December 26th, 2013 No Comments

3 savvy ways to preserve precious photos, by photographer Laura Billingham

The holidays are a time we capture so many photos and videos of our loved ones. Then, at least for me, I tend to put organizing them and securing them on the back burner on my “to do” list. So I’ve asked professional photographer, Laura Billingham to share her advice for preserving photos. Thank you Laura for all this wonderful advice and links to great products to help us all. -Lynn Butler Beling

3 Savvy Ways To Preserve Photos by Laura Billingham

1. Scan it
It’s a little sacrilegious coming from a former film lover, but I actually feel that folks are safest getting high resolution scans of the photos that matter most to them, and storing those files on a removable drive (flash drive or the like) that is very easily transported in case of emergency. It would also be easy to make multiple copies of the drives to distribute with friends or family members for safe keeping.
Quite often, old albums (think: your parents’ and grandparents’) are not archival, meaning the paper and adhesives used to build them actually degrade over time, ruining the photos they are meant to protect. I recently made a new album for a mother of the bride, who’s own album had suffered damage in a damp basement. So I would rather advise people to get scans of the photos in those old albums now, before they damage the photos. That way, if anything happens to the album, the images are safe, and an album could be recreated.
There are many scanning services that will literally take a box of your old photos and scan every one for you. I’ve used, with good results. For precious images, heirloom wedding photos and the like, I would recommend scanning your own, or finding a photo local store who will take good care with them, and not send them out.
2. Share & share alike
Once your scanning is done, remember that hard drives are prone to failure, and technology changes, so it’s very important to save the files in more than one place.
Thinking of the holidays, why not suggest a “photo swap” at your next family gathering? Each family unit could contribute flash drives of the heirloom photos in their care. Or how about a scanning party? Long (holiday) visits often include a lot of down time that could be used to gather photographs, label them (archival pen, or soft pencil only!), and scan them. While you’re at it, you can also scan & share the traditional family recipes, or any other paper-based heirlooms. I have my grandmother’s recipe cards, that were written in pencil over the years, and scanning and sharing those has been a delight for me and my cousins.
Once the work of scanning is done, a portable drive, a cloud-based solution, and multiple copies are essential so that each base is covered in the event of a natural or technological disaster. It’s important to remember that as technology changes (remember floppy disks?) it’s important to re-save your images to the new technology format.
There are many cloud services out there, but I like the ease of Dropbox. For those folks that are Apple-based, iPhoto and Aperture integrate seamlessly with iCloud so that photos added to your photo stream are saved automatically. The cool thing about the photo stream is that friends & family can add to it, so if family photos are scattered in various households, folks can keep adding to the collection. This is a great option for families that may be scattered across the country or around the world.
3. Keep it real
Maybe you already have your scans, or better yet, you’ve added to your digital archives all year long. Swiping through a bunch of photos on your iPad is ok, but in my opinion, nothing beats a printed, tangible item that you can share and display. I love to make digitally-printed storybooks of family vacations. Sharing photos in this way really does have a way of elevating your images.
One of my favorite new online publishers is Artifact Uprising. Their tagline “Inspired by the Disappearing Beauty of the Tangible” really spoke to me. We have so many more images now, as we snap away on our phones and digital devices, but then what? Check out their minimalist-chic books, and I’m sure you’ll agree that keeping it “real” is the best way to capture and share important moments in our lives.
I think it would be just fabulous to do a book a family book per year, or a small book of favorite Instagram images from a honeymoon…the list goes on and on.
One other digital book resource I wanted to mention is Milk Books. They offer digitally printed Moleskin books that have an expandable pocket–nice for small keepsakes–and the books can be shared online, some even incorporating video.


Zig Millennium acid free, lightfast pens:
Archival photo boxes & DVDs: