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Never-fading memories are made of ... digitalised photo albums

Copying prints, slides, old videos and film reels to your computer will take time – but hi-tech devices will help you preserve – and organise – the past

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 September, 2018, 11:05am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 September, 2018, 11:05am

“Gosh I miss the days of buying rolls of film, going somewhere to have them developed and then throwing out all the bad pictures that didn’t work out.”

Certainly, no one ever said that ... and how times have changed.

Digital photography on our smartphones enables our memories to be easily captured – instantly checked and, if necessary, retaken – every day, not just on special occasions.

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Yet thousands of images randomly stored are as unlikely to be looked at as those dusty old photo albums of yore.

Digitalising existing photographic prints, slides and old videos or film reels takes a lot of time but is a fun way to relive your past life year-by-year

For memories to matter, your digital (or visual) assets need to be stored and arranged in a handy and practical manner.

All of you who are keen to do it yourself will be able to find all the tools to so.

First, you might want to preserve all your old images by digitalising existing photographic prints and slides and any old videos on tapes or film reels.

This will certainly take considerable time, and professional studios could do the work for you.

Yet working though the task yourself at home is a fun way to re-live your past life year-by-year – and also gives you control over how those precious memories are edited, organised, and stored.

It is a good idea to copy your old images, too, because physical prints and tapes often deteriorate over time, while digital copies can be easily duplicated and backed up.

They are also easily posted and shared, rekindling memories for other people in your life.

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Relive your past live ... with a scanner

To set up your own little production studio at home, all you really need is a scanner.

One of the fastest is Epson’s new FastFoto FF-680W, which the company says can scan one photo per second at a density of 300 dots per inch (dpi).

It auto-feeds in stacks of up to 36 prints at a time, rather than individual images on a flatbed scanner, and knows when to scan both the front and back of a photo to capture any handwritten notes.

It is a good idea to copy your old images because physical prints and tapes often deteriorate over time, while digital copies can be easily duplicated and backed up

Images may be edited either manually or using the software, including restoring or enhancing colours in faded photos and enhancing brightness and contrast.

A computer file format known as Tagged Image File Format (or TIFF) can be created for maximum image quality (up to 1,200 dpi), or sharing smaller digital image compression methods, such as JPEGs.

Smartphone app can copy old prints

File organisation tools also allow for the uploading of images to cloud services – remote online servers for storing data, rather than a personal computer – such as Dropbox and Google Drive.

If you have only a small number of photos to deal with, apps such as Google’s Photo Scan might do the trick.

You take a photo of the print with your smartphone and the software removes glare, adjusts the exposure, and backs up the image online to your Google photo album.

The app guides users through the process, giving options on how to achieve the look you want – for example, borders, or no borders – but reviewers say the resolution is not great and it can be tedious having to deal with one photo at a time.

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However, the Tel Aviv start-up, Photomyne, overcomes that with its new artificial intelligence (AI)-powered app, which can scan multiple photographs in a single shot.

Simply click away on each page of an old album and the app’s algorithm breaks it up into individual photos by auto-detecting the boundaries.

Apart from auto-rotating, the usual editing options are available: users can add a title, location, and date.

With all your photos saved in a digital album, they may then be further enhanced, organised, backed up to the cloud, synced to other devices or posted on social media.

For digitising old VHS tapes, you could find a VHS player – online vintage marketplaces may help. then source an analogue converter to connect to your computer.

After installing the software, save it as a mov video container file. The resolution will not be improved, however, so what you see on the old roll is what you will get.

To achieve better quality you will need a more sophisticated set-up, such as the software/hardware combo Magix, which records analogue film footage onto your computer.

However, given that there are commercial providers who can do the difficult jobs for you, with the latest professional tech, this is one job that is probably best left to the experts.

Old reel-to-reel cine films can be preserved

DIY-buffs can transfer old reel-to-reel home-produced cine films in 8 millimetre (0.3 inch) wide and Super 8 amateur film formats into a digital format using a stand-alone piece of equipment.

The Wolverine Data Film2 Digital Moviemaker Pro digitaliser will copy old films frame by frame, and the maker says it does not require the use of a computer or additional software.

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AI can also organise your photo memories

Next comes organising your digitised memories and, again, AI is making these tools smarter than ever.

Toptenreviews.com recommends ACDSee 20 Pro as the best photo organising software, based on its “exceptional organising features and sharing capabilities”.

Images given searchable keywords automatically

The software allows users to easily view and edit their photos’ metadata (the data that provides information about other data), and store images by way of things such as a keyword, calendar date, category or location.

The latest update, ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2018, can edit RAW – minimally processed – images seamlessly, all within the one application with graphics processing unit (GPU)-accelerated layers, and introduces Smart Erase for removing unwanted people or objects from photos.

Adobe, which offers a handy how-to guide to its Lightroom photo organising software, now incorporates AI to enhance the process.

Adobe Sensei on the all-new Lightroom CC uses the power of machine learning to apply searchable keywords automatically.

So if you are looking for shots from your favourite trips to the beach, for instance, the software’s auto-tagging can save you hours.

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Store and retrieve images from a ‘cloud’

A personal storage device from Monument backs up not only photos from smartphones, cameras, computers and secure digital (SD) cards wirelessly, but also uses AI, facial recognition and scene recognition to sort them for easy retrieval.

While SD cards need to be inserted, snaps taken on your Bluetooth-enabled phone or tablet are automatically transferred to the device via the Monument app as soon as it connects to the home network.

Apart from local backup – by connecting a second drive that will mirror the images in a RAID-1 configuration (an exact copy on two or more disks) – the system can backup all your data to a remote Monument device over the internet using a secure connection.

In this way, Monument ensures no one can see your photos except you.

Further, the company says there are no additional storage fees after buying the product.

Yet ultimately, you might still want a real book of images to look at.

A photo album always makes a great gift for family and friends, or for poring over to recall a special holiday or milestone event.