How To Make Digital Files Of Old Family Photos 


One of my old co-workers (and friends!) came to me this week seeking some help to create a slideshow for her grandmother’s memorial.  She had a good collection of old family photos in a bag, but she wanted something that could be played on a big screen for everyone in the family to enjoy and remember together.  We were able to create something really special for her–and I know that both of us were wiping tears from our eyes by the end of the show.

It’s gotten me thinking about a few blog topics I’ve been wanting to cover.  So today, I’m going to share with you a great method for converting your old family photos to digital files that can be preserved on disc or thumb drive and shared more easily with your loved ones!  If you have a box in your basement (don’t we all?) that’s holding printed photos from your own childhood or family photos that have been passed down for generations and you’ve been wanting to convert them to digital files… on!

Years and years ago, the best way to turn printed photos into digital files was to use a scanner.  You had to take your photos into a lab or specialty store to have them converted.  And while most of us have scanners in our homes today, our personal scanners aren’t going to offer you the quality that you want.  Plus, if yours is like mine–it takes FOREVER!  I shudder to think how long it would take me to scan 100 photos.  So what’s the best plan?

Get your camera handy!

That’s right, the best plan is taking pictures of your pictures!!

Seems redundant, but let me explain.  Digital cameras have evolved so much that they have a much, much better resolution than most personal scanners.  And whether you’re preserving a photo that’s 75 years old or 5 years old, you want it to look true-to-life.  On the plus side, taking photos of your photos will be MUCH faster than using a scanner.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A low, flat surface with plenty of light (natural light is best!)

  • Your old photos

  • Your camera


  1. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly.  We don’t want to put any fingerprints on our photos!  And the acids from our hands will eventually cause photos to decay 🙁

  2. Place a photo on your flat surface, which should be low enough that you can squat or stand over it.

  3. Make sure your camera is set to the highest quality setting and the largest resolution size.

  4. Squat or stand over your photo, filling as much of the frame as possible without cutting any of your picture out.  It’s very important to position yourself directly over your photo!  That will help it keeps it’s natural square or rectangle shape.  If you take it from an angle, you’ll be distorting it.  Check the image on the back of your camera and compare it to the real thing–does it look the same?

  5. Once you’re done “cataloging,” transfer your files from your camera onto your computer!  And please remember to back them up on a disc, thumb drive, or external hard drive! 🙂

  6. Now that the photos are on your computer,  you may want to do some cropping to remove parts of your flat surface from the background.  And you may want to adjust any colors that are not accurate representations of the real photo.

Be sure to stand right over your photo!

You will be absolutely AMAZED at how quickly this will go!  I was able to convert about 40 photos in about 30 minutes–from taking the photos to transferring them onto my computer.  It’s definitely worth having these keepsakes in a more “up to date” form.  I hope this tutorial helps you make the most of your family memories!!

If you feel you’d rather have some professional help with a project like this, just get in touch with me!  I can get everything cataloged nicely for you and burned to disc.  I also offer photo restoration services for family photos that need a little tender loving care 🙂



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