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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Photo Tips and Tricks - Part 1

I wish that I had a photo for each and every person on my family tree.  To be able to gaze into their faces is quite an experience in and of itself, especially the very first time you lay eyes on your great great grandparents, the uncle who was a medical doctor who died young, or the uncle who saved the farm in Ireland.

My old HP scanner from circa 2000 just could not handle the job of scanning photos.  It was actually designed to scan text and documents rather than pictures.  As you can see, the scanner puts lines through the photos even after having the glass cleaned and appropriate maintenance done to the machine.  Even 1200 DPI scanning did not improve the photo quality either.  It just made the lines worse.  Anna and Dorothy Borchers deserve better, right?

Anna Marie Jackel Borchers and Dorothy Marie Borchers Flanagan Circa 1925, Napa, CA

In 2011, we purchased an Epson Perfection V500 Photo Scanner.  It is solely a scanner and not a printer combo like so many are these days.  This scanner does fabulous work.  I dare only scan photos at 1200 DPI that I will save on my own computer.  At that quality level, they take up a whole lot of space.  At 600 DPI, you will find that most websites will allow you to upload a photo of that quality.  I have found that 300 DPI is the default scanning quality level and just does not cut it.  I recommend to everyone to shoot for at least 600 DPI.  Once it is uploaded to a website it may only reflect 200 DPI or less.  

Mystery Photo....Possibly a Strehlow on my Borchers Side

Anyway, I'm not sure that I should get too technical about photo quality and size.  I have found that from a "Mega Bytes" perspective, the largest that most websites will accept is 1 MB.  Websites, in general, don't want photos hogging up the space online. My suggestion to everyone is to save your photos at high quality somewhere on a CD, USB drive, or hard drive, knowing that if you post them online, they are usually at a degraded quality.  That shouldn't stop people from sharing photos though on a website.

If your photo is too large to upload, you'll need to compress the photo.  This basically takes the quality and size of the photo down a few notches for sure.  I will revisit this topic later.

More on scanning..........Forget the photocopier or color copier these days.  Those are tools of the 1990s and Xerox in their heyday.  Trust me, I know all too well the machines that could produce so much and yet are so outdated these days.  The scanner is the way to go.

How many people know that even if you don't have a scanner at home, you can access one quite easily to produce a great photo?  The Costco's, Rite Aid's, and Walgreen's of the world still have photo departments.  I think that I even spotted one at my local Target.  I hardly ever print out photos any longer.  When I do, Costco is my choice photo lab.  Heck, they produce wonderful prints right on site at a bargain price.

The other point I'd like to make about these places is that they tend to have a scanner.  You can scan photos (provided they are not copyrighted) and get more copies.  I have not yet tested the capabilities of these machines but wonder if there is also a way to share the photos with others via an online service similar to, Shutterfly (who just bought out Kodak Gallery), or Snap Fish.  I'm am thinking there is probably a share option.   You just need to have the person's email you want to send the photo to handy.

This is where I will ask my readers if they know of share options on these in-store scanners.  Does that exist?  It would certainly make sharing photos by those who do not have a scanner much easier.  If anyone has experience with this, let us all know here in the comments section of this blog post.

Smart Phone Scanning Options

With the advanced camera technology on modern day Smart Phones, I have found photos are starting to turn out pretty great.  My own iPhone is a 3GS or something like that.  The photos are OK provided you're outside in good light and close to the person that you are photographing.  Mind you, I'm not a big mobile phone person and don't even have a data plan.

On the other hand, my husband has the iPhone 4GS something or other.  He's got all the bells and whistles on his phone.  For those of you who are adept, he can even make his phone a "hot spot" for me to mooch of off the internet connection when we are together and away from home.  The other thing that his phone can do is take pretty awesome photos.  Even taking a photo of a photo produces a pretty great result.  The phone can also scan documents, photos, and text.  It's like having a hand held scanner with you all of the time.

In the absence of a full fledged scanner, these Smart Phones do the trick.  I had a relative send me the following photo/scan of a photo from her phone.  It worked out pretty darn great.

McLaughlin Family Circa 1919, Napa, CA

To be continued..........................

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