Saving Precious Memories, One Photo at a Time – How I Do It

If you know me at all, then you know that I have been blessed with an abundance of ancestral photos.  Seriously, an abundance.  Like coming-out-of-my-ears-I-will-never-finish-scanning-in-my-lifetime kind of abundance.

This is both wonderful and challenging.  The wonderful definitely outweighs the challenging – definitely!  But we need to be careful not to underestimate the time, effort, expense, and organization required of those who work to digitize & share family photo collections.  It is so much work.  But those of us who do it, do it out of love, and we want to share!

Recently, one of my sisters sent me this text message:

If I want to print some pictures of ancestors would I just download them from the Facebook groups you’ve created?  Will that give me the best quality?

What fantastic questions!

First of all – hooray! that my sister is noticing the photos I’m sharing on Facebook, that’s why I do it.  Second of all – hooray! that she wants to display some of those precious photos in her home where her children will see them all of the time.  Third of all – hooray! that I was already all set and didn’t have to slow her project down by finding a way to share the images with her.  We were able to text back and forth a few times with simple instructions and answers to questions that easily led her to the highest quality version of the photos she was interested in.

This experience caused me to decide to share my process for dealing with photos right here.  I take several steps with each photo.  Each step has a very specific purpose for sharing, preservation/back-up, or both.  I hope my method will inspire you as you consider how you digitize, preserve, back-up, and share your treasures.  Remember, there is no perfect or “right” way.  We all have to find what works best for us.


My process for handling a photo includes the following steps:

  • Scan
  • Edit
  • Upload to multiple places:
    • WordPress, if I’m including it in a blog post
    • FamilySearch
    • My Ancestry Tree
    • Flickr
    • Costco Photo Center
    • Facebook
  • Back-up
  • Delete from laptop
  • Preservation of the original physical photo



There are so many options for scanning.  After many years of preserving photos in different ways, I have finally settled into a groove when it comes to scanning.  I use three different scanning methods depending on the circumstances.

At-home scanning of items in my possession is all done on my Epson Perfection V600 Photo Flatbed Scanner.  This is my preferred method because it yields the highest quality images.

A few simple scanning tips for this scanning method:

  • Make sure the scanner glass is clean.
  • Gently clean the photo with a clean, very soft cloth or brush – don’t blow on the photo, you never know when you might have a wee bit of saliva end up on your image.  Yikes!
  • Scan at 600 dpi, or higher, as a TIFF file.  300 dpi will create a replica, size wise, so base the dpi on what you plan to do with the image.  If you want the ability to print a 5×7 or 8×10 and the original photo is a 2×3 – scan at a higher dpi.  600 is my baseline.  For very small, rare, or special images I will go up to 1200 dpi.  Every once in a blue moon there will be a very rare, very small, AND very special photo and I will scan it at 2400 dpi.  But like I said, that is very rare.
  • TIFF files are lossless and can be saved as a jpeg for other purposes, but the TIFF file will become your digital negative.  Jpegs are lossy files and not the best format for photo preservation.  While TIFF files are much larger, digital storage has become much cheaper, so buy a few flash drives and scan those photos as TIFF files!  I would prefer to do it right and only do it once.  One additional tip is that if you scan at a higher dpi as a TIFF and then do a ‘save as’ into a jpeg, the jpeg will look better than if you scan as a jpeg in the first place.  Here is an example.  I shared this photo last week.  The photo on the left was originally a TIFF that I saved as a jpeg.  The photo on the right is a file I scanned as a jpeg to start with at 300 dpi.  Can you see the quality difference?  Try opening them in their own windows and zoom in, then you can really see it.  Of course, the biggest difference is when the photo is actually printed.  Our backlit screens make up for a lot of quality loss that can’t be fixed in printing.

I have two other on-the-fly scanning methods I also use.

1 – I have a ShotBox and DSLR camera that I take with me when I visit a relative.  That way I can capture images and treasures in the moment without having to “borrow” them or wait for a relative to scan and share when they have time.

2 – I use the Google PhotoScan app for items too large to fit in my ShotBox.  I suggest everyone have this on their phone.  Be sure to practice a bit before you visit a relative.  While it’s easy to use, it definitely has some quirks.

Now about those all-in-one scan/print combo machines.  If that is all you have access to, go for it.  Scanned is better than not scanned.  But the image quality is much poorer.  Often there will be a library or Family History Center that has a flat-bed scanner you can use at little or no cost.  I suggest you look into that option.

Here is an example of a photo scanned using an all-in-one, then the same photo scanned using my flatbed scanner.

Estelle Duval at the desk of Duval Portraits

Scanned using an all-in-one scanner.

img066 - edited, slight lighten

Scanned using a flatbed scanner with some editing to lighten it up.

img066 - edited

Scanned using my flatbed scanner with no color/lightness correction.



I, admittedly, am a photo-editing snob.  I like to remove as much distraction as possible from my images.  Dust, scratches, stains – I like to get rid of those.  I want to focus on the faces.  For really special photos I will spend more time.  For most photos, I focus on the biggest distracting elements and remove those, and I always clean up all faces.  In the images above, the one on the right is not edited, the one on the left is.

My preferred photo-editing software is PhotoShop.  I know it’s an expensive program and not accessible to most, but I had a family member work for Adobe and got a sweet, sweet deal.  There are many other free, or low-cost editing software programs available.  Find something you like and edit – or not – as much as you prefer.

Here is a sampling of some photos before and after editing:




This sounds like a very long step, but it’s really not.  For starters, I open six windows with each website I will need.

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 11.53.27 AM

If I am using the photo in a blog post, I start with that and upload the photo into WordPress.

Then I upload the photo to my Ancestry Tree, FamilySearch, Flickr, Costco Photo Center, and Facebook.  It’s pretty fast to start the uploads in each one.  For most photos, I just copy and paste the description into each website.  Occasionally I tweak it based on the audience.  See examples below.


Why upload the photos to so many places?  Each serves a different purpose.


My Ancestry Tree is private, so this step is for me and the family members I have invited to view my tree.  I like to have my photos there – simple as that.  It also serves as cousin bait.  Cousins will still see that the photos exist, even though they can’t see the images, and often send me a message.  I always share and I have made some great discoveries because of these connections.  I upload the smaller jpegs that I saved from my TIFF files.  Ancestry has a 15MB limit.

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 1.13.07 PM


FamilySearch is next.  I add the photos to FamilySearch for four reasons.  First, preservation.  FamilySearch is really good at preservation and I know they will do their best to preserve those images in perpetuity.  Second, I feel a sense of responsibility to share the family treasures that have made their way to me as widely as possible.  It’s my way of showing gratitude for the abundance and trying to make the photos accessible to all of my relatives.  Third, cousin bait.  It’s great stuff that cousin bait.  When a cousin sees that you have added a photo, they can message you right inside of FamilySearch.  Great things can happen from those contacts.  Fourth, this one may seem weird, but my little one likes to play the Little Family Tree app.  Putting photos on FamilySearch means there is more cool stuff in his game experience.  I also upload the smaller jpegs that I saved from my TIFF files here.  FamilySearch also has a 15MB limit.


Next comes Flickr.  It is a great, free, photo storage website.  It has awesome privacy controls that can be set differently on each photo.  You can make each image completely private, viewable by people you have designated as family or friends (two separate categories, cool!), or public.  You can also make them searchable or not, within each of those categories.  Flickr has great organizing tools in the form of albums and tags.  Photos can be in more than one album.  The description area for each photo allows for very lengthy text.  You can comment on photos to add additional information or receive comments from family.  Photos can be tagged.  I like to tag people with their full name, no spaces, with capitals to make it legible, ie RonaldSkeenPeterson.  Clicking on a tag will bring up every item with that same tag within Flickr.  Albums can be collaborative so family members can work together.  I love that Flickr allows large file sizes, up to 200MB.  I upload the large TIFFS here.  If the people in the photos are deceased, I make them publicly accessible (this is where I directed my sister to get large files), if not, I restrict them to family members.  You can download the files at their original upload size.  Awesome!

Screen Shot 2018-07-21 at 11.16.34 AMScreen Shot 2018-07-21 at 11.17.26 AM


Then comes, Costco.  I upload all of my photos to Costco Photo Center into albums.  This way I can print photos anytime I need them without having to find them and upload them.  My albums are chronological for my children, but by name for ancestors, ie Ronald & Margaret Peterson fam.  I upload the TIFF files here as well.  The file size limit is 95MB.

Screen Shot 2018-07-21 at 11.30.44 AM


Lastly, I upload all photos to Facebook.  I have different albums and they are set to be viewed only by my family members.  This is a great way to give my non-genealogy family members little bits of our history.  It’s also an easy way for them to “find” our old family photos in a simple, non-genealogy way.  Plus, it’s that whole social aspect of social media.  It gets family members thinking and talking about their ancestors.

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 1.08.05 PMScreen Shot 2018-07-19 at 1.10.45 PM



Once I have my photo everywhere that I want it, I move it onto an external drive.



After making my backup copy, I delete the files from my computer.  Gotta keep that hard drive nice and clean.


Preservation of the Original

This step is really important.  I’m still working on a long-term, one and done plan for this.  My problem is volume.  There are simply so many, many photos that it’s hard to physically store them all in the best way.  But I’m working on it.
And that folks, is my method for digitizing, sharing, and preserving photos one image at a time.  My focus now is to try to O.H.I.O. – only handle it once.  Take a photo from start to finish and move on to the next.  I know some people like the idea of “scanning everything” and just “getting it done”.  My problem with this is that often the images sit somewhere and nothing else happens with them.  There is also the added challenge of technology changing.  My goal isn’t to “get it all done”.  My goal is to do it right.  I know that my method isn’t the fastest, but it works for me and my family.

So family members, if you want to find a nice sized original of a photo I have shared here on my blog or elsewhere, go to my Flickr account.  The largest files are found there.  Remember, if anyone in the photo is alive, it will be marked private and you won’t find it.  You will need to request to follow me and then I can mark you as family.


Happy Monday, I hope it’s a great week filled with genealogy goodness!  xoxo



Photograph Showcase: Grandpa Duval at 54

DUVAL, Frank, 15 November 1955, negative

Frank Duval, 15 November 1955

My great-grandfather, Frank Duval, lived to be 94.  He died when I was in college.  I knew him better than any of my other great-grandparents.  I have lots of fond memories of time spent in his home.  He was such a good man.  Can’t you just see that in his smile?

DUVAL, Frank, 15 November 1955, negative, 2

Frank Duval, 15 November 1955

These first two photos came from negatives.  Just like last week, the negatives are wider than my scanner could accommodate so they are cropped a bit.  With the negatives were these two test prints (seen below) on very thin paper.  When I saw them I felt such a connection with my great-grandmother.  I knew that she painted photos with oil paints and it totally makes sense that she did other types of editing, but I have no idea how she fixed Grandpa’s hair.  I know how I would fix it using photoshop, but she did this completely by hand somehow.  I bet she would have been a photoshop wiz!  And now that I have seen her handiwork, I feel less guilty about touching up some of her beautiful portraits to remove dust and scratches.

And here is her final version:

Francis Henry Duval

She was so talented!


Happy Thursday, I hope you make a fantastic photo discovery today!  If not, I hope you will scan and share a special photo today.  xoxo




Photograph Showcase: Portrait of a Photographer

DUVAL, Estelle, 15 November 1955, negative - edited, lae

Hope Estelle Maffit, 15 November 1955

Estelle Duval is my great-grandmother.  She was a photographer.  Together with my great-grandfather, she owned Duval Portraits in Spokane.  I have thousands of photographs that she took.  Thousands.

This photo is one I had never seen until just recently when I scanned a few more negatives.  Unfortunately, my scanner has a very limited window for scanning negatives and so this is a cropped version.  The actual negative is a bit wider.  I discovered that the rest of my stash of negatives are even wider than this one.  Bummer!  I’m going to have to do a little research on scanners and see if I can find one that can accommodate the range of negative sizes I have in my possession.  Despite that little setback, I am still in awe of the image that results from scanning a negative.  ❤️

There were two shots of Grandma Duval from this sitting.  Here is the other.  I prefer the first.  She has a lovely smile.

DUVAL, Estelle, 15 November 1955, negative, 2 - lae

Hope Estelle Maffit, 15 November 1955


Happy Thursday, I hope it’s a fantastic genealogy discovery week for each of you!!  xoxo




Photograph Showcase: Grandpa with his Biplane

img008 - lighter

Francis Henry Duval

I LOVE this photo of my great-grandfather!  One of the reasons I love it – aside from the off-the-charts cool factor – is that my brother looks just like Grandpa Duval in this photo.  I think he should recreate it as a fun gift for my mom.  😉

I’ve shared this photo before, but this new version comes from a negative and once again, this is a definite upgrade from the previous version:

Francis Henry Duval by his airplane

Francis Henry Duval by his airplane.

Don’t get me wrong, I was perfectly happy with the first version, but the new image has more detail and is larger, showing us more of the plane.  Swoon.

My mom has an entire box of negatives… file box sized.  I wonder how many more treasures are inside?


Happy Thursday, I hope you make a photo discovery today!  xoxo





Photograph Showcase: Another Image Upgrade from a Negative ❤️


img005 - edited

Francis Cyprien Duval & Alice Hyde, 1903, Oakland, California

Isn’t this photo of my 2nd great-grandparents beautiful?


It was in a small bundle of negatives my Mom left with me a few years ago.  I recently scanned it and was so delighted by the clarity of the image.  It’s not the original negative.  I believe it is a negative created by my great-grandfather, the son of this couple, by taking a photo of the original photo.  When I first worked with this image I was so happy to see a better version of a photo I already had.  But when I tried to find the “other” version I realized it was actually a different shot from the same photo shoot.  This is the photo I had before:

Francis Cyprien & Alice Hyde DUVAL

Francis Cyprien & Alice Hyde DUVAL

Both are lovely.  But I am so happy with this new photo!

I spent a little time cleaning it up.  Here is the original scan of the negative:



Happy Thursday, I hope you make a fantastic photo discovery this week!  xoxo



ps – I was scheduled to have cataract surgery today but it was moved to next week.  I’m nervous and excited.  Here’s hoping it goes well!  (I’m a big fat chicken, so it’s probably going to take A LOT of deep breaths for me to make it to the actual moment of surgery.)



Photograph Showcase: Mother & Daughter

DUVAL, Estelle & Deane

Hope Estelle Maffit & Deane Alice Duval, about 1934

This lovely photo comes from a negative my Mom gave me.  It’s a beautiful portrait of my Grandma and Great-Grandma taken in about 1934.

I think it was taken at the same time as this photo of my Grandma:

What do you think?  Same dress?  Same hair?  Same day?

If so, then this photo was taken 3 May 1934 in Great Falls, Montana.

I found another scan of this photo in my Ancestry tree.  I’m not sure when I scanned it, or what I scanned it from.  What do you think of the two photos?  Which do you prefer?  Is it just me, or does the new scan feel like it’s a negative when compared to the old scan?  Am I imagining it…?



Happy Thursday, I hope you make a fantastic photo discovery today!  xoxo




Photograph Showcase: Two Sets of Five Duval Siblings


DUVAL family, 28 March 1938

Duval family, 28 March 1938, l-r: Alexander Valmore Duval, Alice Hyde Duval, Annie Marie Elvera “Vera” Duval Hunter, Francis Henry Duval, Dolores Lenore Duval, & Leon Howard Duval.



On Monday I shared the story of Leon Howard Duval’s triplets.  I thought a few photos of some of the people mentioned would be nice.

The first photo, seen above, is of the Francis Cyprien & Alice Hyde Duval family.  Francis Cyprien Duval died in 1919.  Almost twenty years later, Alice is seen here with her only living children, the five who survived childhood.  I believe this is also the last photo taken of this group before the big events of 1941 – Leon’s death, and the imprisonment of Valmore, Alice, Frank, Dolores, and Vera’s husband Bill.  1941 was a rough year for this family.



DUVAL, Leon's children on couch

Leon Howard Duval & Annabel Freda Yock’s children, l-r: Ronald Keith Duval, Stanley John Duval (the surviving triplet), Leon Howard “Tiny” Duval, Alice Ann Duval, & Francis Adrian Duval.



Interestingly, just like the family he grew up in, Leon also had five children who survived infancy, as seen here.  Because this photo was in the collection that belonged to my grandmother, I think it is most likely that one of my great-grandparents took the photo.  Would that mean this is the front room of my great-grandparents home?  I’m not sure.

Because little Alice was born in Great Falls in 1938, I would guess this photo was taken in about 1940.  Where the photo was taken is uncertain.  The possibilities are Great Falls or Washington State.


DUVAK family, 28 March 1938 - back


This is the photo back of the first image.  I love it when someone takes the time to label a photo back!  It makes my job so much easier.


Happy Thursday, I hope you find an ancestral photo or two this week!  If not, I hope you choose to preserve and share one that you already have.  ❤




ps – Have you picked up on the baggage in this part of my family this week?  I have been artfully avoiding talking about it while my Grandma was still living.  Deciding what to share and when gives me lots to think about.