Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November Ruminations

Because I'm focused on Blurb bookmaking these days, my ruminations this month are a bit of a continuation from something I mentioned in last month's ruminations: digital photo archiving. And again, my thoughts are not quite in sync with the how-to methods you've read about from the experts.

Digital archiving as advised by the experts consists of scanning photos at 300 dpi and saving them as TIF files. An important pro of the TIF format is that it is not a 'lossy' format; in other words, no resampling of the pixels takes place if you should 'Save' the file over and over again. A TIF con is that the file size is considerably larger than that of the same photo scan saved in, say, the JPG format.

The experts' advice may be enough for you, as far as it goes. However, in the course of working on a book about my mother's childhood, I discovered that I was unable to use some photos as I wanted to. Why?

For an 8" x 10" book, the pixel dimensions for a full-bleed page image, such as the left side of the two-page spread above, are 2363 x 3000 pixels. I had previously scanned both of the snapshots above at 300 dpi, but a regular-sized snapshot scanned at 300 dpi is simply not adequate to enlarge that much.

Using small snapshots as full-bleed page images, as shown in the examples above, necessitated my finding the originals and rescanning them at considerably higher resolution. In most cases, 600-700 dpi was adequate, but in some cases I scanned as high as 1200 dpi in order to crop the photo as I wanted it, or to select some small detail to enlarge for closer study.

Fortunately, I do have access to most of my mom's old snapshots. There are many other photos in my digital collection, however, which I've scanned from photos which I no longer have access to. I hadn't foreseen that I would have need of higher-resolution images.

In the future, I plan to scan small photos and snapshots at a much higher resolution. Because saving them as TIF files would require an enormous amount of disk space, I'll save them as JPG files. When I open one of those files for use in a project, I'll make a copy to work on and then close the original file without using the Save command. That way, the pixels in the original file do not get resampled as they do when you Save. It's the resampling that causes a tiny loss of clarity every time you do it, unnoticeable at first but after Saving repeatedly, the degradation becomes noticeable. At least, that's my understanding from a number of articles I've read about digital images.

By the way, if you burn your photo files to a CD or DVD, a JPG file is not going to degrade any more than a TIF file. The only degradation would be that of the CD or DVD itself.

I find that every time I use a photo in a project, my needs are different--I may want to crop it differently, or change the color to sepia or some other tint, or maybe just desaturate the colors a bit, maybe erase the background... you just never know what your next idea might be. Consequently I always work on a copy anyway, rather than the original image.

My point, if I actually have one, is that you may want to consider what your purpose is in scanning old photographs, and how you might want to use the scans in the future. You may need to make some exceptions to the advice of the experts in order to serve your own needs better.


November Accomplishments
  • I managed to get a post up for Bill West's Second Great Local Poem and Song Genealogy Challenge. I've been waiting all year for that one to come around, and almost missed it due to seemingly endless fussing over the finishing of the book I've been working on.
  • I'm sure you're tired of hearing about it but at last, with six hours to spare before the deadline, I uploaded my first family-history-related book to and placed my order.
And in the other column . . .
  • There are still a few names remaining to be done on my Surnames page. This is a fine example of how I lose my momentum on a project if I take a break from it before it's completed. I'll finish them up eventually, but right now they're down some on my list of priorities. Sure would be nice if I could wrap that up before the end of the year, though!


Barbara Poole said...

T.K., I will have to reread your part about scanning (I'm slow with technical stuff), but I have to say, I loved the photo of your mother on the car. Also, regarding your blurb, what did you mean about having 6 hrs. to spare? Why, is there a deadline?

T.K. said...

Barbara, there is a publishing deadline for before-Christmas delivery, but the deadline I was referring to was November 26, the last day for the November promo, which was 20% off. That, plus the 10% for volume purchase (I bought a dozen copies) was highly motivational!

Blurb barely finishes one promo deal before they launch another, so my process has evolved thus: get going on a book and be ready to beat the deadline when the right promo sale comes up. The promos are not all the same. Last time it was 25% off a book created with their online software, Bookify. For December, it's free ground shipping for up to three books ($6.99). Good to read that email from Blurb!

moultriecreek said...

OMG!! This is drop-dead gorgeous! Great info about resolution - made perfect sense once I read it, but not something I would have thought of up front. I do love the results. Did you use the Booksmart software or your own layout app?

T.K. said...

Thanks, Denise! My copies should arrive around Dec. 13... and I have NO IDEA how I can possibly wait that long!

I used Booksmart. I'm glad I made a few other (less important!) books with it first, as I've learned a bit with each book. There are some little quirky things to watch out for in using Booksmart, but the more I work with it, the better I'm able to do what I want to do.

During the October promo, I tried using Bookify, Blurb's online software for quick-&-dirty photobook-making, but having already gotten used to Booksmart, I was a little frustrated at not having as much control with Bookify. I didn't complete those books, and probably won't. Eventually I'll do them in Booksmart, I think.

Michelle Goodrum said...

I have had to rescan so many old photos because I did not use a high enough resolution the first time! I'm like you now that I've learned my lesson and scan most at 600. If I don't, I'll wish I had...Murphy's Law you know!

Absolutely love the photo of your mom and the car. It's very eye catching.

Bob Kramp said...

Glad to hear the experience of other geneabloggers and family historians using Blurb books. I've created two Blurb books of under 40 pages, 8x10 inch landscape, and do wait for the promos before ordering. Unfortunately, I found several errors I made when I received the published book. Any of you all ever revised and submitted the book again? Scanning old kodak box camera photos of the 20s and 30s (original = 3x4.5 inches) at 600 dpi is advisable, but there seems to be a maximum resolution that is possible and reasonable. After that, eyes look like dark caves and details are just- lost. Incidentally, I save my scans as jpegs also. I have lots of originals just in case I have to re-scan, but I would still lose many photo images that I've scanned while on the road. I was surprised at the high quality of old photos in these photobooks.

T.K. said...

Hi Bob,
Personally, I wouldn't hesitate to revise and resubmit a book if I discovered errors that I couldn't live with. In one of my blog books, I found 3 typos (and a few space-o's too)after printing, but the book isn't important enough to redo. It did serve as a learning experience though. Before submitting the mom book, I proofread several times and also had my daughter give it a final proofreading. She found a few things I'd missed, like a quotation mark that wasn't there. Eagle eye!

I've received my shipment of the mom book, and I have an issue to resolve with Blurb. I'll be posting about it soon. Readers who are not in a big hurry to submit their books for printing are hereby advised to, um, wait to be advised...

JL said...

You can use LZW compression on tif's to save disc space. It's also loseless compression so it won't permanently compress anything. To reconstitute, simply resave with no compression. Much better idea than saving scans as jpg's.

T.K. said...

Thanks for the info, JL, I'll check into LZW compression. Good to know!

Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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