Five Tips For Scanning Your Old Photos

If your family is anything like mine, you have hundreds or thousands of photos that will never be seen again.  We have boxes filled with old photos (typically hidden in the attic); everything from black-and-white pictures from the early 1900s through to colour photos of me and my brother growing up.

Even if we open up those boxes and look through them occasionally, that doesn’t help the family who live elsewhere.  I have cousins living around the world who, of course, share the same grandparents – of whom we have a lot of photos.  The only solution is to scan the pictures and put them somewhere we can all access.

Scanning in old photos is a BIG job – especially if you have as many as we do – so I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learned while working through our old photo collection.  Here are five tips for scanning in old photos…

1. Choose your device

The first decision is whether to use a flatbed scanner or your camera (or smartphone) to digitise your old photos.  Using a camera is certainly the simplest option – it is far easier and quicker to snap, snap, snap your photos than it is to load them one-by-one into a scanner and wait while it scans.  It probably takes an average of 60 seconds per photo using a flatbed scanner, versus maybe 10 seconds using a camera.

But the quality of the scan from a scanner is far superior to what you’ll achieve using a camera.  Scanners are designed for scanning flat documents, while cameras are designed for taking photos of 3D things in the real world – and the difference shows.

With a camera, curled paper edges, lighting glare and lens angles can all diminish the quality of the final output.  With a scanner, these problems are all removed.

Whether you invest in a scanner and spend the extra time it takes to use one depends on the quality you want in the digital versions of your photos.  I’d suggest you try a camera first and see if the output is good enough for what you need.

2. Don’t aim for perfection

With the choice between scanner and camera in mind, it’s worth noting that any digital version of your photos is better than nothing at all.  Your family and your future self will be delighted just to see the photos, even if they’re a little skew or there’s a little glare in the top-right corner.

It’s tempting to spend a lot of time perfecting the scanning process, but your main aim should be getting your paper photos onto a computer.  The longer it takes to arrange photos, align them, adjust lighting and everything else, the less likely you are to finish the job.

It takes a little experimentation to see what you get from different methods, so have a play and find a compromise that you’re happy with between speed and quality.

3. Sort the photos first

It’s a lot easier to organise the paper copies of your photos than it is to do it on a computer.  It’s also a lot more enjoyable – you’ll find yourself spending a few moments on each photo, either enjoying your own memories or trying to solve the mysteries therein.

I suggest grouping photos by date primarily.  In some cases you’ll have an exact date written on the back of the photo (or imprinted in the photo itself in some more recent pics).  Otherwise, you might need to make a best guess on the month or year or maybe just decade.  

Organising your photos before scanning makes it much easier to store them in appropriate date-based folders on your computer later. For example, you could scan photos in date batches, so that all photos from 1973 go into one folder.

It’s also an opportunity to remove any that aren’t worth scanning in. Underdeveloped shots or the seventeenth photo of the same anonymous landscape might not be something you want to spend time scanning in.  

4. Check your scanner settings

Most scanners, cameras and smartphones will offer some level of customisation for the resulting image.  You’ll want to get this setup correctly before you start.

There are three considerations: image settings, resolution and file type.

The image settings include options like brightness, colour levels and contrast.  You may find that the default settings are perfect, otherwise you may want to adjust them until you get the image output you’re looking for.  I found that my colour photos looked a little too blue by the time they reached the screen, so I adjusted the colour balance to fix that.

The larger the resolution of your scanned-in photo, the higher its quality (and file size).  Bigger is always better, but there is a maximum to the quality you’ll actually be able to use.  It may be tempting to reduce the resolution to save disk space, but if you go too low you’ll end up with photos that aren’t good enough to print – and you may regret that one day.  I’d recommend a resolution of 300dpi (dots per inch), which will give you more than enough for viewing on a screen and emailing and plenty to produce quality prints if you ever need to.

You can often select the file type that you want to create during scanning, such as JPEG, TIFF, PNG or PDF.  For most purposes you’ll want to choose JPEG, which is a good compromise between quality and file size.  It’s the most familiar type of image file and can easily be used for viewing, emailing or printing.

5. Scan multiple photos together

Whether you’re using a scanner or a camera, you can save time by scanning more than one photo at a time.  A typical flatbed scanner can accommodate at least 3 typical photos and you’ll probably fit 3 or 4 into the viewfinder of a camera at a reasonable distance.

The downside of scanning multiple photos together is that you need to crop the resulting image into 3 or 4 photos.  Fortunately, there are a number of software solutions and apps that will do this automatically – and many modern flatbed scanners come with appropriate software as part of the package.

We’ll be reviewing apps and photo software in the future, so watch this space!

Add your photos to Twile

Once you’ve digitised your photos, don’t just leave them hidden away on your computer – upload them to your Twile timeline so that the rest of your family can explore and enjoy them.  Twile is totally private, which means only the family members you invite will be able to see the photos you share.

Click here to create your Twile Timeline

 

Twile Wins a Semi-Final Place in the Innovator Showdown at RootsTech 2016

We’re absolutely delighted to say that we’ve made it to the final 12 in the Innovator Showdown at RootsTech 2016!

RootsTech is the largest family history event in the world, held annually in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Combining a huge exhibition with talks and classes on family history, it attracts tens of thousands of visitors, from seasoned genealogy experts to absolute beginners.

As part of RootsTech, the Innovator Showdown competition aims to highlight innovative technology products that service the family history market.  We’ll be attending the conference and battling it out to win part of the total $100,000 cash and in-kind prizes.

It’s so important to us to have been recognised as innovators in our industry, by one of its leading players – RootsTech is run by FamilySearch, the largest genealogy organisation in the world.

This year the conference runs from 3-6 February, during which we’ll be pitching to secure a place as one of the 6 finalists and to present Twile on stage to thousands of attendees.

We had an amazing 2015 after launching our family history timeline in April and have worked closely with our customers to build Twile into a tool they love.  It looks like 2016 could be even more exciting!

We want to thank everyone who uses Twile, everyone that has helped us spread the word and all of the people that have given us advice and support since we started.

If you’re going to RootsTech this year, please come along to our booth and say ‘hello’ – we’d love to thank you in person!

You can read more about the Innovator Showdown on the RootsTech website.

How To Create A GEDCOM File

If you have your family tree in an online service (such as Ancestry) or a software package on your computer, you can now import your tree into Twile to automatically create an amazing timeline of your family history.

All of the people and events that are hidden away in your family tree will be brought to life on a timeline that you can share with your whole family.

We thought it would be helpful to add links to the step-by-step guides for exporting a GEDCOM file for some of the more popular genealogy tools…

Ancestry
http://ancestryuk.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/472/~/uploading-and-downloading-gedcom-files-on-ancestry#res2

Findmypast                                                     http://www.findmypast.co.uk/frequently-asked-questions/answer/can-i-make-a-copy-of-my-tree-export-a-gedcom-file

MyHeritage
http://helpcenter.myheritage.com/Family-Site/Family-Tree/634030922501488452/Can-I-export-a-GEDCOM-file-of-my-family-tree-on-my-family-site.htm

FamilySearch
You can’t currently export a GEDCOM file from FamilySearch, but you don’t need to – you can import it directly into Twile.  Simply click the ‘Import Family Tree’ button at the top of your family tree and choose the FamilySearch option there.

RootsMagic
http://helpdesk.rootsweb.com/FAQ/wcgedcom4RM.html

Family Tree Maker
http://ancestryuk.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/4376/~/exporting-a-file-in-family-tree-maker

Legacy Family Tree 
https://www.legacyfamilytree.com/bigGedcomExport.asp

Ready to import your GEDCOM file?
If you’re new to Twile, you can register for free here: https://twile.com
Otherwise, visit your family tree on Twile and click ‘Import Family Tree’ at the top of the screen.

If you need any help creating your GEDCOM file or importing it into Twile, please get in touch and we’ll do all we can to help.

Privacy and Security on Twile

Your privacy and security is top of our priority list.

Everyone involved in Twile is a parent with a young family and we completely understand how important it is to keep personal information safe online. We use Twile to share our family history, photos and memories with our family and have worked hard to ensure it is kept safe – for us and for our customers.

Your Timeline
You have complete control over who sees the content you add to your timeline. By default, anyone on your family tree that is registered with Twile can see the stories, photos and milestones you create.

However, if you want to stop sharing with individual people on your tree, you can do so in a few simple steps:

  1. Visit your family tree
  2. Find the person you want to stop sharing with
  3. Click/tap on them to open their profile
  4. Untick the ‘Share photos and stories with them‘ option
  5. That’s it – you will no longer be able to see each other’s content

Your Family Tree
Your family tree is private to your family – nothing is ever made public.

Anyone in your family can add to the tree to help keep it accurate and up-to-date. However, only the people you share with on your tree can view the content you’ve added to your timeline (see above).

Security
We use Microsoft’s secure infrastructure to store your content, so it will always be available and safe.

We will also never sell or rent your contact information, nor will we ever share any of your content with anyone outside of the family or friends you add. You always remain in control of your content.

If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions, please get in touch: help@twile.com

Will Your Family Preserve Your Genealogy Legacy?

Here’s a summary of a guest post I wrote recently for Thomas MacEntee’s GeneaBloggers site…


A few months ago, Twile carried out a survey of 200 people who actively research their family history. We were interested in finding out why they were doing it and what they were planning to do with their findings when the work was ‘finished’.

Most said they had started their research looking for an answer to a specific question (e.g. who was my grandfather, where did my ancestors originate from) or it was triggered by an event (typically the death of a loved one).

What we found most interesting was that very few had given any consideration to what would happen to their research when they were no longer around.

Read the full GeneaBloggers article: “Will Your Family Preserve Your Genealogy Legacy?

Pink For Girls, Blue For Boys

We’ve just made a change to the Twile family tree to colour-code men and women, so that it’s easier to see at-a-glance what the make-up of a family is.

In deciding what colours to use for each, the only obvious choice was pink for girls and blue for boys. We were worried some people might not be too keen – especially as there is often heated debate around the stereotypical association of these colours in toys or clothes – but you’re still more likely to associate blue with boys and pink for girls, despite your opinion on it. So from a usability point of view, we think it makes sense.

But how did blue and pink get associated with boys and girls in the first place? I found an interesting article that summarises the history: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/10/pink-used-common-color-boys-blue-girls/

It seems that prior to the 20th century, pink and blue didn’t hold any gender-specific connotations and – even more surprising – until the 1940s it was more common for boys to wear pink and girls to wear blue. Pink was considered stronger and blue a more dainty colour.

By the way, if you’re not keen on our choice of colours, you can switch this feature off:

  1. Visit your family tree at https://twile.com/people
  2. Click/tap on yourself on the tree to open your profile
  3. Click/tap the ‘Preferences’ option
  4. Untick the ‘Use different colours for genders’ option
  5. Click/tap ‘Save’

What do you think of our use of pink and blue on the family tree?

Family Story: “Grandad’s New Bike”

by Kelly Marsden

In 1948, Grandad Ted treated himself to this BSA M21 Bike and Side Car.

Ted Howarth lived in Halifax, West Yorkshire, but his brother lived in Oldham, Lancashire (about an hour’s travel).  After visiting his brother, the weather conditions changed and snowfall was thick and heavy. He drove back home over the moors.

When he pulled up outside his home, his hands were frozen and stuck to the handles (he had gloves on) and his eyes frozen open. He managed to call for assistance and alert Grandma Josephine. After plenty of warm soap and water, they eventually managed to release him and take him indoors to defrost!

This photo was taken on the day he purchased the bike and took it to show his brother. The girl in the photo is Ted’s niece, Marie – she enjoyed having her photo taken on-board, but when she watched her dad go off for a ride in the sidecar she cried and screamed until he returned.

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Do you have a photo you’d like to share?

Email a photo and your short story to paul.brooks@twile.com and we’ll include it here on our blog.

Getting the Kids Interested in Family History

I recently read a great post on Lisa Louise Cooke’s blog about getting your children more interested in family history by talking to them about their own early years. You can read the post here: Family History for Kids Starts WITH the Kids

As a father of 2 children (aged 3 and 1), I’m really keen to capture their early years so they have a record of what they were like growing up. I don’t remember much about my early childhood (my earliest memory is probably around age four) and – although my parents have lots of photos from that time – I’ll never know the details…

  • How did my older brother react when I was born?
  • Who was at my first birthday party?
  • What gifts did I get?
  • Where did I go on my first family holiday?
  • How did I react when I was given my first bike?

I use Twile to capture these moments for my children on the same timeline as our family history.

I have hundreds of photos and stories of my children growing up in the last few years, but can also scroll back in time to see my own childhood moments – and then go back even further to see my parents, aunts and uncles as children. And of course my timeline continues back to the early 1800s where I can explore my great-great-grandparents’ lives.

Right now, my children are too young to really appreciate any of this, but I love the fact that their own early years and their wider family history will be so easily accessible to them as they grow older.

I think that recent family history is a great tool for getting children interested in their ancestors, or at least giving them more awareness of the family that came before them.

Family History is About the Living Too

How much of your life will be remembered by your descendants?

The death of a relative can often bring to mind all of the questions we wished we’d asked before it was too late. Why didn’t we ask them more about their life? Why didn’t we pay attention when they tried to tell us their story?

Once they’re gone, we will dig through boxes of photos they’ve left behind, maybe find diaries that we didn’t know existed. For some it may generate a new (or renewed) interest in their family history, but no amount of research can uncover a person’s full story.

I think about this a lot. I remember that my Granddad – who lived well into his 90s – always had a story to tell. But we were too young or too busy to ever really listen. Now that I’m older, I would love to hear the stories about his time in the war. Where was he stationed? What action did he see? How did he spend his time in the days or weeks in-between?

And that makes me curious about how he met my Grandma, where they went on holiday or how life changed when my Dad came along. How was parenting different for them than it has been for me?

Mixed with this frustration is a fear that my grandchildren will know as little about me as I do about my grandparents.

So I’ve made an effort to record my life so far. My family has a Twile timeline that starts in 1843 (the birth of my great-great-grandfather) and runs through to this morning (when I took my daughter to dance class). My descendants will be able to explore my life in detail – photos of my school years, my time at university, my wedding, honeymoon, birth of my children… and all with comments and thoughts that I’ve added.

In time, my kids will start adding their own stories and photos to the timeline, hopefully building a tradition that will continue forever – an endless record of the family story, which starts with my great-great-grandfather (until I get the time to work out who came before him!).

I’m curious to know how other people feel about the stories they’re passing forward. Have you ever thought about what your descendants will know about you? Are you doing anything about it?

About Twile

We know that family history is more than just names on a family tree.

With Twile, you can create a rich, visual timeline of your family history, made up of milestones and photos, which everyone in your family can explore and contribute to. It’s designed for family historians who are passionate about learning more of their family history and want to share what they learn with the rest of the family. And it’s designed for the rest of the family, who can easily explore the family timeline and then add their own content to keep the family history right up-to-date.

By capturing your family history in the same place as everything that happens today, Twile turns your family story into something that never ends and never grows old.

Who we are
Twile was started by Paul Brooks and Kelly Marsden in 2013. We wanted our children to know who their ancestors were, what they were like and show how that history connects with their own early years and onwards.

Our mission:
“Make family history exciting and engaging for the whole family and preserve as many memories as possible for the future generations”

If you’re as passionate as we are about family history, join our online community or get in touch – we’d love to hear what you think about Twile and how we can make it even better.

Join the discussion on our Family History Facebook group
Like our Facebook page for regular updates

Follow us on Twitter: @TwileTweets

Send us an email: info@twile.com

Or get in touch with one of us directly:

Paul Brooks: paul.brooks@twile.com | @beingpb
Kelly Marsden: kelly.marsden@twile.com | @kellyjmarsden