How To Preserve Old Photos Without Losing Your Mind

Chris Cummins is a professional photographer who writes a personal blog about photo preservation and a number of other topics as well. He recently published How To Preserve Old Photos Without Losing Your Mind that focuses on simplifying the overwhelming process of turning old family photos into an organized, safe and searchable digital archive with tips for how to preserve the film and paper originals.

The article covers a lot of topics, including:

  • The Biggest Enemy of Preserving Photos: Procrastination
  • Set a Very Reachable Goal
  • Identify which photographs are most important to you and your family
  • The Four Question Test for Photo Preservation
  • Time To Digitize Those Old Pictures
  • Warning: Be Careful Placing Too Much Faith In Technology
  • How To Create Digital Copies Of Your Family Photos
  • Your Scanning Options
  • Flatbed Scanners
  • Smartphones
  • Hiring Someone Else To Scan Your Family Photos
  • What Software Should You Use?
  • Where To Store Your Digital Copies
  • Cloud Storage Services: A Comparison
  • Use Metadata: Don’t Make A Digital Mess Of Your Real World Photo Mess
  • Preserve Old Photos: How to Keep The Originals Safe
  • Often The Actual Prints Themselves Are A Thing Of Beauty Too And Are Worth Preserving
  • So How Do We Keep The Original Prints And Negatives Safe?
  • The Storage Environment: Keep It Cool, Keep It Dry
  • Good Storage Enclosures:
  • Proper Handling: Make It Easy
  • What To Store The Prints and Negatives In?

You can read How To Preserve Old Photos Without Losing Your Mind at


Great practical article Dick, thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Liked by 1 person

Chiquita Hutchinson January 12, 2015 at 9:59 am

Great article … and just in time as my next project is to sort my 6 file size boxes of pictures and use meta data to catalog them. Any recommendations on the easiest one to use?


Could you do an article someday on dating old photos? What kind of papers and processes, style of the borders, clothing, poses, etc. I know that the tintype process lasted long after paper prints were available, because they were cheaper and poor people could afford them. Probably there were a couple of options available nearly all the time. Thanks.


Read the article, and it’s aimed at family researchers. But don’t discount that photo of a 1988 motorcycle! It may be more valuable to more people than your obscure great-grandfather. Particularly in 2088.


Cathy Coe Hernandez January 12, 2015 at 3:54 pm

Thank you so much for including this great article! I am currently scanning and archiving my extensive maternal ancestor photographic archives and family letters. I am making progress, but was feeling very overwhelmed at the daunting task. I now have a renewed enthusiasm after reading the suggestions in this post.

Liked by 1 person

I personally follow the practice to store all my childhood photos in a cloud storage and also in my own computer. Two years back I lost all my pictures in a flood and now I don’t want to see that again.


Great article. I’m getting ready to undertake a big family photo project this year as I’m finally getting it all together. I’m in the scanner research mode right now.


Not sure I agree with all his conclusions:
1. TIFF vs JPG. Why not PNG, it is lossless and very compressible and easier to work with than TIFF. You can reedit without fear of data loss.
2. Metadata – this is a great idea, but so easily lost with many software packages. Other options include (a) detail in the file name, but this is limited (b) an accompanying text file, very easy and flexible but this can be lost. (c) the ideal in my mind is adding the detail to the photo itself (extend the canvass), if this is done on a lossless file format (e.g. PNG) no quality is lost, and can be cropped etc for printing, it does however take time.


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