Frequently Asked Questions

Archiving your family photographs

A few comments regarding the digitising of your family photos for future generations.

Firstly, many high powered committees around the world are currently trying hard to get this right.

I remember my disappointment when my 8 track tape player and my Betamax home VCR were declared obsolete. Suddenly, my recorded music and videos were potentially useless, as once the players broke down, they would not be replaceable and the tapes were only playable using these particular playing systems.

This will happen with computers and especially with computer software.

If you save your images in a special proprietary format that requires a particular program to view them, you are in great danger of having them trapped in years to come when that program falls out of favour and is passed by in terms of operating system upgrades.

Recommended file formats for long term storage

If you do use such a program because of the features that it offers, it is wise to keep a separate set of the images in a Common format such as TIFF or JPG.
Every imaging program I am aware of will open these formats and thus they should be accessible well into the future.

If storage space is not a problem, TIFF files retain the optimum amount of information, and can be opened and saved again as often as desired without loss of image detail information.

JPG images "throw away" a little information each time they are re-saved, so this is best regarded as a storage format for images that are not intended to receive a lot of further work, requiring them to be re-saved over and over.

Personally, I can not detect any difference in quality between a TIFF file and a "highest quality" JPG file, even after opening and saving the image two or three times. I estimate the image detail loss on resaving "high quality"JPG images at only a few per cent each time, but it does add up if you do it often.

It is best to carry out your retouching and manipulation on a TIFF file and then save the final image as a "highest quality" JPG if you need compact storage.

Losing all your files

A computer hard drive has a maximum life of about 5 years, and when it dies everything on it goes with it.
It is possible for the information to be retrieved but this can be a very expensive process.
Copying your files out onto a CD or DVD is essential to save the information for the long term.
But no one I know gets into the habit of making regular back up copies until they have experienced at least two disasters !

Your best insurance for family photographs, of course, is the actual original photographs.

After they have been copied, they should be stored in a safe, cool, dry place in a protective folder or container. Many options are available for this purpose, from acid free photo albums to low cost practical solutions from office suppliers such as Officeworks, who have polypropylene albums and binder wallets that will provide neat and practical storage for only a few dollars.

A copy of any written descriptive information should be stored with the photos to ensure the survival of the connected information.

In terms of where to store your original photographs, think of them as liking the same conditions as you.

A roof space or garage is the last place you would be comfortable living.

One good spot is in a drawer under clothes that aren't used often. This is a simple way to keep the temperature and humidity stable and protect against physical damage.

Archiving your organisations' photographs - Why do we need to copy our photographic records when we have the original pictures?

The photographic heritage of your organisation is a unique, irreplaceable record and often, there is only one copy of a particular photo or certificate in existence.
Original photographs can easily be damaged in handling. Loaning the original photographs to interested people inside or outside your organisation can result in the loss of the photographs altogether.

As digital images, they can be easily recopied to disc, reproduced, transmitted or printed out via your computer for articles, press releases or reports. In addition, modern "mini labs" can produce optimum quality prints from the digital images on the disc at everyday prices.

As with many old family photographs, adequate documentation is often lacking with informal collections, making the usefulness of the images limited in future years. We can embed information into the actual image file that will travel with the image permanently, in addition to providing index sheets with both images and information, permitting easy searches for specific images and situations in large collections.

In addition, if your photographs are copies, the copy materials that the images are made on may be a disaster in terms of longevity, as many copy systems were made for speed and cheapness, not permanence.

Whilst CDs and DVDs may be made obsolete before long, in terms of collection permanence, the information on them can be easily upgraded to the next “wonder system”, whatever that may be, without loss of quality.

What kind of photos and memorabilia can you copy?

Black and white, sepia and colour photos and slides, negatives on film or glass, newspaper clippings and other printed material, certificates and general memorabilia that can all help tell the story of your organisation’s history.

Once the photographs and memorabilia have been made easily accessible, there is a much greater tendency to utilise the images.

How is our photographic collection presented?

Your collection is presented in a way that facilitates access for you and others. The images are presented in folders on the CD or DVD in two sizes, one size suitable for high quality prints and another for email or on-screen use.

Relevant image information can be set to accompany the photograph in several ways. It can be embedded into the image file as “Metadata” and can be “searched” for key words by image management programs such as Fotostation.

This information is also supplied as a Word “doc” file or as an Excel spreadsheet on the disc. Proof sheets of the images are included, and can be printed out for easy reference on your office printer.

As a matter of policy, we make at least three copies of the CD or DVD of the collection and we recommend that the copies be kept in separate locations to avoid complete loss in the event of a catastrophe.

What size photographs can you copy?

We can work with any size picture or memorabilia from thumbnail size to “door” size.

What formats/media can you provide our photos on?

We can supply the finished work in the following forms:

    On a CD or DVD, for use in your own computers as both a high quality image for making prints and also a small image, suitable for viewing on screen in a Power Point presentation or including in an email.

    As prints made with archival standard materials, with a display life of over 100 years.

    As PDF files that can be read using free software from Adobe.

Some of our important photos are badly damaged or faded, can they be restored?

Our current team have been personally copying and restoring photographs for 26 years, so we can repair any amount of damage. We provide no-obligation individual quotes for this specialised work. Note that, whilst we can repair any amount of damage, sadly, we can not fix an out of focus image.

The photos that we want to have copied are stuck fast in an album. What should we do?

Send us the whole pages or the entire album. A "Post-it" note stuck over the required photos you would like us to copy will help identify the correct photos.

It isn't convenient to bring the photographs to you - what can you do about this?

In and around Sydney, we can collect a portable collection, or bring our copy equipment to your premises and copy the images there. Sometimes it is more practical to copy a large collection on site, as we did with the Daintree collection of glass photographic plates for the Queensland Historical Society, flying up to Brisbane from Sydney.

Can we send framed photos to you?

Yes, but we strongly recommend that any with cover glass be delivered by direct courier to avoid the glass being damaged in transit. Many frames can be easily dismantled, so the photo can be sent separately.

Will you look after our photos?

We have worked with international conservation organisations, museums and government departments to document and duplicate photographs of historical and cultural significance, so we are well practised in taking care of precious photographs.

In addition to creating new copies of the photographs, we can advise on ongoing storage of the original photographs to minimise future deterioration.

What contact can I expect with you?

We can visit your offices and discuss your project personally. We can go over any points that need clarification, show you samples and talk through any issues before we begin.

If you are sending the work in by post or courier, we will phone or email you to confirm receipt of your work and discuss any questions or issues at that time.


Technical advice

Picture size and resolution for sending by email

Some confusion exists about the requirements for emailing scanned images for printing and for viewing on-screen.
The basic requirements are very different for these two uses.

Emailing pictures for viewing on screen

Your monitor is set to display a certain number of pixels, for example, 1024 x 768. So, the optimum image is about 750 pixels high to part fill this screen.
Whilst you can use a bigger image, the extra information is not useful and simply adds to the file size, making sending it by email a much longer process.
To get the best result, start with a bigger photo and crop off any unwanted background.
Now save this under a different name. If you just save it over the top of the original image you will lose the original full size image that you may want later for making prints.
Then a simple way to create the size you need is to resize the image to 8 inches high at a resolution of 75 dpi.
This will give an on-screen image of 600 pixels, (8x75), three quarters the height of the screen size mentioned above or a full screen height on a screen set to a standard 800 x 600 pixels.
Whilst monitors don't actually work in DPI, it is a convenient way to calculate the size requirements.
Save the picture as a JPG file at "quality level" 7 to get the optimum reduced size file.
This compresses the file by a clever mathematical trick that reduces the information content slightly and the file size dramatically.

Programs like Goggles Picasa 2" take care of many of these calculations for you, keeping the original image safe and making a new screen sized version to send.

Emailing pictures suitable for making prints

With regards to making prints, a lot more information is required than for viewing on screen.
The human eye can see fine detail down to about 1/100th of an inch when it is held close to the face, like a hand held photograph would be.
However, printers aren't perfect, whether they pass the image through inkjets or laser beams, and to compensate for their inaccuracies, more information than this is needed to give the best result.

300 dpi provides optimum detail where fine detail is required, but softer scenes and soft flattering portraits can be printed at 150 dpi.

Save the picture as a JPG file at "medium" quality level 7 to get the optimum size file, as mentioned above.

Recently, the main email service providers have greatly increased the size allowed for email attachments, so check with yours to see what size you can send.

Scanning existing photos to make copy prints

It is best to scan the photos to produce a 300 dpi resolution scan at the actual size you want the finished picture to be, to optimise whatever detail exists in the original.
There is a maximum scan size your scanner works at and using it at bigger magnifications means that the scanner program “interpolates” the image to make it bigger, which simply means stretching it bigger without adding any more detail.
If you up-size the image after you scan it, you will do the same thing.

You can work out the maximum optimum enlargement you can obtain by dividing the resolution you need for your print by the maximum optical resolution of the scanner. For example, a 600 x 600 dpi scanner will enable a 2"x2" original to be enlarged to 4" x4" for a 300dpi scan.
(600/300 = 2 times enlargement on each dimension)

If you are confused by all this calculation and you just want to enlarge your small original as much as possible, set your scanner on the maximum optical resolution mentioned in the instruction book, such as "600 dpi" and scan at that.

For after-scan enlarging, professional imaging programs like Photoshop carry out the most sophisticated calculations to enlarge the image, but even they can’t create more detail, so a good information rich original scan is the best starting point.

Scanning creases

If you have a crease in your original to be scanned, it will catch the light from the passing scanner head and produce an unwanted highlight and a shadow on the scanned image as it is made.
If you turn the original around on the scanner bed so that the crease runs parallel to the long side of the scanner, this will minimise the effect.
The scan can be rotated back to normal later, in a suitable image processing program, such as Photoshop.
Of course, if you have several creases going in different directions, select the biggest one that goes through the subjects face !
We have a special lighting setup and filters that can neutralise multiple reflections, so we can help if the reflections are overwhelming.