So you have been handed a box of old family photos, or perhaps a car load of family photo albums filled with memories of years past. What do you do with them?
First of all, count yourself very lucky. So many have stories of boxes of photos having been thrown in the dumpster simply because they did not have any meaning to those who found them.
Don't handle them with your greasy fingers. Some feel it is a myth that oils from your fingers can damage photos. I, however, feel it is important to be careful. Wear a pair of cotton gloves that will protect your photos while you sift through them.
Invest in a few good quality archival pens. These acid free pens can be found at most craft and scrapbook stores. They allow you to write on the back of each photo without the worry of damage from using the generic pencil or ink pen. If you know what the photo depicts, such as date, location and perhaps persons, be sure to record that on the back of the photo using the archival pens. If you have no information, or only partial information of the subjects in the photos, record what you can. Place these in archival envelopes, divided into groups by subjects, persons, etc. Make a mental note of who in your family may be able to help identify what is in the photos. When your finished with this part of organization, make a phone call to contact those persons who may be able to help you. Meeting in person is the best way to have a great conversation about family and the photos in question. Be sure to take along a notebook. There may be some great stories that are attached to those photos, and you don't want to miss an opportunity to record what you learn from these conversations.
The photos themselves need to be preserved. Purchase good quality clear, archival sleeves to protect the photos from harmful elements in the environment. Photo shops, craft stores and even big box and discount stores carry these types of photo storage pages. They are cheaper if you buy them in larger packages, and you can always use extras.
Invest in a good scanner/copier/printer, or take the photos to a place that allows you to scan on their equipment. You can save the images on a flash drive, compact disc, external hardrive and your computer's memory, too. Having this extra copy is most important. If something should happen to the original photo, you will always have the scanned copy that you have made. Personally, I keep at least two scanned copies of each photo. When I save the digital copy, I always give each photo file a name that can be descriptive of what is on the photo and when it was taken.
If you have damaged photos, faded photos, or just plain old photos that show their age, you might want to invest in a photo image program that allows you to make corrections to the photo. These programs are great tools to have. You can make an old photo look like new by enhancing the image, making corrections to highlights, shadows and brightness and correcting hues of coloration. Photoshop is the "go-to" programs for most hobbyists. However, you can always get by with other programs that are less expensive, such as Corel and Kodak. Do a little shopping in this area. Try some that may have free trial periods until you find one that fits your needs and comfort level.
Lastly, don't forget to share those photo images with family. What a great gift to give at Christmas, anniversary or birthday. Write a story to go along with the photo collection gift. It will give it more meaning.