Sounds like you've taken the first step in a journey that has no end. I've been scanning family photos for the past eight or nine years and have probably done about 3,500. Some have been included in the family history books I've published but most have been scanned to share and to archive. I've gone thru four scanners, five printers, several programs and uncounted program updates. And it's been a learning experience as I've found myself rescanning the same photo time and again because as technology improved and the capacity of storage media escalated, the quality of what I was saving could be improved upon.
Here's what I do with photographic prints.
1. SCAN all photos in high color (24-bit) mode...even those that would scan as well in grayscale. Why? Because I can and because many of those pictures are not b/w but a variety of "colors" depending upon the era during which they were taken and changes that may have occurred during aging. Rule number one: don't throw anything away. You can always convert a copy of the saved image file from the original tones to grayscale, but you can never convert a grayscale back to the original...at least I can't.
2. SCAN at the highest resolution reasonable for the image and the use to which it will be put. My rule of thumb is 300 pixels/inch minimum. This is the lowest resolution which prints 1:1 with reasonable photographic-like quality. If the photo being scanned is a typical family snapshot, you won't gain much at higher resolution because photos taken with small-format films typical of the 70's and 80's doesn't contain detail that can be captured at any scan resolution higher than 300 dpi anyway. Photos taken with professional grade cameras (e.g. wedding portraits, graduation portraits, etc.) usually exhibit outstanding resolution and should be scanned at at least 600 dpi to capture the finer details. Enlargements of these will also print well when scanned at higher resolutions.
3. SAVE all files as TIF and write all collections of these to a data CD or data DVD as a permanent archive. Don't worry about using any special photo album software because proprietary software comes and goes...and when it goes, so does the compatibility of the albums you saved . Assign meaningful file names to each image that will assist with later cataloging (E.G. SmithJones-JohnJane1923.tif). When developing the system by which YOU will assign names to your files, keep in mind the ability of sorting them in alphanumeric order provided by Windows Explorer. Windows Explorer has several features that make it a useful substitute for Photo Album Software, but remember that any album dependent upon Explorer is probably incompatible with systems based on O/S other than those from Microsoft as well as (probably) with earlier versions of Microsoft operating systems.
The reason for saving as TIF while TIFF files take up far more disk space than JPEG? Why not in GIF? Remember rule #1? Don't throw anything away. TIFF is a lossless format while JPEG is a "lossey" format. GIF "compresses" the image by reducing the number of colors in the image -- so NEVER use GIF for a photograph. You can always convert a copy of the TIFF file to JPEG (or a GIF if you insist) if you wish to e-mail or display images on a website or HTML-based album. You can always go into a TIFF file and edit out pinholes, scratched, adjust color, brightness, contrast and resave as a TIFF without degradation. Besides, as the price of electronic (e.g. disk) storage plummets and internet bandwidth increases, the need for image compression (the reasons GIF and JPEG were developed in the first place) will continue diminish. TIFF is also pretty universal while other formats like PSD are proprietary and software version dependent.
I apply the same process to 35mm slides, but scan those at 2,400 dpi. I scan newspaper clippings at 300 dpi. Here I do scan in grayscale mode and save as a TIFF file. Remember that newspaper deteriorates comparatively quickly and is usually among the first of the family treasures to become unsalvageable.
I also scan family-related documents including naturalization papers, court documents, old deeds, old letters, etc. The resolution I use for these varies between 300 and 600 dpi depending upon the nature and condition of the document. Very large format documents like Land Patents are scanned in two pieces and stitched together using (in my case) PhotoShop and saved as a single TIFF file.
It's also very useful to save, as a text file, all of the data you have regarding on each photo (i.e. the names of the people pictured, the date or year or event or occasion at/for which the picture was taken, the place, and the name of the person who provided the picture and the name of the person (if different) of the person in possession of the original. This file should be on the same CD or DVD as the images.
Make at least one back-up copy of each archival CD or DVD and place it with a remote (as lives in a different house, town, or state) family member or friend for safe keeping. One friend lost his complete collection of disks in a house fire. A cousin lost the contents of a single disk due to a later read error of undetected origin. Fortunately, the cousin had sent me a backup copy which I was able to duplication and return. You can also upload the contents of the disk to a web sever as backup. I have a family website where digital editions of audio tapes and movies from the 60's and 70's are deposited as well as available for viewing by family and friends.
Now select the album software with which you're most comfortable and/or place your photos on-line using any or a number of photo-sharing or family websites for sharing pictures and captions extracted from the CD or DVD created above.
I hope this provides the suggestions you were looking for.
Submitted by: Robert L.
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