My Photo Scanning Project

Boxes of loose photo prints, cds loaded with digital images, and crates of framed and unframed portraits cover the top of a table in my studio. Beneath the table are stacks of photo albums and small boxes containing several hundred slides. My mother’s albums and scrapbooks are stacked on the floor at the left end of the table.

I call this chaos “my photo scanning project.” It’s a “project” because my goal is to impose order on the chaos. The table sits against a wall that is at my back when I am at my desk. Dog-like, the project nips at my heels, an ever present, constant, and nagging reminder of its need for attention. Progress is slow, the work tedious and time consuming.

The prints, slides, and digital images represent several lifetimes. In addition to my own photographs, I inherited my mother’s photographs. I have photographic images spanning six generations of my family’s history. Many of the photos I want to keep. I don’t want albums in various states of dilapidation. And, I do not want boxes of loose prints.

The images I shoot with my digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera are uploaded to my computer where they are stored and organized in an Adobe Lightroom catalog. I keep the catalog up to date and the images accessible by organizing them into collections and assigning keywords. I recently began geocoding images, a process that is simplified with an application on my iPhone.

My goal is to make family photos easily accessible by uploading scanned images to a Lightroom catalog where they are organized into collections with keywords. I pass on the original prints to family members who want them. My niece is especially interested in collecting old family photos, so I offer her the oldest prints.

Organizing a group of prints for her, it occurred to me they are worthless without knowing who is in the photo, where, and when it was taken. I created a table in a Word document to accompany the prints. Using Photoshop, I made thumbnails of the photos and copied the thumbnails into the table. I added the image file name, the names of people in the photo, the place the photo was taken, and the date.

As my photo scanning project proceeds, new ideas about how better to organize the catalog occur to me. When completed, the project will provide a well-organized and informative family history resource.

From chaos, order.

4 thoughts on “My Photo Scanning Project

  1. Annis Cassells

    Mercy. What stamina and fortitude this project takes. You are just the right person to complete it. I admire your organization skills and technological facility.

    This descriptive line struck me: “Dog-like, the project nips at my heels, an ever present, constant, and nagging reminder of its need for attention.”

    Thank you. xoA

  2. Terry Redman

    One of the ongoing loose ends of my life is the mushrooming aggregate of photos on my computer. It seems that iPhoto snags and replicates every photo I take or have.
    Maybe during the same year we will both conquer those files, finish the photo/essay projects and have a neat, accessible file system. Somehow that seems a bridge too far.
    I liked the essay, and good luck. Terry

  3. Joan Lindsay Kerr

    Oh, Dennis, I am right with you! Scanning and organizing the thousands of photos from the pre-digital age is one of my retirement projects, but I’m almost scared to start because I know it will take hours, days, months, and years. Thanks for the good ideas for cataloging and labeling! You are absolutely correct…these will mean nothing in the future without some identification, but with it, what a lovely gift for future generations!


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