Step 1: Collect the PhotosThe first step is also going to be the hardest. Tracking down those interesting family photos and convincing the family members who have possession to allow you access. Put the word out that you're interested in compiling a family photo collection, and ask if they either have any photos or know another relative who does. Check out the distant branches as well. You may not know your second cousins, but they have the same great-grandparents as you, and may have pictures of them that you don't!
When you contact relatives about your photo project, assure them that you only need to borrow the photographs and that they will be returned as soon as you can have them digitally scanned. If they are reluctant to allow them out of their possession (which is understandable), then ask if they might be willing to have them scanned themselves and then send you digital copies. You can best encourage participation by letting all family members know that anyone who contributes photos will also receive access to the finished project, whether it is a family Web site, or a photo CD.
Important! As you collect the photographs, be sure that each one is somehow identified with the name of the contributor, whether you organize them in acid-free envelopes, or mark the backs with a soft lead pencil. These are precious photos and you need to be able to get them back to the correct family members in good condition.
Step 2: Scan the PhotosWhile you may choose to have actual physical copies of your photos made to include in your project, it is usually much easier to have them scanned into digital format instead. This way you can more affordably provide all family members with copies, and those who wish it can have their own photos printed from the digital images. If you have access to a scanner, then it is often best to scan the photos yourself. Or you can choose to have a professional do the work for you. Make sure you have permission of the original owner before reproducing photos that may still be protected by copyright. As soon as you get the photos scanned, be sure to return them to their owners!
Step-by-Step Guide to Scanning & Restoring Old Photos
Step 3: Organize the PhotosUse a photo album program, such as Adobe Photoshop Album, to create and organize a database of your digital photos. This type of software program makes it easy to arrange the photos, add notes, and create a final project. Here's where you can weed out duplicate photos and see if you have any missing gaps that should really be filled. Try to make sure you have a photo of each family member at different ages, photos of the old family home or town, family reunion photos, etc.
Step 4: Create Your Photo ProjectFamily photos can be exchanged and shared in a number of different ways, from online photo albums to photo CDs. This way your precious family photos can be viewed, shared, printed and enjoyed by everyone in the family, instead of fading in a frame over someone's fireplace, or languishing in a moldy box in the back of someone's basement.
Online Photo Gallery
Creating an online photo album is fairly easy to do, and it will allow your family members to view the photos at any time that is convenient for them. The Web has many online photo gallery options, such as MyFamily.com, Flickr and Shutterfly. Some allow you to create a password-protected album if you want to limit access to the photos.
Family Photo CD
Another inexpensive way to exchange and share family photos is to create a photo CD. The software program you used to organize your family photos can also make this step a breeze, whether you choose to create a digital slideshow, or just want to burn a simple DVD of the photo files.
Kimberly Powell, About.com's Genealogy Guide since 2000, is a professional genealogist and the author of "Everything Family Tree, 2nd Edition." Click here for more information on Kimberly Powell.