Focusing on those Family Heirloom Photos

Being fifty-five, you would think that my first thought when I read the topic for this month, “Magical Beginnings,” might have been about my kids as they begin their adult lives or even my grand-daughter who is just five and started kindergarten this year. Funny, but that wasn’t what seemed to pop in my mind at all; it was more a picture of myself and my own change of course with my life. Really diving into my own family’s history and the family heirloom photos that have found their way to me, I am discovering that it is very important to release myself from any sense of duty to “get it all done” and to slow down, focusing on each photo and each event — and most importantly, making sure to enjoy the process.  (Which is one of the reasons that I found my way to Scrapaneers!)


One Picture, One Story

Sure, I’ve done years and years of research on my family’s history so I have loads of names, places and numbers, but just try to get any family member to look at my binders of information and I get that “deer in the headlight look” from everyone. It is only when I share one picture and whatever story I might have about the photo at a time, that I get any interest in the family story at all.  This seems small, but really, it is huge because all the research work in the world doesn’t mean a “hill of beans” if no one reads it, right?



One Step at a Time

The first step in this process has to start with my family’s heirloom photos. Why? Well, because any time that I want to put together a layout, post a picture on Instagram, or tell a story, I need to have the photo. Put a photo together with a story and you suddenly catch the viewer’s attention. If you don’t believe me, think about Facebook and how frustrating it is when someone only posts a picture with no story, let alone any caption telling who is in the photo. I usually end up asking for more details which then makes it 100% more interesting because I have the backstory as well as names. That gives me something to relate to as I look at the picture — I now have an investment in the photo and suddenly I’m looking at the picture in a whole different way.


Planning is Key

Now, I know you all think along the same lines because you are digital scrapbookers and that means we are all about the photos and their presentation. After a few years… ok, maybe it’s more like a lot of years, I’ve come to realize that I need a plan in order for my projects to move over to the “Finished” column so I’m making myself accountable with this post. I’m taking the beginning steps to digitize my family heirloom photos and get them cleaned up and ready for their digital debut. I’m hoping that as I work through the process myself, it can help to show that such a huge project can get done, step-by-step.


Bye-Bye Picasa, Hello Google Photos

For the longest time, I used Picasa Photo Editor as an easy and quick way to organize and make small edits to photos. But, life is ever-changing and technology seems to evolve even faster. With Google’s recent change-over from Picasa Photo Editor to the new Google Photos, I’ve decided to not dig my heels in the sand when it comes to embracing the new. It’s been more of a matter of figuring out the best way to optimize it for the way I use and manage my own photos.


Looking to the Future

Just a quick note about photo editing and storage: I have been moving my photo organizing over to Adobe Lightroom the past few months because I knew that Picasa had already become a shuttered program. Of course, Lightroom allows me to upload my photos, add important metadata during import, as well as automatically backup my photos to my Dropbox account. This means that I have a copy on my computer, a backup on my Dropbox and if taken on my phone, a third copy is automatically going to my Google Photo’s account. Having access to Dropbox or Google Photos means that I can also access apps on my phone for editing or adding overlay text, or even scrapbooking.


Glossy Photos? No problem with PhotoScan

I think that I might have added the Google PhotoScan app the same day it was released public-wide. What caught my eye was the ability to handle the glare that happens when taking a picture of a glossy photo. PhotoScan literally takes five quick photos of any glossy printed picture and merges them together without the glare. Yes, that was the only reason that I initially added that app to my phone. If you have ever tried to take a photo of a glossy photo, you will understand how frustrating it can be to find it marred by a glare, no matter how hard you try to avoid it and how many angles you try. And until you have tried to scan old photo albums on a flat-bed scanner, you can’t imagine the pure sense of calm as I quickly work through each page one photo at a time. Even my ScanSnap portable scanner seems clunky when I put it up against the ease of simply taking a snapshot of each photo. Technology can be a wonderful thing…


The Photoscan app takes one photo and then four dots will show up on your screen. Do you remember playing Pac-Man and working your way to get to certain prizes? Well, it’s a bit like that in a very simplified way. You are hunting down the four dots! Pay attention to the arrow on where to go first and move your camera until the cursor is over a dot. If you hover for a second, the app will take a photo and you can then move to the next dot. Once you have hovered over all the dots and the photos have all been taken, it will merge all five photos into one — deleting the glare. And it is as simple as that. Score one for me!


Here’s an example of one photo taken with my iPhone camera (in indirect light which is my front window) and then again using the PhotoScan app:

photoscan- Focusing on those family heirloom photos


Quick tips for using Google PhotoScan:

  • Check for the flash feature and decide if you would prefer to turn it off. I always take my scans of photos by indirect light so it is usually bright enough and I’m not adding any more glare to the photo so flash is not needed.
  • Try to stay at the same height all around the photo, but it does seem to do a pretty good job even if you change a bit.
  • Once you have taken a group of photos, you can then click on the “Save All” button to upload them to your Camera Roll as well as Google Photos. Make sure to sign into your existing  Google account or sign up for a new one. You can get to the area where the photos reside by clicking on the small right-hand side button on the main scanning screen. If there are photos waiting to be uploaded, it will show a snippet of the photo, otherwise, a question mark will show.
  • Once you have uploaded to Google Photos, the images can be deleted from your camera roll if you like to save space on your phone. It can be handled from within Google Photos which is nice.
  • If I have a matte photo that I am scanning, I usually switch back to my phone’s camera and take it with that app since I don’t have to worry about glare. If it’s really important and you might not have access to the photo again, I would suggest that you take a photo with both the phone’s camera as well as thru PhotoScan.
  • Google Photos will allow free, unlimited uploads if you don’t mind capping the resolution, otherwise, you can purchase extra memory and upload photos at their full resolution. I don’t think that this will be a problem for me at the moment. Most of my photos will be printed at a smaller size with the largest at 8×10 so it shouldn’t present any problem. If I needed to print larger, it would be more important to scan the photo in at a higher resolution and keep the digital copy at a higher size as well.
  • One more thought… make sure to take a photo of the entire album page with any handwriting you find by the photos so that you have a record of the details. If it is the handwriting of your ancestor, I would even suggest adding the handwriting to your layout or attach it to the photo.


Magical Beginnings – Looking forward to the Process

Each month, I am hoping to continue sharing my journey as I unravel the process from overwhelming to falling back in love with my family history. I’m re-energized as I take this step into a more thoughtful and creative way to document all those lovely photos and piece together what stories that I have into something really special.


Focusing on those Family Heirloom Photos

I’ll keep you posted on my progress and please let me know if you have any specific questions that you would like to see addressed in future articles!  If you are intrigued and want to get started, then I would suggest starting back where I’m starting — with the old family photos. You might have to make some calls and even make a few visits to older relatives, but think of it as a way to get more stories to go along with the photos!

Priceless for sure…


The Magic of Beginnings Giveaway


On to the next installment of the Scrapaneers December Giveaway – The Magic of Beginnings.


A big THANK YOU to all the amazing designers who contributed to this Mega Collection. The Magic of Beginnings is perfect for your holiday and December sequential projects, but it is about so much more than that. Think about plans and goals for the new year, starting a new stage of life, new relationships or simply the start of exciting new adventures. This collection is so big we could not fit it all into one preview, so here is glimpse at the collection in two parts (we couldn’t fit everything in the preview so know there’s MORE!):


Magic of Beginnings Collection


Magic of Beginnings Collection


Magic of Beginnings download links are no longer available.

Don’t forget to check back on Monday, December 26 for the next set of downloads, and a fun tutorial from Kat about how to maximize your mini-kits.





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  • Vivian Krigline December 23, 2016   Reply →

    Wow! Thank you for the tutorial and tips for the scan program. My sister does that family background/history and I love playing the the photos on pages! But back to the program…I was looking at something like this the other day but wasn’t sure how it would really work. Now I’m going to really check it on. Thanks again!!

  • Blackthorne December 23, 2016   Reply →

    Thanks so much – Everything is always gorgeous !

  • Sandy_in_MD December 23, 2016   Reply →

    Thank you for the informative tutorial – I want to do a family history album in 2017, and the Google ScanSnap sounds like a good way to go to capture the family photos. And many thanks to the designers of today’s freebies.

    • Michele Kerr July 7, 2017   Reply →

      Hello Sandy_in_MD! How is your family lifestory coming along? I have to laugh a bit at myself for not seeing these wonderful comments coming through on my articles! For some reason, I thought they would be directed to me which meant that I haven’t seen any of them or replied — for which I am really sorry! I should have known better but it was a major-fail with an upside! I have had the pleasure today of seeing a ton of wonderful comments which really lets me know I am in the right spot!

      I shared an article recently that has made such a huge difference in how I can work to pull my pics, stories and research together. You can find it HERE.

      Things have started to click and I’m really excited that Tiffany has given my a Heritage area in the Scrapaneers’ Blog where I can start to really build a great foundation for anyone looking to work on their own family lifestory. Now that I

  • JeannieK December 23, 2016   Reply →

    Thank you Michele for the interesting article and tips! I work on our family genealogy too and get that look of – “please, no more genealogy info” – except for my 84 year old mother. She loves everything I can find.
    You are right about putting stories with the photos. More family members pay attention when looking at those pages. I’ll be back to read your article several more times! Thank you Karen and Becca for the stunning minis! Merry Christmas to all of you and your families.

    • Michele Kerr July 7, 2017   Reply →

      Thanks JeannieK! I LOVE hearing that there are others out there feeling the same way I do about our family lifestories! Tiffany has given me a special area on the Scrapaneers Blog dedicated to Heritage, so I’m really excited to share my process as I continue to work towards finding that special mix that will draw in my family! — Sorry it has taken me forever to respond! I have to laugh at myself when I see all these great comments and I didn’t realize they weren’t coming directly to me! It is so overwhelming to see some of the responses that I’ve received on some of the articles I have shared.

  • Pam K December 23, 2016   Reply →

    I’ve been going through my dad’s things and have found a lot of old photos — thanks for the tips about scanning & using the phone apps. I’ll need to check them out! & thanks to Scrapaneers and the designers for all the love downloads in this mega collection! Merry Christmas — Happy Holidays — and a wonderful New Year!

    • Michele Kerr July 7, 2017   Reply →

      Hello Pam K! It’s so hard to go through our parent’s things — mostly for me, it was hard knowing that I never asked them about certain items. My mother had traveled to Germany right after the end of war to be with her first husband when he was stationed there. I have her jewelry that I knew was from there, but I never once thought to ask her for the stories behind them or the pictures!

      The good news is that I became a lot better at talking with my oldest living family members to get their stories and their memories — it even spurred me on to sit down several times with my own father to get his lifestory. So, out of sadness has come a great amount of wonderful family stories. And hopefully, my bumbles will be the lightbulb moments for others!

  • NBaca December 23, 2016   Reply →

    Thank you for this tip. I have plans to visit my older brother at the first of the year to take copies of the family photos he has. I was wondering how I was going to make scans of the without loading up my scanner/printer and taking it with me. This is a great solution to my problem.

    • Michele Kerr July 7, 2017   Reply →

      Hello NBaca! I hope that your trip to visit your brother turned out well! It is amazing to find photos that are “hiding” in family members’ homes. I recently visited my aunt, my father’s sister, and they didn’t have any of the photos that I shared with them. The stories that they brought up were priceless and I wish I had had my video taping at the time! I wrote down the stories, but it would have been priceless to have been able to capture their actual stories being told. (Especially since my aunt has Alzheimers and I was warned ahead of time that she might not be very responsive. The best side of it all was that she recognized the people in the pictures and smiled and even added to the conversation by my uncle!)

      I recently added an article that you might find interesting and you can find it HERE.

      It has been such a huge game-changer for me in unlocking all the great photos, stories and research that I have kind of locked away on my computer! Would love to hear if you have any other questions!

  • Carol December 23, 2016   Reply →

    I have loved every posting of your “Magic of Beginnings” series for Christmas. Will all of these great tutorials be available after Christmas? This has been a wonderful adventure into so many levels of learning. You ladies are the best!

  • Mary Merrifield December 23, 2016   Reply →

    I also hope the tutorials will remain available. I love them. They are very easy to follow. Thank you for the kits and coupons. Merry Christmas.

  • R December 23, 2016   Reply →

    Thank you 🙂

  • Johanna December 23, 2016   Reply →

    Thank you very much!! Beautiful!!

  • Peggy S December 24, 2016   Reply →

    Thank you so much for all these beautiful kits and the great tutorials! This recording of family photos is so important, and I cant stress enough how urgent it is to get names on the backs of photos. If the person who knows who is who passes unexpectedly before anyone writes on them, they may be unable to be identified and stories are lost. Having stories with photos is even better, and you can fill in stories a great deal using and

    • Michele Kerr July 7, 2017   Reply →

      Hello Peggy S! I agree with your plea for everyone to get their heritage photos named. I have taken photos with me to older family members’ homes and while I always hope to get names, I am thoroughly pleased when I also get more stories! I used to be a Creative Memories consultant and I carried a beautiful photo of a young woman with me to show that there was a name on the back — I had picked it up at an antique store somewhere. With that single name and the name of the photographer, I was able to track down the woman in a census record in hopes of placing it back with it’s family. Unfortunately, she never married, and I haven’t been able to locate close relatives, but that experience has definitely left a mark on me and understanding how important it is to get those photos id’d!

  • nj December 24, 2016   Reply →

    Very interesting indeed. Thank you to the designers. Wonderful downloads.

  • Lis December 27, 2016   Reply →

    Thank you so much for all these wonderful kits and the great tutorials!!

  • Jennifer Moore December 27, 2016   Reply →

    Love your heritage pages. They are beautiful and I love the story to them too.

    • Michele Kerr July 7, 2017   Reply →

      Thanks Jennifer Moore! Things are definitely coming together as I work towards pulling all my heritage photos, stories and research together into one beautiful-to-look-at book. I’m determined to turn my research binders into the kinds of books that my children and future generations will WANT to look at, so it is really wonderful to get feedback from other scrapbookers!

      (Sorry for the delay in answering your comment! For some silly reason, I thought I would receive a notification of any comments and the site was, but I wasn’t! So, better late than never and it has been REALLY fun to read through the comments!)

  • Libby Wiers December 31, 2016   Reply →

    Thank you, everyone!! I recently downloaded PhotoScan, but have yet to try it. And Google Photos is also on my list…

    • Michele Kerr July 7, 2017   Reply →

      Hello Libby Wiers! I hope that you had a chance to try out the different scanning apps? They have made such a huge difference in the way that I work with my family lifestories. Tiffany has set up a Heritage area in the Scrapaneers blog and I’m very excited to be able to curate the articles so they become a great reference for anyone interested in putting together their own family lifestories!

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