Easy Step by Step: How to Scan and Store Old Photos

Posted by Carly Morgan

If you haven’t noticed, photos are kind of my thing. I love taking photos, I love editing photos, and I love going through old photos and remembering good times. What I don’t love, however, is having that vague idea that you have this photo somewhere but you don’t know where you put it. I also don’t like realizing that older photos are getting faded and bent because they’ve been living in boxes with labels like, “Carly – giant pile of photos I haven’t gotten around to looking at”.

I’m all about scanning and digitalizing old photos, especially the ones that are so old they’re of people that might not be around in thirty years. I would much rather know who is who while the who is still here to tell me! That being said, I know that the idea of scanning photos and storing them somewhere is a little overwhelming, which is why companies that digitize things like photos, sides, and home movies have become so popular. I think they’re an awesome and convenient option, but since they can get pretty pricy I only use them for things I really can’t do on my own (like film).

For photos, it’s overwhelming but it’s not that hard and I promise you will be so happy that you finally got all of that stuff scanned. So, I’m here to walk you through it in excruciating detail:

(1) You need a computer, a scanner, and an external hard drive. You also need a Google Photos account (my preference) or another online photo storage account like Flickr.

You can pick your own gear out, but here are my affiliate links for the ones that I use and recommend. I’ll explain more about them in the steps below.

  • Scanner: CanoScan LiDE 220
  • External Hard Drive: Seagate 2TB Hard Drive
  • Photo Organizer Case (optional – for storing photos safely after scanning): Scrapbooking 1,600 Photo Case
  • Fireproof/Waterproof box (optional – for storing larger photos or other important photos, documents, and/or paper memorabilia): SentrySafe
  • Computer: MacBook Air (Recommended mainly because it’s lightweight and portable – good for scanning at relative’s houses or research centers. However, your current computer is likely compatible with the scanner above.)

*Little note here – some of this gear is a little pricey but I believe it’s worth the investment so you don’t lose your photos. You can quickly spend the same amount if you outsource and have someone else scan them for you. Plus, this way you retain control over your property and avoid any “lost in the mail” disasters. 

Scan your family photos

The scanner I always recommend is the CanoScan LiDE 210 from Canon (affiliate link) because it’s very easy to use and it only needs to plug into your USB port for power so you don’t have to worry about finding another plug. It’s also light and thin enough to be portable and it’s easy for me to take my CanoScan and my MacBook Air to the library or to a relative’s house to make a few quick scans of something I can’t bring home.

For external hard drives, I’m not wildly picky but I usually go for ones that are 1 to 2 TB in size. Larger than that and the hard drives get bulky, smaller than that and I find myself with lots of hard drives all over my house. I would also recommend having one exclusively for photos, just because you don’t want to lose scanned photos in between work files and music files. Photos also tend to be the things that people ask you for (at least in my experience) so it makes it easier to have them all in one place when you’re hunting around.

How to scan your photos for storage

(2) Start with your overwhelming pile of photos that are all different sizes.

How to scan your own photos

(3) Take a small handful – just enough to fit on the scanning screen.

Easy guide to scanning family photos

(4) Arrange them so that the edges aren’t touching and they aren’t too close to any of the edges of the screen. Don’t worry about whether or not they are upside down – that’s easy to fix on your computer when you open the file.

Scan your photos and store them as digital files on your computer

(5) Plug the scanner into the USB port on your computer. Push the “scan” button on your scanner to start the process. If you haven’t downloaded the software yet, be sure to do that so your computer knows to open Image Capture when the scan button is pushed.

You only have to push the scan button the first time, to turn the scanner on. It will warm up and then do a preliminary scan (an Overview). The rest of the time, you’ll want to start by selecting Overview from the menu. This will let the scanner do a quick pass to show you what it will be scanning.

Be sure that your settings are set (and if they aren’t, just fix them and do a new Overview scan). You can mess around with the settings to fit what you’re doing, but my preferences are “Colors: Millions” “Resolution: 1,200” and “Auto Selection: Detect Separate Items”. The last setting is my favorite because it lets you scan multiple photos at the same time.

Preserve family photos by scanning them

Store family photos by scanning them to your computer

(6) After the Overview scan, the program will show dotted lines at the edges of each image to show you where it thinks you want it to scan. Most of the time it gets it right, but images with borders or white backgrounds are a little tricky so drag the lines until it captures the images you want.

Scan your photos to your computer to save them

(7) Once the lines are correct, hit Scan. The scanner will warm up and scan each image individually.

Safely scan and store old family photos

Once scanned, the photos will show up wherever you directed them. I put them on my desktop so I can find them easily.

How to scan a huge amount of family photos at once

(8) At this point, your files are digitized and ready to go. Unfortunately, if you’re doing a ton of them you probably won’t want to leave them on the computer because they’ll pile up and slow things down. So, you’ll want to move them to storage and I would say choose at least two different methods so you don’t lose it all if something fails.

First, move your files to Google Photos (or you can use a different online photo service, but if you do you might want to skip down a bit). To upload them, just open your Google Photos account and drag your files onto the screen. Google automatically adds them.

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset Organize scan and store your old family photos

Get old family photos organized by scanning them

You then have the option of creating an album or making a new one. I prefer to put all of the photos into one album with the date that I scanned them and then sort them out later. The great thing about Google Photos is that you can reorganize them easily and you can also add comments to say where the photos was taken and who is in it, etc. Plus, it’s the easiest way to share them.

Scan all of your old family photos

DIY guide to scanning your old family photos

(9) After you’ve uploaded the photos to an online photo storage system, move on to putting them on your external hard drive. Locate it and set up a folder for the photos. Again, I like to use the date just because it’s easiest.

Scan your old family photos easily in your own home Scan your photos to save them from getting damaged

I do usually have two folders because there are occasionally photos that won’t upload to Google Photos because they’re too big. You probably won’t have to do this, but I did tell you I’d show you in excruciating detail.

Store a ton of family photos by scanning them to a hard drive

Drag the photos to that folder and you’re done! If you get an error that you already have a file with that name, you can usually use the option to Keep Both and Apply to All. If it just says Skip (and not Keep Both) try selecting and moving a smaller number of files. Sometimes it gets picky if you’re moving more than two or three.

Save your family photos to a hard drive by scanning

Once the files are in there, you’re set! You can drag the files off of your desktop (or wherever they originally scanned to on your computer) and put them in the trash so they don’t take up storage space. You now have them saved online and to your dedicated photos external hard drive.

Obviously, the perks of having digitized photos are many, but I mostly love that I can share them easily and that I can blow up super small photos and turn them into larger prints for gifts. I also use Photoshop to fix things like scratches and rips or to color correct faded photos before using online album services to make photo books.

Another way to share family photos is to set up a profile on Ancestry.com, which allows you to assign photos to certain people and make them searchable. I always get excited when I find photos other people have uploaded that I’ve never seen before, so I like to contribute to that service.

Scan old photos and documents for family history and genealogy

You can also share them on Facebook, although if you have a ton I would recommend either setting up an album and sharing them all at once or setting up a private group and only adding people who would be interested. I’ve had my feed clogged before by someone who has hit a sudden genealogy bend and I have to admit that other people’s family photos can get a little tiresome if you’re just skimming your Timeline.

Plus, family Facebook groups are helpful if you don’t know who everyone in the photos is!

Start a Facebook group to identify old family photos for genealogy after you scan them

Feeling inspired yet? I hope so! It’s such a rewarding project and a really nice thing to take on for relatives who don’t want to dig all their old photo books out. Let me know if you have any questions!


How to scan and store your old family photos
Easy Step by Step - How to Scan and Store Old Photos

7 Tips for Family Photos at Walt Disney World

Posted by Carly Morgan

On our trip to Walt Disney World, I knew I wanted to do a professional photo session because we never have good family photos when we’re relying on our cell phones and most of the time I don’t even make it into the photos because I’m holding the camera. On Eva’s first trip to Disneyland, we had a family session with White Rabbit Photo Boutique and I love that I have these beautiful pictures of Eva’s first pixie-dusted trip. I did not, however, pull it together to get a family session for Calvin’s first Disneyland trip two years later, which is basically the story of Cal’s life as the second child.

So, since this would be the first WDW trip for them both, I knew the moment had to be recorded. Somehow the stars aligned and Nate and Jensey from Root Photography moved back to the Orlando area just weeks before we got to FL, which meant I didn’t have to fly them in to take our photos. (Yay!). They did our engagement pictures and were our wedding photographers so it made sense to stick with them for this session. (In other news, apparently I’ve never blogged about our Disney wedding on this site…something I will excessively correct in the near future.)

Unlike our wedding and engagement photos, these photos contained two unpredictable humans and two really exhausted parents, so I set a low bar. I wanted one photo of the four of us looking at the camera and one cute photo of the kids to put up on the wall as the photo of their first Disney trip. Miraculously, I got both:

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As a bonus, we got lots of other cute pictures of the kids and even a few more family photos where not everyone looks run over. First, though, I’d like to share 7 tips for your family photo session at Walt Disney World, just in case you’re getting in front of the camera:


1. Don’t just hire any photographer. I am practically obsessive when it comes to choosing photographers because I think that combination of style and talent is everything and definitely not universal. Although price should factor into it, I really feel like it’s a better investment to hire the photographer you’re totally confident in than the one that you might be satisfied with. Family photos are such a pain to organize and unless you’re doing them all the time, you’re probably going to want them to last for a while. To find a great photographer in an area you’re unfamiliar with (like Walt Disney World), check wedding blogs for referrals (like mine) and see if any of the photographers you like take family sessions.

2. Lower your bar. I don’t care how good your photographer is, there’s a high chance that your own family will suck on picture day. Trim your expectations to wanting just one or two great photos and be happily surprised if you get more than that. This is not your wedding. This is the upgraded version of JC Penney portraits. (PS – also, get to know and love the world of Photoshop. I’m not telling you which photos were tweaked, but yes there was some tweaking…)

3. Do whatever you can to keep your kids happy. This includes making sure they’re rested, they’ve been fed, and perhaps there’s a little extra sugar in them than usual. You also shouldn’t yell at them if they aren’t cooperating or force them into too many poses because there will be a riot on your hands and you’ll be left with photos of armageddon.

4. Put some thought into what everyone is wearing. I very much didn’t do this for the session and it wasn’t until we got the pictures back that I even thought about it. I knew I wanted our photos to be casual, but in retrospect I think it would have been a bit better if (A) Eva’s hair had been brushed, (B) any thought at all had gone into my hair or wardrobe, (C) Cal was wearing pants that fit, etc. The only person I wasn’t in charge of was Kyle, which is why he looks awesome and the rest of us look like we fell out of bed and ran outside. Not the end of the world, since I suppose we look like that all the time, but a little more effort is definitely going into planning for the next session.

5. Time it right. Nate and Jensey were really helpful with this since they’re used to shooting in that area. They gave us a choice of early morning or late afternoon photos and we took early morning so we could get the kids while they were fresh (albeit rumpled and full of maple syrup). I’ve seen family sessions that were obviously done midday with the sun overhead and the hard shadows on everyone’s faces, so I was really happy that we weren’t fighting with lighting issues on top of everything else.

6. Skip the parks. Not all photographers will give you the option of shooting in the parks, but even if yours will I would actually recommend that you stick to the resorts. We’ve done photos both in Magic Kingdom and in Disneyland and even though the photos are fun it is kind of a chaotic place to shoot. When we did Eva’s photos in Disneyland it was early in the morning but we were still trying to manage Eva AND fight crowds AND cover large distances to get to the different photo spots that we wanted. This time around, we were able to just wander around the resorts and get photos that had Disney in them but were ultimately just of our family. I think a park session might be in our future when the kids are much bigger (or perhaps for our next West coast session since those resorts aren’t quite as themed) but I was really happy that we chose Art of Animation this time around. Added bonus: since we were staying there, we didn’t have to lug a huge diaper bag around or worry about getting the kids on busses bright and early.

7. Schedule the session early in your vacation. This is another piece of advice that I didn’t follow, but I would recommend scheduling your family photos earlier rather than later. Part of the reason that we didn’t do this is because we were staying off-property for the first part of our trip and I didn’t know what our schedule would be like. We also wanted to get some photos with Kyle’s parents who didn’t come until the end of our vacation so that made sense for us. That being said, if it had rained on our session day we would have had only one more day to try to fit the photos in and then we would have missed our chance. We were also a little wiped out by this point on our trip, running on nearly two weeks of not much sleep, wearing clothes that definitely needed to be laundered, and I don’t even want to talk about my hair + Florida humidity. It’s enough to make me think that we should have done photos ASAP instead of having it be the last think we checked off.

All of that said, I am so grateful that the Roots are in our lives and that we have all of these photos to remember our first family trip to WDW. Cherished!

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Eva’s wearing her Disney Peek shirt and some H&M jeans and sneakers. Cal is head-to-toe H&M. Kyle and I are wearing who-knows-what, probably from Target and Old Navy because we’re awesome like that.

How to Easily Journal Your Life

Posted by Carly Morgan

I’ve been keeping journals for as long as I can remember. At one point, I had forty or so all covering different topics or moods or vacations. These days, I’m down to just two: one for writing notes and one for journaling my life.


My life journal has been a real joy so I’m hoping this post might inspire someone to take one up. You would think that my life is pretty well journaled since I blog and Instagram daily, but the life journal captures the more personal bits and the fact that it’s not really for anyone else keeps it special.

So, do you want to start a life journal? Let me break it down:

What should I write about?

Obviously, you can write about whatever you want, but I find that it’s easiest if I just take one or two events from the day and record them. Sometimes it’s a funny conversation or an observation and sometimes it’s just reflections on life. I will say that I recommend you don’t treat your life journal as a diary. I think pouring your heart out on paper is very healing, but I’ve also come to believe that it’s not necessary to keep those words once they’re out. How often are you really going to sit down and re-read long paragraphs on how stressed or annoyed or tired you were? The nice thing about a journal like this is that you get to filter your own story so you only capture the good bits.

How should I illustrate it?

This is the fun part! I illustrate my life journal with sketches, photos, and ephemera. To keep myself organized, I have a small photo storage box (a few dollars at a craft store) and it holds the black Sharpie I like to write with, a pencil and eraser for sketching, my gel pens, one grey brush marker, and some different decorative tapes.


Line sketching is my favorite way to illustrate because I’ve been doing it for a while now. I feel like people get intimidated by ink sketches but most people (including myself) sketch in pencil first. I freehand every now and then but usually I sketch in pencil, trace in ink, and erase to clean it up.

Insider secret: perspective and correct proportions are key in ink drawings. I freehand a lot of the time because I’m lazy, but when I’m sketching people I will often pull a photo up on my iPad, put the paper over the photo, and do a quick pencil sketch of the outlines in the image. This gives me guidelines to finish the sketch.


Every now and then, I’m in the mood to add a little color to my ink sketches and that’s where the gel pens come in. I use gel pens because (A) they don’t bleed through the paper and (B) they remind me of passing notes in jr. high. I only keep a few colors on hand because I just use the color as accents but you can get gel pens in pretty much any shade these days.


I also use that grey brush marker sometimes when I just want a little more color or some interesting shading. I love the look of brush markers with ink, but I don’t use them often because brush markers will bleed through the paper and are therefore a terrible choice for journaling (just like chalk, pastels, etc.) if you aren’t using an art journal. I use standard blank Moleskin journals so when I want to use a brush marker I’ll just be sure to put a photo or something like it on the other side.

IMG_8939 IMG_9014

Photos used to be my favorite part of journaling, but now I use them less than half the time because I don’t like my journals to get too bulky. I’m not a huge fan of full size 4×6 photos in journals because they take up the whole page, but I love a good photo strip.


To put the photos in the journal, I use my washi tape most of the time. Kyle spoiled me at Christmas with some glitter tape so it’s been making an appearance lately but good old washi tape is usually fine for me. It’s nice to have at least two different patterns, too, since you never know what mood you’ll be in when you’re journaling.


My new favorite way to get photos for journaling is to use the awesomesauce Instax mini printer I recently picked up. It uses the same film that my Instax camera uses, but you can print from your phone which means you can edit the photo before it gets printed out. This is life changing because I’m terrible at using my Instax camera and I was wasting film at $1 a pop. Now I’m not sure if I’ll be using my Instax camera ever again.



Finally, I use ephemera every now and then when I have something little that I want to save. As with photos, I don’t always love the bulk so I still prefer sketching but occasionally I’ll sketch something randomly on a scrap of paper or the kids will create something cute and it ends up being a good illustration for the day. I’ve also journaled tickets, hospital bracelets, etc. this way. The only thing I will say is that receipts don’t always hold up and you want stuff to be as flat as possible so it doesn’t mess up your writing for the rest of the journal.

IMG_8987Easy, right? And so cherished when I’m bored and flipping through to remember little moments I would have otherwise lost. Even social media can’t quite get all the little bursts that make up day to day life so I hope this gets at least one of you to start documenting your world. And you can sketch even if you think you can’t draw! Just have fun with it!!