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Tech Savvy: Move those precious family photos from that shoebox or album to a digital format

There are photo scanners for a variety of price points and multiple functions and also a number that are less than $200. During the holidays, when those family gatherings are reminders of connections, scanning those photos can be a way to create a link to your past for yourself and generations to come.

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With winter here, an inside project this season can be taking those photos in albums and shoeboxes and transforming them into digital images, to preserve them and make them more accessible. A photo scanner provides a tool to do that with the ability to repair photos and get them back to high quality images. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch
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As friends and families gather this week for Thanksgiving, there will be food, football and photos.

Lots and lots of photos.

It’s a reminder of all those generations of family photos that may be languishing in photo albums. For anyone who has ever put together photo boards for family events, those vintage photos are priceless links to their parents’ youthful faces, childhood homes and touchstone memories. There are a number of photo scanning devices available for use at home that can transform those photos into digital images, preserving them and making them more readily available.

Keys to keep in mind when looking for a home scanner is how well the scanner is able to repair photos and, when there may be a host of photos to scan, how quickly the machine can scan. The scan speed will mean more if there are lots of photos in albums, or in shoeboxes gathering dust in the closet.

Prices vary from thousands of dollars to less than $100, depending on sales and what bells and whistles are desired such as photo resolution.

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Popular Mechanics recently reviewed photo scanners, picking the Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner as the best overall. With a recent price of $249.99, the scanner is on the higher end of costs but it can scan negatives, slides and photos. The scanner has a number of features, including the ability to remove the appearance of tears, creases, dust and scratches from photos — which can be incredibly useful when dealing with photos in albums that haven’t stood the test of time. Those albums using a sticky surface to keep photos in place can make it almost impossible to remove photos without damaging them. It no doubt seemed like a helpful surface back in the day, but over time it makes removing photos from the album a challenging and even heartbreaking experience when aged photos crumple in the process.

The Epson is also able to restore faded color photos — another useful tool if that high school graduation photo framed on the wall is fading and slowly vanishing.

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Popular Mechanics' best budget option was a Canon CanoScan LIde 300 Photo Scanner. The Canon is also on the top of the list of a recently updated short list of top scanners by PCMag.

“Both photo buffs and family archivists often turn to photo scanners to digitize their prints and film,” PCMag reported. “Most such scanners provide photo-friendly features, such as high resolution and the ability to scan transparencies (slides and negatives) in addition to photo prints. Many include software to help retouch scans and remove scratches.”

Other benefits in scanning such important family photos mean multiple members of the family can have a copy and with photos stored in multiple locations they can’t be lost to fire, flood or other natural disaster.

Photo scanners “let you digitise your precious photo collection, and allow you to save them on a hard drive — either one installed in your PC or laptop, or ideally on an external hard drive or NAS device,” TechRadar reported. “This means if the original photos are lost or damaged, you still have a digital copy.

“You can then print out more copies — either using one of the best photo printers yourself, or by using a service, and even get them printed on canvas, reproduced in photo books and more.”

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So why get a photo scanner when you may already have a scanner on a home printer?

TechRadar notes the best photo scanners offer extremely high resolution images with a simple, straightforward manner.

A number of tech reviewers warn to stay away from the photo scanner that will actually move the photo through like a pasta feeder, noting the potential damage to the photo in the process. So that might be one thing to consider when choosing a model or at least serve as a point to check for reviews and customer experience.

CNET top picks include the Epson Perfection 3170 for its performance and price — listed recently at $174.99 or the Epson Perfection 2580 for the “penny-pinching hobbyist/amateur photographer who has moderate scanning needs” with a recent price of $129.99.

So there are plenty of options out there for a variety of budgets and needs.

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This week, when time with loved ones makes one think about the family history and may even mean dusting off those photo albums, think about the opportunities to preserve those snapshots for the future. Take the time to make sure there is information there so you know who is in the photo — those vintage shots of strangers who you can no longer connect to your history as that knowledge passes aren’t a lot of help.

Whether you are gathering via Zoom or in person, this time with family is also a chance to do family interviews on video and a great way to connect the generations. Have the grandchildren interview the grandparents on what it was like for them growing up. What did they do for fun? What was school like? Those are terrific moments to capture and can be so rewarding as time goes by and those loved ones are no longer with you. There are many websites and articles with five steps to record family history that can help with a quick Google search.

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And then check out the Black Friday sales to see if there is a photo scanner that can help add so much context and visual interest to those videos or just preserve those moments before time robs you of that connection to your past.

Happy Thanksgiving.

RENEE RICHARDSON, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.
Related Topics: TECHNOLOGYMINNESOTA
Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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