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 ScanSnap:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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…

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