Photos + [your suggestion] = A Happy Christmas
September 29, 2008 12:00 PM   Subscribe

How can computers help me turn hundreds of 1980s photographs into an awesome present?

I stole bags and bags of loose snapshots from my parents' house and I want to turn them into a present. Using computers? To put them on CDs? A few points:
1. I see that services exist that will make DVDs out of photographs, but I'm not really interested in a DVD with music and all and I'm loathe to mail the pictures away.
2. Maybe I could buy a scanner and do it myself? I need a printer anyway, so I could buy a regular printer with a scanner I'd use for this project OR I could buy a scanner / printer that's especially for photos and give it to my mom (who likes to get prints of digital photos) as a BONUS PRESENT.

Surely people do this all the time...
We'll call the budget $300 for now - any suggestions for methods or machines?
posted by moxiedoll to Technology (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You might find some ideas at Photojojo.
posted by o0dano0o at 12:10 PM on September 29, 2008

1) Buy a Mac or use the one you have already
2) Buy iLife 08, if not already installed, which includes iPhoto
3) Install Photoshop or PhotoShop LE (the cheap version of photoshop).
4) Buy a scanner or slidescanner. Install the scanning software.
5) Scan your photos.
6) Drop them into iPhoto and organize.
7) Here's the best part. Use iPhoto's built-in tools to create a photo book. Send the book via Apple's servers to get it printed and mailed to you.

I did this to create some books two years ago and they were HUGE hits. The one of my parent's wedding in 1969 was a real hit for my Mom's 60th birthday. I also made a Honeymoon one for my wife.
posted by at 12:15 PM on September 29, 2008

How much is your time worth? Even without retouching the photos, it's going to take around 20-30 seconds to scan each photo with a standard flatbed scanner (the kind you would get in an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier). And it gets tiring quickly, in my experience. It might not be too bad if you're the kind of person who gets into a meditative zone when doing repetitive tasks.

You might want to search the New York Times archive for an article that David Pogue wrote earlier this year about a couple of services that will scan photos cheaply and return them to you with the scans on a DVD-R. (It's not a DVD that you watch, with music and stuff; it's just a high-density way to put the image files on a disk.) You do have to bear the slight risk that they'll get lost, though.
posted by brianogilvie at 12:19 PM on September 29, 2008

Here's the article that brianogilvie was speaking of. (NY Times, August 13, 2008)
posted by blueberry at 12:25 PM on September 29, 2008

Response by poster: These suggestions are really great! A couple of things:
1. I'm a PC. A $700 compaq laptop, actually. A Mac is not going to happen for me right now.
2. I know it'd take a lot of time - but I don't mind repetitive tasks and I'm getting an early start... worst case, the presents could come in waves - Merry Christmas! Christmas mornings through the years! then Happy Father's Day! Thanks for a Decade of Disney World!
3. I *really* don't want to mail them. They're irreplaceable - and I've got more time than money anyhow.
posted by moxiedoll at 12:33 PM on September 29, 2008

If you don't want to spend the time to do it yourself, you can try The service promises to professionally scan 1,000 photos for you, the same day it receives them, and put them on a DVD for $50. Here's the NYTimes article 'brianogilvie' was talking about regarding this service.
posted by spoons at 12:41 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm scanning photos at the moment too, because I'm transcribing hundreds of little contributions my grandmother sent to newspapers back in the 60s. I installed Vuescan and I can't believe how much smoother and easier it is to use than the epilepsy-inducing fight between my regular scanner driver and photoshop. Auto-saves to file and everything, so I can surf the web while it does its business, flick back and put another picture on the scanner, click scan. Nice. (I'm scanning pages of pictures, and planning to go back and crop, rotate, finesse them later, while actually paying attention)
posted by slightlybewildered at 1:01 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have a Canon scanner (don't remember the model since it's at home), the software that came with the scanner lets you put multiple pictures on the scanner at once and the computer crops out the individual pictures and saves them as multiple files. I could fit 4 or 5 pictures at a time and was able to go through a couple hundred pictures quickly. So, you might want to look for a scanner that has that feature.
posted by mrpeach at 1:26 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

After you scan them you could put them in a nice digital photo frame thingy?
posted by ian1977 at 1:32 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

My brother had an HP all-in-one that would let you put a bunch of pictures on the scanner and it's software would know enough to make files for each picture. Of course this being an HP product it died a mysterious death much too quickly for my liking.

If you are going through the trouble of all the scanning don't forget to add metadata (tags/keywords) as it will make the photos much more useful for everyone.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:54 PM on September 29, 2008

I took a bunch of family photos, scanned them, put them in folders by decade, did my best to identify the people and name the photos appropriately, and made copies for my Mom and siblings. It was a lot of work, but it's a great resource to have. You likely won't need anything more than the software that comes with the scanner. If you want to do a slideshow, as we did for Mom's funeral, just copy pics into a folder on the computer, and use the slideshow screensaver.
posted by theora55 at 2:23 PM on September 29, 2008

Consider buying a good scanner and some storage for your parents and letting them do it by themselves --- they're going to enjoy it much more. We did this for my father last Christmas with excellent results.

The only downside being I now regularly receive e-mails at work with pictures of six-year-old me at the beach.
posted by ghost of a past number at 2:36 PM on September 29, 2008

Seconding the idea of a digital photo frame. I bought a 7 inch frame for my photographer boyfriend, and he loves it. Depending on his mood, he'll choose one photo to display for a few weeks, or let the frame cycle through a new photo every few minutes. You can buy a similar frame for about $70.

You live in Boston, so you're in luck as far as scanning goes. Boston is chock full of photography students you can pay to scan your photos and provide a little bit of retouching. If you post a flyer or two in the photography department at MassArt, you'll probably find someone who will do a better job for less money than you'd get from a professional in other parts of the country. Give two or three hungry students five photos, and pick the one you like best to do the rest.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 8:10 PM on September 29, 2008

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