Organizing, Sharing, and Securing iPhone Photos to Relive All Your Summer Fun

Your iPhone is always handy to take pictures of people you love enjoying time together! Summer is in full swing, and there are plenty of things to do from enjoying family picnics and swimming to backyard camping and fireworks!

But, how do you keep track of all those new images added to your photo gallery? If you have an iPhone, it’s as simple as creating separate albums. This makes them easy to find and view quickly.

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How a Professional Photo Organizer Cleaned Up Her Own Photo Mess

How a Professional Photo Organizer Cleaned Up Her Own Photo Mess

Yes, I’m a photo organizer…and up until very recently, my own photo collection was a mess.

My family includes baby boomer parents and millennial children, and I think our photo collection was pretty typical of most families like ours. We had:

  • Print photos from the 1950’s through approximately 2004, including some heritage images inherited from both sides of our family.
  • Print photos and corresponding CDs of the images, starting around 2003.
  • Digital images from our SLR camera, from about 2008.
  • Recent smartphone images, from the last few years.
  • Finished photo albums and unfinished photo projects. Any photos used for completed projects were either glued in scrapbook albums, in magnetic albums, or loosely placed in heritage albums. We also had collections of images in photo boxes, or scrapbook albums with prints ready to be used but that were pulled out of context from their events.
  • Scrapbook projects that weren’t necessarily my best work. Many of these had hideously cropped photos (remember when we thought it was creative to cut around people to make silhouettes of them on the page)? There was also lots of stickers that seemed cute when they were in style, but they now seem dated and distracting.
  • Reprint copies and negatives galore.

To make things even worse, our digital photos were in multiple places, devices, and platforms. My husband uses a PC for his main computer, I’m loyal to my Mac, so we have multiple devices in our home, on different operating systems. Like many of our clients, we each had copies of a lot of the same photos on our computers, because we didn’t have an efficient and easy way to share them with each other.

Our backup system was confusing, and we often ended up creating duplicate backups of the same pictures. Plus, it was difficult for me to view the most recent backup of our photos at any given time, which didn’t exactly inspire confidence in our system!

Does all this sound familiar?

Each time I tried to wade into my photo collection to try to make progress on organizing everything, I felt overwhelmed. Whew! I realized this must be how my clients feel, and I gained a newfound appreciation for their angst over their photo collections.

My Very Own “Motivating Event”

Since I’m a photo organizer, most people would assume that I could keep my OWN photo collection organized. However, with a busy family and a growing business, I didn’t have any spare time to get my own photos organized, searchable, and properly backed up.

Over time, as we added more photos, the problem kept getting worse and worse, until the whole thing was so overwhelming that I just keep avoiding it – much like my clients do with their photo organization problems!

For many of my clients, there’s typically a “motivating event” that inspires them to reach out and get help. This can include things like birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, and weddings.

I had the same kind of motivating event! My daughter Molly got engaged in August 2016, I knew right away that I wanted to create a slideshow for Molly and Michael’s rehearsal dinner. To create this slideshow, I was going to need to find photos of Molly from childhood to present day.

The way my image collection looked at that time, I knew this task was going to be really difficult…so that’s when I decided to enlist some help in dealing with my photo mess.

How We Corralled My Photo Mess

Luckily for me, help was within easy reach! I decided to use my own team to help me create a system to organize and maintain my photo collection.

My team and I essentially followed the same process I use for my clients:

  • Gather all the photos (both print and digital) in one place.
  • Review the photos using what we already know about family members.
  • Create a family timeline of key events.
  • Eliminate duplicates and blurry photos.
  • Get everything centralized and organized onto a family drive.

Organizing My Print Photos

For my prints, we grouped all the photos from events together, and put them in order. Fortunately, the heritage photos from our families had already been organized and digitized, and filed by family and person.

We put negatives back into their original photo lab envelopes, and filed them according to the date they were taken.

I’m thankful that information about when events happened (and when photos were taken) was mostly documented. Occasionally, we had to make a judgement call in certain situations, but our timeline helped us make an educated guess about where photos belonged.

We pulled photos out of magnetic albums and scanned the scrapbook pages. For the silhouette or odd-shaped prints, we tried to find an original version to scan instead. We discarded all the extra reprint copies. If we found prints that were also in digital format (on CD’s), we compared the images to make sure the prints didn’t need to be scanned.

Sometimes we decided to scan these because the photo lab put the files in reverse chronological order on the CD. Since the file name is the date the photo was processed, we would’ve needed to go back and edit all that information anyway, so in some cases it was faster to just rescan some of the images in the proper order and adjust the metadata later. Because we scan in 600 dpi, this re-scanning also ensured the photos were captured in a high resolution file format.

Once the prints were all organized and identified, we scanned them all and stored them in archive-quality boxes, then filed the boxes in chronological order, by year.

Then we edited the digital files of all the scanned images. Using Photo Mechanic, we changed the file date, then we added the “who, what, where, and when” to the file name. We saved all those changes to the file’s metadata.

Note: Look for an upcoming post from us for more information on changing the metadata of your photos!

After we edited the digital files, we stored all the images onto a family external hard drive.

Organizing My Digital Photos

The family drive we used for our scanned print images is also where we consolidated the existing digital photos that we gathered from the computers, CD’s, hard drives, and SD cards.

Even though we knew it was likely we’d have duplicates (especially from the multiple backup copies), all the digital files were copied from each device and copied onto the family drive. This ensured we got every single image at the start of the process.

Then we ran a duplicate program called PhotoSweeper, which checked the entire drive for duplicate photos. I use this program with my clients to pare down digital photo collections and make sure we’re keeping only one copy of each photo. It took several passes with PhotoSweeper to eliminate all our duplicates.

After the duplicates were eliminated, we went through all the final images, added the correct dates, adjusted the file names to include the date taken and the event, and added keywords to make sure all the information in the files was easily searchable.

Then we filed all the images on the family drive by Years and Month. We also have Theme folders for Vacations, People and Places.

The entire family drive is backed up using Backblaze, which stores a copy in the cloud for safekeeping.

Here’s a little preview of what my file system looks like, on my Mac:

How a Photo Organizer Cleaned Up Her Own Photo Mess

Maintaining Our Organizational System

I wanted to create a plan for maintaining our photos and making sure everything stays up to date and organized. I’m just like my busy clients, and it’s easy for other things to take priority, and I wanted to avoid letting things get out of control and overwhelming again.

I created a simple, easy to follow system for maintaining my photos, so it’s not overwhelming to keep up.

Since we don’t often need to view photos that are more than a couple of years old, keeping all the images in one place works well for our family. If we need images for a project (like Molly’s slideshow), we create a project folder with a copy of the images we’ll use, so the originals are always kept safe.

Here how we deal with new photos coming into our system:

  • New prints: When new photos come in that need to be filed and labeled properly (like the heritage photos of my father’s relatives that we just inherited), we just scan them, name according to date taken and event, then archive them following the system I’ve created.
  • New digital photos: When we take new pictures with our SLR camera and smartphones, those periodically copied onto the family drive. When we move them, we rename the images, adding date taken and event name, so the information is always searchable. 
  • If I want to view the SLR images on my Apple devices, I’ll import them into my Photos library.  Since our family all have Apple phones and devices, we can easily share photos in Shared Albums. This gives us the chance to see each other’s photos having to make new copies of the images on our own individual devices.
  • Photos shared by family and friends: When relatives or friends send us images by text or email, we save them to our phones, so those images get included when we periodically copy images over to our family drive. As the images are added to the family drive, we also check for duplicates.

I also have a lot of random screenshots, photos of future purchases, and photos of my grocery list on my phone. These “temporary” but useful images are either saved in albums the Photos app, or are periodically deleted. I also review my photo collection regularly, which helps me avoid keeping images I no longer need.

Using This System to Tame Your Own Photo Mess

So….I’ve confessed! My photo collection used to be a mess, too. Now you know my secret!

The good news is that I was able to get my photo mess under control….and you can, too!

If you’d like to tackle your photo collection on your own, you can follow the steps we describe in this post – or we can always assist you with this process! Get in touch with us today for a free consultation if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

How to Create a Photo Legacy That Lasts for Generations

How to Create a Photo Legacy That Lasts for Generations

Photos tell the story of our lives….but how we can turn our images into a lasting photo legacy?

A “legacy” is a gift that is handed down from one generation to the next. For example, the president of a company might leave a legacy of integrity, honesty, and grit.

Instead of just handing down a random collection of unorganized photos to future generations in your family, wouldn’t it be great to add the details in your photos, so the stories aren’t forgotten or lost?

Creating a photo legacy involves taking some active steps to organize and manage your photos, so they are easily found and identified.

Without the stories and identifying details behind the photos, your images are at risk of becoming items from the past with no apparent meaning – merely a collection of items. If you think of your photos as part of your family legacy – with the stories, accomplishments, values and challenges they represent – then they become part of a legacy that future generations will cherish.

In this post, we’ll identify the things that could stop you from creating a photo legacy, how to get past those potential roadblocks, and how to take the steps to ensure the stories in your photos are preserved for future generations.

Roadblocks That Prevent You From Creating a Photo Legacy

Roadblock #1: You can’t remember the people who are featured in your photos.

It can be frustrating when you’re looking at older photos that aren’t labeled, and you can’t identify who’s in the images.

If you’re not sure whether your photos represent anything of value (because the stories and details aren’t included), you might not feel like your images are really a part of your family legacy.  

The good news is that there are clues in old photos that help you narrow things down. Check out this post for some excellent tips on identifying people in your older photos.

Family resemblances can also give you clues about the people in your photos. For example, does your grandfather look very similar to your brother? If so, that resemblance can help you sort out the “Who’s Who” in your images.

Roadblock #2: We don’t know how to make our photo collection into a photo legacy.

You might feel like you’re not sure how to create a photo legacy…but the good news is that it isn’t that difficult. You just need to know what steps to take!

Here are some tips for making your photos part of a legacy collection that people can enjoy for generations.

How to Create a Photo Legacy

1. Make sure your photos are preserved and stored properly.

As a photo organizer, I’m a stickler for making sure you preserve your photos, so they’ll last a long time.

When possible, always preserve your original prints. They are a historical example of something members of future generations don’t get to see or touch very often – and that makes them important!

If you don’t want to keep your old heritage photos, sometimes museums or historical societies will accept donations of items like this. I get really sad when I think about prints (especially old heritage ones) being thrown away!

Designate a family historian to be in charge of the photo collection, and let your family know who that person is! This may seem obvious, but you need to tell people who has the photos and where the images are being stored (physically and digitally).

You can make your digital files a part of your estate, and share login details so they don’t get lost – just make sure you keep these details updated if you change login and password details.

If you are using a library system or a shared site, you also need to make sure someone is maintaining that system. The family historian or the person responsible for the estate needs to keep things current, and be aware if a site has become obsolete.

Wouldn’t it be awful if you thought you had your photos safely stored online, only to find out the company or site has gone out of business – and your photos were gone? That’s why I recommend keeping it simple, and storing photos on a device that’s easily accessible.

2. Be mindful of technology changes.

Digital file formats can change, and I recommend keeping your file formats current. For examples, your home movie reels and tapes should be converted to digital files.

I recommend making that files formats are current as formats changes, and ensuring that your files can be read by current equipment and software.

I just read a recent article on the possibility of Apple making some changes to their file formats. It is always important to be aware of changes like these, to keep your collection current with trends – otherwise you may end up with file formats that your devices can’t read or play!

If this sounds daunting, we can help – managing file formats is something we do for our full-service clients.

3. Share the stories.

Try to keep photos of a series together, including photos from the same event or day. As the stories unfold, these images will tell the story of what was happening at that moment.

When you’re taking photos, use your camera to take pictures of moments that tell stories.

You can also create a family timeline to document events, dates, etc., so you can use it to identify and label your pictures. A family timeline will make the job of the family historian a lot easier!

For more ideas to on getting stories out of your family, check out these tips from one of our recent posts.

You can also use photos to help you document the meaning behind sentimental items. Photographing these things can help you let go of these items, or just document their meaning – which is especially important if you plan to bequeath them to a family member.

My mother used images to document the meaning behind some of the heirlooms that were passed down to her from her mother and grandmothers. It’s so much more meaningful to know the stories behind some of these artifacts, versus just seeing a pretty bowl or serving platter.

4. Use metadata to save the “who, what, where and when” of your photos.

Metadata” is information that goes along with a photo file, like what camera was used the take the picture, when the photo was taken, etc.. Photo metadata allows information to be transported along with an image file, in a way that can be understood by other hardware, software, or end users.

Storing information with an image’s metadata is a great way to make sure information about the photo doesn’t get lost – but there are a few things you need to be aware of when you’re editing photo metadata.

The best way to edit the metadata of a photo is to save the metadata directly to the image – which you can do with Photo Mechanic or Adobe’s Lightroom. It’s critical that you edit metadata and save it directly to the file, so that information will always travel with the image, if you’re exporting the photo or moving it around from place to place on your computer or tablet.

If you’re using a library application or software (like Google Photos, or Apple’s built-in “Photos” program), you can add metadata like keywords, etc. – but that information is saved in an external file that will be stripped out if you move or export the image.

Folks can unknowingly strip metadata out of their photo files by exporting them from certain programs, so the technical information (date taken, camera settings, camera type) gets lost. That can mean a lot of work down the drain!

If you want to add keywords or tags to your images, the ONLY way to preserve those changes is to save them to the file using a program like Photo Mechanic or Lightroom.

If you use a library application, that also means you’ll only be able to find your images when you’re in that particular app or program, which doesn’t allow you any flexibility for working with your photos. If you save your metadata directly to the file, you will always be able to locate your photos, without being dependent upon a specialized photo app or program.

Adding metadata to images is a service we provide to our clients, because most people don’t want to manage this themselves – but they like that we handle this, so the details of a photo are saved and made available for future generations.

5. Make sure the file details are universal and logical (to anyone).

The simpler your system is, the easier it will be for people to find things – so it’s a good idea to make sure your organizational system can be understood by anyone who might be looking for your photos at a later date.

If you plan to keep things simple and organize your photos in folders with filenames that include the details of the event, etc., make sure the naming is easy to understand and follow. For example, using acronyms or nicknames may not be universally known to future generations. Here’s a great article written by colleague on the best ways to file photos based upon the theme or event.

However, with artificial intelligence, files can now be searchable based upon certain keywords for details such as location, people, and events. This is where the accuracy of the photo file’s metadata comes into play (see above).

I’ve realized this is a more common method for younger generations, or for tech savvy folks who like this system – but you’re likely to pass along your photos to younger generations, so this IS important to keep in mind!

Photo keywords tie events together, but you need to be consistent so that when you search, you find all the files that fit that search criteria. Check out this article for types on best keywording practices.

If you want some recommendations on best practices for naming photos, so the information is searchable, here are a few articles to help you out:

How Having a Photo Legacy Helped Me Celebrate a Wonderful Moment with My Daughter

I’ll share a recent experience that emphasizes the benefits of having photos ready to be part of your family’s legacy.

Our daughter Molly and her husband Michael are currently in Thailand enjoying their honeymoon. Just this week, they had the opportunity to interact directly with elephants while they were on their trip.

Molly was really looking forward to this experience – and it didn’t disappoint!

How to Create a Photo Legacy That Lasts for Generations

After seeing this photo shared by her hubby, I realized that this actually wasn’t the first time Molly had been that close to an elephant! I remembered another photo, taken back when Molly was really little, back in 1993:

How to Create a Photo Legacy That Lasts for Generations

Because my photo collection is organized, I was able to find that older image and text it back to Molly and Michael within a few minutes. Imagine what it would’ve been like it I didn’t have my digital photos organized, or if I just had a stack of prints hidden in the back of one of my closets! It was such fun to be able to find this image so quickly, and be able to share it with them.

In my next post, I’m going to share all the insider secrets of how I got control of my own photo collection. I’m going to tell you exactly how I was able to find this photo so easily – so make sure to keep your eye out for that post in just a few weeks!

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Photo Organizer?

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Photo Organizer?

Hiring a photo organizer is like enlisting a professional trainer to help get you in shape – it’s a process that happens over time. You wouldn’t hire a trainer for one ten-minute weight-training session – and you don’t hire a photo organizer for one 15-minute block of time, either.

Hiring a photo organizer is a way to find a healthier approach to managing your photos. It will take time and effort to reach your goals, and you’ll want to hire the best possible people to help you along the way.

A lot of people want to know, “How much does it cost to hire a photo organizer?” and the answer to that question is always, “It depends.”

Let’s take a look at why photo organizing fees vary from client to client, what you should consider when you’re trying to decide if you should hire a photo organizer, and how we (at Picture This Organized) typically charge for our services.

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What Should I Do with All My Slides and Photo Negatives?

What Should I Do with All My Slides and Photo Negatives?

When I help clients go through their prints to get their photo collections organized, we will often find negatives and slides mixed in with their prints.

My clients usually ask me, “What should I do with these? Should I transfer them all over to digital format? How do I do that? Then what should I do with the original slides and negatives, if I digitize everything?”

These are complicated questions, and the answers I give my clients always depend on a lot of factors. In this post, I’m going to give you some tips about digitizing and organizing your slides and negatives, talk about the pros and cons of hanging on to the originals, and explains how to store them safely.

What Should I Do with All My Slides and Photo Negatives?

Should You Digitize Your Negatives and Slides?

Let’s start with the first big question: Is it a good idea to digitize all your negatives and slides?

The question I always ask my client is, “Are these photos already printed or digitized?”

If the images are printed, you can digitize the print instead of the slide or negative – which is often considerably less expensive. If the images are not printed, my recommendation is that you digitize the images first, then consider whether or not you want to keep the original negatives or slides.

The best way to digitize your slides and negatives is to find a reputable company to help you. I recommend Memories to Digital (they have stores in Boulder and Lone Tree, Colorado) and FotoBridge. If you would like help managing this process, I can oversee the project so the scanning company has all information needed.

But here’s the problem: Digitizing slides and negatives can be expensive, especially if your slides are old. If you take a large collection of slides in to a conversion company and have them scan all of them for you, you will be charged for ALL the images you give the scanning company – even the badly composed or poorly lit shots.

If you aren’t on a tight budget and/or don’t have that many slides or negatives to scan, I’d recommend just scanning all of them – it’s simpler and easier. However, if you want to be discerning and only scan your very best shots, you’ll need to view your slides or negatives in advance to choose the ones you want to digitize.

How to Select the Best Slides and Negatives to Digitize

Here are some options for viewing your slides and negatives:

  • You can do it the old-fashioned way, and hold your slide or negative up to a lamp or overhead light in your home. This is a bit cumbersome, but it still works!
  • If you’ve got an iPad, there’s an app called Light Pad that you can buy to use your tablet as a negative viewer. It works with both slides and negatives.
  • You can use a light tracer (yes, one of those devices we used to use as kids, that artists use to trace images) to lit up your image. The images you’ll view will still be tiny if you use this method, though. 
  • You can use a low resolution scanner to scan a temporary file for viewing and selecting the best negatives or slides to send to the digitizing company. This will let you see a larger, more detailed version of the image, which will help you in making your digitizing decisions. Amazon has several models that are affordable and perfect for this process.

When shopping for low-resolution slide and negative scanners, look for ones that are compatible with your computer. Often, a device designed for PCs won’t be Mac compatible, and vice versa. Also, look for the option to import your scans to a computer so that you can view from your computer screen. Otherwise, you might be viewing the scan from a small screen on the scanner – which is really not much better than just holding your slide up to the light in your living room!

Important note: If you’re going to go the scanner route for viewing your slides, I don’t recommend that you do the final scanning yourself on this type of equipment, because inexpensive scanners will scan your slides and negatives at a low resolution. That means your digitized images won’t be clear, and you won’t be able to enlarge them past their original size. Typically a slide or negative is best scanned at 1500-4000 dpi, and you’ll usually need to go to a professional scanning and digitizing company with top-notch equipment to get that quality.

If you want to do your own scanning, you can purchase a high-quality scanner (again, look for the dpi quality listed above), but keep in mind that it’s a tedious, time-consuming process.

How to Get Your Slides and Negatives Organized for Your Scanning Company

Once you’ve selected the slides and negatives you want to scan, try to put them into a logical order so that the company will scan your images in order of timeline and event. Otherwise, you’ll have to do some digital organizing once you get your digital images back – and I think it’s easier to do this organizing at the beginning of your project.

Ask your scanning company about what resolution they’ll use to scan your images. If you plan to print a photo that’s 5×7 or smaller, or if you’re going to email the image or put it onto a web page, I recommend 1500 dpi. For the highest quality for archiving and printing, 3000 to 4500 dpi is best.

You may have slides where the owner or photographer wrote some information about the photo directly onto the slide frame. In this case, ask your slide scanning company if their scan can include this information. These details will be helpful for naming your files.

For example, the scanning company may just name your image files using your name, followed by the image number (“Smith-001.jpg”). After you receive the files, you can rename specific images with the detail written onto the slide frame (for example, if the slide says, “1960 family picnic,” you can name the file “1960-Smith-Family Picnic-001.jpg”).

The Pros and Cons of Keeping Your Slides and Negatives

Wondering whether or not you should hang on to your original slides and negatives? Here are the pros and cons of keeping them:

Pros of Keeping Your Slides and Negatives:

  1. Your slides and negatives are the originals of your images, and they contain all the information needed to digitize.
  2. Digital files aren’t completely fail-safe. Hard drives can fail, we can lose our computers, and sometimes we accidentally delete files. By saving our original slides and negatives, can always go back and replace what’s been lost.
  3. Sometimes, there are scanning errors (wrong dpi, slides are dirty when they are scanned, etc.). If the digitized version isn’t done properly, you can always go back to the original and rescan it.
  4. Technology is always improving, so at some point in the future, we might invent a device to scan old media in a higher quality.

Cons of Keeping Your Slides and Negatives:

  1. Your originals can take up space in your home, and you’ll have to make room to store them long-term.
  2. Slides and negatives can be difficult to view.
  3. Your slides and negatives can be more expensive to scan than your photo prints.
  4. The support for scanning equipment for slides and negatives may not keep pace with technology, so you might end up with equipment you can’t use or slides you can’t scan at all.

How to Store Your Negatives and Slides and Keep Them Safe

If you decide you’re going to keep your negatives and slide, you’ll want to store them safely to make sure they don’t get damaged or degraded.

For negatives, you can store them in archive quality envelopes, or get sleeves that can be stored in a 3-ring binder. There are also sleeves or file boxes made especially for slides. You’ll need to choose the right storage method for you, based on the amount of storage you have to work with – just make sure your storage containers are always archive quality.

Here a note from the National Archives, about choosing storage methods for your negatives, etc.:

“Negatives and transparencies can be stored the same way as photographic prints, using the same high quality papers and plastic which pass the ANSI IT9.16 Photographic Activity Test (PAT). (The PAT was developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and is a test that determines whether or not a storage material will cause fading or staining in photographs.) There are paper and plastic enclosures and storage boxes designed for film formats available from most manufacturers. Like prints, negatives and transparencies should be stored in a cool, dry location.”

9 Questions to Ask Before You Pick a Company to Convert Your Home Movies

9 Questions to Ask Before You Pick a Company to Convert Your Home Movies

A few years ago, I unknowingly made a BIG mistake with my home movies.

I was looking for a simple, inexpensive option for converting my family’s home movies. I wanted to go through the conversion process myself, so I could make educated recommendations to future clients who needed to convert their own movies.

I recruited a college student who purchased some basic scanning equipment from a local store, then gave him instructions on how to do the conversion. I paid him to convert our home movies and copy them onto DVDs.

Boy, do I wish I had known what I know now! Our video tapes were converted, but unknowingly, I paid him to convert them to a compressed format that didn’t give me a high quality outcome. At some point, we’re going to need to pay to have all our movies re-converted. Next time, we will definitely use professionals with high quality scanning equipment!

In our previous blog post, we talking about some of the basics of converting your home movies to a more modern format — including different types of home movies and what to think about before you get started on your conversion project. 

In this post, I’ll let you know everything I learned from my big home movie conversion mistake. We’ll talk about the best way to convert your videos, and I’ll give you my best advice on how to pick a company who can manage this entire process for you.

Let’s get started!

9 Questions to Ask Before You Pick a Company to Convert Your Home Movies

The Best Way to Scan a Digital File

When you know you want to convert your home movies to a digital format, what’s the best way to do the actual scanning, so you can turn your treasured memories into digital files?

First things first – you want to invest in the best conversion option. Not all scanning solutions provide the same outcome, and you don’t want to end up making the same mistake I made! You’ll need to do your research and get the best possible conversion that you can get.

Secondly, it’s important that you convert from the original movie (whether the movie is on film reels, or on tape). This will give you the best possible chance to create a high-quality digital file when you do the conversion.

For example, if you’ve already converted the movie once (say, from movie reels to a VHS tape), use the original reels to create your digital file – not the VHS tape. If you use the VHS tape, your digital file will be lower quality.

Working from the original movie format is important, because when you’ve already converted your movies once (from VHS tapes to DVDs, for example) the DVD is now in a compressed format that is different from the original, and is of lower quality. If you take the DVD and try to convert it to a digital file, you won’t actually have all the data you need to create a great quality file.

Converting from the original format might be more expensive, but you will be much happier with the end result.

9 Questions to Ask Before You Select a Scanning Company

I recommend using high quality equipment to scan your home movies, which means you’ll need to hire a scanning company.

Before you select a company to work with, I recommend you ask these 9 questions:

1. Is the staff trained on how to handle the film and tapes? You need trained employees handling your movies, so make sure to inquire about whether or not the staff are properly trained in film conversion techniques.

2. Will the film or tapes be cleaned before they are scanned? Any dirt or dust on your movies will be converted over to the digital file, so it’s critical that the company cleans your reels or tapes before starting the conversion process.

3. Will the staff check for integrity of original, to make sure there aren’t any tears or broken splices on film? Also, if there are tears or broken splices, can your company provide a repair as needed?

4. Can your equipment handle sound? Sound capability was only added to film between 1967 and 1977. The staff should know how to identify when sound has been recorded in the video, and convert both the audio and the video when they create the digital file.

5. What type of equipment will you use to scan the movies? It’s critical that the company you hire to do the conversion works on the best possible equipment. Here are few things to keep in mind:

When you’re converting from film, a “sprocket” scanner can sometimes damage fragile reels. Request that the company uses sprocketless reels, if possible. If the company uses both sprocketed and sprocketless types of scanners, I recommend asking how they determine best option for your film.

When you’re converting from tape, ask if the scanning company needs the video camera to do the conversion. Sometimes using the original camera will ensure the tape is properly seated which will get you a better result.  

6. Is color correction available? If the company can perform color conversion, will it be during the conversion process, or post-conversion?

Some scanning equipment can correct color while converting. This is typically more expensive as it is a longer process. Some scanning companies will provide this service after the conversion, for an hourly fee.

If you’re willing to do some editing on your own, Apple’s Final Cut Pro software has color correction features, so you can do your own color correcting when you get the final digital file.

7. Is dead space converted? If there is dead space in your home movies (and it’s at the beginning or end of your tape or reel), many companies will convert it along with the movie footage. However, if the dead space is in the middle of the footage, you will need to have the company convert the entire tape, then pay them to edit out the dead space in the middle during the post-conversion process.

8. Can you make clips from the original? If you want to separate out the digital file into specific sections, you may be able to have the scanning company do it for you. Creating clips is a service that some companies offer during post-conversion.

Once the file is converted, you can preview the footage, note where you want clips to stop and start and they can create smaller, individual clips for you. This is usually an additional fee, often based upon the number of hours it takes to customize the digital file for you.

If you’d like to create clips yourself, you can use iMovie software to separate out your individual movie files.

9. Can you make both a digital file and a playable DVD after you scan the originals? Many scanning companies can do both, and it’s a great idea to get your movies in both formats. This is a good solution if your family members have a mixture of older and current equipment (like DVD players, high-definition televisions, and laptops/desktops/tablets).

Your relatives with standard TVs and DVD players can use the playable DVD, and the folks who prefer to view from their computers or view the videos on their high-definition TVs can use the digital files. You’ll also have a digital master you can keep backed up in a safe place.

How Picture This Organized Can Help

If you don’t want to manage this process yourself, or would like some help in selecting a company to hire for home movie conversion, we can help!

I am a home movie certified professional. Last year I went through an 8-week certification program from Pro 8mm to educate myself on best practices to help our clients make the right choices when they’re deciding how and where to convert their home movies. 

Converting your home movies is a complicated process and a considerable financial investment. We feel it’s important that you make the right choices during this process, so we can:

  • Assess your footage and help you talk through your goals, including taking stock of the people who want to view your home movies.
  • Make overall recommendations for the conversion process, based on whether or not you need our help in coordinating the process (from conversion to editing, backup, etc).
  • Help you find scanning companies based upon your preferences and location, if you’d like to have someone else manage the process for you.
  • Edit digital files removing unwanted footage or creating individual clips

Our goal is to help you with your home movie process, so you’ll be able to enjoy your home movies with the peace of mind, knowing they will be available for current and future generations.  

Would you like to discuss your home movie conversion project? Contact us here to get started

What You Really Need to Know About Converting Your Home Movies (Part One)

What You Really Need to Know About Converting Your Home Movies

Viewing home movies can make us feel like we’ve got access to a magical  time machine.

Home movies can help us remember some of our very earliest memories, and let us recall the great characteristics of loved ones who are no longer with us.

Movies play an important role in our family legacy by giving us visual AND audible reminders of our memories. In many ways, they’re even more powerful and personal than still photographs, because they help us relive moments, and remember the most vivid details of those events.

In her book Get “Reel” About Your Home Movie Legacy – Before It’s Too Late, author and blogger Rhonda Vigeant writes:

“Home movies are a slice of everyday life captured through the lens of people documenting moments in time that they wanted to record….They capture us in everyday moments in a real way unlike photos that tend to be staged moments where we prepare to look our best…The truth is, home movies are like a time machine. All we have to do is watch and we are transformed into a nostalgic place that our memories alone cannot access.”

Powerful, right?

But unfortunately, many older home movie memories are in danger. Recording and tape technology (in its many different forms) is fragile, and the passage of time can degrade or destroy our precious home movies.

In this two-part article on home movies, we’re going to talk about what we should think about when we’re consider converting our beloved home movie footage, why it’s important to convert your home movies to a flexible and durable format, and how to get help with the conversion process.

Let’s start by talking about the three most common home movies formats.

The 3 Types of Home Movies

Home movies are almost always in one of three common formats: Film, tape, or digital files.

Film movies are on movie reels that are wound into a projector and viewed on a screen. Many of us viewed educational movies in school that were on these traditional reels, and our teacher had to lug around a gigantic old film projector and clunky projector screen to show up these movies.

Tape movies are on cartridges that fit into a video camera. We play these tapes from a device (like a VCR or other player) and usually view them from a television. The player connects to the TV via specialized cables or cords.

Digital file movies are typically recorded from smartphones, tablets and video cameras. We can view them on desktop or laptop computers, or on televisions. This is the most flexible and durable file format for our home movie memories.

Why It’s Important to Convert Your Home Movies

As I mentioned above, our home movies may be in danger due to the ongoing passage of time (and all the problems that come with time ticking on).

It’s important to convert your home movies sooner rather than later. It’s critical because:

1. Replaying movie film on projectors makes it fragile, and you can damage your movies when you watch them. Unfortunately, film degrades quickly, and every time you run it through a film projector, you risk permanently damaging your film reels. And remember – once those home movies are damaged or destroyed, they’re gone for good.

2. If your films haven’t been properly cleaned or stored, they may disintegrate. Even if you’re not playing your home movies on a projector, your film reels might be getting damaged if you’re not storing them in a dry, temperate location. If you’ve got mold damage, the disintegration might be even worse.

3. Video tape equipment (for replaying your videos) is disappearing. If you have home movies on VHS, do you still have a VCR to play those tapes? If not, you might not be able to play your tapes at all, because VCRs are no longer sold in regular stores – you can only get them in specialty shops. And there are fewer and fewer technicians who can repair old tape players!

If you’ve got video tapes in another format (like Beta Max, Betacam SP, DV, DVC-Pro, DVCAM, Mini-DV, 8mm, Hi8, or Digital 8), you can probably view the movie by connecting the camera to your television. But do you still have the camera and the cables for playback? Even if you do have the playback equipment, technology is changing rapidly, and old cameras aren’t always compatible with new televisions.

4. Technology keeps changing, so old media formats aren’t compatible with current technology. Home movies on film reels and tape aren’t in the same format as digital files, so you can’t play them on your present-day tablets, computers and phones. You can’t play a movie tape on a DVD or BluRay player, and you can’t play movie film or tapes on anything modern.

5. You can only identify who’s in the home movies while certain relatives are still alive to share those details. Want to identify everyone in your home movie of a family picnic that happened in the early 1970’s? You need to talk to the people who actually attended that event, and those people aren’t going to be around forever!

6. You will need to convert your home movies if you want to share them with the important people in your life. If you want to share your movies with friends and family who belong to many different generations, and you need to convert to a file format that everyone will be able to access.

3 Things to Consider Before You Begin Converting Your Home Movies

Now that you know you need to convert your home movies, what do you need to think about next? Here are 3 things to consider:

1. You should start with a present AND future-minded format.

Think about the technology trend right now, and think about whether or not that trend is sustainable and likely to stick around in the future.

For example, many people want to view videos from a DVD right now. DVDs are a playable format now, but the format is rapidly becoming obsolete. We’re already seeing that DVD players no longer come standard in new computers and laptops. We don’t necessarily need to buy movies in DVD format because they can be streamed from online sites, satellite and cable channel services.

So is converting your home movies ONLY to DVDs really the best option? There may be a format that is slightly more “future proof,” so perhaps converting to two different formats is your best bet.

2. What viewing options do you have?

How would you like to view your movies? You need to factor in your viewing technology when you’re deciding how to convert your files. For example, if you want to view the movies on your TV, and you don’t have a DVD player that connects to that television, you might be out of luck — so think about your viewing preferences before you begin the conversion process.

You might want to view your movies on your:

  • HD flat screen TV
  • Computer
  • Standard definition TV with DVD player
  • Internet connection
  • Smartphone or tablet

3. Who wants to view your home movies?

Are you the only one who wants to view your home movie footage? Most likely, you’re not – so you need to consider your audience before you convert your old movies.

Will your entire family be watching at one time (and would they prefer to be gathered around the TV, rather than around a computer screen)?

Do you have friends and family who aren’t in your local area who want to see the movies? If so, you’re going to need a quick and easy way for those folks to access the footage.

I know these are complicated questions, but they’re important issues to think about before you decide how you’re convert your home movie memories. Rhonda Vigeant said:

“Each time we upgrade to the newest format that hits the market, we must also think about how we can watch media that we shot (or that was shot) in the previous format.”

My Heartfelt Recommendation for Home Movie Conversion

Given everything we’ve talked about so far, I highly, highly recommend that you convert each home movie into a digital master file.

Your best bet is to create (or have someone help you create) a digital file for each reel or tape that you have – that way you’ll be able to name every file appropriately and know exactly what’s in each one.

Why is this my recommendation? Let’s briefly discuss the advantages of turning your home movies into digital files. When you convert your movies to digital files, they can be:

  1. Turned into high quality, high resolution file formats, like .MOV or .AVI
  2. Easily edited on a home computer.
  3. Shared with friends and family via social media or online sharing site.
  4. Accessed by anyone who wants to create their own copies. You can make copies for your family and friends, or you can duplicate for organizational purposes (like dividing single events to individual digital files). You can even save the large files into small format, for online viewing. If you want to upload your movies to a sharing website, for example, you might be required to upload a more compressed version of the video.
  5. Backed up and kept safe for a long time, because you can keep one master copy that is backed up on an external hard drive.

What to Do Next

Hopefully I’ve got you sold on the idea of converting your home movies to digital files. But once you’ve decided you want to convert your old movies, what do you do next?

In our next blog post, I’ll explain the best way to convert your videos and give you advice on how to pick a company who can manage this entire process for you. I’ll even give you a list of five key questions you absolutely MUST ask before you hire a scanning company to convert your home movies.

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