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Exclusive articles, interviews, and insights covering downsizing & decluttering, genealogy, photos and other media, aging well, travel, and more. We’re here to help you capture the big little moments and stories to bring meaning and even order to all of life’s collections for generations.
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What Should You Do With Old Photo Albums?

Reading time: 5 minutes 

Dusty albums. Bulky albums. What do we do with you? We want to lighten our loads and declutter without guilt. 

Who among us compiles physical photo albums anymore? "Back in the day” a store like Target would have had a huge photo department. You could purchase and process film and buy photo frames and albums, along with supplemental inserts in a dizzying array of designs and sizes. 

No, not so anymore.

As we’ve shifted to digital photos, we’ve likewise replaced physical albums with digital-friendly options, including build-your-own photo books, shared digital albums on social media and cloud storage sites, and digital photo frames, like the beautiful frames from Aura. Physical photo albums today are usually reserved for major milestone events, like weddings, trips, and anniversaries, when we feel it’s worthwhile to sit down and thoughtfully curate those experiences.  

Those of us with photo albums tucked in our closets and bookshelves, those that we have created and inherited, not to mention the albums our parents and grandparents own and we’ll inherit one day, need solutions. What do we do with all the existing albums, so they avoid landing in a craft shop or, worse, a dumpster when the details about the people and stories within are lost to time? 

Photo Albums Have Problematic Similarities to Scrapbooks 

Like scrapbooks, photo albums are designed to be shared, in person, and talked through, reminiscing about and reliving with the telling the places you’ve been, the experiences you have had, and more. Unfortunately, also like scrapbooks, photo albums present long-term challenges: 

      1. Do you know the stories behind the photos? (We have tips for that!) Will you remember them? Scrapbooks tend to at least provide more leeway to add notes and stories than photo albums. Stories behind the photos are incredibly vulnerable to being forgotten. We can animate photos in creepy ways, but they cannot remember for us the stories lost. Look back through your albums. Do you recall all the people and events in a way that’s meaningful anymore? 
      2. Albums, the pages within, and the photos will deteriorate. Little known fact outside the photo industry: Those photo prints you ordered in single and even triplicate were never meant to last more than a dozen years, and that's for the highest quality pritns! That’s why the colors change as the chemicals used to create the images degrade and the paper eventually becomes more fragile, too. 
      3. Your album is singular and unique, unless you have access to the negatives. But even then, those are decaying with every passing day as well, so ... 
      4. Albums can be bulky. Do you have room to continue to store them? What about those you may inherit? They are substantial in size and often uncooperative with short shelves and shallow storage. In the words of one Arti Community member, "I’m in my 40s and my albums are still at my parents’ house. I didn't feel the need to take them with me, but, yes, someday I’ll hold onto them. I don’t want to throw them away."

How Can You Preserve Photo Albums?  

And maybe even let some photo albums go ... 

Share the love. At the risk of making a lot of people very angry, we have to say it: You are not beholden to anyone to hold onto your own albums or anyone else's albums. Ask! Do YOU want them? 

Don’t fall for the guilt trip you are getting or think you’ll get. Ideally, you should consider yourself a steward of the history within those albums and as such, ask family members if they want the albums before you take them apart or get rid of them. It’s the kind thing to do. But beyond that, ...

... Digitization has never been easier or more affordable. We have shared tips about digitization in general. You can buy machines to do it yourself, but there’s a catch. We turned to Cathi Nelson, founder and CEO of The Photo Managers, to explain: 

"Many people created scrapbook photo albums during the decades of scrapbooking and those albums are often 12x12, which is too big for traditional flatbed scanners. You can outsource this project to a professional photo manager whose scans allow them to capture the entire page and individual photos.  

If that is not in your budget, and you have a flatbed scanner, such as the Epson v600, scan each page and use photo stitching software to magically merge the pages.  

Another option is to carefullly remove the photos and scan them (front and back). If they are stuck to the pages, you can use a butter knife or dental floss to gently remove the photos."

We want to also celebrate the amazing ease with which apps from modern photo companies like Photomyne and VividPix —with scanners at local museums, libraries, and historical societies that can scan whole album pages up to 11.8" x 17″—can slice up each photo on the page into its own file photo or image file. No need to take the pages apart or tediously scan them one by one. This is great for do-it-yourselfers!

Digitization Wisdom

Before you and as you digitize, keep three things in mind:  

  • Photo layouts may be a part of the story. Some albums may be chronological or thematic. Others are designed for people to arrange photos in a way that may inherently help them to share stories, too. Take this example:

yellowed photo album page with baby photos

Had I scanned each photo and then disassembled the photo album, I would have disconnected these photos from the story of that day as captured in the Artifct, zapping their collective ability to convey a piece of my childhood. Instead, I could photograph or video the album before dismantling, if that’s what I decide to do with the album.

  • Capture ALL the details. You scanned the fronts to get the job done quickly, but did you even look at the backs? Now that you have, how will you preserve the additional details on the back with the photo? In a good-better-best plan, this could be: 
      • Create an index as you go for your photos with the file name and other details you care about (location, people, event, ...) or edit the photo metadata (e.g. date, location, and other information stored with the image file) with the additional information; 
      • Transform the album into a photo book and add the information in the image captions;  
      • Artifct the photos and include what you know about them. Check out our interrogation techniques for photos.
  • Share the stories behind the photos. CONNECT with your loved ones. Don’t be annoying and share 100s of photos from a single trip. Tell them the “best of” or most meaningful moments. Artifct the best ones! Artifcts are easy to share, helping you get the story out there so it can live on. You might also share the Artifct with a friend who is going on a trip to the same place you went and want your tips! You can also easily share an Artifct to a friend’s or family member’s digital photo frame. Ask them how.  

If you are taking the time to create photo albums, maybe take time to create an additional Artifct or two to go with each album, even if the Artifct is of the album itself, and is your story of why you created it, what it means to you, etc. Bonus, you can include audio and video and bring your photo album to life for the next generation.

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Other ARTIcles by Artifcts you may enjoy: 

Photos + Stories Go Better Together: A Conversation with Cathi Nelson, CEO of The Photo Managers

Storytellers, Beware!

Rescue Mission: That’s More Than a Photo

© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Salvaging Water Damaged Photos

The following article includes excerpts from a true story shared with Artifcts by a member of the Arti Community and republished here with permission. May their loss help your future. 

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A Careless Accident at a Storage Facility 

Imagine yourself in this scenario: Wildfires are approaching your home. You evacuate, taking with you your most cherished possessions, including those incredibly vulnerable photos, videos, books, and family documents. You feel relief when you place them inside a climate-controlled storage unit far outside the fire zone. 

Days later you receive a call from the storage facility. There’s been an accident. Your storage unit has been flooded via a damaged sprinkler system in the unit above your own. “Please come to our facility to review and document the damage for insurance purposes.” 

Your heart sinks to the floor. The expression, “Out of the frying pan and into the fire,” comes to mind. 

When you arrive, and you are taking in the large-scale and surely emotionally charged loss, look once, then twice, before springing to action on areas of most obvious damage.

a description of the scene inside a storage unit with photos and document submerged in water

Salvaging Water Damaged Photos and Negatives

When mother nature, home mishap, or some other event occurs that threatens to rob you of your cherished memories incapsulated in your photos, there’s no room for “should haves.” We all know about fireproof boxes, digitization options, and more. But in life we are busy, and we have finite resources, too. We made the best choices we could at the time. Now is the time for action to salvage what can be salvaged.

  • Act smart, act fast

The most intriguing piece of advice you’ll hear when water has claimed your photos? Freeze them. That’s right, stick them in plastic bags and freeze them. Okay, first interlay sheets of wax paper and place them in a giant plastic freezer bag, but yes, then freeze them. That bit of advice alone should shock you into a feeling of hope. Store that tidbit away for the day you need it.  

supplies for working with water damaged photos  Stack of wet photos with parchment paper between each  Wet photos in a ziplock, set flat in a freezer

 
 
No freezer on site? Place the photos and albums in sealed plastic bags to prevent them from drying out completely and get them to a freezer. 

Your top goals are to prevent further damage and to bring back under your control at least some of the variables now, and frankly, for the remaining life of these items. Mold is an equally deadly culprit where the life of your photos are concerned. 

Talking us through the "I froze them, now what?” frontier, we reached out to professional photo manager Kristen Goodman, of Clicking with Kristen. Based out of Naples, Florida, Kristen is still helping families caught in the crosshairs of Hurricane Ian (2022) and has deep experience in helping salvage precious photos.

  • Embrace Kristen’s “Dont’s” 

You’re poised for action, which is great, but keep these guidelines in mind so we can skip the regret that you may otherwise feel later: 

      • Don’t panic and throw away your wet, muddy, or damaged photos or albums. 
      • Don’t dry photos in a place with bright sunlight, wind, or dust. 
      • Don’t pry wet or dry photos apart. 
      • Don’t use heat sources (hairdryer, microwave) to dry photos. 
      • Don't forget gloves and a mask when handling wet photos and albums. 
      • Don’t delay! After about 48 hours mold will begin to grow.
If you’re thinking this sounds tough, you’re right. Rescuing and restoring water damanged photos is a tedious and imperfect process. Check out this video from Clicking with Kristen, saving someone’s day with her skills!

 
 
 
  • Now, Onto the “Nexts” in the Mess

Be discriminating. Which photos do you want to spend time and money to preserve and potentially restore? For example, if you have very old heritage photos, the ONLY photo of {name of loved one}, you may want to prioritize these photos for consultation with a professional photo restoration service. 

Separating, soaking, and freezing photos. We warned you not to pry photos apart, and that advice holds. But if they are apart, remove any plastic covers and sleeves from the photos, if possible. And then layer wax paper between individual photos or album pages to freeze. 

If you’re thinking, “But I have a brick of stacked dried photos,” there’s still hope. You can soak them in clean water and then gently peel them apart, then proceed with drying them out, but when in doubt, talk with a local pro! 

Once your pictures have frozen, you’ll thaw them out in batches to begin drying. 

The photos’ futures. For those in acceptable condition (to you!), digitize them and toss the originals. They are very vulnerable to mold, it’s a sad truth. For the others, if they are important enough to you for any reason, take them to a professional for restoration, repair, and digitization.

 
 
Click the image to download our free inspiration checklist for Artifcting photos!
  • Go get professional help!

Amazing resources abound for you to learn more and to connect with professionals locally to help you. Here are just a few resources Kristen recommends: 

 

How Did the Storage Story End?

If you're like us and dislike a cliffhanger, here’s how the storage disaster we started this article with turned out:

The storage unit saga involved a lot of hard work to salvage important photos

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Photos + Stories Go Better Together: A Conversation with Cathi Nelson, CEO of The Photo Managers

Reading time: 6 minutes

One of the great things about being in the ‘stuff’ business is that you never know who you’ll meet! Over the past few years, Ellen and I have had the joy of getting to know and working with Cathi Nelson, Founder & CEO of The Photo Managers. We met Cathi by way of Matt Paxton, who told us upfront that she is the end-all, be-all expert on all things photo managing and organizing. Several years and many conversations later we wholeheartedly agree!

In honor of Save Your Photos Month, we thought it would be fitting to highlight one of our many conversations with Cathi, who really is the undisputed expert on all things photo organizing. 

Heather Nickerson: Tell us a bit about yourself! What led you to get into photo managing?

Cathi Nelson: Reflecting on my career, I realize there has always been a common theme: My love of photography and storytelling. Prior to starting The Photo Managers, I spent 17 years teaching people how to create meaningful scrapbook photo albums. I hosted large events where hundreds of women would come and spend the entire weekend working on albums for their families. Walking around the room, I realized this was more than people cutting photos into shapes and adding decorations. This was a way for people to share their legacies, and photos invoke memories and stories. 

By 2009, I noticed a significant shift in the photography landscape. The rise of digital photography meant that fewer people were printing their photos, and this change impacted my business. The turning point came when a customer asked how much I would charge to organize her digital and printed photos. It was at this moment that I realized there was a growing need for assistance, and I started a business called Photos Simplified.

Nickerson: So you started your own, wildly successful business, why not stop there? Why start The Photo Managers? You were obviously very busy with your own work, raising your family, and authoring your book! What prompted you to create a global network of like-minded professionals?

Nelson: The response from clients to my new business concept was overwhelmingly positive. As other scrapbooking professionals and residential organizers started learning about my success, they came to me seeking guidance in starting their own photo-organizing businesses. I realized that to ensure this emerging profession continued I would need to create a code of ethics, certification, and best practices, thus The Photo Managers was born. I chose a membership model, and over the years we’ve grown into a global community of hundreds of professionals dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich tapestry of memories in our digital age. 

Nickerson: And then you did it again with Save Your Photos Month (SYPM)! Tell us a bit about how and why you started SYPM. I think a lot of people take for granted that SYPM is the month of September, except it wasn't until you built it!

Nelson: I launched Save Your Photos Day for the first time in 2014 as a one-day event. The concept grew out of viewing news stories about people being united with lost photos from Hurricane Sandy and the Joplin Missouri tornadoes. I would watch the news and it was so heartwarming to observe how people rose up to help, bringing food, water, clothes, and kindness.

Once the initial shock wears off a new wave of recovery efforts evolves, finding and restoring lost photos. Hundreds of volunteers have helped in these communities, carefully washing and restoring photos. Their efforts pay off when a family that has lost everything is reunited with even one precious photo. Thus, the concept of International Save Your Photos Day began.

The original concept was to save thousands of photos in just one day. Yet we found that one day just wasn't realistic and realized, why not make it a month!  So, in 2016 we rebranded it to Save Your Photos Month and each year we expand the variety of topics, classes, and conversations. Today this is even more important as the news is full of extreme weather disasters that impact family photos and priceless belongings.

Nickerson: Any tips for our Arti Community Members who are feeling overwhelmed by digital and physical photos? They know they want to do something with them, but don't always know where to start or what to do.

Nelson: First you aren’t alone if feeling overwhelmed. Most do, including me! Second, it didn’t take a weekend to create all those photos, so it does take time to sort through and organize them, but it’s worth it! 

Here is a quick summary of our 5 tips for photo organizing.

      1. DEFINE YOUR GOAL, what would success look like?
      2. GATHER EVERYTHING and ACCESS what you’ve got. This can be as simple as “3 hard drives,” “4 iPhones,” and “5 boxes of printed photos.”
      3. SORT and CATEGORIZE—sort the photos into categories that make sense to you. Categories might include location, date range, events, products, or something thematic like “landscapes.” Edit your collection as you go, discarding or deleting duplicates and any blurry or “not so great” images.
      4. If you have any printed photos or slides, now is the time to scan. Decide if you want to do it yourself or hire a professional to do it for you.
      5. SHARE . And the options are endless … Artifcts, photo books, websites, slideshows, even the collection itself!

Nickerson: When should you consider hiring a photo manager?

Nelson: When life happens! I just hired a photo organizer myself because my son was getting married, and I wanted to create a video montage of his early years and his fiancé's early years set to music. I just didn’t have the time to scan the photos or sort through hundreds of images. It was so worth it! So, my advice is don’t put this off, hoping someday you’ll have the time.

Nickerson: We've heard our own Arti Community Members say—when they first learn about photo managers —"Ooh, they're like magic photo fairies, how cool." We know they work magic with photo collections large and small, but what are two or three things that make photo managers so special?

Nelson: This is a great question, and I have thought a lot about this over the years. There are two common traits I see in professional photo managers. They are curious about history, stories, and people, otherwise they wouldn’t want to look at someone else's photo collection. Plus, they are usually lifelong learners, because technology keeps changing and to be successful you have to keep up.

Nickerson: Do you have any particular project that you especially liked working on over the years? Something our members may be able to relate to?

Nelson: I really like working on themes and using photos to tell stories. A few years ago, I created a mini photo album as a gift to the important people in my life. I added a few photos, the story of how we met and what I appreciated most about each person. I then sent it to each of them as an invitation to a party to celebrate my milestone birthday and the gift of friendship.

Nickerson: What's next for you and The Photo Managers?

Nelson: The need for professional photo managers is only increasing and I recently formed an Advisory Board of members to help us envision the next 10 years. When I started this over 15 years ago, I never dreamed that I would build something that would live long beyond me. I feel a great sense of responsibility to ensure that this profession continues to thrive for the members and the customers we serve.

Nickerson: Last but not least, you know all about Artifcts. How do you think Artifcts could help photo managers with their work?

Nelson: I love Artifcts because early on I realized that photos are just one piece of the puzzle. People also keep letters, children's artwork, babies' first shoes, medals, and other objects. Having the ability to share those items and stories for future generations fits perfectly into what I intuitively observed all those years ago. We are a people of stories, and we tell our stories and what we care about through photos and keepsake items.

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You can learn more about The Photo Managers and even where to find a Photo Manager to help you based on where you live by going directly to the official website.

© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Three Tips for Elevating Your At-Home Artifcts Photography

This week, as Save the Photos Month continues, we asked interiors and brand photographer Linda Pordon to share three tips to help elevate your at-home Artifcts photography.

Linda is a recognized interiors and brand photographer based out of the New York/New Jersey area. Her work has been published in outlets including Better Homes and Gardens, Domino, Elle Decor, and the NY Times. Additionally, Linda is the owner and founder of Proppe Shoppe, a collection of curated vintage and one-of-a-kind decorative objects and furnishings for the home. (Maybe you'll nod with understanding when you see some of these one-of-a-kind finds didn't even make it to the store front but are instead futured in Linda's public Artifcts collection!)

Through her photography, Linda aims to convey the feel and depth of the pieces and spaces she photographs but, more importantly, she aims to create emotional connections to these subjects through her lens.

Hear from Linda directly for a few easy tips you can try at home to elevate the photography of your cherished objects without any fancy equipment (or frustration!). 

1. FIND THAT LIGHT

Let's start off by going against what you may think ... the "best light" does not necessarily mean find the brightest light possible (or upping your exposure on your phone editing mode) to make it all "light and bright."  I have photographed and sold $800 sculptures that look like they were taken inside a dark closet. But oh they were sexy. The shadows made you feel something when you looked at it. Sometimes, less is more. So a few tips for lighting:

It may seem counterintuitive but TURN YOUR LIGHTS OFF. Use natural and only natural light if you can.

      • Bring objects outside. The perfect weather to photograph items is an overcast, cloudy day.  It gives even but bright-enough light.  If it’s sunny out, find a spot in the shade to place your object.  When outdoors, you want to make sure your light is even and not too bright.  Watch out for dark shadows that will overpower your images and distract.
      • When photographing inside, just open your shades and set up near a window ... just not directly in the sun.  If your brightest room is too bright, use a bedsheet to hang or tape over the window to diffuse the light a bit. Get creative!
      • If you can't move your object, make sure you try to minimize the artificial lighting that is needed or opt to bring lights closer vs have the orange glare and reflection of overhead lights.

Play with (gasp) shadows.  

I said it. Use objects near or in front of your light to create shadows. A window pane. Hold a stem of flowers in front of the light. A raffia hat. You get the point. This is so easy to do and creates such high drama and can be done with things you have around the house. Your images will be looking "editorial" in no time.

White wood interior home staircase down to open foyer with pale oak flooring

 
 
I was photographing my Artifcts on a very rainy and dark day, so I used the space in our home that has the most windows and late afternoon light - our foyer.
 
 
© 2023 Linda Pordon. All Rights Reserved.

 

2. KEEP YOUR BACKGROUND SIMPLE AND MAKE IT CONSISTENT

If you're photographing several objects or an ongoing collection, try to make sure your color story and mood are consistent.

Do you want all bright pops of color behind your objects? Simple white? Dark and moody? The world is your oyster. My absolute favorite backgrounds are Replica Surfaces Boards (not sponsored but they should be!) which are lightweight and completely wipeable. The marble truly looks like marble and I have photographed it in every lighting possible. I wouldn't lie to you.  

If you don't want to invest in purchasing backgrounds, you can grab cheap poster board and keep it white or paint it any color or texture you feel like. Or hang a sheet against a wall and drape it down onto the floor. You would be shocked at how many brands are keeping their backgrounds pretty organic and homemade these days, but the images still look stunning and professional. 

Bright open foyer with small table and ti-fold white paper board

 
 
Here I just added a table for height (even any stool with a fabric over it would do) and then a rather cheap white tri-fold poster board to cover the trim work detail on the back wall.
 
 
© 2023 Linda Pordon. All Rights Reserved.

 

3. THINK (AND PAUSE) BEFORE YOU SNAP

The biggest advice I would give you is take your time. Really think about your shot. Take your time holding your camera (even if it's your iPhone).  Look around at the light. When my kids photograph with me for fun, I always have them walk around and take pictures with their hands to really see things before they get distracted with clicking the shutter. Think before you get snap happy!

A few concrete things to focus on:

Composition: This is a really big part of photography and a hard thing to break down succinctly, but try to be mindful of the following:

      • Leave negative space. It lets the eye breathe and actually makes your object more of a focal point.
      • Group smaller objects closer together to give them more "weight" on camera (groups of 3 are generally pleasing to the eye).
      • Vary up your angles. Make sure you get at least one head-on shot. Stand on a stool and take some overhead.
      • Watch your sight lines. Make sure key details aren't blocked. Try to see what your eye is drawn to and how it moves across an image.  

GIF carousel of photos of the same object from different angles

 
 
All taken by an iPhone 11 Pro Max (yes, I'm waiting for the new phone); edited on Lightroom mobile.
 
 
© 2023 Linda Pordon. All Rights Reserved.

Gridlines: My #1 tactical PLEASE PLEASE do this is get your picture straight.

If you are taking pictures crooked, panned up or down and not taking a minute to get as straight as possible, your images are always going to look more amateur. I can forgive almost any sin above the crooked image. An iPhone trick here is to turn your gridlines on (Settings -> Camera -> Grid set to green), and voila! The Lightroom app (available on iOS and Android) also has a great feature to auto correct gridlines (Geometry -> Upright click this toggle -> keep to "Auto," generally).

Editing: If you looked at a professional photographer's images, they should look pretty good SOOC (straight out of camera), but we would all be lying if we said post-production editing isn't a large part of the creative process.

There are some horrible filters out there, but there are also some good free and cheap phone apps you can use for your camera phone photos.  Lightroom is my favorite for photo editing. I also love Color Story. Your iPhone's built-in camera editing tools aren't all that shabby either. Try to keep your highlights down, your shadows up, and play with the contrast and warmth as much as you want. If you find settings you love using, try to consistently apply them to your images.  

iPhone vs DLSR - Which final photo would you choose?

Taken by iPhone 11 Pro Max; edited on Lightroom mobile  Taken by Nikon Z6 mirrorless DSLR; edited on Lightroom desktop

 
 
(LEFT) Taken by iPhone 11 Pro Max; edited on Lightroom mobile.
 
 
(RIGHT) Taken by Nikon Z6 mirrorless DSLR; edited on Lightroom desktop.
 
 
© 2023 Linda Pordon. All Rights Reserved.

 

Last, but not least, have fun with it.

Photography is such a beautiful way to tell a story about something or someone you love. My favorite photos are the ones where I wasn't overthinking, I wasn't hyper focused on the technical pieces, and I was just inspired by what I was shooting. Enjoy the gift of translating things you love for others to see and enjoy.  

Original Clay Sculpture, Earth, Linda Pordon

 
 
Pop over to Linda Pordon's public Artifcts collection to view the "finished" Artifct from her rain-filled day of Artifcts photography. A bonus Artifct is there awaiting you with an oh-so-sweet story.

Share with us Artifcts you've created putting some of Linda's tips to the test at Editor@Artifcts.com. Or share directly with Artifcts on Facebook or @TheArtiLife on Instagram - we love videos too! 

Happy Artifcting!

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ABOUT THE FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER

Linda Pordon is an interior and commercial brand photographer based out of Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey. She has a B.S. in Finance and started her career in forensic investigations at PricewaterhouseCoopers before pivoting to marketing as an executive at American Express in the premium product space for 15 years. Linda draws on her 20-year tenure in corporate marketing and strategy to enable her to better translate the visions and stories of businesses in her photography work. When she's not behind the lens, Linda has her hands full with her favorite ever-moving subjects, her three young sons, 5, 7, & 9 years old.

© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Interrogation Techniques for Photos: What is This Old Photo? 

Reading time: 4 minutes

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it 1,000 times – photos really aren’t worth 1,000 words. And photos can't talk. Yes, you can animate them. You can even use AI to simulate a loved one’s voice. And yet … it’s entirely possible that one generation removed, the story is lost. And two generations removed, no one remembers with certainty who that is in the photo.

You’ve saved all these photos only to, what, make new research projects for future genealogists? 

We’ve written before about the need to rescue photos. We’ve offered tips, too. We are not advocates for projects for projects sake. For the best, most loved, and truly tantalizing photos in your collection, test out these interrogation techniques on your photos, and those you may inherit. You may just discover new personal or even world history in the process! 

Interrogation Techniques for Photos: Let’s Get Beyond the Five Ws

Psst… the same applies to postcards! Here’s an oldie but a goodie in the Artifcts collection.

Interrogation is about reading your subject. In this case, the subject is a photo and the clues it can offer about its past to share stories with friends and loved ones. 

START WITH WHAT'S TRUE

This is as close as you get to the 5 Ws but starting with “what’s true” can be simpler. “What’s true” even leads off our tip lightbulb on each Artifct you create in the “Description,” thanks to writer Jeff Greenwald.

    • Who is in the photo? 
    • When was it taken? 
    • Where? 
    • Who took the photo (if not you), and how did it come into your possession? Did it come down through your mother’s or father’s family? 
    • Is there any information written on it (if it’s a print) or in a caption or the metadata (if it’s digital)? 
    • What type of photo is it (E.g., black and white, colorized, CDV, real photo postcard)?  
    • What are the original dimensions of the photo? 
    • If printed, is it matte, glossy, added borders, or other adornments? 

Word of caution! If your photo, like this example, was pasted into a scrapbook or similar, and you suspect information is hidden on the back, start first by digitizing it. Then most of us should ask a professional archivist for help. If you are more daring, or less concerned if you damage the photo further, you can certainly purchase tools and learn online about approaches to help uncover the information, like applying hot air with a hairdryer. 

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Learn more about old photos you may have inherited from your family with our guest Lisa Lisson, genealogy researcher and techie behind Are You My Cousin? Genealogy. 

 
 
 
 
5 Unique Types of Vintage Photographs | Beyond Black and White with Lisa Lisson.

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NOW TAKE THE PHOTO IN, IN ITS ENTIRETY

      • What is the photo of? 
              • E.g., nature, a party, a portrait, a group of people, a cool building 
      • What is happening in the photo? 
              • E.g., blowing out candles, dancing, a ceremony, just smiling, nothing – simple still-life  
      • Is it staged or casual? 
              • This might also inform why it was taken. Do you know? A formal posed photo of an individual or family is very different than a candid moment, in motion or unaware. If it is staged, could it even be part of professional portfolio of work?

WHAT'S THE MOOD?

      • Do you see: Shadowing, twilight, a moody setting? Or is this bright and sunshiny fun? Somber faces? Joyous expressions?
      • And closely related, how does the photo make YOU feel? The artistry could invoke feelings or your attachment to the people or places in the photo. 

STEP BACK AGAIN: THIS TIME FOR THE DETAILS

      • Anything surprising in the photo, like a logo, a signature, or an object? Check the background and all around! 
      • Maybe who’s together in the photo is even odd, what they are wearing, type of hairstyles, or perhaps where it was taken.

FINALLY: WHY THIS PHOTO?

      • As in why save this photo? What does it mean to you? What did it mean to the person who gave it to you? Why is it special?  
      • And what do you want others to know about it? 
      • Is this photo best paired with another photo, an object, a document, or even a video, to fully tell its story?  

 
 

 

Looking for Assistance? There’s Tech that Can Help! 

When context clues and family are not enough to help, you may opt for some technical reinforcement. For our co-founder Ellen’s mysterious family members on bikes, there are a few tools she’s curious to test. Maybe these tools will help you, too! Let us know at Editor@Artifcts.com what you discover.

Many tools include facial recognition these days and automatic tagging, likely including the built-in technology that came with your phone as well as popular cloud storage sites, like Google. Review the Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions before you get started so you know the ins and outs of the data you’ll begin to share and collect for your privacy and the privacy of others who are featured in your photos. 

Related Faces' patented technology uses the US Library of Congress database as its testing input along with known persons others and you add to identify people in photos. Related Faces offers a free 14-day trial membership.

New arrival PhotoDater™, from MyHeritage, according to the in-person announcement from the company’s CEO at RootsTech 2023. Listen in around minute 38. The system uses everything from the furniture, hairstyles, and textiles to approximate the date a photo was taken. That can be a real help in narrowing where to look in a family tree for the likely people and places in a photo! Like Related Faces, MyHeritage offers a free 14-day trial membership.  

Happy Artifcting!

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You may also enjoy these additional ARTIcles by Artifcts:

Could You and Should You Part With a Family Photo?

What Should You Do With Old Scrapbooks?

A Virtual Impossibility: Keeping Up With All My Digital Photos

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Sounds of Summer – Vinyl Edition

Reading time: 2 minutes

Last month I sat down with my dad, a proud member of the Baby Boomer generation, who happens to have a deep love for music and a vinyl record collection to prove it! We had one goal: Begin putting his vinyl collection back into use after nearly two decades in storage. Enjoy the nostalgia and the practical “how to” reclaim that record collection in the modern age. 

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“There’s no way. There are so many!” he exclaimed when asked to select a few favorite vinyl albums from among the hundreds in his personal collection to move out of storage and put back into play.

“Obviously the Beatles, George Harrison, Neil Young, the Stones …” he went on as he flipped through the albums before settling on the few he considered “seminal records.”

collection of vinyl records spread out on a low coffee table

He said that each record—with famous melodies, jaw-dropping guitar solos, and powerful lyrics—was a direct tie to that time when he bought the album, the concerts where he heard the music live, and the people he enjoyed the music with.

During his high school days, as music transitioned from 45s to long-playing 12” records, he’d head into downtown Aurora, IL, to listen to the latest albums at Cook’s Hi-Fi. Ironic that today you can buy the latest hits on vinyl again, a nostalgic resurgence, but maybe also one that is favoring a certain quality in music, “The sound from vinyl records is deeper and warmer than CDs or digital formats,” he asserted.

Now in his 70s and contemplating a future that will include him and my mother downsizing from our family home of more than 40 years, he said categorically that the music would make the move. “I’ll buy a new piece of furniture for the records and a player for them. Music has shaped so much of who I am today.”

Picture of Imagine John Lennon vinyl record Picture of the Concert for Bangladesh album

 
 

Until moving day arrives, my dad needed to pick from 100s to select a few to keep close at hand for daily doses of the music he loves best. Vinyl records are great, but they are more fragile and take up more space than their modern digital cousins. Over the years, the albums had been put into storage in an unused bedroom as shelf space was taken over by another of his favorite collections: books. (Books can tell you a lot about a person, too, of course.)

So, we were moving a few albums to a beautiful archival box with a clever peek-a-boo window because he does not yet have that new piece of furniture. His criteria for the few albums he’d start with was some internal balance of emotional connection and what the musicians did to transform not just music but the world.

Vinyl records in a storage box from Archival Methods

“I could fill several album boxes without any trouble,” he remarked. “But these will do for the moment.”

Which albums would make the cut for you? Something old and something new? No cutting, keeping them all? If you need a hand as you sort through and move them around, pop over to Archival Methods and learn more about these vinyl record storage boxes (and save 15% with code AMFCT23) to decide if they are right for your own collection. Make it simple to enjoy the music you’re looking for and keep those records safe!

Happy Artifcting!

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Check out this related blog post over on Archival Methods: Introducing the Ultimate Vinyl Record Storage Box.

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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