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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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PHOTOS, DOCS & OTHER MEDIA
How to Take Pictures of Objects at Home

Are you frustrated by shadows, blurry images, and glares in your photos? Wish the colors or the object itself would pop a bit more? We take a lot of pictures, as you might imagine, and none with the benefit of a paid professional or expensive lighting.  

Here are our tips from our own daily experiences. If you have other tips, please share at Editor@Artifcts.com, and we’ll add them to this story! 

For Smaller Objects

If you want nice looking pictures for personal use (not appraisals - then you often need the pros!) and it's a movable or smaller object, we usually lay a large piece of paper on a floor or other flat surface near a window for indirect lighting and with no direct overhead lighting turned on. We bought our paper here. The direct overhead lighting is the main culprit of shadows you will cast. With a window, you can pivot where you stand to avoid the shadow. 

If you don't have or want to buy plain paper, try a simple wood surface, countertop, cloth, or even a cushion or pillow. 

If you are photographing an absorbent material, like newspapers or t-shirts, you won’t typically be battling glare. Try laying them out anywhere with overhead or natural light to take the picture.

For Larger Objects

For larger and/or immovable objects and scenarios with poor natural lighting, this is the time to grab a couple of lamps to give you more lighting control. If you do this, we recommend spending a few extra minutes taking photos of several items, so you will not need to take the lamps back out again any time soon! 

Remember, it is easy to go straight from the photos in the gallery on your phone, directly to the Artifcts app. Just choose a photo (or up to 5) that you want to use to create an Artifct, select share, and choose the Artifcts app. You’ll have options to crop and rotate each photo you add as you go as well as reorder them into whatever logical order you prefer. Watch this video for more about our app ->

Now, Try Editing Your Photo 

Don’t be afraid to play around with the photo. You can always cancel and revert back to the original. 

And don’t buy special photo editing software out of the gate. Use the built-in features on your phone or computer to play around with images you really care about. We almost always use the built-in editor on our iPhones to play with contrast, coloring, etc., but especially the "Brightness" level.

picture from iOS phone setting to adjust photo brightness

 
 
Choose the photo > select Edit > and slide the circular options over to BRIGHTNESS. The white dot on the bar shows your starting point.
 
 
Go up and down from there and see what you like!
 

Because everyone loves a before and after, check out this example. We adjusted the cropped area and the brightness.

Miniature lego figure of Hagrid with his pink umbrella     Miniature Lego figurine of Hagrid with his pink umbrella

 
 

Check Out Sample Artifcts 

Here are a few Artifcts we created with a plain piece of paper, natural window lighting, a helpful angle, and a bit of editing with our iOS phone tools. Not professional, but not bad either! 

White piece of paper with a tiny toy solider in a yoga position

 
 
Use a plain background, natural lighting, and smart camera angles to your advantage.

 

Three Bonus Tips Before We Go 

No matter what you’re photographing, or whether you are inclined to edit the photo, here are a few additional tips from our own experiences. 

Tip 1: Composition can help. Pairing items together to help tell the story, like this apron and this photo + brochure, can also reduce the pressure on any one item looking "just so" in the photo. Your eye is distracted by the overall composition of items. 

Tip 2: Try using low-cost, lightweight, non-damaging accessories. A small tripod can help avoid blurry images that result from poor lighting, an unsteady hand, or an object with very fine details. Depending on how you want to use the tripod, you might consider whether it has anti-skid feet, what angles it can achieve, and total height. Here’s an example. Some tripods, like this one, also include a remote, which we haven’t tested but find intriguing. 

A felted or leather paperweight, to avoid damaging a delicate item, can also hold down a page to avoid including your finger in the shot! Small magnets can do the same, one on each side of a page. 

Tip 3: Patterns and odd number groupings. The human mind loves patterns and essentially finds them soothing and more memorable. Here’s a playful example - Lego cars! Ditto for odd number groupings. If you have several similar items or are creating a composition, per tip one, try out an arrangement of three. 

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You may also enjoy these photo and other media related stories from ARTIcles by Artifcts.

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

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Could You and Should You Part with a Family Photo?

Today our invited guest curator, genealogy expert Thomas MacEntee of GenealogyBargains.com, explores drastic methods used to ensure future access to precious family photos. You might just discover you have company in your own approach to old family photos!

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I’ll admit I’m a sucker for click-bait news headlines like the recent one, 'I sold a family heirloom to pay for my wedding - guests are now refusing to attend'. Basically, the eldest son in a family inherited a valuable family heirloom and decided to sell it in order to fund a lavish destination wedding. His reasoning? “I'm not much for big family traditions, so although it's a nice thing to have, I'm not massively attached to it. I have plenty of other good memories of my father and I don't need a fancy heirloom to remember him by.” 

I won’t weigh in with my opinion on this specific situation (well, okay, I will at the end of this article), but many of us experience similar dilemmas. The heirlooms we inherit are often not “high value” and consist mainly of family photographs. And many of these items hold no sentimental value for us. The challenge? What to do with the vast collection of family photos especially if we haven’t found a family member interested in keeping them? How do we ensure that these items are available for future generations? 

What Should Stay When I Go? Should I Keep or Should I Throw? 

I recently celebrated a Big Birthday (one that ends in a 0) which caused me to ponder my own mortality and what I would be leaving behind for my family to sort through. I have a HUGE collection of family photos dating back to the 1860s … literally over 4,000 photos. While I have spent many hours digitizing and cataloguing these images, what is the next logical step?  

The concept of “Swedish death cleaning” has always intrigued me: the process of cataloguing items accumulated during one’s life and attaching notes or instructions as to how they should be passed on or disposed of. Would I be willing to do the same with old family photos? Just like the article about selling an heirloom that one deems less important than other family members, what is my duty to hold on to and preserve family photos and what methods should I use?

Golf tally card and photo in an old scrapbook

 
 
Facing a similar dilemma with family scrapbooks?
 
 

My Decision and My Methodology 

I consider myself a “steward” for my family photos as well as my genealogy research. I don’t have a deep need to hold on to the actual photograph of my great-grandfather John Ralph Austin at age 18 months taken in 1897. The image has been scanned, catalogued, and I have even Artifcted it here.

Old fashioned black and white photo of a child in a long gone on a chair circa 1897

What I haven’t yet decided is:

    1. If I still want to keep this photo;  
    2. If I want to send it on to an organization like the Lewis County Historical Society in Lowville, New York where my great-grandfather was born; or  
    3. If I’ll simply include it in my estate plan and let my executors decide on the disposition.

A neat feature when creating an Artifct is the In The Future field where I can designate what I want done with the photo:

In the Future menu with options to sell, bequeath and more

 
 
Give it a try! Click the image to create a new Artifct. Or edit an existing Artifct and use the 'In the Future' field.

While every family historian has different approaches to preservation of heirlooms, I strongly recommend creating a digital copy of the item in case the original is lost due to fire, flood, natural disaster, etc. In addition, make sure that digital copy is somehow backed up to the Cloud, an external server or some mechanism providing redundancy.  

Conclusion

In terms of the valuable family heirloom mentioned at the beginning of this article, I thought it was very poor form for the groom not to consult with the rest of the family, especially the younger brother who had a keen interest in keeping the item. Again, this simple act is in line with my role as a steward for my family history and heirlooms. What may not seem sentimental to me, may have a strong attraction for one of my cousins or other family members.

Please put together a plan on managing your family heirlooms and seek input from others in the family. It’s so easy to do here at Artifcts. Spur conversations about valuable or sentimental items, even if it is just a phone call or video call. Often you’ll gain perspective by learning more about the heirloom: what you remember about the item could be very different from that of an aunt or a cousin. At the very least you’ll collect new information to expand the story of that precious family Artifct.

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If photos are weighing on or inspiring you, we have additional ARTIcles by Artifcts that might interest you!

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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What Should You Do with Old Scrapbooks?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Scrapbooking is more than a hobby. It’s a time-consuming, big-hearted passion and nearly infinite outlet for creativity. These works of art visualize people’s stories.

The thing is, scrapbooks also take up space and collect dust. They feature people no longer in our lives. They can raise more questions than answers with the items they feature. And then, the physical reality – they fall apart. Read on for more on scrapbooking dilemmas and possible solutions.

Scrapbooking Dilemmas

They decay. The glue and tape decay and quite often that very same glue and tape damages permanently whatever it was holding in place. And then these damaged items slip out of place, and you may never again be very sure what went where, particularly if it’s not your scrapbook to begin with.

They are singular, unique. That means whether moving boxes get lost, your home has a fire or flood, or you simply lose track of them, they are easy to lose and irreplaceable. You can’t exactly go online and order another copy! (By the way, that can hold true for photobooks you create, too! Co-founder Ellen Goodwin was frustrated to discover she couldn’t reorder hers from a particular popular online photobook site because the specific formats are no longer supported. So sad.)

They are singular, unique. (Yes, we repeated that on purpose!) You can’t share a scrapbook. One person is the keeper. Who’s it going to be? You could offer visitation rights, we suppose. Or take turns? Just keep in mind that it is not the ownership of the physical scrapbook that matters but the connection it offers to the memories captured within.

They tend to be highly visual, with little story. Scrapbooks are often designed to have the stories told/shared by the person who created it as you page through it together. At best you typically get a description of only a line or two. The rest is just a visual walk through some aspect of a person’s life. So then if you inherit a scrapbook, so much history is truly lost. You are left to guess.

They are usually 2D. You don’t have audio or video options, unless you include a thumb drive, or similar, to support it.

How Can You Preserve Scrapbooks?

We went to four sources for advice on what to do with scrapbooks that are falling apart and/or have run their useful purpose: A parent of young children, a 70-year-old woman who is downsizing, a professional archivist, and the National Archives. We hope their tips will help you. 
 
THE PARENT.

I can’t help you! I gave up on scrapbooks after my first kid. It’s just too much guilt.

I keep some mementos in a fire-safe box for each kid, and the rest is in digital photo storage and the occasional photobook for holidays.

And, in full disclosure, I know one of the founders of Artifcts, so I adopted it early on. Artifcts is my go-to source for almost everything now, even the stuff that goes into the memento box I Artifct first. It’s too easy to forget what is what and which of my kids even made it. I write in pencil on the back of some things, but not everything. Artifcts is more reliable and fun, and they can take the Artifcts I create for them to college without embarrassment.

THE DOWNSIZERS.

“Scrapbooks were more time consuming than figuring out what to do with the entirety of my sewing room!” she told us. Here’s the downsizer’s version of events:

First, I had to find them. I knew I had two somewhere.

Then, I asked my two kids if either of them wanted the scrapbooks. That was like opening Pandora’s Box! I had never actually talked them through the scrapbooks, and they wanted to know more about what was in each. I had the mini-golf tally card from our first date. I even had music albums glued in. I couldn't tackle that time commitment right then because my kids do not even live near me.

I took the albums to a local camera store that has a special scanner and they digitized each page and gave it to me as a collection of photos on a thumb drive and they sent me a second version I could download from the cloud.

I decided to keep the scrapbooks for now. I want to record more of the stories that are in the pictures. I will give them to my eldest daughter when I’m done because she’s more curious about the family history and her daughter liked to page through them when I briefly kept them on my coffee table. Tell people: Do NOT keep them on the coffee table. It was a mistake. They are a mess!

 
 
 
 

A PROFESSIONAL ARCHIVIST.

Monocurate’s motto is “archives for all” and that’s how they work one-on-one with their clients. Professionals can help stabilize your scrapbooks so you can keep them for longer to share with the next generation. Guidelines from an archivist:

    1. Digitize them as-is.
    2. Carefully remove important items. Don't force it! Did you know … Sometimes people would repurpose books, like old phone books, to scrapbook. Upcycling is great, but may make for a bit more fragile scrapbook!
    3. Interleave the scrapbook pages with acid-free paper or tissue.
    4. Most importantly, stop scrapbooking.

It pains archivists to know the future of items consigned to scrapbooks and what the glues, metals, tapes and more will do to their contents.

THE US NATIONAL ARCHIVES.

The position of the Archives is clearest in this statement: “[Scrapbooks are] unique gatherings of material that are best preserved as a unit.” Much like archivists who work with individuals and families, the US National Archives suggests:

    • Store scrapbooks in cool, dry, dark places.
    • House them flat and in archival quality boxes.

Archival Methods logo

 
 
Check out Archival Methods in our Allies in 'Stuff' for a discount code to box your scrapbook!  
    • If you "must" handle them, be careful! Put back anything that falls out, keep your hands clean, and obviously keep food and water away.
    • Do not attempt to repair scrapbooks you wish to pass on to future generations. Seek professional help or you risk further damaging what remains.
    • Avoid stressing the binding and contents by using copy machines. Use a hand-held camera or a face-up copier or scanner. Or, again, seek out a professional for digitization services.

OUR THOUGHTS ON SCRAPBOOKS

While you will not hear Artifcts say, “Stop scrapbooking!” we do strongly encourage you to think about why you scrapbook, what you hope to do with the product of your work one day, and how you can ensure that the stories woven into the contents are not lost.

We don't want your scrapbook and its memories in a trashcan someday, a casualty of too much stuff, too little space, too little interest in figuring out the stories and secrets it holds!

If you are taking the time to create the scrapbook, maybe take time to create an additional Artifct or two to go with the scrapbook, even if the Artifct is of the scrapbook 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 scrapbook to life for the next generation.  

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Free Genealogy Resources and Other Tips from a Pro

Thomas MacEntee knows his (genealogy) stuff. He’s spent decades on his own family research and long before that was steeped in the tech industry. Having tech skills, natural curiosity, and boundless energy are hallmarks of a great genealogist, and he possesses these traits and then some. We can add perseverance to that mix, too. 

During a recent Evenings with Artifcts, our audience had questions for Thomas that we do not want you to miss. Here are just a few: 

Q: How can I stay apprised of sales for memberships and DNA test kits, genealogy events near me, and even changes to the privacy terms of sites I use? 

A: Approve the sender email addresses for sites you work with to ensure emails from them do not go to spam. And set Google Alerts! It’s easy to do and to change or delete when you no longer need them. Create a Google alert -> 

Q: How can I export my genealogy research to share with family who do not want to sign into the platform I used to build our family tree? The file I got was not usable. 

A: Ah, GEDCOM, yes; it’s the default format you’ll get genealogy data in and isn’t meant to be read as is. Try a different site from the one you’ve been using to see if you like it better for engaging your family. You can download the free version of RootsMagic or create a free account on MyHeritage and then import your GEDCOM file and evaluate its fit for you. Review each site’s terms and conditions before importing your GEDCOM data so you know what they will do with the data. 

And watch out because the old GEDCOM formats do NOT download your media files. You have to download each photo, document, and other media file one-by-one. Always back up your media files locally before posting anywhere. That's a great bonus of Artifcts, which offers members non-proprietary, usable formats to download individual Artifcts and/or your complete collection. Simply click download and choose your preferred format. Done! And Artifcts does not compress (shrink) your media files either.  

Q: I’m new to genealogy research. Where can I find some easy and free resources to get started? 

A: Genealogists as a collective are very active in private and public Facebook groups. Historical societies are often great resources as well. Check your local libraries and museums for free workshops and access to digital research tools. 

 
 
 
 
Thomas shared two additional free resources during the event. Click play! 

Want to hear Thomas’ other great tips, including his thoughts on Evernote vs OneNote, top scanners for photos, negatives, and slides, and more? Watch the full replay on YouTube -> 

Keep Privacy and Security and Mind as You Work! 

It’s worth emphasizing the vital importance of privacy and record keeping throughout any family history and genealogy research endeavor.  

PROTECT PRIVACY.

Data about living people, personal details (addresses, DNA results, birth and anniversary dates), and even the photos and videos you share should all be done with consideration given to all those affected.  

And if you have interviewed a family member and want to include their story, share the transcription with them before you upload it anywhere, so they retain control over their history! 

SECURE LEGACY.

For real. Do not rely on a three-ring binder, fire safe, or, please no, a plastic bin or filing cabinet to be your vault. Embrace tech:  

    • A solid-state hard drive (you can easily find reviews from established sources like CNET) can provide you with speed, capacity, and longevity, helping future proof your research! 
    • And consider a secondary backup with a cloud-based solution or a digital vault service. There are many vault services available to store documents, photos, videos, passwords, and the like. Some also bake in estate planning, medical directives, and other tools to ensure you’re planning forward. Check out Keylu, one of our Allies in ‘Stuff,’ and others including Trustworthy and GoodTrust to find the best fit. 

For more technology tips and recommendations, download Genealogy Tech with Thomas

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Are you a genealogist or family historian and curious to try Artifcts? 

Start here with Artifcts In Real Life and download our checklist of Genealogy Gems. And stay tuned for new genealogy-themed videos on our YouTube channel, too! 

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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How to Organize Your Photos and Protect Your Privacy

Well, we kind of already gave you our top tips for how to Artifct photos to save the stories and the memories, not just the pictures.

But we’ve had so much interest in photos and are working with so many professional photo managers, we wanted to share with you our very latest advice, fresh off the proverbial presses! Our co-founder Heather Nickerson will be presenting a keynote speech on privacy on Saturday at The Photo Managers  conference in Orlando, Florida, so we thought we’d share some of her tips for protecting your and your loved one's privacy when it comes to photo sharing. 

At Artifcts we’re the complimentary force for good that will wrap a positive experience around your photos to ensure your key life moments will never be forgotten, are instantly organized, and are easily shareable, too.

Professional photo managers have told us that while working with clients there are always, always, always a small subset of photos, rarely more than 100 in a collection of 1000s that are people’s top hits. The ones that make them smile, bring them back to critical life milestones, fill them with warmth as they remember those people have passed through their lives. That’s what we’re about. 

Heather’s Photos + Privacy Top Tip

On that note, we give you Heather’s micro mini-crash course on photos + stories and memories + privacy. 

The guiding principle is simple: balance details with privacy. Consider leaving out details to protect your (or your clients’) privacy to keep bad actors at bay, especially if sharing publicly. Avoid: 

  • Addresses. Let’s not help the stalkers out there! 
  • Full names. Use your discretion, others might prefer privacy. Did you know ... when you mention someone in an Artifct using @, it shows their screen name only? Privacy!
  • Account/ID numbers. Best shared privately via a digital vault, like Keylu, one of our Allies in 'Stuff.'
  • Specific dates. Yes, they’re public record, but you don’t have to make it easy to find birth dates, anniversary dates, and similar all in one place.  

Want to See How It Works? 

Check out these Artifcted photos in @Heather’s personal collection, each balancing details and privacy:  

how to save photos with stories - tips from Artifcts

Share your own photo Artifcting experiences with us! Post a video on Instagram (tag @theartilife) or Facebook (tag @Artifcts) or write to us at Editor@Artifcts.com. Maybe we’ll feature your story.

Happy Artifcting! 

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While we’re on the photos theme, check out these related ARTIcles by Artifcts:

A Virtual Impossibility: Keeping Up with All My Digital Photos 

Let’s Talk Photo Negatives and VHS Tapes 

Rescue Mission: That’s More than a Photo! Artifct That! 

The Importance of Digitizing Your Old Photographs, Documents, and Other Photographs 

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Introducing Artifcts' Allies in 'Stuff'

We want to help each person to transform stuff from a potential burden today and on future generations to the source of immediate connection, history, legacy, and financial security. We cannot do it alone. 

The world of ‘stuff’ is broad and sometimes overwhelming! Artifcts helps you to connect the stories and stuff, enjoy walks together down memory lane, support your wills and insurance coverage, and think through and document what to keep based on those hard tradeoffs between the emotional and financial value (and space!).  

Others can help you preserve, sell, move it all, and more!

Today We're Unveiling Artifcts' Allies in 'Stuff'

Our allies are resources to help expand your awareness of the possible for you and all your ‘stuff.’ The organizations represented cut across multiple categories:

      • Digitization & Preservation
      • Organizing, Decluttering, & Moving
      • Valuations & Sales
      • Family History & Documentation
      • Preparedness & End-of-Life
      • Artistic Renditions

We have met with every company directly, reviewed their products, and are confident they can help or, at the very minimum, inspire. We have focused on those with broad national, and many international, footprints and services. Yet we know sometimes going local is what's needed, required, or desired. Learn about the possible in the world of stuff here at Artifcts! Head over to Allies in 'Stuff,' click to read about each company, and download the Allies map to have on hand as a reference.

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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