The Mill on the Hill
On Fire

Armchair Exploration 3

School photoThis is your humble scribe, aged five. How do I know how old I was in this school photo? See below.

Exploring Your Own Past

I’m so glad my mum was so good at getting things organised. All our family photos are sorted out, captioned, and in albums.

I’m glad, because Mum passed away two years ago, and it’s too late to ask about them now.

The albums are named. She named the biggest album “Photographs From 1959” and in it are all our childhood pictures, including at the back our school photos.

The captions tell me who is in the photo, where it was, and when it was taken. Sometimes the exact date is there. In our earlier childhood photos Mum has given our ages. Mum passed away two years ago, so now I’m looking after the photos; I’m the eldest child.

At some point, all the people who knew about your family photos will be gone. So if they are all piled randomly into a box, or perhaps sitting on a computer hard drive or filling up your phone, maybe it’s time you sorted them all out.

Really, the best way to arrange your photos is to put them in an album. They’ll be in order, you can caption them, and they’ll survive into the future far better than if they were just loose in a box, or in electronic storage.

Photo boothOnce, I had long hair...

Prints From Film

If you already have prints, this isn’t hard to do, but it will take a bit of time. Keep the negatives in the paper folders they came in when the film was developed and printed, if you still have them, with any prints you don’t use.

If it hasn’t been done already, write a date and description on the folder. Don’t forget to take everything out of the folder first, so you don’t ruin the negatives or prints with your ball point pen. Store prints and negs where they won’t be in strong sunlight, in a cool dry place. Don’t store them in the loft, the garden shed, or the kitchen

Your descendants will be thankful, and then they’ll look after those family photographs.

There are still firms that print from negatives or even slides, if you want copies. Or you can copy prints with a flat bed scanner and keep the originals safe at home, sending the scan over the net.

A tip here is to set the scanner to the right number of Pixels Per Inch (P.P.I.) For a smaller or same size print as your original, 150 or 200 P.P.I. is fine. For more than a slight enlargement, 300 to 600 P.P.I. is better.

Make the scan as a jpg or jpeg file; they are the same thing.

You might prefer to do it this way if the negatives are lost and you only have one copy of a picture.

Mum at 17A studio photo of my mum, aged 16.

Prints From Digital Pictures

There’s nothing like looking at an actual print, held in the hand. Looking at pictures on a screen is okay, but it just isn’t the same. But most of us, including me, do not make many prints.

So make some prints! It needn’t be expensive. Boots do an online service with delivery where the more you have printed, the cheaper each print becomes.

There are price bands, and if you order the right quantities it’s possible to add a few more photos, and the total price will actually go down! The highest price per 6” x 4” print is 11p. If you order 500 or more, and I know somebody who often does, it goes down to 6p each.

That’s £31.49 including P&P for 500 prints. If you order 100 6”x 4” prints, at 11p each that’s just £12.49 with P&P.

Make sure to order your prints in a size that’s as near as possible to the proportions of your image, to avoid too much being cropped off. If there’s a few you really like, get them printed in a bigger size. 

You don’t have to print every image. Choose the best ones, which may not be the sharpest, just the ones you care about the most. Prints from your scans can be ordered in the same way.

If you want to make up the numbers, order a few prints to give away to friends or relatives. In an age where prints are quite rare, your gift will be appreciated. If you have children, post a few prints to their grandparents, uncles and aunties. Right now, when we can’t just go and visit our families, these prints will be treasured.

If you only want a few prints or a one off enlargement you can make them on your computer printer. You’ll need some photo paper.

Dad at 16Studio photo of my dad, aged 16 or 17. Not from the photos my mum had, so I am not too sure about the details.

Looking After Your Digital Photos.

I’ve already told you about how to store prints and negatives. Even if something goes wrong they can usually be more or less rescued, but digital photos are vulnerable. A faulty hard drive, or a phone that goes wrong or lost or broken, can mean all your photos vanish. Often you can’t get them back.

I was very lucky when my computer’s hard drive packed up; I could have lost every digital photo I’d ever taken. It was a traumatic experience; I had thousands of photos on the computer.

I think in the end I lost just one, but it was a very close thing.

My Uncle FesterMy Uncle Fester, at the end of October 2013. Looks just like me...

Ever since then, I’ve made sure to have a back up hard drive. Every evening, the back up software looks at my computer, and any changes it finds are copied to the back up hard drive.

The software is called SuperDuper. It makes a copy of everything on my Mac; all the apps, all the files, everything. If my Mac’s hard drive fails, I’ll be alright. It’s about £28, depending on the exchange rate with the dollar. It is easy to use, but it’s only available for Mac.

I use the Western Digital stand alone hard drives. There are different versions for PC or Mac.

I don’t know about software for PCs, but I would avoid back up software that puts all your photos and other files into it’s own proprietary file formats; if there’s ever a problem with the software, your photos will still be there, you just won’t be able to get to them.

Make prints of your best and favourite photos. You will not regret it. When you want to show them to friends and family when that’s possible again, all you have to do is hand them the album.

More Armchair Exploration next week, and have you read part 1 and part 2 yet?


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