Converting Scrapbooks into Digital Photo Books

Creative Memories to Digital Photo BookHave you ever made a photo scrapbook? If so, you are probably intimately familiar with common scrapbook terms like: stickers, die-cuts, embellishments, double-mount, etc… You may have even had a dedicated scrapbook room. Your scrapbook creations required a faithful devotion to put together and the results were a beautiful keepsake documenting your precious family photos and stories. What happens, then, when your children want to take your ‘labor of love’ with them when they grow up and move out. All that hard work, the laughter and tears, it was for them, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want a copy of it for yourself.  So, what do you do – where do you start?

Recently I had the opportunity to convert some scrapbooks into digital photo books and the five key things I learned I would like to share with you to help you get started:

  1. Scanning the pages. You will need a scanner that has a bed that is at least 1/8th of an inch larger than the size of the page to ensure that nothing gets cut-off. I considered two other ides: photographing the pages and stitching the pages, however the source of light provided by a scanner is consistent and scanning the page as a whole versus individual scans and stitching was going to be a better use of my time.
  2. Software. You will need good editing software to clean up the pages and remove any area of the scan that you do not want – like the hinge staples – on the books I was scanning. In addition there was a border around the outside of each page that was meant to protect the page but was not something I wanted in the digital reproduction. I used Photoshop because I could automate some of the clean-up and re-sizing that was needed via the ‘actions’ function. I believe Photoshop Elements also has this capability.
  3. Digital Photo Book vendor. You will want to pick out a photo book company that offers the following
    • a book size that matches your original album/page dimensions
    • a lay-flat option because if you use the magazine style option anything on the inside edge of your pages risks getting stuck in the valley of the book.
    • flexibility in the number of pages – count the pages first. Depending on the page restrictions of the vendor (how many pages you can add and in what number for example a minimum of 4 or 8) you might need to eliminate a page or two of the original book or be “ok” with a blank page.
  1. Time. To perfect the process you need to allow for a learning curve. Give yourself time to establish a process that works for you.  I like to scan one scrapbook at a time (page protectors removed), and then import the images into Photoshop.  Experiment with the best way to clean up the pages, re-size the DPI (dots per inch) to meet the printer’s guidelines for the book vendor, allow for the printer’s bleed (this is the part of the book that gets cut off in the print process) and then export to your upload folder.  A trick here – be sure to build two sets of actions in Photoshop – one for the even numbered page and one for the odd number page – the clean-up is different for the different page sides.  Once the pages are perfect save and upload to the digital photo book software. I like this process because it breaks up the monotony of any one step.
  2. Preserve. Once you have received your books back from the printer you will be IN LOVE with the outcome.  You will be happy to send off the original scrapbooks with your kids and display your new versions.  Be sure however, to preserve your original edited scans on a thumb drive or a DVD.  Why?  If anything happens to the hard-copy books you can easily access the images and recreate. In addition, if you want to access any one individual photo on one of the pages you can do that too.  Make sure to scan the original pages at a minimum of 600 DPI so that the individual images offer a good reproduction quality.

Let me know if you have any questions about this process or if you would like some help converting your scrapbooks into space saving digital photo books.

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As a life long photo enthusiast I have experienced and heard stories about photo loss. I am here to make sure your photos are preserved and shared for all of your family to enjoy. I can help you sort, secure and tell stories with your photos. I also consult, train, and offers workshops for those who want to learn the skill set to keep their photos organized for future generations. I look forward to helping you connect, share and re-share your family memories through the care and management of your photos.

Comments

  1. You always have such great advice, and your explanations are so easy to follow. I dream of having a scanner this big. For now, I have to stitch my scans together. Another excellent post, Rita.

  2. What a great way to save space while preserving the effort that went into the original books. I think most people don’t realize that this is also how you stop the original pictures from fading. Thanks for the step by step info.

    • rita norton says:

      Darla,
      Thank you for your comment. You are correct about the ongoing preservation of the physical photos. Even if you do not convert into digital books you should still scan the scrapbook pages to preserve the photos and the memories.

  3. Hi Rita, Thank you for such a great (detailed) post. I am our family’s historian, and have been a photographer for many years. I am blessed to have both of my parents living, and as I’ve researched both sides of my family, I have been fortunate to receive lots of photos from distant cousins. You gave me the perfect solution for my parents, and both of my sisters. Thank you so much!!

  4. Rosanne Stacey says:

    My friend and I are interested in converting our 12 x 12 inch scrapbooks into digital photo books. The scanning sounds the best option.

    We looked for scanners of adequate size, but without success. Where do you buy a scanner of that dimension? As you suggested, the ideal size would be one-eighth bigger on all sides than 12 x 12.

    • rita norton says:

      Rosanne,
      Thank you for your comment. There are two scanners that I recommend, however, both are fairly expensive. One is an Epson and the other a Kodak – both in the $2,000 range. If you are going to manage this project on your own I would purchase a V600 Epson, you can probably get for under $200 on Amazon.com. The additional step you will have to do, however, is stitching your pages together. You can do this in Photoshop. Let me know if I can answer any other questions for you.

  5. Do you know of any vendors (staples, kinkos, etc.) that you can pay to do all of this scanning for you on their equipment?

    • rita norton says:

      Jenna, My company, Photovation, offers this service. Another vendor that offers it is Picture Perfect in the John’s Landing area of Portland. Feel free to contact me if you have additional questions.

  6. Thanks for pointing out the five steps really reading them pumps me up for creating my own digital photo books

  7. Brooksley says:

    Thank you so much for your great blog post. I am embarking on an overwhelming project to digitize all of our 12×12 family scrapbooks (50+ of them) and create photo books using Blurb. Our local UPS store offers large format scanning for a very reasonable price (at 600 dpi), and I would like to know if you offer consulting services as I take each scanned scrapbook into the Photoshop (or Lightroom) world? I am fairly computer savvy, but have not used either editing software, and I’m guessing that you could save me hours with a (paid, of course) step by step consultation. Thanks for letting me know if this service is something you provide.

  8. I made a completely digital scrapbook for my son in 2003. Working with the limited programs at the time, manipulating pictures with the help of Ulead Photo Impact 3 and adding clipart and digitally scanned images to pages in Microsoft Word 97. Capturing my sons elementary school years digitally was a blast but a huge project consisting of 267 pages in total. I often wondered if it was a first of its kind.

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"People are taking pictures at a record pace, but many are discovering they lack the time to sort, organize and print these images. The need for the services of a personal photo organizer has evolved as consumers seek out effective solutions for preserving and enjoying their precious memories." - The Association of Personal Photo Orangizers