Did You Make This Common Mistake When Scanning Your Family Photos? (Here’s How to Fix It!)
Whether you’re scanning your film, printed photos, and documents at home or using a professional scanning company, you will undoubtedly be faced with this perplexing issue: Scanning doesn’t actually archive information about your photo. That’s right, digitizing your vintage family photos isn’t enough. It’s no different than discovering an old photo album only to realize that no living person could possibly identify the people depicted, let alone their stories. Have you scanned dozens (or even hundreds) of family pictures, but never actually attached any information to them? Don’t worry, many families make this common mistake when scanning family photos. That’s why we’re writing this article – to make sure you know what scanning misses, and how to fix it!
First, let’s cover what scanning doesn’t miss…
When you take a paper photo and digitize it, you’ve preserved the look of the image. You’ve captured the image itself for future generations to view. The people, places, and things showcased in the photographs can now be seen on any digital monitor, including televisions, smartphones, and tablets. For the next 50 to 75 years (and maybe even longer), people will enjoy looking at the photos in digital form. They’ll share stories, laugh, and sometimes cry while viewing them with family.
You can pat yourself on the back knowing that you prevented the inevitable deterioration of your family photo collection. Your photos, in digital form, will not be damaged over time. They will exist as neatly arranged 0s and 1s on a magnetic platter. DISCLAIMER: There are plenty of ways to damage a digital file. This article assumes you are not partaking in any such file-damaging activities. 🙂
Now, let’s get real about what scanning does miss…
- Names – today, the faces that are shown in your scanned images are known to a finite number of people. Only that circle of people know the names of the people in your photos. Fast forward 50 to 75 years; your photos will still be intact, sitting neatly where you so carefully archived them after scanning. But wait…what’s missing? Names, for starters! Faces without names don’t serve much purpose to generations to come. They simply become, “the woman standing next to the guy by that truck.”
- Places – the same goes for locations. What can history hope to teach future generations if they cannot even discern where their family photos were taken? Very quickly, you can see how the world’s digital photo collection becomes less relevant if it doesn’t at least have basic information attached to images.
- Dates – when you scan an image, it does receive a date from the computer. The computer simply records the “date modified.” The computer does not, however, record the date the photo was actually taken.
- Stories – perhaps most important of all, scanned images do not have stories attached to them. Sadly, when the people captured in the photos die, it becomes very difficult to learn about our family history through old photographs. That’s why recording the stories behind old photos is so important.
So, what’s the solution to this problem? How can you avoid making this common mistake when digitizing your old family archives?
The solution can be found in this word: metadata.
You didn’t think we’d go on and on about the deficiencies of scanning family photos without offering a simple fix, did you? You’re right!
When you’re digitizing your family photos archives, always add names, places, dates, and stories as metadata attached to your images.
How to Add Metadata to Family Photos:
These vital pieces of information can be added to any photo by right clicking on its thumbnail. You can also add metadata to hundreds of photos at a time by highlighting a group of photos and right clicking on the selected area. This works great for adding metadata like names and places!
What’s so Fabulous about Metadata?
It follows your digital photo everywhere it goes. This may sound rudimentary, but it’s not. You can add captions to your photos all day long in many apps and software programs. However, as soon as you move that photo into a different program or transfer it to a new computer, that caption is almost always lost. Unless you actually add metadata to the original scan, you don’t have permanent information attached to your photo. And that’s tragic for future generations who want to get to know their ancestors.
When it comes to preserving family history, metadata is a crucial aspect of archiving. To truly save your family photos – with all the amazing stories that go along with them – you need to add information that will stick, so use metadata. Your grandkids will thank you!
About the Authors:
Thomas Watson is the co-founder and CEO of Roots Family History,™ a company dedicated to the development of new technologies that help archive and preserve the collective story of the human population. In 2012, Thomas started his first company, MediaFox which digitally preserved video tapes, film, and photos in ultra-high resolution. He quickly decided to expand MediaFox to include print production, and as a result became very interested in partnering with Media Specialties, a highly reputable print shop, and did just that in January 2016. He decided to call the new company Roots Family History,™ and tackle the ever-growing problem of disorganized digital and analog media. Roots Family History™ is currently developing its flagship iOS and Android app, which will serve as the world’s best way to archive and preserve childhood as it occurs. Roots Family History is currently operating in Boise, Idaho and Brooklyn, New York and has plans to open its third shop in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2017. You can follow their progress on their shiny new Facebook page!
Craig Collett is the co-founder and COO of Roots Family History.™ Craig joined his father’s company, Media Specialties, Inc. in 2008 as a full-time business consultant. The company was widely known for its custom scanning and printing capabilities and was looking to expand its offerings. He decided to add a robust picture framing department, and revamp their printing facility, adding canvas gallery wraps. The additions were an immediate success, solidifying the company’s position in Boise’s custom printing market. Craig became an expert in photo restoration, image editing, and archival printing and soon became the operations manager. In January 2016, he purchased Media Specialties and partnered with MediaFox to form Roots Family History.™