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Parents, do you have your old childhood photographs gathering dust up in a corner of your attic?  Do you wish you could digitize and preserve those memories for your children and grandchildren?  Now is the time to get out those old shoeboxes and albums and start preserving your photographic heritage.

Before you start 

  1. Before you start, I would strongly suggest throughly reading over Ralph McKnight’s article on preserving your photographs (  If you have further questions, visit his other site at and ask him personally.  This article here will only give you a brief overview of the steps to take to preserve your childhood photographs.

  2. Map out a plan of attack:  Trying to digitize and preserve your photographs can be overwhelming especially if you have hundreds of photos.  Sit down, think of what photos you have and organize them into groups.  The group that you should worry about first are the old photos that have water damage, fire damage, mold, stuck to sheets of acid paper or in any other way deteriorating.  Another group might consist of old photos that are fading or yellowing.  You might wish to group your photos by families, such as all of your grandfather’s childhood photos and his parent’s photos.  Sets some manageable goals that you wish to accomplish so that you will be motivated to get the job done.

  3. Start with the oldest photos, or the photos that are in the worst condition (i.e., water damage, fire damage, mold, stuck to acid sheets of paper etc.).  These are the photos that you will want to preserve first before they are destroyed.  Again, make sure you read the article at this website before you do anything with those photos!  This website will give you specific instructions on how to handle your frail photos, how to remove mold, how to remove glue stuck to the back of photos, etc.  You may do more damage than good if you start doing this when you don’t really know what you’re doing.
  1. After you have your photos cleaned to the best of your ability and in archival plastic sheets you’ll want to start digitizing them.  This step might also be necessary to take before step 3, before you have you’re frail photos in archival plastic sheets if you think you might damage them in the preservation process. 
    1. To digitize your photographs, you’ll need a photo scanner.  Good quality photo scanners aren’t very expensive these days and might be worth your money if you have a large collection of photographs.  If you don’t have a scanner, you may be able to find one at your local library or a community school. 
    2. Before scanning your photos, negative, or slides, you’ll want to clean them with canned air or a soft bristled brush.  When using canned air, be sure to spray away from your photo first because the air sometimes comes out in liquid form when first sprayed. 
    3. If you have slides, negatives and/or prints of the same photo and are wondering which you should scan, usually you’re negative or slides will give you the best quality but that depends on whether or not they’ve been damaged, exposed to a lot of dust or fading.
    4. When scanning photos, I always like to scan at high enough dpi to where I have an 8x12” photo at 300dpi.  So if you are scanning a 4x6” print, for example, you’ll need to scan it at 600dpi.  I also like to always save my photos as .tiff (see Ralph's article for explanation).
    5. After you have your photos scanned, it’s time to touch them up, correcting color and fading and getting rid of mold and dust.  This is best done in Adobe Photoshop.  When I touch up photos I always like to first change the Image Size (Alt+Ctrl+I) to 300dpi.  Next, I always like to correct the levels by going to image-adjustments-autolevels (Shift+Ctrl+L).  If the image is still too dark or light, I go into image-adjustments-levels and mess around with that until I have it the way I need it.  If the image has shadows that are dark or highlights that are too light, I go to image-adjustments-shadow/highlight and change those.  If the image has a color problem I go into image-adjustments-variations and play around with that until I get the color just right.
    6. After all this is done it’s time to start getting rid of dust and mold.  I use the cloning tool (s) and sometimes the healing brush (j).  Hold down Alt and click where you want to “clone” from and then click on the spot of dust or mold and it will take from the spot you set and get rid of your dust.  Just keep resetting your clone from spot to match the different tones and shades of the photo.  For a bigger brush area type ] for smaller type [.
    7. You may choose to play around with other features in Photoshop to fit your photo’s needs.
    8. When I save my tiffs I compress them so they are not as large.

  2. The last task that needs to be done is to organize your digitized photos.  Click here to learn a few ways of doing this.

  3. After completely digitizing one group of your photos, start on your next group until you have it all completed.

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