How To Organize Your Family Photos-Step Two

Posted: 9 years ago | By: Christine Somers | In: Life Management | Read Time: 3 minutes, 17 seconds

[Mom & Dad at 300dpi}

Last Wednesday I wrote about the prep work necessary for organizing your family photographs. The next step in your organizational journey is to scan your photos. There are two ways to get it can do it or have someone else do it. When I say someone else, I am talking about one of the multiple companies advertised on-line. First the disclaimer: I haven't used an on-line scanning company. 

The on-line companies give a variety of reasons for turning to them instead of making scanning a DIY project. They tout the ease and quality of using a professional service to scan your "memories".  Pricing varies based on individual companies. Scancafe provides an á la cart menu with each media priced individually while PhotoBin offers a Photo Pack price based on type of media and quantity. Photo restoration, videotape transfer and photo books are additional services provided beyond basic scanning. If you don't have the time or patience to scan all you photographs, this may be the option for you. 

I made the decision to scan my pictures for a couple of reasons. I am reluctant to let my photos out of my sight and the quantity of photos I have to scan would be expensive.  To start out I purchased a Canon CanoScan 9000F instead of using my 3-in-one Canon printer.  It's optical resolution for film on the CanoScan 9000F is 9600dpi; that is more than sufficient for my needs. The scanner sits next to my desktop at home for ease of use. I scan 10 to 12 photos a day depending on my schedule. On rainy Saturday, I may scan more while listening to one of my favorite podcasts.  Another reason I chose to scan my photos instead of outsourcing is I prefer organizing with the hard copy in my hand. The scanning companies suggest you organize your photographs after they are scanned instead of before and truthfully I am old school. Organize hard copies first and then scan. 

Regardless of who takes on the task of scanning, you will need to decide at what dpi you want to scan your photographs. To answer that question you will need to think about what you are going to do with your pictures. The higher your DPI, Dots Per Inch-refers to the number of dots of ink used per inch to create an image of a physical page, the better your photograph will look when printed out. What this means is if you are scanning your photos for archival purposes, to electronically share with a friend or if you only want to print them 1:1 then a 300dpi is good. If you want to print out a photo at double the size then you would be better off with an image scanned at 600dpi.  

Why not scan all photos at the highest resolution? The higher the resolution the longer it takes to scan an image and the more space it takes up. You could end up spending a great deal of money on storage space for images that you will never print out or never print out larger than 1:1.. The question is difficult to answer because you are trying to anticipate what you may want to do with a photograph in the future. I find that the majority of my images warrant scanning at 300dpi but when I run across one that is particularly important to me, I scan at a higher dpi. The professionals don't "over' scan, Scancafe uses 600dpi while PhotoBin uses 300dpi. Keep in mind that scanning a low-resolution image at high dpi can make the photograph look worse. 

Next Wednesday, I will blog about storing your electronic images. If you have any thoughts on dpi, please share.


Nugget: If you want more information on resolution and dpi, check out, National Geographic's helpful explanation on the technical side of photography.