Most people today can still look back through several generations of family photos and some of us have family photos that go back nearly to the beginnings of photography. These photos are our window to the past and they are a direct connection to ancestors that we may never have even met. For example, the woman in the photo at right is my maternal grandmother and though I don't recall ever meeting her (though I think I did a young child), I am fascinated in looking at her face and knowing I'm related to her.
The problem is that most of the photos in our albums and framed on living room walls are one-of-a-kind memories. The negatives--if there ever were negatives--are long since lost and the prints we have are often fading and showing sings of damage.
The great news is that you can halt the decline of your family photos and, in fact, preserve and restore them nicely, with very little effort. If you have a flatbed scanner, it takes only a few seconds to scan a photographic print; in a few hours of free time you can probably scan most of your family albums. My suggestion is to start with the earliest photos and get them "digitized" and protected and then move forward through time. Don't worry about restoring each image immediately, just get them into your computer. Be sure to scan them at a good resolution (300dpi or higher) so that you can make quality prints from them later.
As you scan the images, try to title them as accurately as possible with name, date, location, etc. Then, when you finish a night's session, burn those files to a backup cd so that you have digital copies outside of your computer. If you don't own a scanner (and you should, they're under $100--a good holiday gift!), then take your family photos to a local camera shop that will scan them for you while you wait. That way your photos are never out of your sight. Do *not* mail your family photos to a mail-order lab or you may never see them again.
In a future entry I'll talk about restoring your family images--it's easier than you think. If you're interested in learning how to retouch family photos check out Katrin Eissman's excellent book Photoshop Restoration and Retouching.
Beautiful San Francisco
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