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How to Digitize Old Photos at Home

Your photos aren’t just casual keepsakes — they’re cherished memories, travel souvenirs, and tender reminders for the next generation. Unfortunately, even well-preserved physical photos don’t last forever. Photographs can fade, blur, tear, and fall victim to a host of household disasters. But digital copies? Those really are forever. Digitizing your old photos is a way to preserve, organize, and share your images for years to come. Read on to find out how to digitize old photos at home.

Supplies You’ll Need to Digitize Old Photos

Digitizing old photos is an easy do-it-yourself project, even if you’re not particularly tech-savvy. Start with the following materials:

  • Flatbed scanner: Affordable flatbed scanners are a good choice for digitizing photos and documents. They’re also fairly compact — some can fit in a drawer — so you don’t have to worry about storing a clunky piece of equipment.
  • Smartphone: If you don’t have a scanner, you can also use a photo-scanning app on your smartphone. However, if you’re working with a large pile of photos, a scanner is a quicker way to digitize multiple photos at a time.
  • Cleaning supplies: If your old photos have been lying in a drawer or box, chances are they’re a bit dusty. Make sure you have a pair of disposable gloves to handle the photos, along with a microfiber cloth for smudges and fingerprints and compressed air for dust removal. You’ll also want to clean your scanner after each use to prevent dust buildup.

Scanning Old Photos for Digitization

Once you’ve gathered your materials, organized your photos, and cleaned off any dust or debris, it’s time to start scanning. Start by adjusting the following settings on your scanner:

  • DPI: The term “dots per inch” (DPI) refers to the resolution, or clarity, of a digital image. In most cases, a DPI of 300 should do the trick.
  • Color settings: Are you scanning black-and-white images or images in full color? Make sure to set the scanner to the appropriate color setting so no details get lost. You can also manually adjust your scanner’s brightness, contrast, and saturation levels.
  • File format: Finally, you can adjust your scanner to save your photos as a certain file type. If you want to save space on your computer or storage device, you’ll want to opt for a smaller file type (JPEG). If space isn’t an issue, you can save your images as TIFF files, which is the highest-quality option.

Organizing Your Photos

Once you’ve scanned your photos, decide how you’d like to organize them. You may want to organize each folder by year; you can also save according to who’s in each photo. (For example, you may label a photo of Richard and Ellen taken in 1994 as RichardEllen1994.) We recommend saving your photos in a backup location, as well — either an external hard drive or a cloud-based (digital) service like Dropbox.

Learning how to digitize old photos at home is a great way to protect and preserve your memories for years to come. If you’re still not sure where to start or you’re feeling nervous about using photo scanning equipment, check out senior-friendly resources like the AARP’s scanner guide.

Are you looking for an assisted living community in Tennessee? Check out Hearthside Senior Living in Collierville and Bartlett. Our warm and inviting communities make it easy for seniors to embrace a healthy lifestyle with home-cooked and restaurant-style meals, exercise classes, and a nurse devoted to residents’ health and wellness. We would be happy to schedule a tour so you can explore the community, speak with the Community Director, meet some of the residents, and ask any questions you might have. To learn more about our amenities and services, please call 901-459-3853 (Bartlett) or 901-446-2532 (Collierville). We look forward to meeting you!

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