There’s something magical about cracking open a yellowing album of old family photos. Peering down at your great grandparents’ young, smiling faces, you feel transported. You notice repeating features–a cleft chin, dark curls, deep-set eyes–popping up through the generations.
It was while flipping through a box of her own analog photos that Rachel LaCour Niesen was inspired to found Save Family Photos, an online community where people can share their old family photos and the stories behind them. “When we showcase our family photos, we also preserve our stories, our history,” Niesen says. “A collection of family photos is like a patchwork quilt–an heirloom, worn with age, that can be passed on.”
On her site, Niesen provides guides for digitizing old photos, so we turned to her for advice on how to create digital copies of our treasured family photos. Read on to learn her easy methods that yield high quality images that can be blown up and framed:
How to take a photo of a photo
1. Get the lighting right. Plan to shoot in daylight. Look for a spot with indirect natural light, which will reduce glare and keep the colors consistent with the original. Try a position near a window on a cloudy day or filter the light through sheer curtains. Turn off nearby electric lights to eliminate highlights and possible tint.
2. Lay the photo on a flat surface (a desk, kitchen table, the floor, you get the idea). If your photo is in a frame, it’s best if you can remove it to eliminate the glare from the glass.
3. Take a picture of the analog image. Keep your phone or camera parallel to the image. If you’re having trouble holding your camera perfectly straight, stack up books and rest the end of your phone or camera on the stack while still holding it steady. Don’t worry if the stack of books is a little bit visible in the bottom of the photo (you can crop it out later). Just make sure you are able to get the whole picture without cropping either of the sides.
4. Upload the image to Framebridge. Now is when you can crop the photo as desired, using the tools on our site. Pro tip: We also have one-click tools to brighten images or convert them into black and white.
5. Check your size. Once your photo is uploaded to Framebridge.com, our site will automatically let you know the largest size you can clearly print your digital photo.
6. Choose your frame style. We love vintage photos in Newport, a champagne silver frame. Clean gallery frames also make for a compelling contrast; try Mercer Slim or Irvine Slim. Scroll down for all our favorites. Once you’ve digitized your image, you can frame as many copies as you want. Framed family photos are thoughtful, truly easy gifts for siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
How to scan an old photo
1. Make sure your scanner is properly adjusted. Navigate to your scanner’s histogram and select the highest resolution you can. The higher the DPI (dots per inch), the clearer your scans will be. You can learn more about DPI here.
2. Scan the photo as you would normally scan. Usually face down with the photo in the corner of the scanner.
3. Upload the scan to Framebridge. Now is when you can crop the photo as desired, using the tools we provide. We also have one-click tools to brighten images or convert them into black and white.
4. Check your size. Once your photo is uploaded to Framebridge.com, our site will automatically let you know the largest size you can clearly print your digital photo.
5. Choose your frame style. We have options ranging from sleek, riveted steel-finished Bolton to the more rustic Sonoma, a natural medium wood perfect for those vintage camping pics.
How to frame an original vintage photo
Now that you’ve scanned the original photo and created digital copies for your records, why not frame the analog original? Vintage photos look fantastic when float mounted to show off those characteristic edges. After all, those stains, tears, and watermarks are all part of the story.
To frame the analog photo, complete our framing flow and select Physical Photograph. We’ll send you secure, prepaid packaging for you to ship us your photo. Then we’ll frame it to your specifications, and ship it to you with the correct hardware so it’s ready to hang. (Or ready to gift, as the case may be!)