Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How to add photos to Family Tree Photos -- the details you need to know

The Photos program has proved to be an extremely popular addition to the Family Tree program. However, in teaching classes about the program I find the same questions repeated. Here are some of the more common issues with my explanation of how the problems can be resolved.

1. The first issue is that of scanning or digitizing files. Here is a helpful website with scanning tips and a series of blog posts called Scanning 101 - The Basics. Scanning seems as simple as putting the photo on the scanner's screen and pushing a button, but it is really a lot more complicated.

2. One basic issue facing those who wish to upload their photos to is the format and file size of the images. Presently,the program is limited to a 5 MB file size and JPEG and PNG file formats. Since JPEGs are the most common file format created by scanners and digital cameras it is likely that most of the photos that are digitized for use with the program are already in that format. It is important to note that most archivists would recommend storing your photos in the TIF format to avoid loss of image quality if the photo is edited. You will then need to convert the TIFF files to JPEG files to upload to Family Tree. There are a number of free programs you can download from the Internet that will allow you to edit the photos without too much difficulty by changing the file format or the file size of the image. Two very commonly used programs are Google's Picasa and There are dozens of other programs that could be used.

3. The next issue is that of editing or manipulating the photo. I am of the strong opinion that the photos used for genealogical/historical purposes should not be edited. Most of the editing that I see on the Photos program involves cropping the photo to show just one individual in a group picture. By doing this, the user destroys the context of the photo and any relationships that may be indicated by the people depicted. I realize that there is absolutely no way to stop this from happening but I think that it is extremely important that the entire original photograph be uploaded. The purpose of the tagging function of the Photos program is partly to identify individuals in a group. Why have this feature if the users are going to crop the photos to eliminate the group?

Another tendency is for people to use the editing functions of the photo-manipulation programs to change the content of the photo in some way, usually to rectify assumed defects in the original photograph. Once again, from an archivist standpoint, it is important to preserve an accurate and unedited copy of the original. I have written about this issue in previous posts and probably will in the future again and again.

4. What if your photos are in an album? If the photos can be removed, it is a good idea to remove them from the albums before you begin scanning, if this can be accomplished without damaging the photos. If the photos are permanently mounted (glued) to the album pages, I suggest scanning the entire page as one image and then copying out the individual photos one at a time by cropping to the individual image and then saving the cropped image with a different name than the entire page. Here is a copy of a scanned album page:

In this particular case, the photos were glued down and there was no reason to "save" the album as such. So we cut the photos out of album individually. Fortunately, the photos were only on one side of the pages. The mounts were also permanently glued to the photos. Here is an example of the final scan of a photo from the album with the mounts clearly visible and still stuck to the photo:

The image was scanned as a TIFF file at 400 dpi and then converted to a JPEG when it was uploaded for this blog post. The TIFF image was 138.5 MBs and the JPEG image was 1.4 MBs. I happened to use Adobe Lightroom for the conversion, but you could use the programs I mentioned above or any others that accomplish the same size reduction.

To be continued...

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