Thursday, August 28, 2014

Going Digital With Old Photographs

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I heard you want to become a photo preservation expert, or maybe just preservation savvy. Great! This and future posts will show you a few things you will want to know.

The basic goals of preserving older photographs are:

·      Goal I: Create beautiful original or restored digital images.

·      Goal II: Preserve original images and keepsakes in the best way possible.

Why Go Digital?

Digital images are easy to share, move and store in multiple places. Images that are shared are enjoyed! Digital images can be saved on different computers, hard drives, clouds, and servers.

CDs and DVDs

You didn’t mention storage on CDs or DVDs, you may be thinking. You are right. As I write this post, CDs and DVDs are going the way of 8-tracks, laser discs, videos and VCRs. Computers are being made without the large disc drives. Why? CDs and DVDs are more and more limited in the amount of space they hold. They also get damaged and broken easily. Even if you are storing them properly, the discs are deteriorating and will eventually be unusable. The official term is "disc rot". I am personally working right now to move all my images saved on disc to various hard drives and cloud management systems. I recommend you do the same.

Digital Copies in Many Places

Whether you want privacy or sharing and enjoying with as many people as possible, digital images stored in many different places are less likely to be lost. Paper and other materials will eventually deteriorate, so creating a digital image provides a way for potentially greater longevity. It is an important part of the preservation of the photograph and of history. Keep digital copies of the same image in different places. That way you always have a back-up somewhere.

How To Go Digital

There are many different ways to get your photographs into digital format. How you do it will get you different results. Some methods are better than others for specific situations. If you have lots of loose photographs you want to make digital, investing in a quality scanner is a really good idea. If you have an image that is behind glass and you don’t want to or are unable to remove the image from the glass, taking a picture with your digital camera may be the best way to get what you need. (Side note* Be careful with the flash. More information on how to take these kinds of pictures in future posts.) If you have an image that needs delicate handling, taking a photograph of it may also be the best method to preserving the original image.

Photocopies Are Like Fingernails On A Chalkboard

The quality of the scanner is important. That is partly why making photocopies is not recommended for pictures. Photocopy scanners are not set up for fine detail. If you choose to make photocopies, you lose detail and resolution (clarity of the image). Not to mention you end up with another deteriorating paper, the printed photocopy is usually on low-quality high-acid-content paper and the ink colors don’t match the original image. If you have a photocopier handy, I DO recommend photocopying the backs of old pictures that have been written on. 

If you do have a scanner, scan the backs of the photographs after scanning the front. The handwriting and the information written on the backs of these pictures are just as important a part of the image preservation process.

Feeling overwhelmed and thinking you may not want to do this yourself? See the next post on what to look for in a professional conservator.

Next Post: Preserving Heritage Photographs &  Going With A Pro

Previous Posts in Series:

Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out,, or look for her on

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Competitions and Art Shows

If you have been taking pictures for a while now you may be wondering how well you really are doing.  It's easy to see your progress in the beginning, but there will come a time when you need another set of eyes to help you see where and how you can make improvements to your work.  You may indeed need many sets of eyes to get to your best work.  This is where art shows and competitions can be helpful.  If you have never been involved with either the thought can be daunting.  I am no pro at either, but lucky for you I know people who are!  I will go over some of the whys and hows with you in this post.  The next two weeks will be interviews with two amazing photographers.  One is a competition entering boss and the other is the king of the art show.  (Since the latter is also my dad would that make me the princess of art shows by default?  I wish!)

While the art show is generally also a competition you may wonder why I am dividing the two into different categories.  I do so because they are very different means to a similar goal.  The art show is also a venue for selling your work and making yourself known to the community in a very personal way.  It usually involves displaying a large body of your work and interacting with the public as they browse the various booths and displays at the event.  It gives you an opportunity to meet people who are in the market for art and also those who are just learning what they like.  In this setting you'll need to be confident enough to sell yourself as an artist and in turn sell your work.  If the show is being judged it will be done based on your body of work, not just a certain photograph.  You may be competing with other photographers as well as painters, sculptors, jewelry designers, etc.  The shows I've been at with my dad have been an interesting mix of a little bit of everything.  It's a great chance to meet other artists and collaborate.

A photography competition is a more specific way to have your work judged and critiqued.  It will be judged by professional photographers as opposed to the general public.  Your constructive criticism will be more focused and most likely more useful to you as a tool for improving your work.  A themed competition will cause you to think about things in a more creative way as you will be photographing the same basic thing as everyone else and will want to stand out from the crowd.  An open competition will allow you to submit your very best from every area of your expertise.  They are both great opportunities for growth.  There are competitions going on all of the time.  PPA just finished their annual international competition and you can always find something going on locally or internationally by searching the major camera manufacturers websites, trade publications, and industry blogs.  It's scary to put yourself out there like that but you'll never improve as quickly and as well than you will with the help of the best in the business.  Competitions may be the only way you'll ever get them to look at your stuff.

So how in the world to you get started?  Good question.  I wish I had all the answers but I don't.  Next week I'll be interviewing Lee Brantley, AKA King of the Art Show, with everything you need to know to get out in your community and show off your amazing talent.  And hopefully make a few bucks in the process!

Competitions and Art Shows

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Heritage Photographs: The Basics and Getting Ready

(POST 2)
The Why & The How

The basic goals of preserving older photographs are:

·       Goal I: Create beautiful original or restored digital images.

·       Goal II: Preserve original images and keepsakes in the best way possible.

I have a loved one with a room dedicated to family keepsakes, photo albums, papers and documents. I don’t mean a display room, I mean a large storage room. And that room is packed. We haven’t mentioned the garage yet. I might tease them about episodes of Hoarders, but the real source of help will be in step-by-step digitization, sharing, and the best archival storage possible. Right now these precious things aren’t benefiting anyone. Some photographs are in albums, some are in boxes. Some photographs are from grandparents and great-grandparents, Some were taken a couple years ago. Some papers are in boxes, others are stacked in the open. Keepsakes and mementos are in various states of found condition and storage. The storage time-clock is ticking, because these papers and materials are deteriorating.

Preventative Measures

Staying off deterioration of original photographs and keepsakes is critical for the best longevity. How you handle and store these things will determine just how long the keepsakes last.

Think Like a Museum Curator

If something is important, treat it accordingly. Exposure to temperature, moisture, light, critters, acids and bases make a big difference.

Hot, Cold, Wet, Dry

Do your best to store photographs and items in cool/room-temperature places with as little fluctuation in temperature and moisture as possible. Most things are best kept on the dryer side, but you will need to take your climate into consideration. If you live in more humid areas, storage spaces with cedar help with moisture and bug control. If you live in very dry climates, you will need to be careful to keep a good moisture balance that your item(s) need. Keep everything in place out of possible flood damage and away from heat sources in your home. Keep away from in front of air vents, too.

 Acids and Bases

All items have a PH balance that keeps colors and materials at their best. Remember that fingertips have natural oils and acids. While you may not notice now or a couple years from now any effect that your fingers make, after many years the damage is irreversible. That’s why you see museum curators use white cotton gloves. This is not for the sake of being fancy, believe me. You can order white cotton gloves online very easily. If you want to go to the store, CVS, WalMart, and Target are among many that carry them. I'd look in the dermatological section first. Now if you don’t want to get that serious and wear gloves, that’s understandable. There are still a few basics to preservation that anyone can do.

The Basics

When you handle your keepsakes, at least make sure you work on a clean dry surface free of any dirt or dust. On the other hand, do not use strong cleaners on your work surface because they leave an acid residue. Use mild soaps and detergents and thoroughly dry your work area. Remove all liquids and mishaps-waiting-to-happen and keep them far away, too. Store your photographs and keepsakes indoors, away from windows and off of floors where possible.

Start Small

One item at a time, one small box at a time. Start it. Finish it, and put it away. This doesn’t require an instant herculean effort; it is more like the Grand Canyon one drop of water at a time. Remember you are not alone, either! There are many others working on similar projects. If you have questions for particular items, ask a professional. Find online resources, professional photograph and other restoration companies & individuals, find resources at your library, or ask around your community.

Next Post: Going Digital With Old Photographs

Future posts will include how to convert old photographs into digital images, taking pictures of keepsakes, how to best store photographs and keepsakes, sharing your digital images, stories & heritage, and a few other things as they come up.

Previous Posts in Series:

Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out,, or look for her on

Lightroom: Lets Make a Book

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Series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®

A What?

A book? Really? Why would I want to do that in Lightroom?

Adobe partnered with Blurb in 2013, and Lightroom 5 and InDesign (with Blurb plug-in) became a great way to seamlessly go from image to design to published. From the Blurb website: “Our mission from the beginning has been to empower people to self-publish. The more ways to do it, the better. The more people doing it, the better. The more books in the world...well, that’s the best part of all.” Once you make your book, Blurb has a tool called BookWright that provides a way to sell and distribute your printed, professional-looking books.  If you are into online publishing, they can help you there too. You could even sell your book on Amazon.

Sell Me

If you are looking for more motivation to do a book in Lightroom, there is a deal going on right now where you can automatically save 25% on your first book you make with Lightroom (until December 31, 2014). Photo books are currently starting at $12.99 and are shipped in 7-10 days. There are no minimums, so you can make one or many.

Freedom, Technology, Premium, Archival

Burb’s self-description is “a mash-up of creative freedom with print-on-demand technology… beautiful, bookstore-quality books on premium paper stock with archival-quality binding. And anyone could make one. Literally, just one. Or two. Or ten thousand.” How popular and trusted are they? They boast two million books published and counting. For more see

No Hassle

The biggest benefit to making a book in Lightroom is this: If you ever go back and change or edit an image any time before you print, that image is automatically changed in the book as well. Simply no more effort to it.

Don’t Hold Me Down

Start with your choice of 100 different layouts. Complete your book and done. Or, take that layout and customize it a little … or a lot. Or start with a blank slate and build your own layout completely. Whatever guides you want are available, or let you creativity run free.

Ze Quality of Ze Final Product

If I’m going to go to the effort of building a book, I don’t want to get that book back and be disappointed at the feel of the paper or the cheap material or binding. A book I make better be worth my time.

Five soft and hard cover books:

  • Small Square (7 × 7 in / 18 × 18 cm)
  • Standard Portrait (8 × 10 in / 20 × 25 cm)
  • Standard Landscape (10 × 8 in / 25 × 20 cm)
  • Large Landscape (13 × 11 in / 33 × 28 cm)
  • Large Square (12 × 12 in / 30 × 30 cm)

Five paper types:

118 GSM

Premium Matte
148 GSM

Premium Lustre
148 GSM

ProLine Pearl Photo
190 GSM

ProLine Uncoated
148 GSM

Standard Magazine
89 GSM

Premium Magazine
118 GSM

Color Trade
105 GSM

B/W Trade
75 GSM

 HP* Indigo printing:

“Images printed with the HP Indigo do not mask the texture or surface of the paper, as you might see with some toner-based prints. Instead the ink absorbs into the paper somewhat, which is similar to what you would see with traditional offset lithography.” (see Blurb Support, What types of printers does Blurb use?)

This post covered a lot about Blurb. When you know the quality of the companies you are working with, you are more likely to feel comfortable and use them. So you’ve decided to try out Lightroom book-making? Good. Let’s get into the How-To’s... in the next post.

Next Post: Lightroom: Your Book Making Tools

These posts are part of a series: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom®


Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out, or look for her on

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Today I want to have a little bit of fun.  Do something unexpected.  Today I am going to share with you a little series I call "Things I Found in a Parking Lot".  I use this series to demonstrate how photogenic our surroundings can be.  You don't need an expensive trip to an exotic location to have great things to photograph.  I challenge you to keep you camera in the car with you for one week.  If you see something cool on the side of the road, pull over and photograph it.  (Assuming it's safe to do so.  Use your noggins folks.)  Practice the settings we learned about last week.  Use your aperture and shutter priority settings.  Notice the things around you and make great art out of them.  Here are some examples of things I found in parking lots during my routine travels.  These include images from restaurants, an orthodontist office, a government building, and an antique mall.

Where do you go everyday?  Did you even realize there were treasures next to where you park your car? Feel free to share your own discoveries in the comments. Let's go make the ordinary look extraordinary!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Preserving Heritage and Vintage Photographs

Hey Kid

One of my first big jobs as a kid was to assist an elegant elderly woman with any tasks she wanted done around her home. I ran errands, and I helped her sort and clean. One day she pulled out her photo albums.

She told me names and stories about the young people in the photographs, and I felt almost like I was there. She then furrowed her brow, stated that no one else alive knew any of these people, that there was no point in keeping the photographs, so it was now my job to take the albums apart and throw the photographs away.

If I knew then what I know now….

If I hadn’t been a shy kid who was afraid to show anything but respect for my elders, I would have patiently disagreed with her, tried to convince her how beautiful and precious these images were, and pleaded that they should be kept. “Someone someday will want to see these.” “I will keep them.” I should have said. But I didn’t. Each photograph that fell into the plastic lined bin made my little-kid heart ache.

These Old Things?

Keep these old photos? Who cares? I do. And so do a huge-and-growing amount of people who love history and ancestry. It doesn’t matter if these people are even related to me, whether they served some important role in their community, or if many people knew them. Their stories are the stories of humanity. Their stories are our stories, and these stories need to be preserved and shared.

Rose Colored Glasses

History is written by victors. It is what they want to be known. It is their perspective. It’s what they remember. It is not the whole story. Perhaps I have a vein of investigative reporter in me because I don’t want a partial story from one side. As Tom Cruise in an oldie-but-goodie-movie yells, “I want the truth!” I want information from all sides. I want to read it in hand-written accounts. I want to see it in precious old images. That is where we come in as photographers- yes photographers.

A Tiny Corner of History

Paper is fragile and will naturally deteriorate. So are the metals and tins that a few early images are recorded onto. Digital form provides a method of capturing the images that will otherwise eventually disappear. Digital images are also easily shared with others instantaneously all over the world.

A Series of Posts

Let’s transfer these images to digital format. Let’s discuss all the ways we can make these images digital, and the best ways to do it. We can talk about how to restore distorted and damaged images once they are digital, answer the questions about preserving originals, archival printing, and some of the many ways to share these precious images. We can each do a small part in telling the real stories of real people and preserving history. Are you ready?

Next Post: Heritage Photographs: The Basics and Getting Ready

Future posts will include how to convert old photographs into digital images, taking pictures of keepsakes, how to best store photographs and keepsakes, sharing your digital images, stories & heritage, and a few other things as they come up.


Jennifer Apffel is a photographer with over a decade of experience in portrait, event, and product photography. She also does freelance graphic design and fine art. For more check out,, or look for her on