Archive for the ‘Scanning Tips and Suggestions’ Category

Are Your Photos Overwhelming You?

April 12, 2010

Photo Management Suggestions

During the past fifteen years I’ve struggled with many strategies to preserve, organize and manage photos. I have many different types and sizes of photos including slides and newspaper clippings.

The photo at the left is one of many photos in my Olsen family photo collection. This photo represents an avoidable tragedy. The photo was taken about 1900 in Norway. These two beautiful young ladies are probably relatives. Unfortunately we may never know their names, where they lived and how they were related, No one took the time to write any information on the back of the photo. Hopefully I may find a relative who has the same photo with information.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about working with photos:

  1. Scan and save only the best quality photos. No one will be interested in looking at poor quality photos unless a photo is ‘one of kind.’ Refer to my blog about scanning recommendations so you don’t waste time creating poor quality scans. More scanning information can be accessed by clicking this link.
  2. Eliminate duplicate photos. Pick and save the best photo when you have several similar photos.
  3. Photos without descriptive information are worthless. Sorry to be so blunt. Few people enjoy looking at meaningless photos. Click this link for more information.
  4. DO NOT copy photos into your computer without a plan. You will discover it’s easier to find photos in boxes than disorganized folders on your computer. See the next suggestion.
  5. Avoid organizing photos by names and dates. Maintain the context in which photos were taken when copying photos into folders. Use topical names for folder or collection names such as the occasion when photos were taken. For example, you take photos on a picnic or hike. Put all the photos taken during the picnic or hike into a folder named “Dry Canyon Hike” because that is the location where the hike occurred. For a graduation you might name the photo folder “Nathan Graduation 2009.” Photos of my great grandfather’s rock home are in a collection called, “Carl Steen’s Rock Home.” More information may be found by clicking this link.
  6. Do not break up photo albums. Scan photos into categories (folders) similar to the pages in the album. This will maintain the organization that was used to create the album. For example, you may discover the photos on an album page were all cousins. Studying the photo grouping of album pages and sections may reveal other hidden information.
  7. Add oral narrative and stories to photos. Next time you visit your grandparents ask to see their photo album. Be prepared to hear fascinating stories of their history that you’ve never heard. Don’t forget to ask about how they met, courted, and married. Old photos were expensive and usually taken for a reason, Your challenge is to discover the story hidden in each photo. Record the stories and information with a tape recorder or digital voice recorder. Associating oral narrative with a photo is priceless, enhances meaning and really brings a photo back to life. 
  8. Keep Information within the photo file. Use a computer software program to embed (store) descriptive text information and dates in the computer photo file. Learn more about “Photo & Information Survivability by clicking this newsletter link.
  9. Improve your digital camera skills. Learn to take better quality photos. For more information, click this newsletter link. Digital Photography in Family History.
  10. Avoid scanning promotions. If someone comes to your door and offers to scan and preserve all your photos – Smile and then RUN! All you will end up with is several DVDs and a big bill. Your photos will be preserved but without any of the descriptive information that makes the photo meaningful and valuable. There is still hope if you copy the images from the DVDs and use another program such as Heritage Collector to add photo captions and identify the people in the photos. Make new DVD archives of the photos and information. Note: Having someone scan and enhance your photos maybe helpful and save time if you do not want to scan your photos. Sort photos into groups so you will have some general photo organization when you receive the DVD photo collections.

More information links about photos

Old Shoebox Newsletter 

Photo Identification Suggestions

Scanning Tutorial

Photo Management Software

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Writing a History – Tips and Mistakes

April 10, 2010

Start Simple!

Over the years I’ve helped many people compile, format, print and bind a Family History. The process can be an enjoyable and fulfilling experience or it can be a costly and frustrating nightmare. This blog will focus on a few things to make it positive and rewarding experience. I will discuss mistakes and things to avoid and offer a few tips from “Create a History.”

 

Mistakes and Things to Avoid and What to Do (Tips)

Mistake: Save time by trying to do it all at once. (Causes a lot of stress and frustration).

Tip: Relax and start writing your history. Write the most important and humorous stories first. Don’t worry about formatting or inserting photos. Do that later. Creating small chapters (documents) will make it easier to manage.

Mistake: Trying to stretch or enlarge a photo when inserting it into the document. (Photos will look awful – blocky and pixelated).

Tip: Scan ALL photos resizing them to 8”x10” @ 150 – 350 DPI. Resize (shrink) photos later when inserting them into the document.

Mistake: Most of the popular word processing programs do not really lock or anchor photos in the document. Photos just appear to be locked or anchored in the document. Later you may find some photos have moved around in the final PDF. The problem with moving photos continues to be a serious and frustrating limitation in most programs.You may not discover this maddening inconsistency until AFTER you make a PDF. A Portable Document File (PDF) is required for printing. You can find more information about a PDF by doing a Google search on “PDF.”

Tip: Use OpenOffice.org (OOo) to format and prepare your book for printing. OpenOffice.org is registered trademark of OpenOffice.org and a freeware program.

Mistake: Editing your drafts starting with the first page is a big mistake. (All the text will ‘bump’ down through the entire document causing you to proofread the entire document again to make edits.

Tip: Edit your draft starting at the last page and work toward the first page.

 Mistake: Cramming too much text onto a page trying to reduce the number of pages. Small margins look even worse when the book is trimmed. Top, bottom and side pages are cut down before a book is bound.

Tip: Use the standard ‘Mirror’ margins settings recommended in OOo. A mirror margin formats the text for printing on both sides of the page. It also prevents the text from going too far down into binding (middle of the book) making it difficult to read the beginning or end of a sentence.

Mistake: Trying to get a “ballpark” printing cost estimate before knowing how many pages the book will contain and the number of copies to be printed. Your printer is not a mind reader and cannot divine cost without a page and book count.

Circulate your first draft among a few relatives to get their response. Take your first complete draft to your printer to get your first cost estimate. Survey relatives and friends to see if they are interested paying for a copy. You can then get a final cost estimate. Collect money BEFORE having the book printed.

 Mistake: Thinking your book can be printed from the documents you create using your word processing program. Printers require books to come to them in PDF format. You may also have a problem if you have used special fonts in your book. It’s impossible for a printer to have all the millions of fonts. Typically the fonts the printer does not have are substituted with the ugly Currier font which is very noticeable and appears unprofessional.

OOo will automatically create a PDF of your book. Use the setting to embed fonts in the PDF. Embedding the fonts will save (embed) the special fonts you’ve used in your book in the PDF so the correct fonts will be used to print your book.

Mistake: Your book will never be perfect. You will miss a few errors and misspelled names in the final draft no matter how many times it is proofed – trust me.

Create a preface or forward indicating you have tried to make the book as perfect as possible but you know there may be a few inadvertent mistakes. Consider using the following poem.

 APOLOGY

No book is entirely perfect

For errors will creep in;

Sometimes wrong information sent

Is what commits the sin.

And even printers make mistakes

For which they tear their hair;

Sometimes two people disagree

On who or when or where.

It might have been the person

Who wrote the history.

It might have been the typist,

Or blame can fall on me.

So, if you’re dead before you’re born,

Or married when you’re three,

Or I’ve omitted anyone

Who sent themselves to me,

Or your last name is not your own,

You’re picture’s not too good;

I ask you, “Please forgive the crime!

I did the best I could!”

 Author Unknown

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

Start writing, even with a pen or pencil or record your narrative. Get the important parts of your history documented so your children and grandchildren will have the chance to know you better and benefit from your experience and wisdom.

Unfortunately there is not enough space in a blog to offer more detailed information. Please refer to my new “Create a History” for additional help and information.

Writing a History? Use OpenOffice.org – IT’S FREE!

December 5, 2009

Over the years I’ve helped several people prepare, compile, format and print family histories. You can avoid many problems if you start simple and right. There are many things you need to know about. However, let’s not start by overwhelming you or “dumping the whole load.” We will try and do this one step at a time with several blog articles. We’ll eat this family history elephant one spoonful at a time.

Major Goal – Start by using the right software and saving money.

All word processing programs are not created equal! I can promise that most of them are going to give you a migraine headache before you finish your project. Unfortunately, the pain is not going to strike until later after you’ve invested much time and effort. We could easily refer to this as a real “Attack of the Heart!” 

 Here’s one of my “Marlo’s Minefield Warnings.” You will not be able to lock or anchor your photos on the pages in your book no matter how hard you try. You will not discover this problem until you create the PDFs from which your book will be created by a printing company.  Two expensive solutions are to purchase a costly desktop publishing software (several hundred dollars) or to have a professional format and prepare your book for printing (a loan from the bank) .

Solution #1 – Get and learn to use OpenOffice.org (OOO)

Six months ago I downloaded and started playing around with OpenOffice.org.  I didn’t feel I had time to learn to use another word processor but since the program / download was free I couldn’t resist messing around with another program. I hoped to find an inexpensive alternative to help my friends and our users publish a family history. I’ve not been impressed with the “automatic” types of programs that sort of combine names, dates and locations into a pseudo family history. Very boring, not motivational and very impersonal – not my idea of a history or something to impose on my children and grandchildren. I want my grandchildren to love me and not have to resist reading grandpa’s old boring stuff.

WOW! OOO  really impressed me! Not only was it free but it offered so many additional options perfect for formatting a family history. I have a solution at the end of the blog you will like. Please don’t let the following list snow you under:

  1. Comes with a built-in PDF creator
  2. Free add-on PDF module that allows you to edit PDFs
  3. One, two (or more) columns formats
  4. Page numbering 
  5. Mirror margins
  6. Text flowing around photos
  7. Headers and footers
  8. Hyperlinks
  9. Automated table of contents
  10. Index (if you want to do one) 
  11. Much more

Solution #2 Saving Money

OpenOffice.org is FREE! You read correctly. All you skeptics (I’m one) are thinking what’s the catch? It must be full of spyware –NO. It must be a cut down or a crippled version to entice you to buy the expensive “Real” version – NO.  You can read more about OOOs growth and development here.

Some of you will be getting a new computer during the holidays, or because of all the great deals, or maybe your one-eyed monster (computer) needs to be retired.  You will be faced with the decision of purchasing a new word processing system since the computer will probably come with a trial period word processor.

 I challenge you to download OpenOffice.org. You will save a bunch of money (so you can add more RAM to your computer) and you will feel right at home using OpenOffice.org (OOO). It will also read and write other word processing files so you don’t have to worry about all the documents you already have created with those two other word processors. You will also be able to easily create PDFs.

Download OpenOffice.org

The Good News!

I’ve started to create a family history book template for use with OOO. I hope to release the templates at the Mesa, Arizona Family History Expo, January 22 – 23. My goal is to do all the hard stuff (formatting, page numbers, margins, table of contents, etc) so you can concentrate your efforts on compiling and writing your history instead of fighting with the software.

I will also write another blog explaining how Heritage Collector will help you organize and find the photos you want to use in your book. This was the initial reason we created Heritage Collector (Previously called Photo Collector). We discovered one of the more difficult struggles was finding the scanned photos to be used in a history. I will also show you how easy Heritage Collector can help you create a self-running CD/DVD to go in the cover of your history containing a narrated sideshow, all the photos used in the book and a searchable PDF of the history. This is really fun stuff and helps get the younger geeks (today’s computer wizards) interested in learning and reading your family history.

Consult Chapter 7, Creating a Bound History, in the Digital Family History Guidebook for more information about preparing and printing a family history.

FINAL TIP: Start writing some fun and interesting stories. Let your creative juices flow by NOT worrying about finding photos, formatting or organizing the content. Just get the fun and important stories  into your computer on paper using a pen or pencil as your input device. It will be worth it and you will be amazed how interested your family will become. So keep your project a secret and don’t let them read any of it until you are ready but drop hints to increase the intrigue!

Please refer to the Easier Scanning blog before you start scanning photos for your book.

Scanning – Do it right the first time!

December 5, 2009

I’ve taught many scanning classes and  I’ve answered many questions. I will offer more scanning suggestions and tips as this blog grows – just a spoonful at a time.

Here’s a scanning tip I consider the most important.

Scan all images using the following settings:

Image Size = 8 x 10 inches or 10 x 8 inches depending on the shape of the photo.

TIP – When scanning only enter one half of the image size number (8 or 10) and then click in the other image size box. The scanning software will automatically compute the other number keeping your image proportional. This will avoid creating distorted photos of tall / skinny or short / fat relatives! Be nice – this is not the way to get even with uncle Herman.

Resolution / DPI = 150 -350 DPI depending on the quality of the photo.

TIP: Avoid using a high DPI on poor quality images. All you will get is a very large image file with no improvement in image quality.

TIP: You are using your scanner as an enlarger. You will need to use the advanced settings option in your scanner in order to change the output or image target size as recommended above.

WHY? I know you all think I’m nuts!  In my classes I always get raised eyebrows or eyes rolled up toward the ceiling (like my kids used to do) until the attendees (too old to be students) hear the following reasons.

Most of us have no idea how we will be using our scanned images in the future. Don’t make the typical mistake of thinking your computer is magic and will allow you to stretch or enlarge photos later.

TIP: Stretching photos is a great trick for making scary Halloween photos with the pointed teeth, funny looking eyes with a little pixelization thrown for a spooky appearance – be nice to uncle Herman.

Someday you may decide to create a beautiful hardbound book, print out a calendar or engage in another project requiring large photos. Photos are never larger than 8 x 10 inches in a family history book so your scans will enhance interest and help create a professional looking book. You will be able to “shrink” your large scans to the desired size with a minimal amount of image quality loss for use on other pages in the book or calendar.

Don’t worry about filling up your hard drive with large image files. Move your scans to an external drive or to CD/DVDs for storage later use.

You may only have one change to scan some old photos so please do it right the first time!!

Need more scanning help? Purchase my Easier Scanning Tutorials or consult chapter two, “Easier Scanning,” in the Digital Family Guidebook that also comes in PDF with Heritage Collector.