7 ways to get the most from your family photos

By steveharnell, 31 July 2014 - 11:08am

Production editor Steve Harnell offers his top tips for getting the most out of your priceless snaps and restoring them to their former glory

Dr Alan Crosby is the editor of the Local Historian and a columnist for WDYTYA? MagazineThursday 31 July 2014
Steve Harnell, production editor
Read more blogs from the magazine team

Share and restore old family photographs

If you’re of the opinion that compiling your family history starts and ends with a long list of birth, marriage and death dates then think again.

The most rewarding part of genealogy can often be putting the flesh on the bones of your initial research. Delve deeper into the society that your ancestor inhabited, learn more about their jobs and get under the skin of the lives that they led.

A great way of making your research come alive is through the effective use of family photos.

Here, we’ll run through our Top 7 ways of making the most of those piccies of your forebears which may often be languishing at the bottom of a long-forgotten drawer...


(1) Digitise your snaps 

If you’ve not already done this, then there are a number of options available to you. Digital scanners are a useful tool for genealogists – you can either pick up a standalone machine or buy an all-in-one printer and scanner combined. For a dedicated piece of kit, we’d plump for the Flip-Pal mobile scanner (£124.95 from genealogysupplies.com and www.my-history.co.uk). Alternatively, you could use your tablet or mobile phone.

(2) Catalogue and organise
In terms of organising your digitised photo collection, Google’s free Picasa program (picasa.google.com) is superb. Works on both Windows and Mac.

(3) Facial tagging
Picasa even lets you tag ancestors through clever facial recognition technology. These faces are then organised under the ‘People’ entry in Picasa’s navigation pane.

(4) Share your photos
There are a wide variety of ways to share your photos. For general interest websites, among your options are the trusty old warhorse flickr.com, the arty pinterest.com or all-conquering Facebook. To target your photos to a genealogical audience then familysearch.org and ancestry.co.uk allow you to upload your snaps through the website or via a third-party program or app.

HistoryPin is perfect for doing family history research

The Historypin website will let you overlay a photo on its modern-day location using Google's Street View technology

(5) Historypin
This does more than share your photos, it allows you to pin them on a world map at the location that they were taken. Where Google Street View is available, users can overlay historical photographs and compare it with the contemporary location. You can sign up to the website using your Google, Facebook or Twitter log-ins.

(6) Create a video slideshow DVD
Remember getting the projector out in the 80s to show your holiday pictures to the neighbours? Well, this modern day finessing of that idea is far superior. After scanning in your photos, use Windows Movie Maker on your PC to burn a DVD using the free dvdflick.net program that you can watch on your widescreen telly.

(7) The magic of Photoshop
The pre-eminent tool for photo editing is, of course, the mighty Photoshop. Repair cracks and tears digitally using the Clone Stamp and bring back the crispness of those originals with the program’s sharpness tools. If you can live without all the bells and whistles of Photoshop, then Picasa can help you digitally clean up damage and blemishes, too.

For more on making the most of your family photos, see our feature in the August issue of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine. Out now.


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