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Digitizing Photos

One of GCD's partners, Greg Diamond, has a passion for converting, organizing and sharing electronically all of my family pictures. This includes all the photos taken from my childhood, pictures of age old relatives from long ago, photos in albums and the digital pictures taken on digital cameras and smartphones. I have even digitized all videos - both from cameras, VHS tapes and DVDs.

I have taken this passion for these archives and helped friends and clients to do so and now want to share this process to help you organize your pictures in a way that can be retained forever. Here are the steps I have done successfully, time and time again:

  1. Gather your photos and place them in the order and groups you would like them scanned. Food storage bags or binder clips are a great way to separate photos. If you prefer to have a group of images scanned to a specific folder, write the name of the folder on the outside of the bag or on a sheet of paper placed at the front. I suggest you name the folder with the year, the month and a brief description. So if the group represents Billy's 10th Birthday from July 1975, I suggest you name the folder 07-1975 Billy’s 10th Birthday. By doing so, you will not have to name every photo in that group nor have to type anything directly onto the photo. The more specific the grouping, the better identification you will have and the easier to locate later.
  2. Scan the photos yourself or use an outside service. Depending on how many photos  you have, there are many phone apps that can do this. Some are free but the ones that may cost up to $10 have more features and are worth the few dollars. I recommend Pic Scanner Gold but others include PhotoScan and Pic Scanner.
  3. Assuming you have a larger quantity, there are many companies available online that do this. The least expensive service appears to be ScanToDigital. But there are many other services such as LegacyBox, ScanMyPhotos, ScanCafe and more that can be found doing a Google search for "service to scan photos to digital". These other companies can also convert slides, negatives, VHS tapes, DVDs and more. If converting movies, I suggest converting to AVI files so they can be stored digitally and will not require a drive to play them. If you live in the northern suburbs of Chicago, there is a company in Northbrook, named GoMemorable that can scan and convert photos and ALL movie formats. If you choose to scan photos yourself, I recommend the Fujitsu Scansnap IX 500 scanner. This can be bought online from a variety of sources at a variety of prices.
  4. Once you get the photos back, you'll want to store them. Although you can store them on a portable hard drive (also very inexpensive to buy online), I recommend storing them on one of the free websites that allows you to automatically backup files/photos from your computer to a cloud based storage site. I recommend Google Drive. If setup properly, this allows you to store the files on a computer (if you wish, but NOT required) and then they will be automatically backed up to Google Drive online. You will need a free gmail address to set this up but you are NOT required to use this email address for any other purpose. Another great feature of Google Drive is that you can see all your photos on your smartphone, using the Google Drive app. This does NOT take up ANY storage on your phone but does require data. You then can share these photos with other Google Drive users and non users.
  5. In order to keep the total storage size to a reasonable amount and not have to pay for the online storage (Google Drive currently allows for up to 15GB for free), you may want to resize the photos. This can be best done with the free utility named Fotosizer. Unfortunately, the native photos that come off of Iphones, are virtually 4X their necessary size. And these sizes are still suitable for printing a photo up to 8" x 11".
  6. Another step is to rename the photos from the automatic naming feature either from your own scanner or a scanning service. The simplest way to do this on a PC is to highlight all the photos in a folder, hold your mouse over the first photo, right click and click Rename. Then type in the date and press enter. I suggest you enter a date as YYYY-MM-DD so that they stay in numerical order. So, if the date is July 4, 1975 and you do this renaming, you will end up with 1975-07-04 (1), 1975-07-04 (2), etc. There is also a free utility that will do this with other features, named AdvancedRenamer.
  7. When done, you should move all the photos into folders by year. Then, within each year folder you would have subfolders for each of the events, listed in chronological order since they should be started off with the month number (01, then 02, etc.). So when done, you would end up with a structure looking like this:


02 Mexico

2015-02-05 (1)
2015-02-05 (2)
2015-02-05 (3)

12 Christmas

2015-12-24 (1)
2015-12-24 (2)
2015-12-24 (3)


06 Graduation

2016-06-05 (1)
2016-06-05 (2)
2016-06-05 (3)

09 Labor Day

2016-09-04 (1)
2016-09-04 (2)
2016-09-04 (3)

8. For those of you that backup your photos to Google Photos and then wish to move them to Google Drive, where there are better archiving and naming conventions, follow these procedures:

  • On an Iphone, go into Google Photos > select the pictures to move (you can do multiple) > click the up arrow icon > Share To > select Drive icon > put in either a properly named folder or to a temporary folder for you to rename later. Since this does NOT delete them from Google Photos, go back to Google Photos and delete them. This will also delete them from IOS Photos.
  • On a computer, go into Google Photos > select the pictures to move (you can do multiple) > click the 3 dots (upper right) > select Download and save to a temporary location within your Google Drive folder. This will be a Zip file that will need to be unzipped by right clicking the Zip file, click Extract. Since this does NOT delete them from Google Photos, go back to Google Photos ON YOUR PHONE (not on the computer) and delete them. This will also delete them from IOS Photos. If you delete them from Google Photos on your computer, it will NOT delete them from IOS Photos.
  • You must have the Windows syncing program working for Google Drive to do these next steps.
  • Locate all the pictures and move them into the properly named folders within your Google Drive. I suggest you have folders for each year. Then, within each year, I suggest you have folders named with the month and the title of the event (i.e. 10 Halloween Party). If you have multiple events in the same month, to keep them in order, I suggest you use MM.1, then MM.2 (i.e. 10.1 Europe Cruise, 10.2 Halloween Party).
  • After you’ve copied all the photos to the proper folder, go into that folder > click View (top) and change to Details. Then click the column named Date Modified to put in chronological order.
  • Highlight all the picture files and right click on the first picture > click Rename and type YYYY-MM-DD (for the proper date of that event) > click off the file. If done properly, this will rename all the files to be YYYY-MM-DD (1), (2), etc.
  • The file sizes of most photos that come from an Iphone are usually far bigger than needed and will use unnecessary space on your Iphone and in Google Drive. By deleting them from your phone, and only having in Google Drive, it reduces your phone’s storage issues. But to reduce the file sizes in Google Drive, you must use a 3rd party program on your PC. The best one I found is Fotosizer.

If you decide to embark on any or all of the processes above and you run into some questions, feel free to contact me.

Good luck!

Greg Diamond

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