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This chapter is from the book

Project: Make Digital Reproductions of Your Existing Paper Photo Albums

It hit me in the head like a brick one Saturday morning as I was looking at the rows of three-ring binder photo albums my wife has meticulously created throughout the past 20 years. Page after page of precious photos carefully documented with hand written notes under each photo. What a disaster it would be if these albums were ever damaged by flood or lost in a fire!

Although it’s true that nothing can truly replace the feel and sentimental value attached to those albums, that’s no reason not to take some measures to protect their contents. You can do this by scanning each page with its photos and handwritten notes and creating a faithful digital reproduction of each album. Think of it as being a high-tech photocopy scheme.

I pulled down one of the binders off the bookcase, opened it, and placed the first page in my scanner. In a few seconds my PC screen filled with an exact duplication that could be saved as a digital file (see Figure 3.3).

Figure 3.3

Figure 3.3 It’s not fancy, but it does the preservation job. Here’s one scanned page from our family photo album for the year 1990.

This may be the least glamorous project in the book, but it’s one of the most important preservation moves you can make before you go wild on the digital multimedia side of the street. And, as you can imagine, it’s been an ongoing process that’s consumed countless hours.


For this project you’ll need

  • Personal computer connected to a scanner. (If you don’t own a scanner, see the first project in Chapter 2 and look for the "Shopping for a Digital Camera or Scanner?" sidebar.)

  • Existing paper photo albums with removable pages that can be laid flat against the scanner’s glass plate. A permanently bound album can be used but it’s a tricky process to scan pages when they can’t lay completely flat. The good news is most scanners have lids that can easily be removed to accommodate an open book.

  • Scanning software provided with your scanner, or the Windows XP Scanner and Camera Wizard program (which is what I prefer and used for this book).


Less than 30 minutes to follow the steps to scan the first page of an existing paper photo album. After that, your time investment will vary depending on the number of albums to be scanned and digitally stored. After you get going, it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to scan each page.

Step 1: Prep Work

Grab a paper photo album, fire up your PC, and make sure your scanner is connected.

Next, create a folder under My Pictures and give it a name an archivist would love, such as Family Photo Album 1990.

Step 2: Scan Each Album Page

Start up the scanning software provided with your scanner or, as I’ll do for this exercise, use the Windows XP Scanner and Camera Wizard and follow its instructions for scanning a page of your album to a file on your PC.

You’ll find more detailed instructions in Chapter 2. Repeat the process for each page in your album. Give each file a meaningful name (for example, Page 1 Album 1990).

Step 3: Back Up Your Digital Album

After you’ve scanned your album pages to your PC, you should burn a copy of them to a CD (or DVD). Label and store one set at home and another in your safe deposit box, or other trustworthy, offsite location.

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