photo tips

Digitally archive your Family photos and videos.

Fifteen years ago my Mom pulled out a big box of photos and super8 films that she had saved.   There were photos spanning the lives of my parents and grandparents and super8 films that documented the first 9 years of my families life.  My Mom and sat down and went through all of those old photos and she shared her family history, memories of her childhood, meeting my Dad and raising my Brother and Sister and I. It was a precious time capsule and a precious gift to be able to spend that time with my Mom to not only hear her stories but to see and feel her life through her eyes. I knew how important these memories where and I wanted to protect them. I know that Super8 films will eventually degrade and would be lost forever so I wanted to archive them as soon as possible as well as scanning every photo in that box to make sure they were archived and protected. Scanning such a large quantity of photos was going to take some time and I didn’t want to rush the process so I allowed one hour per day.  It took a few weeks but eventually all of the images were archived.  For the Super8 films and video, I found a reputable local lab and brought the film canisters and video cassettes in to be digitized and put on a DVD. (This was 15 years ago and DVD’s were cutting edge).  A few months later, my entire family history had been digitized and preserved and I had DVD’s made for each family member. When my parents had their 50th wedding anniversary I created a book for them to celebrate the first 50 years of their life. I was able to recall all of my Mom and Dads stories, their journey from their first words to each other to their lives as grandparents.   It was a labor of love made easier because I already had every family photo archived and ready to use. 

 I want to share a personal experience and why my decision to digitally archive all of my families memories was so important.  On January 3rd, 2020 my Mom passed away after a two year bout with Cancer.  For anyone who’s lost a parent or a spouse I don’t have to explain the gravity of that loss.  We all pitched in with the funeral arrangements and because I am a photographer/videographer, it fell on me to take care of all of the media, large prints of my Mom and a short film that chronicled her life to be shown at the service.  I had a week to complete everything; photo prep, retouching and printing in addition to creating and editing the short film. It was a gut wrenching emotional week and one of the hardest projects I’ve ever had to do but it was also cathartic to be able to spend that time honoring my beautiful Mom. The project would not have been possible if I didn’t have the forethought to digitize my family history. It would not have been possible if I didn’t have the amazing gift of sharing stories and family history with my Mom and Dad. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my Mom, but I have an entire archive of precious memories at my fingertips and a film to watch when I need to feel and remember her. 

One day, you may want to create a beautiful photo album for your family.  And one day, those family members may no longer be with us but your memories, in photos and film, can last forever.  It’s worth the time! So here are some tips to get you started in archiving your own family memories.

Scanning photos into digital files:

  • Handle the images with care.  If you have lint-free cloth gloves use them. If not, hold the images on the edges.  
  • Make sure the glass on your scanner is clean and dust free each time you start scanning for the day.
  • Use a lint free fiber cloth to gently remove the dust from your photos before you place them on the scanner. 
  • Make sure you scan at the highest resolution (300dpi) which is a print quality file.  One day you may want to reprint that image our use it in a digitally printed family photo album.
  • If you don’t have a scanner or the time or energy to put into scanning a large quantity of photos then there are local business who specialize in exactly that.

Naming and organize your files:

Decide on how you’d like to organize and name the photos. One suggestion is to break them down and name them using the year, family members and event or location. Use either an “underscore” or “hyphen” to break up the words. Naming them this way will give you 3 or 4 key words to use when you search for a specific photo and make your life SO much easier.

1960_Kids_pool

1965_mom_dad_wedding

1984_mikes_first_car

  • You can also separate your images into “albums” in iPhoto.  
  • If you don’t have iPhoto or a comparable windows photo program  you can create folders directly in your files to organize them.  
  • If you’re using iPhoto, Adobe Bridge or Lightroom to organize and view your photos, use “keywords’ like – Mom, Dad, Kids, Vacation, Mexico, Wedding etc. when you upload your photos. This allows you to narrow your search and easily find images that you want to use in your projects. 

Transferring your super8 movies or Video to digital files:

Unless you are an expert this is best left to the professionals.

A simple Google search: “transferring super8 to digital” will give you local businesses in your area that provide this service.  Even if it’s slightly more expensive, I HIGHLY recommend that you do this locally and in person rather than shipping or mailing your precious original films to an online lab and risking them becoming lost or damaged in the process.  

DVD players are almost as irrelevant as VCR’s so consider which format is best for you to be able to view and enjoy your movies. I recommend that you get your memories transferred first as simple digital MP4 files so you can store, view and if you are computer savvy, edit them on your computer.  After that, If you and your family still have DVD players then you can get additional copies of playable DVD’s that you can show on your home TV.  

Back up EVERYTHING.  Hard drives fail eventually and when they do, so do all of your photos and hard work in archiving them.  Back them up on at least two hard drives. If you have the time and resources, give an additional hard drive to another family member so it’s in a different location in case of fire.  

I can tell you this from experience: This may seem like a daunting task but if you break it up over a few weeks or a month, you won’t feel that overwhelm and you will NEVER regret spending the time to protect those memories.

Inspiration: Berenice Abbott

Today’s post is about inspiration.  We all need it from time to time, especially if we’re in the business of creating art for a living.   One of my favorite places to turn for that inspiration is in the past.  History is a passion of mine.  It’s not about dates or events; it’s about the people who lived at that time and how it must have felt to live through those pivotal events.  They are people like you and I with the same depth of feeling and thought, struggling with different challenges but they struggled just as we do.  They loved and laughed and saw their world changing as we see ours changing.   I love the early 20th century photographers.  This was a renaissance time for photography – there were no camera phones or Instagram.  Cameras were big, bulky and every image had to be developed and printed by hand.  If you wanted your images to be seen you had to hustle, submit your work by hand or mail and develop relationships with publishers.  Honestly, I find inspiration in that kind of work ethic.

So, when I turn to history for inspiration, I tend to gravitate to the women photographers who blazed the trail in the early 1900’s.   Women like Dorothea Lange whose iconic images of the great depression were printed in newspapers and magazines around the country and put a face to the hardship.  Margaret Bourke-White traveled around the world and documented wars and the faces of not only the men who fought them, but also the leaders who shaped and influenced our culture and society.  These were incredibly strong and courageous women who made their mark on a medium that was previously documented by men.  They brought a unique perspective to their work; their sensitivity evoked such wonderful vulnerability and ease in their subjects.  They were a powerful combination of compassion and strength and many of them created their art before they had the right to vote.

Today I want to honor Berenice Abbott.  Berenice’s images documenting the rapid changes in New York in the 1920’s are fascinating!  She was born in 1918 and as a young woman she moved to New York to study sculpture and later Paris and Berlin to continue her studies.  It was in Paris that she discovered and mastered photography, first becoming an assistant at Man Ray Studio.  She moved back to New York in 1929 and was struck by the rapid changes to the city.  On the eve of the great depression she began her series of documentary photographs.  These photos are a living history of that time and until the day she died she advocated for this style of documentary photography.    She was truly one of the more influential photographers of the early 20th century and a huge inspiration to me. 

Who is your inspiration?

Summer iPhone Photo Tips 5

Tip#6 Selfies.  Let’s be honest, we ALL take them.  Selfie-sticks became a huge seller because of them.  We all take them for different reasons so I thought a few quick tips to taking better selfies would be helpful and I’m going to break them down into categories. 

Online dating apps.  –  Your goal with your first profile photo is to get people to linger on your photo long enough to “swipe right” – not left!  If you’ve ever been on one of those apps you know how quickly people review those photos and swipe.  You can’t control whether or not you are someone’s ‘type’ but you can take a great photo to give yourself shot.  Here are a few quick tips:

  • Check the background.  You want people looking at your face, not the background.  If you’re taking that shot indoors then check the background to make sure it’s uncluttered.  For god sakes, pick up your dirty clothes off of the floor!  Make sure there’s nothing in the background that’s sticking out of the top of your head.  In fact, if you have a plane or uncluttered wall behind you.  I fact, try the “portrait mode” feature that will blur that background.
  • Find some good natural light – try taking the shot by a window.
  • If you’re shooting outdoors, stay out of direct sun, find a shady place with light bouncing off of bright surface to light your face.  Again, find an uncluttered background.  For a dating app shot, it isn’t about ‘where you are’ it’s about YOU.
  • Don’t be a super model, be yourself.  Have something interesting going in your eyes.  So many selfies look posed and forced.  Take a second, think of someone that makes you smile or a memory that gives you a good feeling; then look at the camera and take a few shots.  Having something interesting in your eyes draws the view in. 
  • Wardrobe and Hair – take some time to make sure your hair is on-point and if you can keep the wardrobe simple and make sure it doesn’t clash with the background.  Again, you want the viewers eye to be drawn to your face, not your outfit.
  • SMILE.  You can certainly take a bunch of shots but make sure you take a bunch where you’re energy is happy – smile!

Vacation Selfies –  These are shots that show you off  in the location where you’re having a great time.  Here’s a few things to remember:

  • If the most interesting location is below for instance; The Grand Canyon, you’re on top of a tall building, your best friend is passed out on the dance floor after a night of drinking lol – lift the camera up high and shoot down to make sure you highlight those locations.
  • Shooting a landmark like the Eiffel tower or Washington Monument? Take that shot from a distance so the whole landmark is in the shot.  Put yourself to one side and have fun with it.
  • The time of day that you take that shot can make it magical.  Take most of your vacation selfies early morning or sunset when the light is beautiful and golden.
Motorcycle trip

 Group selfies – These are fun and can be a challenge if you have a big group. 

  • Get everyone to bring their faces together
  • Try shooting in “Burst Mode”.   Take a few shots and if you hold that button down your camera will shoot rapid fire shots for as long as your hold it down.  You can get some of the most fun and spontaneous shots that way.
  • Use the 3-second timer if your arm is stretched out so far you can’t reach the shutter button.
My favorite “group selfie” – My amazing Mom.

Just for fun.  I don’t really have many tips about this one. This is the where you get to just experiment as a photographer.  Break all of the above rules or tips and just shoot! 

Happy Shooting!

Summer iPhone Photo Tips

Tip#5 – Moments Pro Camera App.   I’ve been using this app for a few days now and I’m very impressed by it.  Unlike the photo editing Apps on the market the “Moments Pro Camera” app interfaces with your camera and turns it into a fully functioning DSLR.  It allows you to control white balance, shutter speed, aperture, ISO settings, dual focus and exposure points, and like a DSLR, if you press the shutter lightly it will focus and then press harder and it will take the photo.  One of the coolest features is the “long exposure settings”.  If you have a simple iPhone tripod you can increase the shutter speed and play with long exposure shots!  This is the hottest app on the market right now and it’s available for both ISO and Android.

The design of the app is simple, elegant and intuitive. Even if you’re not experienced shooting in manual mode on a DLSR, this app will show you in real time the changes in your photos as you play with the different settings.   It gives you options to shoot in JPG (the default for all camera phones) or for you DSLR buffs out there; it will even shoot in RAW format. 

Separate focus and exposure points.

The app isn’t free; it’s $5.00, which is the price of a large Latte and it’s well worth it. There is educational support if you want to learn more about the functionality in the form of YouTube tutorials or weekly newsletter tips.  This app is a game changer for unlocking the true potential of your camera phone.

Happy shooting!