By Nanci Dixon
When we cleared out our house to begin our full-time journey, one of the hardest things we had to do was leaving behind the mammoth number of family photo albums. After they languished in a storage locker for two years I did a “what if” measure of just taking cell phone camera photos of the most important pages in the albums “just in case.”
That actually worked pretty well, even through the acetate. I set up in a shady area, under the awning so the sky didn’t cause reflections, hand held my phone and snapped away. Since I didn’t do all of the pages or all of the photos, I had enough memory on my phone to keep them. We have thoroughly enjoyed scrolling through them the last couple of years.
Now, the storage unit is gone and I know my sister wants all those containers moved out of her house. Time to do it again…
This time I set up a better system to record the photos. Bought a small, cheap copy stand on Amazon (this one) to hold the phone steady in a down position. I love this stand! It will also hold the phone vertically like a mini tripod. It can also be used for group selfies, timed or long exposures, video or Zoom calls.
There are a couple of ways to easily record the images…
The simplest is just setting the camera up horizontally near a window, adding a white card to bounce light back from the window into the photo and then snap away. Remember to get a height that will allow slightly different photo sizes without changing your setup and far enough away that it can autofocus.
A good idea is to take a few shots and then look at them while enlarging some areas to see the focus and exposure.
Only slightly more complex is adding lights. Considering the number of photos and the time to record all of them, I wanted to only do it once. So I bought a pair of small, foldable, inexpensive LED, dimmable lights, again from Amazon, to put on each side of the copy stand. That keeps the amount and the color of the light consistent from one photo to another.
I found that the most accurate method was using a medium-gray surface to put the photo on. All cameras, even cell phone cameras, average the exposure to a neutral 15% gray. If the camera was determining the exposure for a light photo, for example a light shot on snow, it would make the snow scene darker, averaging to a gray tone. If it was a dark scene the camera would make the exposure lighter. Having a medium-gray surrounding the photo helps neutralize that.
I add the lights to each side of the photo at the same distance apart, skimming over the image rather than hitting it directly, checked for glare, and let the very sophisticated cell camera determine exposure, color balance and speed.
I went through extensive testing with apps that allowed me to choose exposure, speed, color balance, and ISO manually before deciding it worked just as well to let the camera do the work instead of me.
My camera automatically downloaded the images to my computer and I later backed them up to a hard drive. Moving the images to a flash drive would work too.
Now my son will be the proud owner of all those crates of albums – of course, only until he wants them gone too. And if disaster should strike, we now have our family memories digitally saved.