Re: Selecting, scanning, identifying and desicarding old paper photographs #general

Tracy Fish

Hi all,

I wanted to give some thoughts/opinions to this as both an active researcher for the last 3 years, who is 29 years old and an Assistant Professor of Photography.

To start with the original posted questions:
1. If you want an exact 1:1 size then scan at 300dpi. If you want the ability to enlarge the photo or enlarge to reveal details in the photo you might have not otherwise seen, I recommend scanning at 600dpi, which is doubling the size of the original. JPEG files are compressed files, however, they will be universal and accessible by anyone and everyone with any software. JPEGs aren't going anywhere anytime soon. If you knew someone that could go into a software like Photoshop to touch up your photos if needed, then I recommend scanning a TIFF file which will be a much larger file size than a JPEG, but it will be uncompressed. That will require to then be converted to JPEG afterwards, but your safest bet is to just go with JPEG.
2. Adobe Bridge (not a free software) is great for batch processing and batch renaming files. This is what I specifically teach all of my students to use and I use exclusively for my own work.
3. There are not only institutions, but ARTISTS in particular who would love to have these objects. There are many many artists that appropriate found photographs into their artwork. While this has a very specific function depending on the work, just to give an alternate example on how they can be used. I'd be happy to share some artist examples of this if anybody is interested.

Now as a I mentioned I am only 29 years old and started researching intensively 3 years ago. While I know my age group is not by any means the "typical" age when people get interested in Ancestry or even researching, there are some of us out there! When I started, the first place I went to was to family photos. There was only THREE photographs for my paternal family. With little to no connection to that side of the family and being a small immediate family for starters, I was devastated to learn this. As my research continued and while I did not manage to uncover anymore photos, all I kept wanting was a face to the name. My maternal side of the family was a different scenario. There were many photos and negatives that I was able to accumulate across a couple of family members. My grandmother use to write on the back of some photos, so I was able to identify some people, which otherwise would not have been possible. Seeing her handwriting was also precious to me and I scanned. As my research continued and I connected with new found cousins, I was able to send them photos and at times they were able to identify people as well! While there are still several photos that I have not been able to identify, I treasure them just as I do with the other photos. Maybe as I connect with more people they will be able to identify them. If there's anything I've learned with researching and uncovering new information, it is not a race, but just a test of patience and time. I was also heartbroken and devastated when I found out a cousin years ago threw out a SUITCASE worth of photos because they thought no one would be interested in them and they didn't know who the people were.

So with that said, PLEASE do not discard objects. While they might take up space, someone might want them in their own time. Having the original photo/negative is always better than a scan. Digital files can get corrupted, thumb-drives, hard drives, and computers can fail. So if you are going to be scanning, make sure you back-up all of your hard work! But also consider keeping your photos. If it is something that you really don't want to hold on to, first ask other family members if they want them. If not, then consider donating or even giving to other sources like artists who would love these precious materials. While I may not have any children to pass all my work on to, I'm looking forward to sharing this information and these objects with my much younger family when they are older.

With warm regards,

Tracy Fish
Nevada/Brooklyn, New York

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