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1) The first and most important step in scanning a collection of photos or slides is to make the hard decisions about what you want to scan. A good rule of thumb is that you should only scan one out of five pictures from a roll of film. Most people can go through a set of 36 photos or slides and quickly see the 7 or 8 that they would like to scan.
Of course, if these are the only existing photos of your parent's wedding, then you probably want to scan them all. Otherwise, be discriminating - nobody needs to scan out of focus pictures of a cousin's friend's back garden from 10 years ago.
2) The other important decision that affects how long a scanning job will take is the resolution that you use for scanning. A good rule of thumb is that most photos don't need more than 200 dpi (dots per inch) resolution, and most slides don't need more than 2000 dpi.
For instance, scanning photos at 300 dpi will take twice as long and use twice as much disk space as 200 dpi, but few people will see much difference visually.
3) Scan all photos and slides to JPEG files, using your scanner software's default settings. Few people will see much difference between JPEG files and file types such as TIFF and BMP, but the JPEG files will take up only 10% of the disk space of these other file types.
4) Use the automatic file naming capability of scanner software. For instance, most scanner programs will let you scan images
one after another and write them to files with a fixed name but in increasing numerical order (i.e. xmas1987-001.jpg, xmas1987-002, etc.). This can save a lot of time agonizing over what to name each scan. Try to put the year into the file name - and maybe the place or event.
5) Scan images in batches, usually from one stack of prints or a box of slides. Use a common file name pattern for each batch (like xmas1987-nnnn.jpg). After each batch, use an image viewer to make sure the images look good, then move the images to a different folder on your hard drive.
Be very, very careful not to waste hours making scans, and then finding out at the end that something was wrong and you need to re-do all that work. You'd be surprised how often this happens, so be careful!
6) After every day's work, burn every image you've scanned to a CD, label the CD, and then make sure you can read the images from the CD. Burn two sets of CD's, keep one set for yourself, and store a master copy separately. Only use the master copy if your main copy has problems, otherwise don't touch it again. If friends or relatives want a copy, make them a copy from your main copy.
CD's can fail, wear out, get scratched, get lost, get eaten by the dog - keep two copies!
7) Print out small thumbnail images for each CD and store it with each CD so you can find an image later. It easy to find images in a normal photo archive, but a stack of silver CD's isn't especially useful when you look for something later. There are lots of programs for making thumbnail image prints from a collection of JPEG files - one is "Thumbs Plus" at www.cerious.com.
In summary, the key to successfully scanning photos and CD's is to do a bit of planning and organizing before you start. If you do this, and if you don't scan every photo and slide, it'll be far less difficult than you think. After all, how many out-of-focus images of your friends do you need after all?