Scanning photos to create digital files

Getting photos into the computer

There are different processes for scanning negatives and 35mm slides. I have no experience with negatives or slides, but there seems to be a lot of good advice availableon the internet for working with these types of materials.

scannerMy photo collection consists of new images, which were taken with smartphones and digital cameras, and scans of old family photos and documents. My scanner and the scanner software are part of my all-in-one printer. The scanner part is a flatbed scanner which is in the top part of the printer.

The process I follow:

  1. Clean off the scanner bed:
    1. Blow dust off or wipe with a microfiber cloth
    2. If there are smudges on the glass, you can dampen the microfiber with just a little water. Some sources say you can use rubbing alcohol, but that seemed to damage my microfiber.
    3. Make sure the scanner bed is dry before you use it, or the moisture might damage the photos.
  2. Make sure your own hands are clean and dry.
  3. Blow or gently brush dust off the photo to be scanned.
  4. Lay the photo or a group of photos on the glass bed, face down.
  5. In my case, I click the Scan button in the scanner program on my PC. This generates a preview on my PC monitor. I can see if the photo or photos need adjusting on the glass bed of the scanner. Often, the image is crooked or may even fall outside the bounds of the scan area.
  6. Select an image resolution.
    1. 600dpi is a good general purpose size.
    2. The higher the number, the bigger the resulting digital file will be. But, it’s also true that a higher resolution might allow you to see details in the photo that you may have missed, since you will be able to zoom in more.
    3. Experiment with this number until you arrive at a compromize between desired detail and file size.
  7. Select an image format if the scanner allows it.
    1. If you have plenty of storage place, you might want to choose to save as a .tif file. The TIFF (wikipedia) format is “lossless” and it also allows some metadata (such as title, subject, and tags, for example) to be written right to the windows file. However, .tif files are larger than jpg files.
    2. If the scanner you’re using only outputs to JPG (wikipedia), you can make a copy after the scan and save that copy as tif.
  8. My preferred settings are 600dpi, tif.
  9. Select a destination folder (Windows), name the file, and click Scan.
    1. I save these scans to a folder called “Original Scans” because usually these are not the final copies I want to use for digital video, or for sharing.
    2. Most of the time I am bulk-scanning, with several photos on the scanner glass at a time. I want to cut those apart and save them as individual photos, so at this stage, I don’t bother to rename the original scan.

Scanner software settings dialog

Generally, I try to scan as .tif, to “Original Scans.” Then I open each scan file and cut it up into individual photo files. Each of those gets saved as a jpg. As I save the jpg files they get renamed, sorted into my photo organization scheme, and maybe manipulated and edited a little bit. They get tags assigned also. After that, I open the jpg in Microsoft Paint and save as .tif to a backup folder. All the tags and file names get saved right along with the tif (so both the tif and the jpg have the metadata I’ve created.)



10 March 2017

My clockIf you can get 10 minutes uninterrupted time, (LOL) you might want to try freewriting. I rarely get 10 uninterrupted minutes, I confess. I have started my timer, typed for a while, got interrupted, paused the timer, dealt with the interruption, and then returned to the freewriting excercise to finish it up.

No strict rules, no judgement, I tell myself. The goal is to write something for 10 minutes – hopefully every day, just to help establish a writing habit. When I use topics from my notebook, I get a little added benefit in that sometimes the freewriting turns into the starting point for a real, finished story later on.

Basically, the process is:

  • Choose a writing environment (pen and paper, word processor, Evernote, etc.)
  • Choose a topic (optional – you could choose to just write whatever comes to mind)
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes
  • Type or write till the timer sounds

I type in notepad on my PC, and I have set myself up like this:

Right-click on the Windows desktop, left-click New, left-click Folder

Desktop New Folder


Type “Freewriting” in the editable name field and press Enter.

Folder rename

Double-click on this folder. Inside the folder, right-click, then left-click New, then left-click Text Document

New Text Document

Type the topic as the name and press Enter.

Double click on this .txt file to open it in Notepad, and start your timer. Type for 10 minutes. When the timer is up, finish your sentence and click the X to close (if you want!) You’ll be prompted to save – click Save.

If you’re looking for a timer, and you’re on Windows 10, type “Timer” in the “Ask me Anything” box. The returned “Best match” is “Alarms & Clock” trusted Windows store app. Right-click on that, and then left-click “Pin to Start.”

After pinning it, you can click the Start button, and Alarms & Clock will be in your programs list.

Open the Alarms and Clock app, and then click Timer at the top. Select the hours (0) minutes (10) and seconds (00) to set a ten-minute timer. Enter a timer name (I named mine “Freewriting”) and then click the Save icon at lower right.



Write a memory, write a story

27 February 2017

How to conquer a blank page

The idea notebook I keep for storytelling is merely a notebook full of lists. A blank sheet of paper, a New Document in a word processor, or even a new blog post form is certainly intimidating, no matter how cool your writing pens idea notebookhappen to be. So, what’s the next step after choosing a topic from the notebook?

Keep the audience in sight (literally)

I find it helps to do my writing in a place where I can see pictures of my intended audience (grandkids, nieces, nephews, etc.) I try to keep their expectations in the back of my mind as I write. I think their reactions might be along the lines of things like:

  • Is this interesting or boring?
  • Why is this important?
  • What does this have to do with me?

I try to find something in the story they can relate to. If I’m writing about a person, for example, I might try to find something they have in common with that person, such as artistic ability or a gentle disposition. A helpful technique for me is to write out a question at the very top of the page and try to answer that question somewhere within the story.

Pen to paper!

Just write

Write, write, write. This isn’t even the first draft yet, so nobody is going to see it.

fountain pen writing
public domain via pixabay

It’s time for brainstorming, for freewriting, and for recording everything that comes into your mind when you think about your topic. It’s not the time for self-editing, self-consciousness, or self-doubt. It’s also not the time for spelling, grammar, and punctuation proofreading. It’s basically a brain dump.

The first draft and beyond

At any point along the writing part of a digital story workflow your story can change. As you pass from first draft to edited story, the initial writing and first draft are practically abandoned. During the first draft, start polishing up the grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Idea > Freewriting > First draft > Proofread, polish, more editing > Storyboard


Story structure

Sometimes the story structure is easy to figure out, such as when you’re witing a chronological biography about somebody, or perhaps you are describing a process, or even sharing a family recipe. Those kinds of stories will have the structure “built in.”

Other examples:
  • Character study checklists: useful to ferret out details about people from your memory that you might have forgotten about.
  • “Top ten” lists, other lists, countdowns
  • “How-to” articles

Otherwise, you have to figure out how to structure your story and make decisions about the beginning, middle and end.


Make your story lively, but make it readable. If the goal is a digital video story, remember that what you’re writing is likely going to be the source of your audio narration, so you might want to edit the story with audio recording in mind. Read it aloud and see how the phrasing sounds.

The next writing step is storyboarding. You will likely find yourself working back and forth between the storyboard and the written document until both the written story and the storyboard feel finished to you.

If you’re ready to “call it done” you might want to print a paper copy, or save a digital copy. Also, if the story is about a person in your family tree, you might want to attach a copy to the person’s record in your genealogy program.

First things first – get a notebook

27 February 2017

Go shopping. Buy a notebook or two. Go try all the pens at the office supply store and buy some that you like.

You can’t do storytelling – digital or otherwise – unless you know what you want to tell stories about. A topic list makes storytelling easier, just like a grocery list makes shopping easier. The topic list gives you a temporary place to quickly put down what you’re thinking about.

I have two main notebooks:

Notebook and pencilMy daily journal is the notebook where I just write. Every day. After my husband died, this journal became the place where I could put all my “…but wait…” thoughts and the things I want to share with him every day. On most days, I write a letter to him in this journal.

I also use this journal for:

  • Writing practice
  • A safe place to write, doing my best to “silence the inner editor”
  • Scratch pad
  • A place to vent

My stories to tell notebook is the notebook where I go to save (and fetch) the ideas for the stories I want to tell sometime. It only contains lists (no actual writing). If something happens to me tomorrow, at least my family will have this book of lists. They can look over these pages of memory triggers and go ask Aunt Kris or Cousin Marlene what the heck grandma was talking about. It is a paper notebook, small, with hard covers and spiral binding. It fits in my purse or laptop bag. I keep a pen attached to it with a rubberband.

Why not use an e-notebook?

I don’t use this method for two reasons:

  1. It’s easier for me to access my paper notebook when I want to quickly jot down a memory before I forget it.
  2. In case I die, my family will have quick access to the information. There are no logins or passwords to share or try to crack, or the need to acquire a compatible PC, program, or mobile device.

I write my story reminders in a simple spiral journal. The journal has home-made topic tabs, and has a pen attached to it with a rubber band.

My storytelling notebook is just a simple spiral journal. I made tabs along the page edges, with several topics which act as list holders for memory triggers. Keeping it as simple and inexpensive as possible, I used regular notebook paper to cut small squares of paper. Each square has the topic written on it twice.

I wrote the tab topic on each side of a small, folded square of paper, and the end result is a two-sided tab you can read from either the front or the back of the notebook. I wrote toward the top of the tab, near the fold. I added tape to each side of the tab.

I taped the tabs to the pages of the notebook, and I made sure to leave plenty of extra pages between tabs to accommodate topics that might contain long lists of reminders. I staggered the tabs so I can read them.

I suppose I could have skipped the tabs all together, and made lists by writing whatever I remember as a memoir or journal. I decided on tabbed pages because I find that one memory trigger leads to another.

This is the list of topics in my notebook:

  • Food
    • (example: “freezer jam”)
    • (example: “Uncle Louie’s pickles”)
  • Crafts
    • (example: “Aunt Gertie’s ceramics”)
    • (example: “Grandma’s doll clothes”)
  • New generation (don’t forget to save a place in the notebook for current, recent stories)
  • Technology
  • Illness
  • Religion
  • Black sheep
  • Anecdotes
  • Second moms
  • Deaths, mourning, and funerals
  • Houseguests (non-relatives who have briefly lived with us)
  • Siblings
  • Vacations
  • Immigration, migration
  • Genealogical dead ends
  • Liquor
  • Easter
  • New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Halloween
  • Pets and other animals
  • Fashion
  • School
  • Family talents
  • Family friends
  • Pictures: Oldest, last, first, only
  • Christmas
  • Celebrations (weddings, reunions, graduations, birthdays, etc.)
  • Fathers
  • Mothers
  • Vehicles
  • Music memory triggers (favorite songs and bands, spanning generations)
  • Family by choice (in-laws)
  • Hometowns and states
  • Housing
  • Military
  • Sports, play, games
  • Work, careers, occupations
  • Writing and digital storytelling helpers

25 Interview questions for kids

12 March 2017

If you interview people to get material for your family stories, don’t forget to interview some of the kids in your life. They might find it interesting to look back at the interview someday and see how much they’ve grown and changed.

  1. What is your name, age, and where do you live?
  2. What was the best thing that happened this week?
  3. What songs are on your playlist right now?
  4. Tell me about a dream you’ve had.
  5. What is something you’re excited for?
  6. What story character would you most like to be?
  7. What is something you are proud of?
  8. Describe an imaginary party you’d have, and tell me who you would invite.
  9. What is your favorite subject in school? What is your least favorite subject in school?
  10. What do you like to do on the weekend?
  11. Do you have any hobbies?
  12. What are your favorite TV shows?
  13. Who is your favorite music artist?
  14. What is your favorite color?
  15. What one superpower would you like to have?
  16. What woudl be your superhero name?
  17. What is your favorite place to go out to eat?
  18. What do you like about your room?
  19. What do you hate about your room?
  20. What is the best day of the week and why?
  21. What would you do if you had a million dollars?
  22. Name something you have that makes you happy.
  23. Name three things you do well.
  24. What do you want to be when you grow up?
  25. How would you like people to describe you?

The Pardeeville Advance

11 Jan 2017

This was recorded earlier this fall. The video is about a newspaper article in Lillian Lytle’s scrapbook. The subject of the article is a piece of sheet music called “The Pardeeville Advance” and features our Wing family aunts, uncles and cousins. There’s also a lyric video!


Crescendo Music Notation Software: