Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Lots of Photos? Not sure how to start?

In my job as consultant for Heritage Makers, I often get asked for advice and directions on where and how to start publishing your photos when you have so many.  Now, like never before, people have an abundance of photos, and most people don't even print them up.  All their memories and histories are lying dormant, just waiting to be lost and forgotten.  Forever.

At the same time, when you're staring hundreds (or thousands) of photos in the face, it's not exactly the easiest undertaking!

So let me share some advice with you that I've shared with others.  Breaking down the process into manageable pieces is vital.  And you'll be SO HAPPY with the result.  It's very definitely time worth spending.  Here are some tips to help you tackle your mountain (or hard drive) of photos.

I will outline my recommendations and add in a few things that I've seen others do.  The most important thing is that you find what works for YOU, what makes the most sense to YOU.  It can be hard to follow someone else's system if it doesn't click for you in your brain.

Find out what you have.  Enlist some help if that makes it easier.  I recommend sorting photos by year.  One of my clients prefers to sort hers by event (such as Christmases through the years, trip to Bahamas, etc.).  If you have printed photos, put them in manila envelopes or boxes.  LABEL the envelopes/boxes with the year.  (These will obviously need to be scanned in order for you to publish them digitally.)  If you have digital photos, I suggest putting them in folders on your computer.  Be as specific as you can, because it will help as you go through and find what you need.  The way I do it is I have a folder for each year.  Then, for example, inside the folder labeled 2010, I have more folders "Jan. 2010," "Feb. 2010," etc.  I have a client who was overwhelmed at organizing her photos because she said she hadn't tagged any of the photos, meaning she hadn't changed the names of the digital photo files to say who is in the photos and when they were taken.  You *can* do that if you want to, but it would be SO MUCH WORK, and I really think it's unnecessary.  First of all, when you take a picture, that picture (jpg file) is assigned a number.  If you leave them as numbers, they will always be in chronological order because they'll be in numeric order on your computer.  If you rename them, then they will be re-ordered in your folders in alphabetical order.  They may be harder to find if you don't remember what you called them.  Second, the whole purpose in DOING SOMETHING with your photos is to get them out of just digital form and bring them to life!!  When you place your photos in a Heritage Makers book, you can tell their stories THERE.  Just organize your photos in a way that you can know where to find them when you start putting them into a Heritage Makers storybook or scrapbook page.  All of the details will be in the book.     

I have a client who has about 30 photos of her parents.  In that case, every single one of those is the BEST photo.  She wants to save and use them all, whether they are a little blurry or faded or whatever.  They are ALL the best and worth saving and publishing.  If you have 30 photos of your child at the park last Tuesday, I recommend choosing your favorite 2 or 3 or 4.  Don't be afraid to not use some of the photos you've taken.  In this digital age, we are often in the habit of taking as many photos as we want so that we can be sure to get a good shot.  But then we feel like we need to use them all, which is not the case.  Stick with the best ones, your favorites.  It will help you not feel as overwhelmed, and it will streamline your final product.

It can be overwhelming when you know you have 20 books you need to make to get caught up on the photos you've taken over the last however-many-years.  But all you have to do is start with ONE.  Here, again, you'll need to decide what works for you.  I would recommend starting with whatever is the easiest to remember, or the most fun to put together.  Maybe you remember last year the easiest.  Maybe the Disneyland trip from a few years ago will be the most fun to create.  Or maybe you want to start with the oldest pictures you have and move forward in order.  Do whichever makes the most sense to you and will be easiest.  And only focus on that ONE book.  Don't think about how you have to do 20.  Just do ONE!     

Heritage Makers offers several different possibilities for photo publishing.  Hardbound books are very popular and can easily be made as family yearbooks (one book per year) or event books (graduation, trip to Mexico, etc.).  Hardbound books come in many sizes and you can add pages up to 99.  Some people prefer making individual scrapbook pages.  Let's look at examples of them all. 

Here's an example of an event book:

I have to say that if I were trying to get on top of my photos and get them published and I were a few years behind and feeling anxious about getting caught up, I would DEFINITELY do it family-yearbook style.  And I would use a template similar to this one below.  With a template, the design is already done, and because it's chronological, it's so NEATLY ORGANIZED that it would be easy for me to just go back through my photos and plug them right into this book!!
Click here to scroll through page by page--I love how this designer has everything organized by month.  That's how MY brain works.  :)

Or here's another Family Yearbook-style book:

Particularly if you have a lot to catch up on, I would highly recommend using a template that someone else has already designed (like the 3 shown here, but there are THOUSANDS to choose from).  However, you can always create your own from scratch if you prefer.  And templates are 100% customizable, so if you find you want more pictures on the page than the template has, you just add more pictures.  And if you want TWO two-page spreads per month instead of one, just use the "duplicate page" feature to copy the pages.  Easy!

Some people like to use individual scrapbook pages instead of the hardbound books.  Because they are printed on card-stock like paper, individual scrapbook pages are more expensive per page than pages in hardbound books, but they work just as well!!  I was a traditional scrapbooker, so I find that the individual scrapbook pages fit the system I already had set up, and it also gives me the flexibility to do hand-scrapped pages here and there as I use up all my traditional scrapbooking paper and stickers and all that.  Heritage Makers' individual scrapbook pages come in three sizes, and you can even make them double-sided if you want.  You could also make a post-bound album to house your individual scrapbook pages (though post-bound albums are only available in the 12x12 size).  The post-bound album is essentially just the cover of your book, and then you'll fill it with the individual pages as you make them.

Whichever method you choose, do what makes the most sense to you.  

A book full of pictures with no text is absolutely no better than a shoebox full of pictures with no information written on the backs.  Don't forget the STORIES behind the photos.  You take every photo for a reason!  Write it down.  Tell who is in the photo, where it was taken, when, and why.  Write memories of incidental things that happened along the way.  Pretend you're on the phone with a friend telling her about the event.  Then write that down.    

When you use Heritage Makers, you are lucky enough to have a consultant to help you with any questions you have, so let me know if you have some.  There is no time like the present to dig in to your photos and get them off your computer or hard drive so they can LIVE in storybooks.  (Let's be honest, we all THINK we're going to have more time next week or next month, but life will be as busy then as it is now.)  There's no better way to make family connections than to remember the connections you've made in the past so that you can build on them.

Photo Scanning Services

Before you use Heritage Makers' digital publishing system, your photos need to be in digital form.  They already are if they've been taken with a digital camera, but if they are film photos that have been developed, you will need to scan them before you can use them in your Heritage Makers books or other projects.

I now have a Kodak s1220 Photo Scanning System which I can use as part of my Heritage Makers business.  It is a HIGH-SPEED scanner, which is great news for anyone who has a lot of photos to scan.  The s1220 scans about 30 photos per minute.  After the photos are scanned, they can be saved to a CD or a flash drive (thumb drive/jump drive).  From there, you can upload your photos easily into your Heritage Makers account.

This is obviously something that is ideal for people who live near me, but for anyone willing to send me their photos through the mail, I'm happy to offer these services to them as well.  (I'd place them in ziplock bags and wrap them in bubble wrap and buy insurance for the package, but that's just me.)

Because of the high speed, the Kodak s1220 is not recommended for very fragile photos or documents, and it also cannot accept stiff (cardboard-backed) photos because they cannot bend as they go through the machine.  In these cases, a flatbed scanner is required.  I do have a flatbed scanner, but  I can probably only do about 3 pictures in 5 minutes with my flatbed scanner.  The scanner is slower, and I have to crop and save each photo or document individually.

  • The price for my scanning services is $35/hour plus 10 cents per photo.  This compensates me for my time as well as helps to cover the cost of the scanner and its maintenance. 
  • In the past, I have been able to scan between 160-300 photos per hour.  This depends entirely on how well-prepared the photos are.  If they are well-organized (labeled) and carefully cleaned from any dust, tape, or other particles, I can scan much faster than if I have to sort and clean.  (The scanner is VERY sensitive, and it will pick up the smallest particle, resulting in streaks.  The machine then needs to be re-cleaned and the effected photos re-scanned.  This obviously just takes me longer.)  So, for clean and well-organized photos, I can scan about 300 per hour.  This would cost a total of $35 consultant fee plus $30 for the 300 photos, for a total of $65 for 300 photos.  You would need to provide your own CD or jump drive for me to save your photos onto.
To get an idea of how this price compares with other options, I did a little research.  I have never used any of these options, so I can't vouch for their services or their quality, but these are some of the other options out there (information current as of June 2013):

SCAN YOURSELF (more time-consuming, but cheapest option)
(Take your photos to this location, pull up a chair and use their scanner, then save your images onto a CD.)
 Walgreens:  $5.99 for a CD with 35 images on it.  This is 17 cents per picture.
 Walmart:  $2.97 for a CD with as many images as you can fit on it (approximately 300).  This is approximately 10 cents per picture.

(Online companies.  Mail your photos out to be scanned/digitized.)  $44.95 for up to 250 photos, or $79.95 for up to 500 photos.  This would be 18 cents per image if you have 250 photos, or 16 cents per image if you have 500 photos.  This is the price for photos scanned at 300 dpi, which is average (good quality).  See website for full pricing, including prices for scanning up to 10,000 photos, as well as price add-ons for scanning photos at 400 dpi or 600 dpi.  They also scan slides and negatives, but this is more expensive than scanning prints.  See website for details.  They also offer VHS-to-DVD services.  37 cents per image, which includes “deleting what you don’t want prior to paying, one free DVD set, free unlimited online gallery for organizing and sharing, no need to organize your materials prior to sending, rotation/cropping/light color correction on each image, all scanning done within 1-2 weeks by our U.S. technicians.”  You don’t pay upfront—you pay when the scanning is completed and you’ve chosen which scans you want to keep.  They also scan slides and negatives for no extra cost.  They also offer VHS-to-DVD services.

Contact me if you're interested in my scanning services with my high-speed Kodak s1220.  I scanned about 600 photos with a friend recently as she prepared to make Heritage Makers albums with those photos, and we joked that we just digitized half her life in one afternoon.  It's an amazing little machine!