The Benefits of Photo Scanning and Tagging

A typical family household has thousands of photos, either taken with digital cameras, or in the form of photo prints and slides taken before the digital photographic age. They capture some of the greatest memories of your life, your ancestors, your relatives, and your family and friends. Yet most lay forgotten, hidden away in boxes or on your computer hard drive. Then when you want to look at them, you can’t find the photos you want!

To bring these memories back into your life, it is important to scan your print photos and slides into digital form, add these scanned photos to your photo collection taken with your digital cameras, and then organize your entire digital collection by tagging each digital photo.

Scanning is easily outsourced to companies that do this professionally. Tagging is more personal and does take some time and effort to complete. The effort is totally worth it however. Once tagged, you can employ power search tools to find the photos you want, and you keep critical information about the photo stored within the photo itself. With thousands of photos on your computer hard disk, you will quickly wonder how you ever survived without tagging!

Why Scan your Old Photos and Slides?

Scanning your photo and slide collection offers several valuable benefits. Once scanned, you can:

  • Protect your photo prints and slides: We all worry that photo prints or slides can be misplaced, damaged beyond repair, or destroyed in a catastrophic event. By having a digital archive of your originals, you have the comfort of knowing your scanned images can be reprinted at any time.
  • Restore them back to their former beauty: All photo prints fade over time and images get washed out. Slides and negatives decay. Loose photos get scratched, bent, or ripped through years of mishandling. Have a close look at some of your older photo prints and you will notice these changes. Professional tools such as Photoshop™ can reverse the years of decay and damage in your originals and make them look as clear and vibrant as the day they were taken.
  • Share them with friends and family: You are already sharing digital photos through “Family Says”. Now share your print photos as well!

Why Tag your Digital Photos?

Tagging involves storing information about the photo within the photo image file. You can tag any information you want, but standard tags typically include:

  • Location: Where the photo was taken
  • Time: When the photo was taken
  • Keywords: These keywords capture anything you want to record about the photo. Common keywords are people’s names, and event type (e.g., wedding, birthday)
  • Caption or Title: Tagline to go along with the photo

There are two main benefits from tagging:

  • Photo organization and search: Storing your photos in a series of folders quickly becomes limiting. For example, do you store your family 2010 vacation photos in a vacation folder, in a family folder, or in a year folder? Years later, which folder do you look in to find a particular photo? The problem gets exponentially worse as we collect more and more photos. Photo tagging lets you organize, then easily search for the photos you want. Imagine how nice it would be if you could immediately find “All the photos from our vacation in Italy” or “Just those photos that contain you and your kids” or “Photos of Jeff when he was 10 years old”?
  • Keeping critical information with the photo: I recently created a family tree. The only person who knew the people in the photos was my aging mother. Some photos had names written on the back, but most didn’t. In another case I had a photo of my daughter taken on one of our camping vacations, but I couldn’t remember where it was taken. Tagging lets you keep all that information with the photo for as long as the photo exists. You can edit it at any time, and update it with additional information at any time.

Most advanced photo library applications provide automatic facial recognition to help tag the people in a photo, and newer digital cameras will automatically tag (GPS) location and time into each captured photo, but on the whole, tagging is still mainly a manual effort. That means it can take a lot of time and effort, especially if you have lots of photos. The effort is totally worth it however. Once you have your photos tagged, you will wonder how you ever managed without it. With thousands of photos on your computer hard disk, it really is the only way to go!

One last note about tagging. It pays to experiment with various photo library applications before you embark on tagging your entire photo collection. The quality of tagging and search varies dramatically between photo library applications. Secondly, most facial recognition information is stored in the application’s database, which means you will lose the information when the photo leaves the confines of the application (e.g. uploaded to a website or emailed to a friend). I personally use Photoshop Elements because I can easily organize my tags, employ facial recognition, search for the photos I want, yet keep all of the tags within the photo file.

About the Author
This was a guest post by George Swan, Owner of Aberscan Imaging. Aberscan Imaging specializes in scanning your old photos and slides into digital form. We can handle any number or size of photos or slides. In fact, if it fits on a scanner, we can scan it: letters, scrapbooks, old documents, newspaper clippings, and much, much more. We also offer great scan quality, image enhancement and restoration using Photoshop™, and miscellaneous other services such as image tagging and DVD slideshows. Turnaround time is usually less than two days.

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4 Responses to “The Benefits of Photo Scanning and Tagging”

  1. Axel Greb Says:

    since I was looking for help for photo-tagging some years ago and could not find a proper version of hierarchical tagging in lightroom, I develloped a new system of hierarchical keywords, which can be used in lightroom and some other programs by everyone, not only by specialists. Cause it is not necessary that everyone invents the wheel, the file can be downloaded from my website without any costs.
    Have fun
    Axel Greb

  2. George Says:

    Hi Axel

    I tried downloading your file, but couldn’t find it on the page since the text was in German. Do you have a direct URL I can use?



  3. Axel Greb Says:

    Hi George
    sorry for the late answer, but I have not been here for a while.
    I would have noticed your question earlier, if you had asked me directly on my website in the comment/leave a reply field. Because I know the problem of other languages meanwhile it is possible to get a translated version by Google. For that you find a box on the top right of my website. There you can choose your language. Such automatic translations are sometimes very bad, I regret, but it is better than nothing. I offer to give hints and explanations in english if you ask me in my comment-section.
    You will find the download with the following link:
    I hope this will help you.

  4. Valerie Says:

    I must admit I am not very good about tagging my photos, but you are right, it is very important and if you let it go for too long, it’s hard to catch up. I’ve been scanning our old photos and made my husband a great birthday photo book with photos going back to his childhood, old report cards, artwork etc. It takes time, but it’s worth it.

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