“Oh, that is so disappointing!. What happened? I remember the images as being so much more colourful.”
My mother said these words during our recent scanning project.
Unfortunately, time and temperature had not been kind to her slides. They had indeed lost almost all of their colour and they had also acquired yellow stains of water damage. It’s a common occurrence for all prints and slides if they are not stored properly. And, just like my mother, most people don’t realize this can happen until it’s too late. The best way to prevent it from happening, other than specific storage conditions (cold and dry), is to scan the images right away.
Our memory of an event is stored in the elements of an image. Should that image change, become damaged or even lost, affects how we remember the time it was taken. And we take pictures to capture our experiences so it makes sense that we would want to protect that memory.
Not many people still shoot with film, let along slides. But back in the days when every image had a cost, slide film was cheaper than print. And when we wanted to travel and shoot as much as we could, slide film was a must. And my parents travelled a lot. They must have over 1000 slides.
This winter we made the commitment to scan all those slides. It’s a daunting task but when I discovered how many slides she actually had, we made sure we made the time.
We started out sending a few images out to be scanned by a company in our area; Digital Treasures. This is a good option if your time is limited. Each slide or print worked out to be about $0.25. Having someone else do the scanning saved us some of the effort and the process was relatively straight forward. But what we did discover was that even after the images are scanned, you still have to download, rename and organize the images on your own computer. That takes a lot of time.
Considering the scope of the project ahead of us, we decided to review and scan the images ourselves.
As a professional photographer, I have a scanner for just this purpose. But while it is a good (if somewhat dated) machine that can customize each scan in great detail, each slide takes a few minutes. That time can really add up. Plus we decided we wanted to share the reviewing process with the family. The best way to do that would be to show the images on our large flat panel tv.
After some research, we decided to buy the Kodak Scanza Digital Film Scanner for about $200.
There are many similar products on the market and this article isn’t a review of this scanner though I would recommend it. The resolution is 14MP (22MP Interpolated), the process is simple and it comes with an HDMI cable so you can connect it to your tv. (We did purchase a longer cable, however, to make the living room viewing more comfortable.) The scanner comes with multiple holders for slides and negatives up to 35mm in size.
The reviewing process turned out to be a lot of fun. We set a recurring time on the weekend before dinner and we generally review and scan about 100 images. The process is simple; I insert the images into the slide scanner, we all exclaim at the dated clothes, the cars, the cute kid pictures, and then my mother shares the story behind the image. We then decide whether to scan it or not. The scanner stores the images to an SD card and after our review session, I copy the images to a computer where they are renamed and organized into the date and event-related folders. As part of the photo management process, the photos are backed up to an external hard drive and then to a cloud service where we can share them with other family members.
For the most part, the slides for the past 50 years were in good shape. It was truly disappointing to find that the images from her trip in 1956 were damaged. This trip had been family lore for years. It was truly epic.
Five Canadian women in their early 20s travelled across the Atlantic by boat to England and then rented an old London cab and drove across western Europe together. At the end of the trip my mother met up with my father and they hitchhiked and camped across the Mediterranean. Back in the early 2000’s we had scanned one or two of the images from this trip so I knew a little of the story. To see the other images faded and stained was such a shame and just brought home the point that to preserve these memories properly, we should have scanned them all 20 years ago.
Luckily, technology and skill were on our side. The Kodak scanner has some ability to adjust the colour and brightness of typical slides but for these damaged images, I decided to rescan them with my professional scanner and I was able to fix many of the issues. For the water damage stains, the images had to be brought into Photoshop for more extensive editing. Not impossible, but not easy either. I’m just glad we caught them before the damage became worse.
Whether you choose to scan your images or send them out to be scanned, I highly recommend that you edit them first. Don’t pay to have your blurry or boring images scanned.
WHY do you need to scan your prints and slides now
- Save them from the degradation that time and temperature can cause
- Protect your memories in case of an unexpected flood or fire damage
- Ensure that the stories and people in the pictures are not forgotten
HOW to scan your prints and slides
- Send them to a professional scanning company. There are usually some in your area but a simple internet search will give you options near and far.
- Scan them yourself with an affordable automatic scanner.
- Ask us to manage the scanning and organizing process for you. You can trust us to protect and organize your images so you can enjoy them for generations to come.
As you review your images with others you will discover which images resonate with people. We tend to take a lot of pictures of the scenery but having a person in the image always made the picture more powerful. Something to keep in mind as you continue to take pictures of your own travels and day to day life.
As I mentioned, my parents travelled extensively throughout their 60-year marriage and the slides are scattered across many boxes. Before we put them back on a shelf, we will make sure they are labelled properly and moved from boxes to archival slide page holders and binders.
There are a couple of ways to store slides but this is one that suits our space the best. When you hold them up to a light, the plastic pages allow you to quickly review 20 slides at a time without touching the actual slide. Of course, once the slides are scanned, we shouldn’t need to review them again, but, you never know.
Maybe down the road, we will want a higher resolution scan to print. Perhaps scanning technology will improve. As my grandmother used to say about sewing your own clothes; never throw out the extra fabric until you have finished wearing the garment. In other words, always keep the original. And, until someone figures out what to do with old slides and negatives, holding on to them keeps them out of the landfills for a little bit longer.
Why do we put off things we know we should do? Whether it is exercising more, clearing out the garage or managing our photos, we have an idea of what we need to do but the thought of going through the actions of these tasks can seem overwhelming, distasteful or pointless. Even knowing that putting off certain tasks could hurt us later, we will still hesitate. So how do we stop procrastinating and tap into motivation when we need it?
When faced with a decision to make or a task to complete, we usually rely on our self-control in order to push ourself to get things done. Furthermore, our motivation, which is based on the expectation of receiving some reward for our efforts, can support our self-control, and make it more likely that we will get things done in a timely manner. (1)
Procrastination happens when our motivation to finish a task is weakened and the rewards are abstract or negligible. Not having a clear objective, being told to do something, or just being too tired at the end of the day are all things that can weaken our desire to complete a task. Fear is what often helps us finish a task. It’s what drives us to buy home or car insurance because we fear we won’t be able to afford the outcome of a disaster. The reward is knowing that most of the costs are covered if something horrible does happen.
But not all things are so straight forward. Recently my brother experienced a terrible flood in his basement due to freak rainstorm. Four inches of rain fell in 1 hour in an area that typically gets 3 inches over the whole month. As a result of the flood, my brother lost many possessions that were ruined by the 4 ft of rain that turned his basement into a swimming pool. Insurance would cover some of his belongings, but not the photo albums filled with pictures from the days of shooting film.
In addition to rebuilding his basement, he is now faced with going through his waterlogged computer and soaked albums to see what, if any images are salvageable. Insurance doesn’t cover photographic memories.
From a photo management perspective, my brother was on track to do everything right. He had backed almost all of his digital photos to the cloud but there were still some images on his computer and all the prints in the albums remained unscanned. He knew what needed to be done but he just hadn’t finished the task because there was technically no urgency and as such, no real motivation. Flooding of the type he experienced is still extremely rare.
The “just in case” tasks are often the hardest to complete. For those, we definitely need a plan.
How to stop procrastinating
1. Have a clear objective
The first step to overcoming procrastination is to have a clear objective – the absolute WHY you need to do the task in the first place. I hate cleaning my house but I love a clean house. My objective is a clear. I am motivated by the discomfort and anxiety that a chaotic house brings. To encourage me to get through this loathsome task, I treat myself to a cold beer when I am done. With photo archiving, the objective is to preserve and protect past memories. And potentially, share them with others. The motivation is that in their current state they are vulnerable to time and moisture. Scanning 25 years of prints however, is a daunting task.
2. Understand your type of procrastination
The second step to overcoming procrastination is to understand why you, as an individual, are avoiding the task. This excellent resource can help you figure this one out. It could be lack of energy, not sure where to start, or fear of doing it wrong. It could be that the task, like photo archiving, is too big. One option could be to break it down into smaller parts.
3. Create a plan of action with measurable and obtainable goals
The key to this step is to create a schedule that suits your personality and lifestyle. Look at the overall objective and break it down into smaller more manageable tasks. Set a deadline for each task. Fit those tasks into your day. For example, for photo archiving, review one album each night while watching tv, or decide on two albums a week but pull them out and leave them on the kitchen table so you can review them whenever you are in the room. Make it as easy and enjoyable as you can. Turn on your favourite music, pour a glass of wine. Whatever reward you can think of that will motivate you to finish the task. Try to get into a flow of work by eliminating distractions and creating a comfortable work environment.
4. Set deadlines that are concrete yet reasonable
It’s important to set a completion date, as it constrains how long you work on a task. But it is also important to decide on dates that are reasonable for your day to day life. When you are just starting to exercise, don’t plan on working out every day. Start with two days a week and go from there.
If you are sorting through your photos, set a date for the completion of each stage: reviewing, scanning, and organizing. Allow yourself some flexibility but not too much. Create some form of accountability with a friend to check in with you.
5. Reward yourself
I like to save my desert until after I finish the dishes. That way I am motivated to get them done and I get to relax over something yummy. Figure out what will motivate you through the steps, not just at the final completion of the project, but at all the milestones along the way. Whatever your objective may be these steps can help you get it done. The key is to remember WHY you are doing the task. Write this objective down, put it on a post-it and place it where you will see it every day. Or set reminders on your phone. The key is to stay focused and not fall off track.
And if this still seems overwhelming, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is strength in knowing what you are good at and what will just take too much of your time and effort. Sometimes it just makes sense to hire a bookkeeper or a handyman, or in my case, someone to clean the house.
When it comes to photo organizing, I can help guide you through the process. Feel free to contact me here.
If you were born before 2000, you most likely have boxes or albums of old photos taking up space in your home. I personally had about 30 photo albums and 15 scrap books getting dusty on my shelves. On a rare occasion I would look at them but for the most part they sat there, lonely and neglected. Until recently.
What inspired me to really take the time and do something with my old prints and negatives was a request from my mother to help her go through her own collection of albums. After being inspired by the book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson, she and I have been working our way through her lifetime of possessions. The photos were a large, intimidating part of that process.
But by taking our time and going through the journey together, it turned out to be a lot of fun. Each album, including her parents scrapbooks, were full of memories. We enjoyed trying to figure out who was in the old black and white prints and where they fit into the family tree. We marvelled at the changes to our town, the strange clothes, and the stern faces. And we giggled over old scrap books of hers showing her at camp or her summer jobs. The stories she shared with me are priceless and I have learned so much about her life before I was born.
Looking at all the photos we needed to review however, was sometimes overwhelming. How were we to choose what to keep and what to discard? Should we just scan every thing? Who will want to look at these images later?
We chose to keep only the images that were important to us right here, right now. When we were going through the really old images we had one simple rule. If we didn’t know the person or their connection to our family was too distant, we put them in the discard pile. If the image was too small or too blurry, we didn’t keep it. But we made sure to keep the real gems; my grandfather’s first job, family portraits, the first car, and the travel photos. And for the scrapbooks where my mother drew cartoons and descriptions in the margins, we not only scanned individual images but I also recorded the pages as a whole. These images are invaluable.
And as part of the archiving process, we made sure all the photos we wanted to preserve were scanned or digitized. As a professional photographer, I have a scanner that does both prints and slides but due to the volume of photos, we chose to also send our images to a local scanning company, Digital Treasures. For about 25 cents an image, we were able to deal with a large selection of images. I dropped off the albums (pre Covid) and after a few months, they sent me a link to an online Dropbox so I could retrieve the images. I then downloaded the images to my computer and set about organizing them into files and folders.
The whole process was streamlined and simple and I would highly recommend it if you are ready to take on your photo archiving project.
But I know it is hard to get started on projects as large as this. Even me, a professional photographer, put it off for some time. It was actually the process of reliving all the old memories that inspired me to go through my own albums. I found pictures I had long since forgotten. I also feel much better now knowing that those memories are protected and backed up on hard drives, just in case. Next up? Creating simple slide shows so I can watch my home movies on my TV. As for my mother’s images, we have shared them with our family through Google Photos albums and on Facebook messenger.
If you are looking for a place to start with your old images, I would recommend bringing out a box or album each week and reviewing them while you watch TV. Separate out the ones you want to keep and the ones to pitch. If you do decide to scan the keepers, make sure you scan at a high enough resolution (300 dpi, 5×7 minimum) in case you want to print the image in future. If you don’t have the time or money to scan, a quick and easy option is to photograph the photograph with your camera or phone. There are a few apps on the market (Photomyne and Google Photo Scan) that are supposed to make this easier for you. I have tried them and they worked fine. I chose to go with a professional scanner because I wanted a higher resolution but that’s just me.
As a final note, there is the question of what to do with the images we have chosen to scan. Do we still keep the physical image? For how long? As someone who is trying to live sustainably or as zero waste as possible, the whole process of throwing out old images is painful. Some images can be sent to local archives, some can be given to schools for craft projects and I have kept a few for greeting cards but most will end up in the garbage now or later.
I challenge anyone to come up with a way to reuse or recycle photographs. We can send someone to the moon and spend a gazillion dollars on AI or going to Mars but no one has figured out how to keep millions of photographs out of landfills. At a minimum, I think I will hold on to the images I scanned. Maybe somebody will figure it out in my lifetime.