Unclutterer and overseas scanning mills

by Sally J.

in * How to ORGANIZE Your Photos, Free Articles / Blog

Not long before I left with my kids for a Spring Break trip to Florida, bekee sent me an email about the cool new Unclutterer blog.

More specifically, she pointed me to a recent entry about purging photo collections called “Photo Processing (with a Garbage Bag).”

Overall, I thought the author made some great points, although I have a few quibbles.

…that no longer surprises you, does it?

First of all, a big thumbs up to this sentiment:

Get rid of all the horrendous shots and end up with a box or folder of “keepers.”

Yes, yes, yes!!

All photos are not created equal. Here’s an article I wrote to help non-archivist decide what is and what isn’t a “keeper.”

Unclutterer also recommends slip-in photo albums, which is my personal favorite because they are so simple and easy. I especially love the ones with room to write a quick caption.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a single one that has passed the Photographic Activity Test, or PAT. Not sure what the PAT is? Click here to learn more about what the PAT is and why it’s important if you want your photos to survive tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

In addition, Pioneer never bothered to answer my repeated phone calls and emails about whether or not they have had any of their products tested. Grrr. Light Impressions sells plenty of items that have passed the test, but their Imperial Slip In album either failed the test or was never tested in the first place.

So all I’m left with is slip in pages with 3 hole punches from PrintFile, plus (non-vinyl!) 3 ring binders. A very safe option, but not the most attractive. On the upside, this is an inexpensive choice.

But wait.
There’s more.

This is the part of Unclutterers‘ entry that freaked me out the most:

If you want to go all the way and really minimize, skip the physical albums altogether and go straight to digital. There are a number of services out there like DigMyPics.com that will scan your negatives or prints and return them to you on a CD-ROM or DVD. Then you can trash all your old physical media. Don’t feel guilty about it. Any time you want a print you can just make one.

Holy guacamole, I hardly know where to start…

  • Everyone knows that digital photos take up less space, but the plain truth is that they will not last as long as prints or negatives. I’ll say that again: PHOTO PRINTS WILL OUTLAST DIGITAL COPIES. For an eloquent explanation of this reality, I highly recommend Stewart Brand’s essay “Written on the Wind.” It’s not too long and basically jargon-free.
  • FYI, if you save your digital pics as JPEG files you’ll lose information each time you make a change and re-save. Changes like eliminating red eye or cropping or adding a caption.
  • Some scanning mills (but not DigMyPics.com –> see my full correction here) send your photos overseas for scanning, usually China or India. Why? Because Americans don’t want to pay more that 10 cents per scan, that’s why. But why on earth would you risk losing all your photos by allowing them to be shipped so far away? That’s madness in my opinion.
  • Bottom line? Digitization is a great way to create a backup copy of your most cherished photos. It’s also an inexpensive and fun way to share your photographs with others. But please for the love of all that is good, DO NOT TOSS YOUR ORIGINALS AFTER SCANNING! (This also holds true for home movies on film, fyi.)

Unclutterer bravely conquers other types of organization, too, and there are some real gems. Here’s some utterly practical advice for anyone with an Imelda Marcos-style shoe habit:

Photograph each of your pairs of shoes, print the photos on your ink jet color printer, and then tape the photo to the outside of the appropriate shoe box.


Photo Credit: Alicia, via Unclutterer

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