3 Must-Know Tips for Digitizing Photos

The idea of digitizing photos can feel a little cumbersome when you first consider it. Luckily, in today’s increasingly digital world, there are plenty of ways to upgrade your record keeping and save your family’s photos where the sun, dust, and fingerprints can’t get to them.

While there’s really no one-size-fits-all method to digitizing photos, the options available allow the flexibility you need to tackle any attempt to safeguard your family’s important photos and documents. For a little guidance, check out the methods, tips, and tricks below to digitize your family photos below.

1. Decide How You Will Approach Digitizing Photos Ahead of Time

Choosing what method you will use ahead of time will save you a lot of time in the long run. Projects like this can be really exciting, but if you jump the gun, you may just end up throwing all your pictures back in the box until you can figure out what to do. Plan ahead and choose one of the following approaches.

Use a Scanner

If you have a home office and/or access to a scanner, you may be one step ahead of the game. Most home scanners are pretty straightforward and allow you to scan directly to your computer or to an external memory card or drive of your choice. If you don’t have a scanner, check your local library. Grocers, pharmacies, and convenience stores sometimes offer scanning services as well for a fee.


This hits right in the middle of the time consuming scale. It’s not going to be breezy, but it’s also not going to take you forever. A lot of the guesswork of lining up your photos and angling them just right is taken out, but you do still have to personally handle each and every document.


It can be! If you already have a scanner and the appropriate amount of storage, it’s free! If not, it could cost you a pretty penny so you may want to opt for another method so be sure to research your options.

Use Your Smartphone

If you decide a scanner isn’t the right option for you, you can also use your smartphone. There are plenty of apps out there for scanning from your phone. They’re easy, instant, and you can take them everywhere with you, which is pretty useful if you’re collecting photos and documents from multiple households.


The extra work of snapping and saving each photo individually makes this the most time consuming option on the list, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it! If you’re patient and pace yourself, you can get some really wonderful results this way.


You betchya. Some scanning apps are free with ads and some are very low cost. There are, of course, more premium scanning apps that you can get if you so choose. They may speed up the process or offer cloud storage, for example. At the end of the day, though, you don’t have to pay for an app.

Outsource Your Project

If you’re looking for an easy, hands-off method to digitizing photos, outsourcing your project may be the best option for you. Depending where you live, you may be able to take your box of photos to a local photo restoration shop or a “digital solutions” company. If you don’t have anything like that near you, there are a number of companies online that allow you to send your photos and documents in to them via mail.

If this interests you, we recommend checking out iMemories. They make the process simple and offer the option to choose what format your items are delivered, like a thumb-drive vs. a CD or digital file.


Not at all. You gather your things, give ‘em to the company, and forget about them until they tell you your order is ready.


Definitely not. This is the most expensive route and could potentially cost you a few hundred dollars, but if you can splash out on it, this worry-free method may well be worth the convenience.

2. Sort Your Photos Into Batches

Now that you’ve decided how you will approach your digitization project, you can get to the real work. Before you break out the scanner, download an app, or ship off a shoebox, though, take some time to sort your photos into batches. You can do this by family, event, theme, time period, really whatever you want; it’s entirely up to you.

The idea is to make your project manageable and as enjoyable as possible. Working on it in small chunks is a lot more sustainable than trying to digitize an entire family history in one night. Again, you don’t want to end up giving up before you’ve even started, so start smart. Getting organized ahead of time also benefits you once your project is done. All of the appropriate photos will be grouped together, making it much easier to view and enjoy your photos as the family narrative that they are.

Pro tip: Regardless of which method you choose to digitize your photos, you can upload your scanned batches as albums in the StoryCombs app. Save all your hard work, while adding important information like dates, places, people and the stories and memories behind the images. You can also invite your family members to contribute their photos, too. You shouldn’t have to do all the scanning on your own.

3. Be Mindful of Technical Details

Being mindful of a few technical things is really important if you choose to tackle this project yourself rather than outsourcing. Don’t let the word “technical” scare you, though. You certainly don’t have to be an expert photographer or a document preservation specialist to do this. Just consider the following as you set up your scanner or use your smartphone to digitize your files.


If you’re using your phone to scan your photos, keep an eye on the lighting while you scan. You don’t want to end up with big shiny spots where you can’t see anyone and you certainly don’t want to lose anyone in the shadows. If you’re using a scanner, most of them allow you to adjust the contrast and brightness as you scan. Alternatively, you can always make minor adjustments after you’ve finished scanning.


If you’re using your phone, make sure to snap the scan from above, straight on, or else the proportions of the photo will be all kinds of wonky. Likewise, when using a scanner, be sure to use the guides provided so your photo scans in nice and straight.


You may be tempted to ‘crop’ while you scan by zooming in or moving your phone closer to the photo, but be careful. You run the risk of cutting out some important parts of a photo by accident. If you really want to take some of the photo off at the edges, wait until you’ve scanned it and crop it digitally. That way, if you go too far or change your mind, you can always undo it.

These tips and tricks should help you get started, but if you hit any other bumps along the way, just remember that by digitizing photos you’re doing important work that will help preserve your family's stories for generations to come. For more information about preserving family stories and other useful tips and tricks be sure to subscribe to our blog and follow us on Facebook @StoryCombs.


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