When fire, floods and other natural disasters strike, after making sure family members and pets are safe, the most common personal belongings saved are photographs. Today there's a new way to make sure your precious memories are safe. Digitize them! Once digitized, you can make as many copies as you like, storing them in different locations for safekeeping.
There are essentially two ways to digitize your photographs. The first involves using a quality flatbed scanner. If you don't happen to own one, you could take your photos to many photography studios or to copy shops like OfficeMax or Kinko's.
Scanning photographs is a relatively simple process. You will need to remove the photograph from a frame so it can be placed in contact with the scanner's glass. The scanning software should be set to 300dpi (dots per inch) or higher. As long as it is a quality print with a smooth surface, the default scanner settings should produce a near perfect copy of the original. If the print is faded or if the surface is textured, soiled, or otherwise less than perfect, you may need to use a professional restoration service to get a quality copy.
If for some reason the photograph can't be removed from its frame, possibly because it has stuck to the glass, then your only option is to copy it using either a film or digital camera. If you use a film camera, then you would want to have the film scanned to get it into a digitized form. Many flatbed scanners now have attachments for scanning film.
Trying to copy a photograph with a camera can be a tricky task. Where the scanner provides its own light evenly across the print, when you copy a photograph with a camera, you'll need to light it carefully. Copy stands typically have either 2 or 4 lights on either side to provide even illumination. Particularly if the photo is still in a frame and covered by glass, it may be necessary to call on a professional who will use Polarizing filters on their lenses and their lights to overcome reflections.
Once you have your photographs digitized, make extra copies of those files on quality CDs and/or DVDs. Then store the extra copies in a safe deposit box, with family and/or with friends. Compared to the cost of losing those precious memories, the cost of digitizing them and making extra discs for storage is a small price to pay.
If you're concerned about putting your old photos at risk by scanning or photographing them, just remember that the National Geographic Society has scanned hundreds of thousands of photographs, many of which were over 100 years old and quite valuable! So, it's probably safe to say that compared to all of the other risks we take with our precious memories, digitizing them is pretty low on the list.
In fact, digitizing your photographs is without question the best way to ensure you'll always have those memories around for generations to come!
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