Photography

The Best Portable Scanner

The article I published yesterday on Converting My Personal Library to Digital has already generated a number of comments at the end of the article and also private email messages to me. The most common questions are:

“What are your thoughts on the best receipt scanner that I can go between iPhone, iPad and PC?”

and

“What is the best portable scanner for use in libraries or archives where it isn’t convenient to carry a full-sized scanner?

scanner-appMy answer is the same for both questions: “Your present cell phone’s camera.”

Your cell phone probably is also your cheapest solution as most people already own a cell phone with a built-in camera of rather good resolution. That wasn’t true a few years ago when the cell phone cameras were lower resolution and produced somewhat grainy images. However, most of today’s cell phones produce high-quality 8-megapixel or even higher resolution images. My new cell phone has a 12-megapixel, phase detection autofocus and laser detection autofocus camera with f/2.0 aperture. It produces gorgeous images even when used close-up to the document being scanned… uh, captured. Most other cell phones these days have similar specifications or something approaching those specs.

How NOT to Clean a Tombstone for Photography!

Take a look at the picture below. Do you see something wrong with it? Almost every genealogist will cringe when viewing a picture like this one from FindAGrave.com. Someone apparently used a wire brush to make the engravings on the tombstone easier to read. AAARRRGGGGHHH!

sarah_spraker_tombstone

The above photo may be seen at http://findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=5240794&PIpi=42662882.

Using a wire brush on a tombstone or any other stone memorial causes irreparable damage! In fact, the damage is so severe that most states in the USA and also governments in many other countries have laws prohibiting such actions. Under the laws of many states, unauthorized tampering with or damaging gravestones is a felony.

Black and White Photos Reveal What Life Was Like in England in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries

More than 1,200 black and white photos are published for the first time together in the book Lost England 1870-1930. Some of the amazing images show people dealing with the issues we still face today, including flooding in towns and cities. Others show factory workers, some of them children, lined up and operating huge machinery.

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The junction of Steep Steet and Trenchard Street in Bristol in 1866.

Google’s new PhotoScan will Scan Your Photos and Automatically Remove Imperfections, No Scanner Needed

PhotoScan is a new smartphone app used to “take a picture of your pictures.” That is, it will snap photos of all those old pictures you have stored in photo albums or in Fotomat envelopes. It will then create enhanced digital scans, with automatic edge detection, perspective correction, and smart rotation. Even better, it also automatically recognizes the four corners of the frame and displays circular overlays on each corner of the scanned image. You then point your phone camera at each circle, create a robust scan of the image, and PhotoScan gets to work from there.

photoscan

Erasing the Locations of Your Family Photographs

In yesterday’s newsletter, I wrote about adding location information to family photographs. (That article is still available at https://goo.gl/g2g2JG.) I also mentioned that “… pictures taken with iPhones and most Android phones already have the longitude and latitude information embedded into the photograph.”

In some cases, you might not want to have location information embedded in a photograph, especially one that is to be shared online. A picture of your children or grandchildren playing at home or in the back yard might be one example. In theory, a pedophile could determine where the children spend their time. Also, you might not want a picture of your expensive new automobile parked in your driveway to be circulated online. An auto thief could easily find where to steal the auto.

If you are a fisherman, you might not want to broadcast to the world the location of your secret fishing spot as detailed in the EXIF information of the photo of you holding up that 6-pound lake trout you just caught!

Luckily, it is easy to erase location information from photographs, should you wish to do so.

Recording the Locations of Your Family Photographs

niagarafallsWhen going through a box of old photographs or viewing the latest digital pictures on your computer, did you ever ask, “I wonder where this photograph was taken?” You can use software tools to record the exact location of every digital picture in your collection. This includes old family photographs that you have scanned as well as new pictures that you or someone else takes with a digital camera.

None of the products I will mention not do the detective work for you. You must still find where the picture was taken in the traditional manner. For instance, “Here is Aunt Millie and Uncle Fred at Niagara Falls” or something similar. You then scan the photograph, saving it as a JPEG image. Once the photograph is on your hard drive, you use a Windows or Macintosh program or an online app “in the cloud” to embed the longitude and latitude information into the photograph in a hidden area of the image. Once the information is recorded, you and future viewers of the image will wonder no more. Even better, with the appropriate software, you can just click on an icon to display a map that shows the exact location.

Even better, pictures taken with iPhones and most Android phones already have the longitude and latitude information embedded into the photograph.

A Photographic Archive of 1920s Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland Published Online

Leith is a district to the north of the city of Edinburgh. When local historian Fraser Parkinson was entrusted with a set of photographs showing Leith slums in the inter-war era, he knew they deserved to be shared with a wider audience. The incredible images were produced by the city authorities to show the slums of the old port prior to the ‘Edinburgh (Leith) Improvement Scheme of 1924’, which would see large swathes of the district vanish for good.

leith

Use Amazon Family Vault to Share Your UNLIMITED Photo Storage With up to Five People

This isn’t genealogy-related but I suspect it will be popular with genealogists and a few million other people as well: save and share an UNLIMITED number of photographs. Anyone in the United States with an Amazon Prime subscription can now upload an unlimited number of pictures to Amazon Prime Photos at NO EXTRA CHARGE.

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I guess it isn’t really free because the service requires a (paid) Amazon Prime account. However, anyone who is a Prime member can store unlimited photos at no extra charge. As a Prime member, you also receive FREE Two-Day shipping (or better) on most Amazon orders, and exclusive access to movies, music and Kindle books, again at no extra charge.

Rare Photographs at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture

sgt_josiah_whiteAt the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture, a small object is getting a lot of attention. An album of Civil War photos portraying 17 men of Company G, 14th Regiment, United States Colored Troops was a gift from the descendants of Captain William A. Prickitt, the white officer commanding those black troops, and the person most likely responsible for writing the names of the men in the album. These names make the album quite rare, since few of the 200,000 African American soldiers who served in the Union Army have been identified in photographs.

Amazon Photo Printing Service

amazon_printsThis isn’t a genealogy story but I am aware that many genealogists also like to digitize and duplicate old family photos. Therefore, I suspect many genealogists will be interested in Amazon’s recently announced photo printing service. You upload your digital images online to Amazon’s servers and then the company prints them on very high quality photo printers and mails the printed photos to you in old-fashioned postal mail. The result is much higher quality photos than anything you could ever print at home on standard consumer-quality inkjet printers. Amazon Prints is available only to Amazon Prime and Amazon Drive customers.

The big news is that Amazon Prints photo printing service has pricing that is much cheaper than its major competitors: Shutterfly, Snapfish or your local CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, or other stores. For instance, Amazon’s photo printing fees are 55% cheaper than Shutterfly. The new pricing is so aggressive that Shutterfly’s stock dropped by more than 12% in the NASDAQ stock exchange in one day following Amazon’s announcement.

Burbank in Focus: a Digital Archive of Historic Burbank, California Photos

The Burbank Public Library has a new online web site called Burbank in Focus. It contains hundreds of hundreds of historic photographs saved by the library and by the public. Whether you are interested in browsing by collection, searching for photos of a particular person or event, or even searching by location, this is the place to celebrate the Media Capital of the World and the people who have made it great.

Burbank's First Two-Story Office Building 1911

Burbank’s First Two-Story Office Building 1911

Burbank in Focus is available at https://burbankinfocus.org.

Repairing Old Family Photos with Photoshop

For genealogists who have old family photographs, a new article in the MakeUseOf web site should be required reading. The article by Harry Guinness says:

“Everyone has old family photos lying around. If they’ve been sitting in a box for a few decades, though, they’ll be discolored, faded, and probably scratched or bent. With Photoshop, you can make them look as good as new.

Family having a picnic in the woods

Collage, The London Picture Map

Launched last week, Collage, The London Picture Map allows you to trace London’s visual history street by street. With more than 150,000 pictures mapped across the city, the digital photo archive of the city of London is a huge resource showing what London looked like over the years. Yes, if you have London ancestors, it is likely that you can now see what they saw. The project is the result of two full years of digitizing and mapping images from the London Metropolitan Archive and the Guildhall Art Gallery, which together possess the largest collection of London images in the world.

Whitechapel High Street- looking east about 1890

Whitechapel High Street- looking east about 1890

Instantly Colorize Your Black-And-White Photos

Do you have old black-and-white family photographs? A new service on Algorithmia uses a deep learning algorithm to add color to the photos. Yes, it works. The colors may not be perfect but they are almost always better than black-and-white. The service is easy to use and, best of all, is available FREE of charge.

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For instance, here is one well-known black-and-white on the left and a computer-enhanced color version on the right. Algorithmia can do the same for your photographs.

Does This Photograph Belong to Your Family?

Olympia_photo

A woman rummaging through a box of post cards at an Olympia, Washington, flea market found a one-of-a-kind treasure Sunday: a beaming young couple captured in a black-and-white photograph. Kresta Duncan said she has no idea who it belongs to, but would love to reunite the photo with its rightful owners.

Photographs of Men Who Fought in the Revolutionary War

LemuelCookYes, you read that right. Photographs of Americans who fought in the Revolution are exceptionally rare because few of the Patriots of 1775-1783 lived until the dawn of practical photography in the early 1840s.

Utah-based journalist Joe Baumam spent three decades researching and compiling the images. These early photographs – known as daguerreotypes – are exceptionally rare camera-original, fully-identified photographs of veterans of the War for Independence – the war that established the United States.

You can see the photographs in an article in The Daily Mail at http://goo.gl/S3s7g8.

If one of them happens to be your ancestor, right-click on the image to save a family heirloom!

Save, Organize, and Share Your Digital Photographs Forever

With a free account on Forever.com, you can edit, organize, store, and even (optionally) share your photos, videos, and more in the cloud. You can create and print photo books as well as convert your old media to new digital formats. With a paid account, your content will always be safe in your permanent digital home at Forever. All of this is possible because of the Forever Guarantee and the company’s easy-to-use web, mobile, and desktop apps.

forever-family-of-products

Actually, you can find a number of online services that will help you file, sort, organize, and save your digital photographs. What sets Forever apart from its competitors is the capability for a paid account to keep your precious memories protected for generations. Yes, the company promises to keep your items for your lifetime plus 100 years. To back up that claim, the company has a rather impressive plan to make sure your items remain available; their stated goal is to keep your content safe and available with the company’s patented vault technology.

US Women in World War I in Photographs

The US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has released an online collection of photographs showing the role of women in World War I and their impact on the Women’s Rights Movement of the early 20th century.

Suffrage_enroll_here

As stated in NARA’s Unwritten Records Blog:

At the outset of World War I in 1914 women were not allowed to serve in the military. They were not even allowed to vote nationwide. Prior to the U.S. entering the war, most women were relegated to domestic life as wives or servants. Some worked in textile manufacturing, retail, government, and education. Many wanted more and saw the war as an opportunity for women to prove their worth. The suffragist movement was in full swing as tensions with Germany escalated following the sinking of the passenger ship RMS Lusitania in 1915 and the interception of the Zimmerman Telegram in 1917. The United States entered the war in 1917, immediately drafting nearly 3 million men into military service and drawing unprecedented numbers of women into the workforce.

Women on the Home Front

Historians Searching for Information About Victorian Criminals

Historians have been handed hundreds of mugshots of Victorian criminals. Now, armed only with the pictures and names, they are searching for the stories behind the stares, putting a crime to the face. Each image shows the arrested individual with their name written in chalk either on a board held in front of them or, in later years, on a slate above their heads. The later pictures also feature the arrested with hands raised to the chest to capture any identifying marks, tattoos or missing digits, and a mirror to reflect their profile. However, none of the entries give any identifying information about the people in the photographs nor is there any information about their crimes.

Wait a minute, is that great-great-uncle Harry on the left in that picture?

170,000 Great Depression Images Are Now Online

In the 1930s, the U.S. government sent photographers to all the states to capture America “at her most vulnerable.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s team wanted a record of what was going on — and images of real lives and struggles to help rally support for his New Deal policies. Over 170,000 images were taken.

Yale University and the Library of Congress have just made the entire collection available online on a site called Photogrammar at http://photogrammar.yale.edu.

I found the interactive map at Photogrammar to be very useful. The map plots the approximately 90,000 photographs that have geographical information. (Not all of the 170,000 photos taken included geographical information so only those with the information could be indexed.) The interactive map allows the user to customize the search by photographer, date, and place.

The picture shown above is from Fort Kent, Maine. Click on the image to see a larger version.