“Can I start scanning?”
Not yet. First, we must carry out the most important step: collect all of the photos, filmstrips, slides, and digital images you can think of, then begin to create timelines.
Most people will just do it without a plan: find a few old photos and hastily buy a scanner to start scanning. Even after two days of scanning, they still can’t figure out what their goals are and how they should go on.
Some people may feel bored and be overcome by laziness. They quickly pick out a few random photos and scan them without much thought; shortly after, they put the scanner aside and any thought of scanning more photos.
Some people may scan old photos for making the video to play at their wedding party, so they dig out ALL the photos from childhood to now (both paper and digital), and pick just a few to scan.
These methods are not ideal. Every time a photo is picked out and put away, the photos and films may somehow become more damaged by the humidity, temperature and even dust or oil on your fingers; these precious photos will age much quicker. Therefore I would recommend organizing all of your photos, once and for all.
1. Dedicate a fixed space
First, find a space that you can use to organize your photos and films in the next few weeks. It doesn’t matter if it is small. Remember, you don’t want it to be the kitchen table, as every time you go to eat, you will need to pack them up, then place them out again afterward. Consistently repeating this will not only destroy these precious photos and films, but it will also wear down your patience and perseverance.
2. Gather your photos and negatives
Begin to place all the items you have collected into this dedicated space, such as old hard drives, old smartphones, old photos, photo albums, filmstrips, slides, scrapbooks, and your important documents, but wait a moment; all of these items are touchable, tangible objects.
Don’t forget that there are intangible objects, digital files that are scattered all across computers, tablets, your current phone, social media, backed-up to the cloud, even your NAS. You should find a digital space (like your computers’ built-in hard drive) and copy all your digital files here, then back them up to another place (like an external hard drive or USB).
3. Establish a timeline
After you have finished gathering all your belongings and placed them into their respective tangible and intangible spaces, then you will need to start establishing a timeline of your life. According to your personal preferences, you can either use pen and paper, or electronically using a word document or excel spreadsheet on your computer.
Not only us adults, but even children also have a lot of memories. How will we plan those timelines?
Not to worry. Have you heard of the principle ‘Divide and Conquer’? Mostly used in MBA and marketing, it means to conquer each section after it is divided.
To use this strategy, we divide your life into several milestones. For example, photos from before our birth, early childhood, elementary school, adolescence, college years, young adulthood, marriage, pregnancy, the stages of your children’s life, your career, interests, hobbies, and so on.
The timeline just helps to cut down and divide our lives, but don’t cut down these timelines too much!
4. Separate your photos and films according to the timelines
Once your timelines have been divided into your different milestones, then it is time to classify and separate your photos and film, and place them in your dedicated fixed space according to your timelines.
The benefits of outlining a timeline are that it divides one large job into several small jobs (the different stages of your life), so when you scan your photos you can finish one small section at a time (a section of your life). While you are working and organizing your photos and films, you can focus on remembering what other events were happening during that stage of your life and if they have been recorded. If those photos are in the hands of your parents, siblings, friends, or classmates, take note of which photos are missing, then borrow them just before you begin to scan. This way you won’t be borrowing them for too long.
It may only take a few hours to complete each small section, and as you divide your milestones into smaller sections, you can begin to estimate the time it will take to complete each section and how much time you will need to complete the whole project.
The photos taken at different times of our lives will need to be processed differently due to the photographic technology that was available at the time, and how well they were preserved. When I talk about digitizing photos, I will discuss my experiences with you in as much detail as I can. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to write to me.