In 2005, I undertook the task of digitizing my parents' old
photos. I traipsed through the house collecting every photo I could
find, and ended up with a rather sizable pile of dogeared photo albums, a
couple boxes of disorganized prints, and a stack of framed photographs
from the walls.
Then, one by one, I scanned the photographs into files. But I didn't
just dump the images into one catch-all folder on my computer. Instead,
(initially using iPhoto, now using Aperture 3) I created a database as I went, arranging the photos in
folders corresponding to their sources. I also transcribed any
handwritten descriptions associated with the photos, and tagged each
photo with keywords corresponding to the year the photograph was taken,
the people in the photo, the location of the photo, the photo album the
original could be found in, etc.
This process was as tedious and time consuming as it sounds. Even if I
had not enjoyed it immensely (which I honestly did!), the end result
was a invaluable database of digitized copies of all my parents old
photos, spanning the time between their childhoods through the
mountaineering days of their early marriage to my sister and my
growing-up years. All of the digitized photos were neatly organized and
easily searchable. Clicking on a photo provided access to a description
of the photo (such as a note transcribed from a handwritten label in the
photo album) as well as any keywords associated with the photo such as
the year and the people in the photograph.
Furthermore, the search feature of the database allowed me to easily
pull up any photos meeting a specified criteria. This could be as
general as pulling up "all photos tagged with the keyword 'Steph'" or as
specific as "all photos of my dad in the album 'Mountaineering
1980-1983' taken in Wyoming with the label 'Grand Teton'). The search is
only limited by how detailed the keywords and labels are.
Quite often I find myself searching the digital database I have
created of my parents' photos. It has turned out to be a tremendous
resource that has made preserving and viewing my parents' old photos
easy and enjoyable. Since I am interested in the glacier melting in the
North Cascades, I often compare my photographs to those of my parents.
Instead of spending hours paging through fragile photo albums in search
for a specific photo of a glacier, I can simply search my database and
have it in a matter of minutes (or seconds!). And ready to email or
Now, each member in my family has a copy of the database on his or
her computer. This is a great way to share and preserve the photos for
years to come.
A screenshots of my photo database (initially using iPhoto, now in Aperture 3) is shown below.