I suggest photos be scanned at at least 2400 dpi; studio photos can yield additional detail and good cropping of individuals) up to 3,600, and this includes those tiny arcade photos, which are surprisingly good. While the person who scans may not treat the photo to digital restoration, a high resolution scan allows someone to do it in the future. And don’t forget, in the future people are likely to be viewing your photos on large, wall-sized screens.
The most important search environment in anyone’s life is one’s own hard drive. Photo captioning is essential to findability, and might include date (I use yyyy mm-dd), name(s) of individuals, location, and photographer name or source of photo. Likewise the naming and arrangement of nested folders can be important. . I often include a test document in the folder with details such as that this is cousin Joe’s album and the captions appear to be his own or his father’s, etc.
Finally, where the reverse side of a photo has captioning, you should also scan this, perhaps at a lower resolution like 600 dpi, and give it the same title as the photo with an additional word like “reverse.” Note also that any captioning on the face of the photo, as in the margins, is extremely important and the full print should be scanned—you can crop later
People have always shared photos and I have reunited family portraits kept by cousins in Russia and the US; different shots of the same reunion groups kept by different descendants; and found a photo of my grandmother unknown to our branch in a cousin’s album.
Of course keep the photos, in clean, archival storage of some sort with notes about sources and intermediate sources, and mention who you are and what you did.
Back up is meant to mitigate many different sorts of risks. Storage is increasingly affordable. One of my backups is a hard drive at my sister’s home half a continent away. Sharing photo scans is also a form of back up.
I just scanned my mother’s diary form 1933-37 and then spent a month preparing month-by-month pdfs.
Just do it!
Barbara Toby Stack
Altstein, Altsztejn, Oldstein: Nowy Dwor, Mlawa, Poland, UK
Chsunstofsky, Chrzadowski: Brzeziny, Kikol, Lipno Poland
Resnick: Volhynia, Ukraine
Schleger: Lokachi, Ukraine
Stasiowich: Nowy Dwor, Mazowiecki, Poland
Thorner: Plock, Poland
Torunczyk: Warszawa, Poland
Yecht: Lokachi, Ukraine
Zlotnick: Nowy Dwor, Mazowiecki, Poland