Spending more time at home last year because of Covid-19 gave me the opportunity to tackle a personal organising project that I had been keeping for a later stage in my life when I would have plenty of time in my hands: re-organising old photos albums dating back from the late 1980s to the early 2000s before the advance of the digital era into photography.
You may wonder why to consider re-organising old photos that were already in photo albums – well, my husband did ask 😉 The thing is, back 20 to 30 years ago, we had no choice but get all the photos on a roll printed, regardless of their quality. Like many people, I ended up keeping most of the prints as it would have felt wasteful to throw some away. Most of them made it into photo albums, the worst ones were kept into a box.
With the advance of the digital era into photography, this excuse no longer stood. I happily started to delete the digital photos that didn’t meet my standards, print the selected few I really liked and put them into photo albums – something that gives me a lot of pleasure to create and the whole family a lot of pleasure to look at.
After a while, it became clear when I looked at my old photo albums that many of the photos didn’t really deserve a place in them. I saw an opportunity to reduce the number of photo albums and save space on our shelves and I had been wanting to streamline those old photo albums since then. But I knew it would be a large project to tackle.
So when Singapore when into lockdown in April 2019, I decided that it was the right time to tackle this project not only to keep me busy but also to keep me distracted from the bad news.
This is how I proceeded:
Step 1: Doing a quick & dirty purge
I first went through my 22 old photos albums and the photos box (more than 2,000 prints at the total) and got rid of the no-brainers i.e. the ones that were unflattering, blurred, out of focus etc. More than 25% of the photos went in a matter of two hours.
Step 2: Scanning the prints
I decided to scan all the prints that had survived the first cut to give me the courage to let go of more. I used PhotoScan, a free scanner app from Google Photos using the phone camera. You basically take a first photo of the print and the app directs you to take 4 more at each corner before saving it onto your phone. It sometimes took me a few takes to get a good result. But I must confess that I was not extremely thorough as saving a memory of the print was more important to me than the quality of the digital photo itself.
Step 3: Downloading the scanned photos into my digital photos’ repository
After scanning, I downloaded the scanned photos onto One Drive on my computer which is my main digital photos’ repository. They are then automatically saved onto the cloud.
Step 4: Organising the scanned photos
I opted for a simple categorisation, by year, and named the pictures using the following naming convention: YearMonth_Event (where applicable) e.g. 199109_CousinWedding. At that point, I also backed them up on an external drive.
Step 5: Purging prints further
With the reassurance that all the photos I liked had been saved and backed up, I proceeded to further purge the print photos and kept the best ones. I got rid of 25% more.
Step 6: Creating new photos albums
I treated myself and invested in new photos albums. I placed the photos into the photo albums adding comments here and there to tell a story.
I’m delighted with the end product, but to be honest, I’m also relieved it’s over. It was an extremely long and tedious process that took me about 50 hours to complete.
There were times I felt discouraged and considered putting the project on hold for a while. But deep down I knew it would be difficult to get back to it if I were to stop. What kept me going was the joy of sharing the digitised photos with family and friends and talking about the old good times. And to some extent, it also gave me the opportunity to escape the reality of Covid-19 and travel the world in the comfort of my home.
I know many people dream of having their photos nicely organised in photo albums. If that’s your case, I highly recommend you to ask yourself first why it is you want to do it and what it is you are hoping to achieve so you can be clear on what’s involved and manage your expectations accordingly. If there was one thing I would personally have done differently is to outsource the scanning (I did scan about 1,400 photos – what was I thinking?!) to professionals such as Tekkie Help to save time.
What about you? Any plans for organising old photos? Leave a comment below.
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