It took only one phone call. The recorded voice alerted me to approaching fires that necessitated an evacuation of my area. I was stunned. Fires encroaching coastal Del Mar? As I hurried out the door to alert my neighbors, a burning piece of paper fell down in front of me, emphasizing the impending danger.
I froze: beyond the computer, what was the most important material thing I possessed? One thing leapt to mind: my photos! I, like so many women, had kept photo albums from generations long before my own childhood. If, as they say, every family has a memory keeper, in my family, I am it. Heritage photos through the generations from my photo albums were undoubtedly my greatest personal treasure. I had eight bulging, ever-expanding photo albums, each weighing several pounds. As I hauled those painfully heavy albums to my car in that evacuation, I promised myself: never again would I put irreplaceable treasures in such a vulnerable position. I would have my photos professionally scanned and put on CDs for safekeeping. If my home burned down, at least my photos would be safe.
I am not a procrastinator, really. As I said, I have maintained the pre-digital era of family albums in good order, and with the arrival of digital photography, most of my vacation and family photos are already in my home computer photo system (those, too, needed to be put on a CD, I vowed). Heritage photos of relatives, long since deceased, hang on my home walls. They remind me of my childhood when I saw a formal photo of my great-great-grandfather as a young man, complete with beard, western-type attire and gun! I remembered as he peered back at me from the sepia photo, I could see my own father’s face in the face of that man. Even as a child I thought that was thrilling! That photo, lost somewhere along life’s path, would have been cherished by this writer today. But preserving heritage photos was not available fifty years ago. Still my promise to myself was nearly four years old, and to be honest, it has taken me that long to catch up with this project. Life has a way of navigating you elsewhere. It also seemed overwhelming. Where to begin?
Since I had a scanner attached to my computer and printer, I had already learned how to scan from my home system and had already put together my first photo book (not to be confused with heavier, Hallmark-type photo album) through one of the many online websites offering this service. Those photo books offer thinner and lighter pages than photo albums do. I also liked the creativity of designing, choosing layouts, writing text and personalizing the books in a more professional manner. But my photo scanner, like most home systems, was not a high quality, state-of-the art scanner, and the quality of the photos was minimally acceptable. Now, as I faced thousands of photos in my albums, I determined to have much higher quality. To do that, I researched what scanning services were available. It was eye opening.
For me, the three most important things were:
High-quality scanning – I chose to have 600 DPI, which is the best available for quality, non-commercial use. Most sites offer a choice of 300 or 600 DPI (with staggered pricing).
Affordability – Now, I am not a cheapskate, but I don’t like throwing away my money any more than any one else. I checked with several websites, a few of which were more economical than the one I chose, and many of which were much more expensive than I wanted. Prices ranged anywhere from ten cents per photo to almost $2.00 per photo.
Dealing with a local business – Through my research I discovered that the cheaper scanning services often send photos not only out of town, but often out of country. Out of country? Not a chance in the galaxy that I would box up my photos and allow a website stranger to send these precious possessions to India or China to be scanned, even if it were cheaper. I wanted – needed – to know where they were at all times. That demanded a local business.
For me, all three of these requirements were met by ScanDiegoCalifornia. Owner Brett Weiss walked me through the simple process of getting my project started. I had already taken all the photos out of my first album to find that his service could have done that for me for a small additional charge, even for photos kept loosely in boxes. So the seven remaining albums went to him in tact and untouched.
My albums were ready, but some of the older photos were already fading. Weiss showed me what the difference looked like between color-edited and not. At two cents extra per photo I found that a real value. I also had them rotate the photos so that the set up was easier for me to transition into a photo book website. Weiss also told me they do what is called “Life Stories,” a CD slide show accompanied with your favorite music. I thought of a million applications for that idea. Yikes! Another project!
ScanDiegoCalifornia also picked up my photos and delivered the finished product to me, showing me how to put the photos onto my computer for further use. I thought, frankly, that was great as there was no chance of losing them along the way.
CDs prevent fading. ScanDiegoCalifornia offered a choice of a variety of CDs. Normal, commercial CDs are programmed to last an average of five to fifteen years. However, Weiss offered a gold CD, not easily available to the public, that will last one hundred years. OK, so call me overprotective. Some day, one of my great grandchildren or their grandchildren will really appreciate that about me. They won’t moan and groan over lost photos like that of my great grandfather. After all, this project was not so much a gift for me as it was for the generations to follow. I put that gold CD in my safe deposit box at my bank. After all, in my family, remember, I am the Memory Keeper. Great Great-Grandfather would be proud.
Reasons to Back-Up Family Photos:
- Fire protection
- Divorce – Weiss suggests that precious photos be shared instead of divided.
- Estate Planning – Record and duplicate for all beneficiaries not only photos but tapes, 8mm reels, 35 mm slides, documents, favorite mementos, even cookbooks with heritage recipes complete with photos (another project for me!).
- Downsizing/Spring Cleaning – I no longer wanted to take up the space bulky, weighty albums required.
- Family Milestones – Parents’/grandparents’ anniversaries, weddings, graduations, birthdays, family reunions, retirement, memorials, etc.
- Social Responsibility – Long before Alex Healey penned “Roots,” I was puzzling together my genealogy.
- Holidays – Not just for December holiday gatherings and gift exchanges, but for Mother’s and Father’s Days and Valentine’s Day, too.