Old Photographs - What Can You Do With Them?

Do You Have Old Photos Hidden In A Box

Old family photos are a wonderful source of family history. Unfortunately, they are also one of those tasks that gets delayed until the kids start school, or you retire, or when you have a bit more cash to buy good photo albums.

The advent of digital cameras, scanners, photoshop and digital storage has created a totally new way of taking, storing, and displaying photos. It has solved the storage of photos, if used properly, but it has created some new problems. These include the number of photos taken as the cost per photo has decreased. Many photos that are taken currently never end up as a paper copy for people to look at, and display in their homes.

I would like to encourage you to have a look at the photos you and your family have in your homes, and see if they are being treated as an important part of your shared family history.

A Wonderful Shot, But Who Is He?

What Old Photos Do Your Parents Have In Their Attic?

I have been studying our family history for many years, but most of the information I have had, until recently has been in text. This has included birth, death and marriage certificates, or other facts that tell us who was born when, and how they are related to me. Photos had not been an important part, as I did not realize how many photos we had.

At the time I first started collecting information, I was getting details from my grandfather. He has been dead for 20 years now, and my mother is now 75 years old. Two years ago she started to look at the photos she had in her possession, many of them given to her by her parents. We then began to look at these photos and store and save them for the future. Most of the people in those photos were unknown to me, and so it is important that she identifies everyone in the photos.

How Can I Save Old Photos?

I contacted my brothers and sisters and told them that we had a large collection of photos, some over 100 years old. I asked if they wanted a copy of them all if we copied, and got some very enthusiastic yesses. A number of them also took an interest in the photos when they visited my mother, and got some copies for their own use, at that time.

I have been scanning the photos onto my laptop. I am not going to go into the technicalities of copying the photos as this will change over time, and with the software that you have. I do suggest that you copy the photo at the best quality as you want to use your copy as a long term record of the photo. There are a number of videos on youtube, showing what other people have done to create a digital record of their photos.

When you are ready to copy your photos, get advice or look online to decide what is the most suitable scanner, software, and format for keeping the photos. Decide how you are going to store the photos long term, as this is going to change over time. Options include storing on your computer (with backup of course!), on computer discs, organized into a slideshow and saved on a DVD, on an external hard drive, or on a portable device such as a flash drive or memory stick. New storage products are becoming available all the time, so do your homework before you start.

I saved all my photos on an external hard drive, and also on CDs. Recently I plugged my external hard drive into my computer to hear a very unhealthy click click, and my first thought was "thank goodness i have another copy on disc". If you have gone to the effort of copying your photos, do have more than one copy to avoid losing them.

My mother and I have spent many hours scanning the photos, and identifying and naming everyone in them. There were some little surprises such as "Grandma had another admirer?" and "That is where we all got that nose from!".

What Can I Do With Individual Photos?

You may not want to build up a large collection of digital photos of your connection, but you may want to do something with single photos. I have put together a list of ideas you can try:

  • Take the photo to a local photography centre. They can scan and reprint the photo, and give you a negative.
  • You can ask many photo centres to make repairs to the photo. if it is torn, bent, water marked, it is amazing how good your phot will turn out. They can also crop, or enlarge your photo.
  • You can get the photo copied on a t-shirt, mug, or mouse pad.
  • You can choose 12 of your favourite photos and turn them into a personalized calendar.
  • Instead of spending thousands of prints for your home, choose a beautiful photo and get it copied, enlarged and framed.
  • Instead of getting your photo put onto photo paper, you can get it printed onto canvas.
  • Talk to someone who uses Photoshop. There are many effects that you have on your photos. Examples include giving the photo  a paint appearance or different colours for an Andy Warhol type effect.
  • A collection of photos can be placed on one poster for a collage effect.

A Picture Paints A Thousand Words.

I have chosen a number of photos to share with you. They each tell a story, or give details of what was in fashion at the time of the photo, or are just cute.

Photos you have in storage can give information about family members, any occupation and interests they may have had, and any family likeness.

If you have elderly relatives, sit down with them and show them your photos. Even if you have asked them details previously, photos can jog their memories. They may recognize someone they had previously forgotten, and even remember when the photo was taken. It  is quite possible that you will get a great story telling session, so make sure your afternoon is free.

A Great Studio Photo.

I loved this photo because it is a well taken, and an effective black and white photo. The photo itself is in excellent condition for its age.
I loved this photo because it is a well taken, and an effective black and white photo. The photo itself is in excellent condition for its age.

An Important Family Event.

This is a family photo so I know the story. Mum and Dad, little sister and girlfriend are seeing son off to sea in the Navy.
This is a family photo so I know the story. Mum and Dad, little sister and girlfriend are seeing son off to sea in the Navy.

A Child's Studio Photo

Another great studio shot. The child is completely relaxed, well-lit and makes a great picture.
Another great studio shot. The child is completely relaxed, well-lit and makes a great picture.

The Hair And The Chair Are Fascinating.

Not a classic beauty, but the hair caught my attention. The chair is beautifully carved. Chairs seem to be a popular prop.
Not a classic beauty, but the hair caught my attention. The chair is beautifully carved. Chairs seem to be a popular prop.

The Outfits Are Wonderful.

The circular spectacles, the child's school uniform, father's waistcoat and watch chain.The little boy looks so eager.
The circular spectacles, the child's school uniform, father's waistcoat and watch chain.The little boy looks so eager.

One Mean-Looking Baby

The baby is me, and the pram was a classic. Everyone had a cane pram.
The baby is me, and the pram was a classic. Everyone had a cane pram.

A Flapper Wedding

This wedding must have been the height of fashion,with the flapper dresses, and the low brimmed hats.
This wedding must have been the height of fashion,with the flapper dresses, and the low brimmed hats.

Life Was Definitely No Joke.

The total lack of humor, the heavy clothing, and so many layers. They look very uncomfortable.
The total lack of humor, the heavy clothing, and so many layers. They look very uncomfortable.

Have You Checked Out Your Photos?

 I hope that I have inspired you to have a look at all those old photos you have around the house. As you can see from the photos I have shared with you, it is a great way to take a trip down memory lane, learn something more about your family, and just have a laugh.

There are also opportunities to use these photos as artwork, or to create personal gifts for family and friends. These photos can also bring your family history to life as you find out exactly what Uncle Harold looked like.

If you have seen the TV program Antique Roadshow, you may recall the amazing prices that some people have been quoted when they have brought along the letters, photos and artwork of a famous relative, or event of historical value. Even if you do not have any famous family members, your family history is still precious and unique to your family.

Check out your photos now. Call your elderly relatives. Identify everyone. Leave me a comment with your story, or better still, write a hubpage with your story.

Tell Us Your Photo Story 15 comments

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida

Hi Maryspeller

Do you know how lucky you are to have these photos? Yes, they must be preserved for posterity, and information on the who, why and where added whenever possible. What a wonderful legacy for your descendants. I'm royally jealous.

Thanks for an enjoyable read and for sharing your priceless old photos.


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

yes, a very enjoyable read. I have a ton of old photos. You gave me some great ideas.


maryspeller profile image

maryspeller 6 years ago Author

Well if you come up with any more ideas, add them on to this list, or write another hubpage so we can link up. It would be great to see other people's favourite photos.


Duchess OBlunt 6 years ago

This is a great hub! Well written, great ideas and some absolutely wonderful old pictures.

Do they have a Genealogy site where you can post pictures to see if anyone can identify them? That would be a great idea.

I do like you, when anyone shows pictures, I take, I copy, and I file, on CD's and an external hard drive. I have some really great ones. And with modern software (to which I am addicted) I can do most of the touch ups and fixes myself. It's one of my many hobbies.


maryspeller profile image

maryspeller 6 years ago Author

Great to meet you Duchess. I do photography and do play around on software, but have not done too many alterations with the old photos. Our big goal has been to scan, identify, and share with the family. I have printed some to hang on the wall as I like them, and my sister made a beautiful calendar full of family photos one year for Xmas.


Duchess OBlunt 6 years ago

oooo, I like the Calendar idea


Carol 4 years ago

What is the best scanner and printer to copy old photos and print them. I plan to store originals.

How can I get this info ?


maryspeller profile image

maryspeller 4 years ago Author

Thanks for your question Carol. I have been using an ordinary flatbed scanner which is slow, but useful if your photos are in an album and you do not want to disturb the photo.

If you are ready to invest, go to youtube and type in scanning photos, and you will see some great videos, including the latest photo scanners which will save you a lot of time.

All the best with your scanning.


Debbie 4 years ago

I have an old photo that I was told was my gr gr grandfather and that it was a reprint. He died in 1883 and the photo says 1894. Would they have put the year of the reprint on the photo? Could this still be him or is it probably someone else?


Ron 4 years ago

I just came across an Arabia Temple Class picture from 1924 and do not know what to do with it. Any ideas? newman9@hotmail.com


Desmond 2 years ago

Scanning can be daunting if you have thousands of photos, and if scanners and cropping software aren't your thing. Scanning services are good if your photos aren't stuck in albums. An easy DIY option is to use a digital or phone camera. I used iPhone with Pic Scanner app (www.appinitio.com/picscanner, $2.99) which scans and automatically crops 3 photos at a time. With a bit of trial and error (mainly adjusting lighting), I got pretty good and speedy scans.


maryspeller profile image

maryspeller 2 years ago Author

Thanks the comment Des. That is a great idea, and makes it more easy for people to get a quick digital copy of a favorite picture.


JaneA profile image

JaneA 2 years ago from California

Wow, love these photos. Well done in raising awareness of the importance of these old images!


maryspeller profile image

maryspeller 2 years ago Author

Thanks Jane. I first got interested when my sister put together a beautiful calendar for the family. Now we are working hard to digitize all the photos that my 80 year old mother has and put names to them all.


delia-delia profile image

delia-delia 22 months ago

Great advice! Great photos! I don't have too many family photographs...I do have older photos of my mom when we lived in Germany and I actually found a photo of my mother on ebay, she was recruited in Dresden to come and train as a Trapeze artist and travel with Ringling Brothers Circus

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