We genealogists sometimes usually spend an extraordinary amount of time researching dates and names and locations, building our family trees. This is one of my joys in particular, but the best part, in my opinion is to be able to apply the data to a photo or a story about the person.
I am slightly jealous of the next few generations, who will find it so easy to browse our digital photos and videos. They probably will not have to go through the tedious process of converting countless documents and photos to digital format like we do.
I am currently in the process of digitizing shoeboxes full of pictures that my parents took throughout the years. I’ve completed about 1000 so far. There are probably at least 10,000 more to go. It has been tedious, to be sure, but the process is actually somewhat fun. As I load each image onto the scanner, I am able to recall events and people from the past. There is an added bonus as well: there are a few really old photos mixed in. I have scanned a few pictures from nearly 100 years ago. There are pictures of my great grandparents. I even have one of my great-great grandparents on my maternal grandfather’s side.
The absolute best find I unearthed in the boxes and drawers of old photos was a marriage preparation book with what appears to be a marriage certificate on an inside front page. The book is entirely written in Hungarian, and is about 85 pages long. My father, whose parents were the couple listed on the certificate, tells me that it contains instructions on how to be a good spouse. I scanned the entire book, using Adobe Acrobat and OCR (Text recognition). The result was a nicely formatted .pdf file that I can now send to the rest of my family. Unfortunately, I know very little Hungarian, so it provides another great reason for me to learn Hungarian.
Needless to say, I’ve been busy scanning, cropping, rotating, and saving. I wish there was an easier, yet affordable way to do this. I know of online photo-scanning services, but with the quantity of photos I have, money would really become an issue. Besides that, most of the services scan at 300 dpi, which is acceptable, but for some photos, I want a higher DPI, since many of the older photos are wallet-size or smaller.
I’ve become quite efficient at this now. I have 2 scanners, each hooked up to their own computer. This allows me to scan a set of photos on one computer while cropping, straightening, and saving on the other. It helps to know your tools. In Photoshop, I set up keyboard shortcuts to initiate the scanning screen, scan a preview, scan the full-quality version, crop and straighten, rotate if necessary, save, and close each image. The only time I find it necessary to use the mouse is to occasionally adjust the scanning area after a preview and to crop an occasional extra border on my images. All in all, I can scan about 60-80 photos/hour, which is not too bad. At that rate, I only have to spend about 135-185 hours on this project.