can be applied to large groups of photos at once if you’d like for speed in processing your images.

In the example above, I’ve applied the tags Europe, France, Paris, and Sainte Chapelle to the highlighted photo. I could also have applied tags such as church, or stained glass, or anything else that I think I might want to search for later.

Once the tags are applied, I can conduct searches for them by clicking on the “text” menu option up above the photo panel. Searching for a term will bring up all photos in my catalog with that term applied. (To keep my keywords consistent, Lightroom makes helpful suggestions and will autofill for me when I start typing a word it already knows.)

This is a very powerful tool that lets you label your photos as broadly or as narrowly as you like. Being a data nerd, I like to make my tags hyper specific. I even have my museum painting photos tagged with the painter’s name!

Make Easy Changes to Meta Data

You go on vacation to a different time zone and take your iPhone and your SLR along. Your iPhone automatically changes to the local time zone, but your SLR doesn’t – and you forget to change it. So when you import your photos all together into the library and arrange them by time, they are out of order due to the time snafu. (This is just a hypothetical. I absolutely haven’t had to do this after every one of my recent trips.)

Like so many other things, Lightroom has a magic “fix it” button for human time errors too. In the meta data menu, there is an option to “edit capture time”. (This process can be done for large groups of photos all at once by highlighting them.) One of the options is “time zone fix”. It will let you add or subtract a certain amount of hours to each image’s capture time to correct it. You can also use this feature to adjust by minutes, to get devices whose clocks were set a few minutes off from each other into sync.

Edit meta data is also great for something else – attaching actual dates to old photos that have been scanned. So, for instance, I added some photos that I took in 1983 to my library as scans. Of course, the files said 2018 so that is how Lightroom filed them. But with the “edit meta data” function, I was able to adjust the capture time to the 1983 date, and then move them to the proper year folder in Lightroom. (Decades from now, this is really going to confuse someone looking at my files!)

Create with Non-Destructive Editing

All of the things I am about to list that I can do to my photos in Lightroom? They are non-destructive. This means that the original image file isn’t changed, but rather, Lightroom saves a separate catalog of my changes I make to a photo. Then if I want to use my edited photo, I can export it in whatever size and format I need.

Another feature that goes along with the non-destructive nature of edits to photos in Lightroom is that any edit can be changed at any time. This means that if I make a change, then do two or three other things, and then decide I don’t like the first edit? I can go back and change the first edit without changing anything I did after it!

Fix Perspective with a Click

Because of perspective, the camera warps architecture lines when we take pictures. See how those buildings seem to be leaning into the street in the picture below? It can make you feel a little seasick to look at!

Lightroom transform before

In Adobe Lightroom, it’s easy to fix, though. Near the bottom of the editing menu of the right side of the screen (just scroll down until it pops up) is a menu called “transform”. All I needed to do to fix this wonky photo is click the “auto” button that the red arrow is pointing to.

Lightroom transform button

And here’s the result! Now my buildings are nice and straight, and it no longer feels like they are trying to close in on the street. All of that with one single click!

Lightroom transform after

You can also use that same menu (just click the button that says “vertical”) to level the horizon of an off-kilter photo with a single click, among other things.

Rescuing Photos with Dehaze

Often, on a sunny day, you’ll get burned out skies or just a hazy look to your photos. Colors look washed out, skies fade out. It can almost look like you are shooting through tissue or something.

Lightroom Dehaze before

Adobe Lightroom has a one click fix for that hazy look, and it’s called (appropriately) dehaze. It’s located in the main menu right at the top of that right editing panel.

Lightroom Dehaze

If you slide that slider about halfway to the right, you get this result below! The sky is blue instead of washed out. The colors of the tree and bridge are now crisper. The clouds have actual form instead of being muddy blobs.

Lightroom Dehaze after

Dehaze is one of the most magic tricks in Lightroom. It’s an easy way to rescue a “blah” photo with one click!

Create Two Versions

There are times you might want to create two different versions of a photo you’ve taken. For instance, you might want to have two different shapes (like one cropped square for instagram and a rectangle for scrapbooking). Or maybe you want to make both black & white and color versions of a photo like I did with the highlighted images below.

Virtual Copies in Adobe Lightroom

Creating two versions of an image in Adobe Lightroom is simple, and it doesn’t require taking up space on your hard drive with two duplicate files! Remember how I said that Lightroom saves its changes to a separate Lightroom catalog instead of to the original image?

Create Virtual Copy in Lightroom

With just one click [“Create virtual copy” on the Photo menu] you can create another Lightroom catalog copy of your photo to work on. This feature can be used to easily create as many different versions of a photo as you want! So you can create that black & white, that Facebook header, that instagram photo, that 5×7 and 4×6…and keep them all saved!

Easy Resizing

There’s two different ways that Adobe Lightroom makes resizing easy. First, through the virtual copy function, you can easily create many different crops of an image. And in the crop tool, you can set an exact size that you want the image to be when finished. So you can put in (and save for future use if you want) the dimensions for things like your Facebook cover, or a Pinterest pin, and crop exactly to that.

A second way that Adobe Lightroom makes it easy to resize images is during export. When you are done editing an image and want to use (for instance in a blog entry), you must click export. This brings up a window where you can choose everything from how the file is named to the size. So it is easy to create a square image and then save it as one size for Instagram and another size for a blog thumbnail or other use.

Think Lightroom might be the tool you need? You can try Adobe Lightroom for free for 7 days to find out!

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Organizing Your Negatives

Let’s admit it…even a lot of us who are obsessive about organizing our photos can be neglectful about organizing our negatives! And yet, organizing your negatives is a surprisingly simple process that can help protect your negatives and make them easier to use for generations to come. 

[Disclosure: I am a member of the Amazon affiliate program. Some of the links in this article are Amazon affiliate links that pay this site a commission at no cost to the reader when a purchase is made after a click.]

Organizing Your Negatives

Step #1: Using Negative Storage Sheets

Negatives are pretty delicate items. They don’t like to be handled, or pressed against each other, or extreme environmental conditions. Stacked together, floating around loose in that envelope they came home from the processor in? Well, that’s pretty much the worst thing we can do to them! The safest – and easiest – way to take on organizing negatives is to do it the way the pros do and use negative storage pages.

Negative storage pages are sized and punched to be stored in binders. Using them is super simple – just slide your negative strips into the pockets from the long edges of the sheet, and you’re done!

Organizing Negatives

Print File is the most well-known maker of photography storage sheets of all types. I have used Print File 35-7B sheets for years for storing my 35mm film negatives. Each of those sheets holds 7 strips of negatives that are 4-5 frames long. The sheets are made of archival quality polyethelene, which is safe for storing negatives. 

Do you have some of those APS film cartridges, where the film rolls back up into the cartridge after being processed, lying around? I had a couple. I was surprised doing some internet research to learn it is very easy to wind the film out of the cartridges so it can be cut up and put in negative sheets just like regular 35mm film. (Click here for the instructions on how to do it.) Instead of having to store bulky cartridges, now my APS negatives are filed in sheets with the rest of my rolls of 35mm negatives!

Organizing Slides

But storage sheets aren’t just for negatives! They are also an efficient way to store slides that allows easy access to look at them to find what you want. Why devote tons of storage space to storing boxes of huge carousels you never use? Ditch the carousels, and replace them with slide storage pages that are much easier to store.

Stabilo PencilsOf course, the whole point of organizing negatives is to be able to find things. So it’s important to label your negative storage sheets. You can’t just write on a polyethelene sheet with a regular pen, though. I use a Stabilo pencil, which is sort of a grease pencil and writes well on the sheets. (These are really soft, so I recommend using a make-up pencil sharpener to sharpen them.)

Organizing Photo Index Prints

If you have index prints, they can also be very helpful in knowing what is on your negatives! Don’t get rid of them! I have written on the back of mine the relevant dates, locations and other information for the roll of film using a Sakura Identi-Pen. Then I have inserted them in photo storage pages and filed the sheet of index prints in my negatives files, in front of the relevant sheets of negatives.

Step #2: Create Order

This step is super simple! Most rolls of film will have had multiple events or topics on them. (Oh, if someone could have told us in the days when film was so precious that we only took 24 pictures on a week long vacation that someday we’d be snapping pictures in the grocery store…we’d have thought they were crazy!) This means that the only really manageable way to file negatives is by date. So sort all of those sheets into chronological order, if they aren’t already.

Step #3: Storing Negative Storage Sheets

Once you’ve got all those negative sheets loaded and sorted, what do you do with them? There’s lots of ways to store them, depending on how many you have and what your storage concerns are. Mine lived in regular 3 ring binders for a long time, stored in a file drawer. There’s also binder boxes made especially for storing archival photo sheets.

File Cabinet Storage for Negatives

For the last decade or so, one of these file cabinets has been home to my negative sheets. I had them in hanging files, and they took up about one and a half drawers of the cabinet.

Hanging Negative Files

Hanging in the file drawers was quite an efficient way to store them. The negative sheets are firm enough to stand up and not put pressure on the edges of the negatives. Being in the drawers also kept my negatives protected from the light, since light exposure can lead to fading.

But I decided that I wanted to move my negatives for several reasons. First, the file cabinets are getting old and frankly I’d like to put something that looks nicer in what is a very prominent wall in my living/dining area. But second, and more important, is that file cabinet storage is not portable or protected very much from water. Since the hurricane disasters that have hit us here in Florida the past few years, I’ve realized the importance of having precious items in my home be both easily portable and protected from the elements.

Sterilite File Box

If you are also worried about these issues in organizing your negatives, the good news is that I’ve found what I think is the perfect solution: a Sterilite Hanging File Box. Stored in two of these boxes, my negatives are now easily portable. And the plastic container, while not impenetrable, will offer some protection for them against water infiltration. 

Negatives in File Boxes

The sheets of my negatives hang in the file boxes just the same way that they previously hung in my file cabinet. I simply transferred them from one container to the other.

File Boxes

My two boxes of negatives now live on a top shelf in my craft studio. If needed, I can easily move them to a more secure area of the house for protection during a storm, or put them inside yet another container to offer double protection. Or, I can even put them in the car to take along during an evacuation. It gives me great peace of mind to know that!

Now that our negatives are under control, next it will be time to tackle all of those photos! I’m ready if you are! Stay tuned!

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5 Reasons to Organize Your Photos

For the past couple of months, I’ve been working on a very large project to organize my photos. And I mean a very large project. While most scrapbookers take a lot of photos, I have been a photography enthusiast almost my entire life. I got my first camera at age eight. That’s, well, decades of photos – over twenty boxes of them!

5 Reason to Organize Your Photos

As I went through the project, I discovered that I wasn’t as organized as I had thought. And I also discovered some very good reasons for organizing your photos.

Reason #1: So You Can Find Them

Yes, we’re starting out with the most obvious reason to organize your photos. Can you lay hands on any photo in your archive, digital or print, any time you want it? If the answer is “no” or “not without a bunch of digging around”…you need some photo organization! 

I had thought my photos were pretty well organized, until I embarked on this project and discovered otherwise. 

Reason #2: So You Know What You Have

Part of the process of organizing photos is consolidating all of your photo assets together in one system. Through this process you end up taking what is essentially an inventory – and even uncovering things that you had forgotten you had. As I was going through boxes of photos that I was organizing, I discovered all sorts of lost gems: enlargements I’d had made to scrapbook, photos from my school years in Europe, and even a precious photo of my husband as a toddler with his mother!

Reason #3: So You Can Protect Them

Hand in hand with the organizing process goes the process of creating proper storage. When your photos are organized, it is much easier to create storage that will protect them from disasters and environmental damage. This goal was actually the primary reason that I started my photo organization project, but it actually ended up being secondary to other ones once I got started. 

Reason #4: So You Can Share Them

Photos are meant to be shared…but you can’t share them if you can’t find them. Wouldn’t it be great to show your budding ballerina granddaughter a photo of her mother doing ballet at her age? Or to show your kids pictures of what Disneyworld looked like when you were a kid when you are getting ready for your own family trip? Or post a first day of kindergarten picture on Facebook of your new high school graduate? Doing all of that is so much easier when your photos are organized!

Reason #5: So You Can Hand Them Down

Photos are more than personal memories. They are family heirlooms! You may know what year that photo was taken, or who those people are. But do your kids – or your grandkids? Would someone else be able to find what they want in your photo archives, or would it seem like an impenetrable mess? Organizing your photo archive means that you can pass down your knowledge of your photos along with them, so they will mean more to future generations. I’m so glad that I did this project now while my mom was still around to ask questions about photos I found.

So, given how important it is to organize your precious photo memories, I’m going to be sharing a series all this week that is the result of my own photo organizing project. We’ll discuss everything from organizing your negatives to the next generation organizing project of actually scanning your prints. I hope at the end that you’ll be inspired – and empowered – to take on the project yourself.

Come back and join me tomorrow for the first step…organizing your negatives!

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World Backup Day | Five Questions to Test Your Data Safety

Sometimes it seems like the whole world is out to get our computers. Fire, flood, power surges, hard drive failures, viruses…the list is seemingly endless of the things that can wipe out our digital lives.

5 Questions To Test Your Data Safety

As scrapbookers, we are aware of the value of our memories in photographic form and mindful of the careful storage of our albums and printed photos. Most of us, however, are not as diligent as we should be about the preservation of our memories – or our business records –  that are in digital form. World Backup Day is our annual reminder to take action to preserve and protect the records in our digital lives – before we learn the hard way that our safeguards are inadequate. Continue Reading →

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Paperclipping Roundtable #112: I’m a Piler

This week Tracey Clark of Shutter Sisters and Kayla Lamoreaux joined us at the Roundtable to talk all about photography!

Click on the share button above to share this episode on your own site by embedding the audio player right on your own site!

To download the file to your computer right click this link. You can also visit the Paperclipping Roundtable web page to listen to the episode.

The Panel

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