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To Digitize or Not Digitize the Family Photo Album? 398

Posted by Cliff
from the keeping-alive-the-good-times dept.
animys asks: "In the last few years, we have begun to witness the inevitable shift from 35mm cameras to high resolution, cheap, consumer oriented digital cameras; with this, the move away from a tangible photo album has also ensued. This change has obviously left many families with huge amounts of developed pictures and albums. For reasons of preservation and usability, some families would like to convert their previously taken pictures to a digital medium - yet many have hundreds or even thousands of pictures. What type of tools can the DIY'er use to make this process easier? Beyond the obvious scanner and graphics package, is there any good quality software that can augment this arduous and possibly over-daunting task?" What about folks looking to do the opposite? Most people take decent care of their albums, and the pictures are always viewable regardless of the changes in technology. What options are there for those folks looking to make near-picture-quality hardcopies of their digital photos for inclusion in their albums?
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To Digitize or Not Digitize the Family Photo Album?

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  • Both (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dnoyeb (547705) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:15PM (#3791994) Homepage Journal
    I have my own photo albums hiding under the coffee table. Its easy to pull out when you want to talk about something, and its very intimate. But to say, hay lets go up to the computer room, or let me get my laptop, is not as nice.

    I still have my photos in digital format on CDROMs for safe keeping and for use on my website. But that will certainly not replace the old photo album. Plus think of the pictures handing on the walls in your house with all the children and such.

    Gotta have both dude.
    • I have a CD-RW (two of them actually, one in a fire proof box), when I pull pictures off the camera I create a new directory labeled for the date.

      Then I use a freeware version of Ulead Photoexplorer to print a copy of every picture in that directory in a 2 by 2 format.

      I print the directory name (the date) at the top of the sheet and the filename under each picture.

      Then I slide the sheet into a sheet protector and put it into a three ring binder.

      Works great, is very portable and if my technology illiterate grandmother wants a copy I know exactly where on the CD (kept in the back of the binder) to print a new copy.
    • "Hey, come to my room to see my family album!"
  • iphoto (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nuhonda (256188) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:16PM (#3791996) Homepage
    I'll chime in and say that on the Mac, iPhoto is really a killer tool for organizing photos.

    and the picture books that you can create with it are nothing short of impressive. handing one of those out to my cousin from the picture i took at here wedding as really impressive.
    • So how long before we see Open Source and/or windows clones of iPhoto?
    • Re:iphoto (Score:5, Informative)

      by feldsteins (313201) <scott@@@scottfeldstein...net> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:30PM (#3792056) Homepage
      With iPhoto it's as easy to make an online album as it is to make a coffee table book as it is to get prints from Kodak. And the prints I got back from Kodak were very, very good. I sent 10 images shot with an Epson PhotoPC 3100Z [zdnet.com], without cropping, without adjustments of any kind. When they came back they were indistinguishable from film shots. I even ran them by two professional photographers I know who were very impressed as well. (To see some jpgs of the digitals I shot go here. Warning: I'm not a good photographer!) [mac.com]

      I paid $0.49 per 4x6. This seemed quite steep to me before I realized that I had the privelage of only sending photos that I already knew were print-worthy. Plus I had a chance to crop and color-correct them if I wished. When you figure it that way, it's not so outrageous. The prices for going from digital to photo paper printed are as follows:

      4x6 - $0.49
      5x7 - $0.99
      wallet (4) - $1.79
      8x10 - $3.99
      16x20 - $14.99
      20x30 - $19.99
  • Gallery (Score:3, Informative)

    by sloop (135178) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:18PM (#3792001) Homepage Journal
    Somewhat related, once you get all of those pictures digitized, the best tool for keeping track of them is:

    http://gallery.sourceforge.net/

    Apache+PHP and you're ready to go. Gallery is the best photo gallery/organizer package I've seen.
    • I haven't tried this, but I'll have a look. I use something else: I hacked PHPix into something I call PHPixDir, because PHPix didn't do what I need.

      You dump all your files into a directory structure, and PHPixDir produces a web site from them. The URLs it makes are carefully chosen so you can just do a "wget -mk site" to make a hard static copy of the website. It's also careful to tell browsers to locally cache pictures etc. This is so I can have pics up for family on slow net connections elsewhere in the world. I can also send them the odd CDR.

      PHPixDir is simple with some very well defined goals. Gallery looks like it does a lot more.

      Anyway, if you are interested, PHPixDir and a demo site can be found here. [mythral.org]
    • Gallery works seamlessly as a PostNuke module as well - Themes and user authentication carry over from the parent PostNuke site right into the gallery.
      It works well in standalone mode, but I recommend taking an extra 10 minutes and setting up Postnuke first.

      Cheers,
      Jim in Tokyo
      Feel free to poke around my own PostNuke/Gallery site (Gallery link on the left):
    • Very cool!

      I've used Marginal Hack's Album [marginalhacks.com] before, at the time it seemed to be the easiest and best solution. It is a Perl script that generates static html pages with the images you supply. It has template support so you can customize the way the gallery looks and it is popular enough that there are several decent templates already created. One feature I liked was the optional ability to create a thumbnail, a web sized pic and retain the link to the original full sized image.

      Gallery seems to do all this and more. One question I couldn't find in the docs, does Gallery dynamically resize images as the users request them or does it resize them as they are uploaded? Album brought my old linux box to its knees resizing the photos I fed it, I'd rather do that once than every time someone visited the page.

      Cool, maybe I'll get around to getting some more photos online, my family will thank you :)

    • I find web interfaces to be very awkward for photo albums. It separates out the various steps -- you download the images, you sort, crop, and rotate them, then you upload them (often forced to do so one-by-one), then you annotate them.

      You need a non-web interface to do this work, and then use XMLRPC or something similar to actually upload the image to the website.

  • don't only convert (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:18PM (#3792003)
    digital copies are great, but the archival properties of photographic processes ensure that they will make your pictures last far longer than whatever current technology you will need to convert from in 3 years.
    • by SEWilco (27983)
      "the pictures are always viewable"
      "archival properties of photographic processes"

      Wrong. Photo prints fade. Look at family color pictures from 1970. Black and white before then. And once it has faded, it is gone.

      • There are two advantages in archiving in digital form:
      • The digital copy can be refreshed perfectly by making a copy. If a CD-R will fade in 10 years, you can copy it every 5 years and never lose data.
      • When you get a DVD-R and CD-ROM drives start to vanish, copying your entire collection is certainly easier than making backups of your film prints. And your CD-R images will be easier to handle because they'll fit on fewer DVDs. Repeat with future technologies...
    • by stripes (3681) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @01:50PM (#3792398) Homepage Journal
      digital copies are great, but the archival properties of photographic processes ensure that they will make your pictures last far longer than whatever current technology you will need to convert from in 3 years.

      Er....maybe. Most color prints unless sealed under glass don't age well. Maybe ten to twenty years. Better then most inkjet prints, but still not great. The negitaves last longer...normally.

      Some negitaves, like the non-C41 color that Seattle Filmworks either sells, or use to sell dies very very quickly. Like in 3 years or so unless you put them in the freazer and are careful not to lot them get too humid.

      Even good negitaves, like the thought to be archival Fuji slides from the 70's are starting to suck. Bad.

      Quoting from some Apple propaganda: [apple.com]

      Yet the priceless collection of Greene's work--nearly 250,000 images, 3,000 just of Monroe--was literally fading from sight until his son, Joshua, found a way to digitally restore the vanishing images.

      Be careful of how archival you think reguar photos are. Sure you see a lot of old photos, but those are mostly silver haldide black and white which has much better archival properties then the dye baised C-41 and E-6 that almost all color stuff is these days.

      The only arcival color process is Kodachrome...and Kodachrome is rapidly vanishing. I think all pro speeds have been discontinued, and the mature speeds are going. Either that, or at least all pro speeds below ISO 100 are gone. No more Kodachrome 25. Of corse that's because not many people have a taste for that color palette anymore, perfering Fuji's Velvia or Provia, or Kodak's E100SW. Plus Fuji is stealing basically the entire slide market from Kodak...and pro slide shooters are slowly converting to digital SLRs anyway.

      Now that doesn't mean JPGs on a CD are going to automagically last 100 years either...but it is not as hard to think that if you recopy them every 5 years or so they will last...and if you stick the source code of something that converts JPG to a bitmap, and some documentation on the current C language...and JPG...maybe in 100 years it can be reconstructed even :-)

      (Ok, given the current popularity of JPG, it is hard to imagine you won't be able to open JPGs in a specilty program in 100 years! Still, help the historians out...include file format documents!)

      The propriatary RAW formats will be hard to open in just a few years though I think. So convert them to PNG...and make at least two CD's, on differnet dye types! Keep 'em out of the sun. Heck, keep one at home, one at work, and one at your parents house. A family alblum is the kind of thing relitaves love to be off site back up for.

      If you have film...keep it in a cool dry palce. Inspect it yearly. Think about getting a high quality scanner and spending time on the best shots. Just remeber though, film brings out more detail then any print...and a scanner can capture more detail then prints, but affordable scanners won't capture as much as the film has (I wouldn't print anything a Nikon 4000 has scanned at much more then 8x10...but you can print a very good 35mm picture *much* *much* *much* larger then that). After you scan, take care of the print, there will be a better scanner in a few years.

      Medimum and large format film folks? Your on your own...but you knew that already, didn't you?

  • A colour laser print will look decent, and should last if you laminate it. These services will be fairly cheap, and should be available at the local large photocopy shop.

    For a nicer picture, if I recall correctly, sublimation printing produces an image that looks a lot like a photograph, but I haven't seen the output from a sublimation printer in years, so my memory could be off.

    Lastly, you could just make a printout at fantastically high resolution and re-photograph with an ordinary camera to get a photo that will last decades or longer with minimum fuss. Be sure to use a tripod for this, as small movements will blur the image.

    Lastly, the most practical solution for the future is probably just to carry both digital and analog cameras. Use the digital camera for most things, and take a handful of old-fashioned pictures for the images you want to be there for your great-grandkids to see.

    As mentioned above, I haven't followed the higher-end printing options for a while. Does anyone have more up-to-date information on this?
    • For high end, the Phaser series that Xerox acquired from Tektronix were always the best (but look out on the supplies costs). More info can be found here -> http://www.officeprinting.xerox.com/perl-bin/produ ct.pl?mode=color. For the consumer, I find the HP 11** series to be the best for most folks. A nice twist here is the ability to insert camera media (CF and SM) directly into the printer and print from there. More info here -> http://products.hp-at-home.com/products/category.p hp?high_level_category_id=2&category_id=1
      • For high end, the Phaser series that Xerox acquired from Tektronix were always the best

        I would say around the high end for photo prints are things like the Fuji Frontear. Found in many photofinishers, like Ritz/Wolf in the USA. They vary in size from "large copy machine" to "won't fit ina normal size room. The paper is in light tight containers. It takes very little time to make a print, but about five minutes before it drys enough to come out of the machine.

        Normally they are used to scan a 35mm roll, and print it, but they can take CDs of images, CF cards, act as an FTP server, or other things depending on what the shop has payed for.

        If your original had enough resolution, it will look like a photograph, right down to being on the overly glossy paper 1 hour shops use, and the oversaturated stuff too. Still, it tends to be kind of cheap per print, and easy to find. And only around $300,000 if you want your own. Or maybe $70,000, I can never remember.

        There is a step up from that though. The Fuji tops out at 20x16 prints. Kodak makes or resells a "laser jet", which makes prints up to 8 feet wide, and a few 100 feet long. You need a light tight room because the paper has to be loaded in the dark.

        Both the Kodak and Fuji use more or less normal RC-type photo paper, and expose it with a laser (or array of lasers). Prints are exactly as durable as 35mm prints. Which is to say "much more then ink jet prints, but less then most people think".

        Even if somehow you think these prints are less durable then the "old way", remember that the is exactly how a lot of 35mm prints are made now!

    • What you'll also want to make sure of is the paper - it should be a PH-neutral archival-quality paper.
      On top of that, not all dye sub printing is archival - check into what museums use.

      Museums are in the business of making things last - they will be your best resource for this type of work.
      As for digitally-stored files, don't trust any one medium. If you insist on putting irreplacable images on a twenty-cent CDRom, do yourself a favor and burn a couple - then also copy them to a hard disk. Personally, I'd love to see a good system for printing the images out as machine-readable codes onto archival-quality paper in something like IBM's glyph format - I've seen 500 year old paper that was showed absolutely no signs of degradation - any longer than that and I think I've fulfilled my responsibility to posterity. (Not that my photos are any good.)

      One word of warning, a lesson learned the hard way: Do not use Zip disks for stuff you care about - I recently lost all of the pictures I took from a helecopter of the World Trade Center two years ago to a Zip disk that died the "click of death".

      As for old family albums, I have been working on scanning my girlfriend's family albums and it's amazing how much detail we've been able to get out of these pictures that were often the size of a couple of postage stamps. We've been making a slide show and putting it on video tape for family members to watch on their TVs as well - great for older members of the family. An online gallery that allows comments (I have one at http://mmdc.net) is a good tool for gathering "Who's that guy on the left?" type of information.

      The next stage is to remove the originals from the dangerous albums that they are in (the so-called "Magic" type albums with the sticky sheet and the plastic over them - they are probably the most damaging.) and place them in albums that won't accellerate their demise.

      Search on Google for dealers in archival supplies, like Light Impressions [lightimpre...direct.com]. You'll find a lot of information and resources online.

      Also, when dealing with really old black and white photos such as albumen prints and sometimes incorrectly-developed silver prints, if the image has faded away, it can often be brought back through chemical means - talk to a restorer, or at least, don't throw them away.

      Hope this helps -
      Jim in Tokyo

  • Distributed Albums (Score:3, Insightful)

    by peterdaly (123554) <petedaly@ix.ne3.14tcom.com minus pi> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:21PM (#3792015)
    I have recently seen a rise is "Distributed" online family albums. With things like Yahoo Groups, and whatever MSN's is (I refuse to get a passport account), families and friends are adding photo's to the same "virtual album" from all over the county. That is the "major revolution" I am seeing in the area.

    What I find even more interesting is techies arn't always the ones setting them up and using them. A lot of people who can barely use a digital camera are getting in on the act.

    Not sure if this helps or not, but places like Yahoo Groups work great for setting up albums with a short term storage outlook.

    -Pete
    • Damn, I think you solved a problem I've been worrying over. I said I would set up a site for my family, especially to help coordinate our family reunion. What are the other options besides Yahoo Groups? Are there any more focused options?

      • If you're willing to spend a little money, then you can get exactly what you want. We have a package [gambitdesign.com] specifically designed for families, and we'll set up any PHP/perl script on there that you want. You can have calendars, photo albums, forums, web-manageable news, and pretty much whatever else you want, and the package includes registration of the domain name you want, so you could get yourlastname.com or similar, then give everyone in your family an email address @yourlastname.com
  • by texchanchan (471739) <ccrowley@ g m a i l.com> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:22PM (#3792017)
    I'd like to see a worldwide snapshot database combined with post-911-level pattern recognition routines.

    Upload your grandmother's album and find out: Who is that standing there at the beach with Dad and Aunt Edna in 1952? The database project would be able to figure it out.

    What a boon for genealogists.

    (And, yes, a problem for people with something to hide about what they were doing in 1952 or who their ancestor was in 1876. But it's going to be a transparent society [kithrup.com] anyway, and we're going to have to get used to it.)
    • How well do facial pattern recognition software work on kids from a database of adult faces?

      Usually figuring out if this adult is the same as that adult is no problem... It's finding a picture of a kid that you know he's one of several adults... usually a big problem.

      Best way to solve it is to have pictures of two or more kids together. You can almost always figure out who's who by relative age.
    • I'm working on LAMP (linux/apache/mysql/php) solution myself to manage my photos.

      Some features I couldn't find easily in other software was the database stuff, marking a photo with who is in it, and being able to provide someone all the images they are in, easily, web application style. The other big feature is the creating quick easy webpages for posting the good ones. Lots of software does that, but I need to learn PHP better anyway.

      Being able to easily be sure what is backed-up and what isn't is something else I want it to do.

      Eventually, I'd like to pop the smart-media card in almost any machine I own, and click link which will download the pictures and store them some one intelligently (directory with todays date prob.) and identify they need to be cataloged... then while I'm at work, instead of READING SLASHDOT, I'll catalog my photos.

      I also like doing PHOTOMONTAGE with my digi-photos. (www.arcsoft.com)

      M@
  • There are several ways to do this, beyond the color inkjet/dye sub solutions. I've seen a number of photo shops that offer instant printing from disk/flas memeory/CDs. The results are satisfactory - it looks like a regular print, and cost competitive with color printers. I personally use a CF card and transfer the prints from my PC to it via a USB cardreader. A card and reader can be had for less than $50. I like it over CDRs because transfer times are faster, and with a $10 PCCard adpater, I can use it with my notebook as well.

    There are online services that let you upload images and then order prints, I've used OFTO and liked the results, but its just as cheap and faster to run to my nearest chain camera shop.

    Finally, Kinkos can make poster size copies on various media, including foamboard and canvas. They tend to be expensive, but offer some interesting printing options.
  • VueScan [hamrick.com] is a really great scanning package for Linux GTK, MacOS, or Win32. Cheap, too.
  • The question (Score:2, Insightful)

    by benh57 (525452)
    The question was: how do you make the process of scanning thousands of pictures in easier? Editor, printing is not a big deal. The original question is far more interesting - I don't really feel like individually placing 2500 photos on my flatbed scanner. Is there a hardware device to quickly scan photos?
  • by KernelHappy (517524) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:27PM (#3792039) Homepage
    Photos fade, tear, warp, discolor and get soggy. I have personally begun building an archive of family photos by scanning them. I am using a HP 5300C scanner, not complete crap but its definately not a professional scanner but it gets the job done. I figure something is better than nothing.

    I tend to save two copies of each image, one exactly as it is scanned, the other corrected and repaired if necessary.

    I have found one piece of software that is fairly nifty, the Canon Zoom Browser EX that came with my Canon G1 digital camera. It lacks some of the features I wish it had and sure it has a very foofy interface but it works well for previewing a couple thousand images and organizing them.

    I personally wish that there was a standard and widely used way of tagging each picture for archive and retrieval purposes. It would be nice to tag each picture with the date and names of people or scenes depicted in them. The ability to pull up every picture with great great great grandpappy in it would very handy. As it is now I have to name every picture with the date and the people depicted, then sort them into some arbitrary folder that more directly relates to me than to the overall family tree.
    • you can...

      instead of img003.jpg
      summer 1965 grandpaw-timmy-danny-and the boat at frelling lake.jpg

      Works great and work on any modern operating system incluging windows.
      makes sorting easy, and you dont need anything special to read the tags.
  • T o Digitize (Score:5, Informative)

    by miracle69 (34841) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:27PM (#3792041)
    Skip over the Scanning of the actual photo, and get a negative scanner.

    They work faster, better, and have some automation to them. Unfortunately, most 35mm negatives are chopped into blocks of four, but that will at least 1/4 your time spent monitoring the machine.

    If you switched to the newer APS film, the negative scanner can run through the whole row.

    Here [imaging-resource.com] is one that does both 35mm and APS. There are also other reviews on that site of different models.

    • If your a hobbyist photographer that shoots a lot of color film (slide or print) a negative/slide scanner can save you time and money. Rather than bring your film to a lab to have it developed and printed you can use a automated film processor which will cut down turn around time and in the long run the cost of developing celluloid. A good slide/negative scanner will make it easy to preview your work before having prints enlarged and cropped saving more time and money.

      I don't recommend this as an alternative for people who shoot B&W since color developing is a process, B&W developing is an art. Additionally developing and printing B&W is easier from a technical stand point if not an artistic one and the hardware involved is cheaper.
    • Is that you are scanning the film itself, rather than than a print made by some clueless photolab worker. It's always best to go from film rather than a print when scanning, if possible.
      Best bet for color accuracy and widest range of potential use is to scan the neg twice, once with as little adjustment in the scanner software as possible to keep and modify as needed later, then again, adjusting it to get the output you want right now.
      As for organization software, I thought Canon Zoom Ex Browser was nice. Then I upgraded to OS X and iPhoto. Amazing.
  • by gregbaker (22648) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:28PM (#3792043) Homepage

    I recently started scanning pictures with the intent of creating an HTML-based gallery on a CD that could be passed around.

    The best gallery creator I found was Curator [sourceforge.net]. It takes directories of pictures and creates static HTML from arbitrarily-customizable templates. You can create description files for each picture and have them incorporated into the pages. The templates are written in a combination of HTML and Python.

    Creating the templates takes some doing, but after that, everything's dead simple.

    • I like Gallery [sourceforge.net]. You end up with mostly static pages, except for a couple of the fancy options, and you can add your pictures remotely through your web browser or a companion desktop program, and alter names, captions, rotation, and the entire look and feel of the site in real time online.
  • What we need is a cheap device in to which photos or negatives can be fed en masse. I think negatives would be better as I'm sure there will be fewer problems with colour reproduction. Scanning photos with a flatbed is slow, time consuming and annoying. Does anybody know of a solution?

    Personally, I'm not ready to give up physical photos. I think they're the best presentation medium. Certainly the most universal. Most of the suggestions that people make for moving digital pictures in to the physical world don't result in the same quality of production.

    What does it take to print a digital picture on photographic quality paper/card with a matte or gloss finish and comparable picture quality to tradition photos? How much does it cost?
    • What does it take to print a digital picture on photographic quality paper/card with a matte or gloss finish and comparable picture quality to tradition photos? How much does it cost?

      Uhm, $0.26 per picture for 4x6 at Walmart.com, and the prints are very good. I like them better than ophoto and a couple of other online printing places I've tried. I still have a nice inkjet (Epson Photo Stylus) which prints just as nice, because, even though more expensive to operate (paper and ink costs), the convenience of printing out a picture NOW is very nice. Disclaimer: inkjet prints will fade over time, keep 'em behind glass if you can, and definately keep the original files! At any rate, whether you print them on a good inkjet or have them printed at a commercial site like vendor, the prints will look every bit as good as "traditional photos".
  • Gimp (Score:2, Informative)

    by berzerke (319205)
    When digitizing my photos, I've found Gimp to be really helpful. Especially the image->colors->curves (although this takes practice and patience) and image->color->levels. The levels auto button does an excellent job, although sometimes I still have to manually tweak it. The clone tool has also proven useful. And gimp is open-source, free, and available for windoze users too.

    Also helpful are some of the scanner tutorials out on the web. My scans improved considerably after reading just one. I wish I had read it before I bought my scanner. I would have bought a different scanner if I had.
  • by peterdaly (123554) <petedaly@ix.ne3.14tcom.com minus pi> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:32PM (#3792064)
    I have an Epson 785EXP, complete with internal compactflash reader and LCD screen. (not bad for $300!)

    I prints photolab quality photos on Epson paper, with a advertised lifespan of 25 years. I have figured I can print digital photo's for much lower cost than at the local mall, although I don't know if it can compete with online printing.

    I can print photo's directly from my compactflash cards, with previews of the photo on the LCD screen without intervention on a PC...pc doesn't even have to be hooked up. The LCD is a $99 addon. Amazon has the Epson Stylus Photo 785EPX Inkjet Printer [amazon.com]
    for about $190. I have been absolutely astounded by the quality of the output.

    May be worth looking into.

    -Pete
  • One otehr thought - get a high quality dedicated slide/negative scanner if you plan to digitize a lot of images. The advantages include:

    1. You get more of the information from the original medium - printing invariably loses some of the details, especially those done by instant photo places. Prints also fade in the light.

    2. You get all of your images digitized - even ones for which you've lost prints.

    3. You can continue to shoot slides, which offer better quality images that negatives. (Ultimately, its the eye behind the viewfinder that counts, not the equipment.)
  • Let me tell you.... If you do go the scanner/graphics software route, it's a lot of work.

    My wife an I have a Family History Project online: The Arbutus Project [internetgenealogy.com] (very slashdot susceptable! please go easy!). Try going here [internetgenealogy.com] to get to the picture index. We've collected genealogical data, as well as choice scanned photos from our own photo albums and that of family members. Audio interviews are just starting, and video is a few years away (my computer's too wimpy)

    On of the really cool things is if you do have an indexing system for your whole family (something that comes with a genealogy project, but is a lot of baggage with just a photo project) is that all your families photos become seamless. You can see a photo album for yourself, or for your wife, or for your kids, or for your grandfather, with just a few mouse clicks.

    Today's pictures aren't much better than 300dpi, and I've got an old Microtek E6 scanner (bought new, just before the prices dropped). I scan at 300dpi for new, higher for old (when pictures were much better resolution, try looking at them with a magnifying glass.) Try not to cringe if you happen to get those awful square early colour photos with the bumps or hexagonal cells from the 70's. Save 'em all as PNGs, store those to CD for later, then batch them all to a good web size for online viewing.

    It is a LOT of work, and I'd suggest that you focus on only the select shots from your albums, perhaps just the best 10%. Most photos are junk anyways. You don't really really need that pic of the cute neighbour kid your grandad grew up with.

    Expect it to take several months of work just to get the photos scanned and organized in any fashion.
    • You may not NEED that "pic of the cute neighbour kid your granddad grew up with", but what if it turns out that kid was Albert Einstein? That's why that sort of photo is worth preserving -- it might contain data you don't YET realise is valuable.

  • Photo paper (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jpm242 (202316)
    My local photo shop which is also the best one in the city can print from any digital source. They have the technilogy to do it. You can also have photos printed from the web. Upload your images and have them mailed to you.

    In fact, they've switched to digital in the lab. If you develop a 35mm roll, thye will scan it and print from the scanned images using their digital enlarger. The result, using a good 3.1 megapixel camera is indiscernible from traditionnal pictures for sizes up to 8x10.

    Have a great 3 day week-end for the other fols up there. And the store is LLLozeau in Montreal, QC.

    JP
  • Film and print life (Score:3, Informative)

    by LetterJ (3524) <j@wynia.org> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @12:45PM (#3792122) Homepage
    Many geeks (who are not also photo geeks) don't realize that color print film and color slide film don't have the longest life unless you take very good care of them. Black and white film and prints that are washed to archival standards will last longer than you, but color film and prints can degrade quickly. Acid (in non acid-free papers, UV, light and heat are the enemy of photos. If you want your negatives to last, store them sealed in plastic (like ziplock) in a freezer.

    If you're looking to make prints on an inkjet printer, be aware that MOST of the inks sold for inkjets will fade VERY quickly. Accidently leave them in the car on the passenger seat and they'll be totally washed out when you leave work. Several printers are starting to have archival inks, which when combined with archival paper will last as long as color prints and some will last longer.

    Prints from digital are decent from places like ezprints.com, ofoto.com, adorama.com (my favorite), snapfish.com and others.

    For people who normally would shoot 35mm or APS and get nothing but 4x6's and an occasional 5x7, the consumer digital cameras are a replacement. Not because 3 megapixel is equivalent to 35mm, but because most consumers don't take advantage of even the resolution that 35mm uses, much less medium or large format film.

    I consider the storage and organization of a photo archive a sort of separate problem from web and print albums and photo sharing. An archiving solution will let you find a file or negative easily and make a decision based on some sort of thumbnail or contact sheet. From an archive, photos can be pulled to be shared in albums, sent in email, posted to a website, printed for framing etc.

  • For digital images, whether scanned from film or pure digital, there are two good options for making prints.

    Epson Photo printers like the 1280 or 2000p give photo-quality output with longevity comparable to most color prints. I know a number of pro photographers (including me) that sell images output from these. A few people have had problems with color-shift due to ozone, but properly framed and cared for (e.g., not left hanging in the sun, same as with a regular photographic print) they will last.

    For really important digital images, get a LightJet print. Starting with a digital image (whether scanned or pure digital), it uses lasers to expose the image on normal photographic paper like Fuji Crystal Archive. At that point it is a regular photographic print, with the same longevity. The process isn't cheap, though, but the quality is unbeatable. Some big-name pros sell their images only in this format.

    One thing to consider though is that no color images have the longevity of those old B&W prints. For current photo albums, having digital copies of important images made *before* the images degrade is important -- they aren't going to last.
  • by prisoner (133137) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @01:06PM (#3792196)
    what digital format will still be readable in 25 years? I've had a couple digital cameras already, the first was a sony mavica - the floppy disk transfer was very appealing then. It shot everything in .jpg format. Will I still have to keep an ancient copy of photoshop running on windows98/2000/XP just to look at my circa 1996 pictures in 2025?

    • what digital format will still be readable in 25 years?

      For pictures, JPEG and GIF. What determines if a standard survives is how open and widespread it is. ASCII is the ultimate example. It's 35 years old, still readable on any computer that an average person is likely to use (and virtually all other computers as well), and is in no danger of going away any time soon. I have no doubt that ASCII will be readable in 2025, and in 2125 as well.

      As for JPEG and GIF, they're also very widespread and open. GIF is useless for photographs, so stick with JPEG and you'll be fine. When I digitized my pictures from a trip to Europe in 1997, I made up a simple HTML "album", with pictures and descriptions; it's just as viewable now as it was five years ago. And since HTML is just annotated ASCII, I seriously doubt it will become unviewable in my lifetime. Note that web browsers will display pages that are local files (i.e. not on the net), so setting up a local web server is not really necessary.
    • "what digital format will still be readable in 25 years?"

      Open formats will. Here's an idea: save your pictures in an open format and along with them the description of the format and some libraries that implement reading it.

      Then, when formats change too much and you have trouble using your old pictures with moderm software, implement a tiny program that converts from the old format to a new, supported, open format.

      Of course, if by then open formats will be illegal, you'll still be able to convert the old format to a raw one, and hope to find an application that supports raw pictures...

  • It to avoid any commercial software solution.

    If your digital family album is not based on open standards (jpeg for example) it will be useless and completely lost in a much shorter time. There are plenty of "special" family album packages out there, that REQUIRE their viewer to see them.. nice now, but worthless in 95 years when that windows/intel X86 based software package is inserted in a Linux based Quantium computer (Yes linux will be around then... that's the beauty of having the blueprints!)

    Me? I store everything as TIFF files. there is no encoding, no compression and a moron with a rock can figure out how to read/display that format.... That is for archival.. distruibution to family is Jpeg + simple HTML templates.. anyone can view them no matter what they own for a PC.
  • The http://cat-photo.com/ project aims to:

    1) Provide tools for increasing productivity in archiving digital photos, both scanned and those taken by digital cameras, together with descriptions and other information about the photo (-> use as little time per photo as possible).
    2) Provides a well defined and easy readable file format that makes it easy to preserve photos (like family photos) for many decades (and still be compatible with future computer equipment).
    3) Provides tools to publish photos (and associated textual information).

    Today, there are Win32 tools, php tools, Linux commandline tools and java-based tools available from this project.

    Currently, we seek java developers that are willing to help our java-based GUI productivity tool to reach a state where it can be released for the average end-user.

    Dybdahl.
  • I just finished reading an interesting book that is somewhat related, called "Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper" ( http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0375726217/ [amazon.com] ).

    The book discusses how libraries are "archiving" old newspapers and books using microfilm and, now, digital techniques. The problem is, in most cases, they are throwing away the originals which have some nice properties (they are more tactile, look better, etc.) because they got so excited about the new technology and were happy they didn't have to set aside space for the old materials. Of course, it turns out that most of the microfilm is deteriorating now, and the original digital versions are low resolution and on obsolete platforms.

    While the book deals with archiving our collective paper-based history, some of the lessons in there are relevant to archiving your own personal photographic history. The biggest lesson--don't make the mistake of throwing away the originals because you have this fancy new digital version!

  • by Seanasy (21730) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @01:23PM (#3792244)

    Not to sound too negative, but how important are your photos, really? Why are saving them? Who are you saving them for?

    Unless you're really into it, don't worry about saving all your photos. In 100 years most of them won't be worth anything to anyone. Pick out the few that are most important or representative of your family and its history. Then, have archival prints made by a reputable service bureau and store them to archival or close to archival standards.

    A family record can be an interesting thing. And, it can even be historically significant in some circumstances. But snapshots are mostly for people in them. Don't waste your time worrying about something so transient. Making moments in the here and now is more important than waxing nostalgic about the past.

    • That's a perfectly fair point of view, but people like you aren't the ones I'm archiving for. I'm making a small effort now to preserve the history of our family for those few people in our lineage 100 years from now who have an active sense of history and who understand, in a similar way to my own, the importance of not losing the past. In a similar vein, I praise the efforts of like-minded family members of mine who lived 100 years ago.

      This is a process, and a job, handed down from generation to generation amongst people who understand the need for it. I fully expect that the majority of people in our family tree 100 years from now will have little more than a passing interest in my efforts. That's not what's important to me.

    • I used to think like that .. then in the period of one year ... I lost 3 good friends. Once to a suicide, one to a bad liver, and one to a car crash.

      I have .. to date .. ZERO pictures of the 4 of us together .

      There we're pleanty taken , but they got lost, or were ruined by water/snow/rain/sun/dog/cat/sister/parents fill in the blank.

      The whole point of pictures is that they capture a memory for you .. they save it .. you can look at it years later and think 'god, i remember that day .. i can STILL smell the heat , it was horribly muggy out.'

      There isn't a day i don't regret not having photos of my friends who are gone.

      so - to answer your question, If i had to worry about what to pull out of a burning house, a box of photo albums, or my computer .. its gonna be the photo albums. Hardware can be replaced, memories can't.

      [however .. i HAVE switched to 35mm slr digital media as of about 4 years ago .. its really the way to go .. every few months I burn a cd of my photos/art etc .. and make 3 additional copies of it .. one for my mom, one for my dad .. and one extra for me incase my 'working' copy dies. (they go in my safty deposit box ... so i dont fall into the saving all your data in one building rule.)]

  • One problem I have with moving towards digital photography and email and the like is that we are moving into mediums where storage is most often measured over the terms of years, not centuries. We can analyze history by reading letters and seeing photographs of previous eras. Will citizens of the future be able to do the same for our age?
  • Digital is King! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by snevig (555801)
    I waited years to buy a digital camera. I wanted a digital camera that took pictures as good quality (or better) as 35mm. The Canon D30 is the first digital camera that has received critical acclaim [steves-digicams.com] for its ability to take photos which surpass the quality of 35mm cameras. So I bought one of these cameras and a nice 28-135mm lens and entered the digital realm. I also bought a 1GB IBM microdrive for the camera which holds about 800 photos. This camera takes absolutely fantastic photos. I use a very inexpensive inkjet printer, the Canon BJC-8200 to print photos on glossy photo paper and visitors to my home are astounded when I tell them that all the photos hung around my home were taken with a digital camera and printed on an inkjet printer. They look at least as good as traditional photos.

    There are several advantages to digital photos over 35mm:

    1. Since my microdrive holds 800 photos and each digital photo has no real cost to me (besides a small amount of battery power), I will often take several photos of the same subject / scene whereas with a 35mm I might only take one photo because of the cost of film.

    2. Before printing a digital photo, you have the opportunity to crop, enhance and edit it. While you can certainly crop, enhance and even edit 35mm photos, it takes far less time and money to do so with digital. I use Adobe Photoshop for this purpose. Besides providing tools to do simple enhancements, Photoshop also has many built-in filters (and more available third-party) which are a lot of fun to play with.

    3. Digitial albums are extremely easy to organize. I use directories to create albums. I create a new folder under the "My Photos" folder for each new event. I use the naming convention "YYYY-MM-DD Event Name" for each subfolder, so it's easy to browse the albums in chronological order.

    4. Digital photos are far more permanent than prints. Formats may change over time, but you'll always be able to convert to the new formats. The key is to keep copies of both the original photos AND the ones you've spent the time editing. I backup all my photos onto CD. While you only have one copy of a 35mm negative, you can easily create as many copis of your photos CDs as you like and share these with friends and family members or just store them for safekeeping.

    5. Digital photos are much easier to share. I live a great distance from the rest of my family and use my photos to help stay in touch. When I first got my digital camera, I kept my online photos at zing.com. Unfortunately, they went the way of the dodo about a year ago. They made a deal with ophoto.com before unplugging and all my albums were transferred, but I didn't like ophoto's interface all that much and eventually found a new home for my photos at ImageStation [imagestation.com]. It's a free service and it's owned by Sony, so hopefully it will prove to have some staying power. If you're interested, please visit my photos [imagestation.com]. I have over a hundred albums online - I think this one [imagestation.com] is the best.

    I also started digitizing my older 35mm and APS photos using a film scanner. A film scanner produces far better quality digital photos than a flatbed scanner does, so consider investing in one if you want to digitize / preserve your old photos. I can recommend the Canon CanoScan FS 2710 that I bought. It was inexpensive and besides producing much higher quality photos than a flatbed scanner, it's also a lot faster!
  • If you do archive your pictures, take some time and write a description of each picture. Your children will thank you.

    I had to go through my mother's estate a while back, and she had pictures from her mother. My maternal grandmother was born in 1900 - many of these pictures had no detail as to WHO these people were, or WHY they were important enough to photograph. It was really heartbreaking to look at these pictures and not know it they were important to anybody else in the family.

    No matter how you archive your photos, do those who come after a favor - write date, place, and a description on the pictures. Be that in magic marker on the back of the print, laserprint in the album, an HTML file on the CDR, or a comment tag embedded in the PNG, do something to capture that context!

    Personnally, I wish that my cameras could embed the GPS location on the print, in addition to the date and time as they do now - even better would be to have a flux-gate compass to get bearing data.

    OK, so I may be a bit obsessive (I've spent over $300 in film and developing costs for a 2 day trip!).

    And I concur with others - if you are serious, get a film scanner. I use a Minolta Dimage Scan Dual II, which is a USB device and is supported by Vuescan under Linux. Then I Gimp the pics to clean them up, and save them as 3600x2400 24bpp PNGs.
  • I've been working on this over the past couple of years. I bought a Minolta Dimage scan dual II film scanner(they're pretty cheap on ebay these days) which can scan whole roll of crappy APS film (I had about 50 rolls) in one shot. For 35mm it will do 6 negatives at a time. The resolution is pretty good, but you have to do some color correction still (like they do when they make prints). I've archived almost 3000 pictures this way so far.

    I've got a lot of prints without negatives, for those I scan with a flatbed.

    I always scan at the highest resolution, then I batch convert everything down to different resolutions, and archive everything with dates/keyword/etc. to a database using a PHP image gallery I wrote.

    It's very time consuming, but nice to be able to find images so easily.
  • by PhantomHarlock (189617) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @03:26PM (#3792770)
    If you want hard copies of your digital photos, I suggest making them exactly like your 35mm prints - use an online printing service such as ofoto.com, [ofoto.com] shutterfly.com [shutterfly.com] or photoaccess.com. [photoaccess.com]

    These services burn your digital image on to ordinary film paper [photoaccess.com] - the same stuff they use to make your prints from negatives in the lab. How do they do this? Instead of exposing the print paper to a darkroom enlarger with your negative in it, they scan the paper with a cathode ray tube (yea same technology as your monitor) and the results are actually better than a negative transfer because there isn't a second lens in the darkroom to distort and soften your image from the negative, the image goes from colored electrons to the paper directly.

    as for reccomendations, I've had good service with all three, Ofoto and Shutterfly use Kodak professional and/or Kodak digital imaging paper (ofoto is owned by Kodak) and Photoaccess uses Fuji Crystal Archive paper, and also offers a beautiful matte finish paper that I use when I'm selling prints.

    As for online photo display for the web, I would heartily reccomend Gallery, [jacko.com] which is a set of PHP scripts. I have modified this software to allow print sales of my photographs. Photoaccess and all the other companies have online sharing of albums themselves, but their interfaces are mostly terrible and the preview images are way too small and lossy. (they have to go small to handle the traffic, I don't blame them) so I have my own web galleries, but I print through them.

    ---Mike

    • Also, a quick followup. I didn't give my reasoning for using this method. I am also very experienced with high end inkjet printing, and to get archival inkjet prints with vibrant colors is very difficult and expensive, especially when you add up all the extra costs. The Epson 2000P is a good printer if you want to try this, it's a 6-color pigment based inkset rather than a dye based ink. However, the materials and the ink are quite expensive, as we all know that's how printer manufacturers make their money, by jacking up the recurring costs of the inks. Both the paper and the ink are extremely important for longevity, you can't use archival ink on any old inkjet paper, if the paper is not PH neutral it may slowly eat the inkset, or vice versa. There are also third party archival inksets and papers for other epson inkjet printers such as the 1270 and 1280, in particular, visit John Cone's website, Inkjet Mall. [inkjetmall.com] John makes third party inksets for Epson printers for archival printing. One inkset replaces the color inks with 4 or 6 grey tones for printing of archival and true-toned B&W images. Other than that, your best bet for hassle-free off the shelf archival printing is the Epson 2000P with heavyweight archival matte paper.

      I still use inkjet for when I need instant prints (I have an Epson 1270 wide format 6 color printer) but I never ever sell them, because even when framed and sealed away from moving air, the 1270 prints won't last as long as photoaccess' prints on Fuji Crystal Archive Paper.

      To learn about all the gotchas and get started with high end inkjet printing, check out the Epson Inkjet Mailing List on lebenlists, which actually looks like it's been migrated to a Yahoo group. [yahoo.com]

  • Accessibility (Score:3, Informative)

    by asv108 (141455) <alexNO@SPAMphataudio.org> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @03:28PM (#3792774) Homepage Journal
    About a year ago a relative of mine was diagnosed with terminal cancer so for her birthday I decided to go through the task of converting all the family photos from 3x5 to digital. We still use the prints in the family rooms but the CD-ROM was great for sharing because you can just send one out to everyone for very little expense. When all was said and done, I was able to send out a full CD-ROM of high-res family photos to 20 relatives for under $30 and a days worth of work. Most of whom would never have seen any of the pictures otherwise.
  • by nedron (5294) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @03:45PM (#3792836) Homepage
    If people were really interested in archiving their pictures, they would shoot film and have a Kodak Photo CD [kodak.com] made at the same time. This gives you both a physical storage medium (modern film stocks are incredibly stable) and an electronic version. If you're happy with the resolution of digital cameras, you could ask for a Picture CD [kodak.com] which is cheaper than Photo CD, but not as high a storage resolution and uses a lossy compression format (jpeg) instead of the proprietary (but immensely better) Image PAC format.

    Picture CD gives you 1.5 megabinary pixels of resolution, while a Photo CD gives you multiple resolutions on a single CD ranging from 24 kilobinary pixels to 6 megabinary pixels. Pro Photo CD has a maximum resolution of 24 megabinary pixels! And keep in mind that this is electronically scanned from the original negative or slide. One couldn't possibly hope to duplicate this at home.

    Now, if you have existing prints for which you have no negatives or slides, then you need to scan at the highest resolution you can and store it in a non-lossy format, high bit-depth format. Note that this is for poor man's "archiving". If you just want to store a representation of the picture to use for printing or something, then you could use a low end compression algorithm like JPEG.

  • gallery (Score:3, Informative)

    by wobblie (191824) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @05:08PM (#3793118)
    gallery [apt-get install gallery] is a fantastic tool for organizing digital photos. Check it out.
  • Done it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Saturday June 29, 2002 @05:13PM (#3793133) Homepage Journal
    We've been through and scanned every family photograph dating back to 1890 (yes, I do mean 18). Consequently I've been able to give every member of the family a CD with all the photographs, and some of the older, more faded photographs we've been able to electronically enhance.

    Advantages - everyone has a copy of all the photographs, and digital images won't degrade. I'd strongly recommend it. And yes, provided oyu've got the negatives, negative scanners are better.

  • by Prof.Phreak (584152) on Saturday June 29, 2002 @11:47PM (#3794256) Homepage
    Get a decent scanner, etc., and every day, digitize some pictures (I did around 50-500 per day). In a few weeks/months, you'll have your whole collection. Scan at the max resolution (the ones that create 100MB or more images), and then turn them into HUGE jpeg. JPEG is lossy, but if images are sufficiently huge and resolution is good, the lossiness is not really a big issue (and it's relatively space efficient than lossless formats).

    I wrote my own software for managing the collection (creating viewable size pictures, thumbnails, etc.), and so far, the best way to organize them is in a directory structure like /YYYY/MM/DD/ so that you can get to any specific day easily, and since you usually don't have that many pictures for any specific day, it manages it quite nicely.

    Biggest issue so far is space. I may be living in the past, but having some important directory take up 40% of a HUGE hard drive is kind of unsettling. Backups are also a pain, it takes many CD-Rs to store everything, and even with DVDs, it would still be a major pain requiring several DVDs.

    The best parts are that you can easily share it with your family, just startup a web-server and have your family browse through the thing. You can also combine it with other media, for example, my collection has digitized home movies (MPEG format), files, etc.,

    There is no worry about it outlasting technology, since I'm sure I'll move it over to the newer machines/technology as those become available. The family will maintain the whole collection. You also don't throw away (shread or burn) the originals, so in case something horrible does happen, you still have some physical backup.

In specifications, Murphy's Law supersedes Ohm's.

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