In generations past, one lucky family member would inherit old family photos. The others could do little more than hope for a glance when visiting the fortunate photographic heirs. As technology advanced it became easier to make copies of the treasured family photos, but quality copies were still relatively rare. I feel so fortunate that today’s technology allows us to share those pictorial heirlooms digitally with any family member who wants them. And I want them.
Grandma and Grandpa had albums and boxes of old family photos, and I was fortunate to live close by, and to have a scanner. Grandpa loved making copies of photos for his children and grandchildren – and when digital copies became a possibility he simply couldn’t resist. He went through his boxes with me, telling me the stories behind the images while I scanned his favorites.
Grandma was a little more shy about her own photos. She often insisted that they just didn’t take very many in rural Wyoming in the ’20s and ’30s. Imagine our surprise when her boxes and albums were discovered after she passed away and we found dozens of photos that illustrated the stories she had shared with us over the years. Those boxed up photos that she thought weren’t very interesting are some of my most treasured.
Boxes of photos that were inherited by an aunt or uncle can now be equally enjoyed by brothers and sisters, their grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on. We’re fortunate to have digital copies of photos from my husband’s side of the family as well, and I’m very thankful for a kind cousin who has shared some of my father’s photo heritage with me.
The digital nature of these photos means they are easily stored on the hard drive of a computer, taking up no shelf space at all. Sadly, it’s just as easy to tuck them away in their digital boxes and forget them as it is real ones.
Just in time for spring cleaning, here are 5 ways you can dust off your real or virtual albums and unbox your family photos.
#1 – Make digital copies of snapshots
Offer to scan treasured family photos, and then be sure to share them! With literally hundreds of photos to scan I had to balance photo quality with file size. I scanned at 600 ppi for most photos, but higher for those that would more likely be enlarged. This provided print quality photos at a manageable size, which is very important. If space is not an issue, you may scan at a higher resolution, but remember that the enormous file size also makes the files more difficult to share. *Please respect copyright laws. Professional portraits that are still under copyright protection should not be digitally reproduced without the permission of the photographer.
#2 – Print and Frame Your Favorites
Of course the traditional way to display family photos at home is in a frame. A collection of old photos can make a fascinating gallery wall display. Consider including key information or even stories on the back of the frame so that future generations can put the images into context.
#3 – Illustrate Your Family History
Write down your favorite memories from childhood. Type up the stories you remember hearing from your parents and grandparents. If scrapbooking is your thing, include old family photos and their stories in your projects. There isn’t one right way to write a family history – there’s something unique and important about the way YOU see the world that needs to be preserved. Now that your vintage photos are digital it’s easy to print them at exactly the size you need, or even incorporate them directly into your documents.
#4 – Common Threads
I absolutely love seeing old family photos on textiles. Quilts, cushions, totes. . . they’re such a charming way to make vintage photos a part of our everyday lives. I used to use iron-on transfers for these sorts of projects, but now I prefer creating a custom fabric through Spoonflower.com. I’ve been really happy with the quality of their fabric. They provide excellent instructions, and in a few weeks I’ll be posting a step-by-step tutorial of one of my projects. You can sign up for email notifications in the column on the right to make sure you don’t miss anything!
#5 – Paper Projects
Vintage photos are especially adaptable to paper projects. I print several of my favorites and keep them handy for handcrafted card and album projects. Paired with pages from old books that would otherwise be thrown away and a bit of distress ink, they make the most charming gifts. A simple card becomes a treasure, and books become heirlooms. I adore them as refrigerator magnets in a rustic kitchen. Additionally, as a special finishing touch in holiday decor they make delightful Christmas ornaments and package tie-ons as well.