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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    « Learn at Home: Family Tree University Fall Virtual Conference | Main | The GRIP Report: Vol. 2. No. 2 Photo Collage »

    Archiving JPG Scans and Photos from Your Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner, Digital Camera, and Mobile Phone

    Nebraska summer

    Nebraska Summer
    JPG 614 KB vs. TIFF 9.2 MB

    It's no coincidence that compact mobile scanning devices produce only JPG files. Whether you are using a Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner, a cell phone camera, smartphone app, wand scanner, or point-and-shoot digital , the resulting digital file is a JPG image file. 

    JPG files use compression to keep the overall file size small so that more images can fit on a storage card or hard drive. Small portable devices like the Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner and digital cameras need this kind of high-capacity storage. The Flip-Pal is completely battery-powered and saves scanned images to a small SD card, probably like the one in your digital camera. The included 2 MB SD card will hold about 900 scans at 600 dpi resolution. That's a lot of photos in a very small space.

    JPG vs. TIFF

    In the world of digital imaging, JPG is a hero because the file format can compress an image to save space. This compression makes it possible to email a photo, send a file for printing, or post pictures to Pinterest or Facebook. But every time a JPG file is Saved, a bit of the information within the file is lost. Hence, JPG files are known as lossy files. For the average photo that is opened a saved a few times, the image loss is probably undetectable to the average eye. But when a photo is opened, edited, and saved repeatedly, the image can become almost unusable.

    It doesn't matter if the JPG image originated in your digital camera, your wand scanner, or on your smartphone, the JPG file will degrade with repeated Saves. How many? I tried to correct a poor quality digital photo over several sessions with my photo editing software; after more than a dozen attempts the image became blotchy and filled with pixellated artifacts. 

    Professional archivists and photographers have always had more demanding goals than consumers. They want to preserve original materials, and recommend using TIFF loss-less file format for archiving images. Unfortunately, TIFF files can be huge, and even with the current low price of terabyte storage, TIFF files are impractical for sharing and storing on portable devices. 

    In the world of digital photography, the equivalent of TIFF format files is RAW, another very-large file that requires some amount of post-photograph developing. Most family photographers don't need or want to learn to "shoot RAW."

    What Genealogists Want

    Family historians want it all. We want digital files we can

    • share with friends and family
    • post on websites, social media and sharing sites
    • print at our local big box store
    • edit and use in digital photo albums and scrapbooks
    • include in video slideshows and presentations

    AND, We want to create these digital files

    • without power cables
    • without computer cables
    • without a lot of fuss
    • wherever we happen to be at the moment

    My experience with that damaged photo taught me to use a simple workaround so I will never lose a JPG file again. Here's what I learned:

    Three Solutions

    The best advice we have today offers three easy solutions to preserving digital images for the future. The one you choose should depend on your time, funds, and personal goals. 

    TIFF is the archival gold-standard. Try to scan heirloom photos and documents in TIFF.

    When you don't have the option of TIFF, don't despair, remember C-A-N:

    C - Convert your JPG to TIFF and save all TIFF files in an Archive Folder.

    Tip: Use the same filename for both JPG and TIFF files. The .tif extension will remind you that this large, loss-less file is your Digital Master Image. If you need to open it for editing, the TIFF version will not degrade when saved.

    When you need a JPG version for email, editing, or another project, you will need to Export or Save As JPG.

    A - Archive a JPG copy of the original file and save this new JPG in an Archive Folder.

    Make it a Rule never to open the Archive JPG unless the original file is damaged or lost.

    Tip: Use a common root filename for both files --

    smith-john_1916_marriage.jpg (for the original file)

    smith-john_1916_marriageDM.jpg (for the Digital Master copy in your Archive Folder)

    N - Use a Nondestructive photo editor.

    Some photo editing programs never modify the original file. You can ALWAYS revert back to the original, even after repeated cropping, touch-ups, and enhancing. Look for this feature in your current program; not all photo editors are non-destructive.

    Popular nondestructive photo editing software includes Google PicasaApple iPhoto, Apple Aperture, and Adobe Lightroom. These programs handle files differently, but the original image is preserved.

    Go Ahead - Create JPG Images

    All this means that you CAN have the convenience of mobile scanning and photography and the security of a digital archive. In fact, mobile devices can help you easily build your own family history digital archive.

    When capturing images on your camera, scanner, or mobile phone, always use the highest quality and move the images to your computer hard drive for file renaming before backing up files to the Cloud and/or an external hard drive. 

    Flip-Pal Summer Sale

    The Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner is the only fully-portable scanner that features a unique, gentle flat-bed operation for digitizing fragile family photos, documents and heirlooms. It's really two scanners in one: a traditional glass flat-bed scanner with flip-down cover and a unique see-thru scanner for digitizing oversize and awkward items.

    The see-thru feature is especially helpful for capturing images from photo albums and bound books. Remove the scanner cover, flip the scanner, and position the device to scan your item.

    Use the C-A-N method to add your image to your family history digital archive.

    Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner bundles are on sale this summer. Get ready for your family reunion and the upcoming holiday season. Save $30 on the Flip-Pal mobile scanner Picture Keeper Bundle! Coupon code: SAS725


    P.S.: I bought my Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner over three years ago and have used it for all kinds of digitizing projects. It's not my only scanner, but it's certainly the most fun to use! Yes, I am an Affiliate; I like it that much!

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    Reader Comments (9)

    Thanks for the great post. Does a photo that is scanned as a JPG and converted to TIFF have as much information (as many pixels) as a native-TIFF?

    August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCathi Desmarais

    Good question, Cathi. It is my understanding that the information is related to scanning resolution (dpi) rather than file format, so the short answer is that a JPG and TIFF each scanned at the same dpi will have the same information. The change occurs, however each time the File is saved. JPG format files will lose some information as the information is compressed on saving; TIFF doesn't compress so there is no data loss.

    A jpg file converted to TIFF does not gain or lose information. Once a JPG is converted to TIFF, the file is stable and will not degrade with multiple Saves. This is a good solution for long term archiving because it protects the file.

    I think I remember that you are a Mac user... If so, you have a great option for non-destructive photo editing with iPhoto.

    August 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterFamily Curator

    That's great to know! I had always assumed that converting a JPG to TIFF wasn't as good as a native TIFF. I will feel more comfortable scanning old photos with my Flip-Pal now. Thanks!

    August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCathi Desmarais

    Me too. I was hesitant about all those JPGs until I figured out some good work-around solutions for archiving the files.

    August 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterFamily Curator

    Thanks for this post, Denise. I had been saving jpeg files to tiff in the hope that I was doing it right. You have explained this all so well.

    August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJill Ball

    What a helpful post, Denise. I use iPhoto, and it's a huge relief to know I'm not jeopardizing the original file every time I edit an image. Would you recommend I still convert older (pre-1940) images to TIFF? In other words, if I use iPhoto, do I still need duplicate files (one JPG, one TIFF) for my heritage photos?

    November 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShelley Bishop

    Thanks, Shelley. About creating TIFF files from JPEGS... you won't gain anything, but you will protect one image from possible degradation. You could also duplicate the JPEG file and move it to a Master Archive folder -- think of it as a TIFF archive image. JPEGs are much smaller so you won't need as much storage space.
    Hope this helps.

    November 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterFamily Curator

    JPEG is a lossy format. This means that anything you put into jpeg will be a BIT different than the original image. It's not normally visible for the naked eye (unless you really crank up the compression ratio) but sure, some quality is lost.
    TIF is lossless, but of course saving a JPEG (lossy format picture) into TIF will not revert the data loss that happened during the JPEG conversion. It will just preserve that quality - no further losses.
    Using TIF images as a "master" copy to derive lower size jpegs is a wise idea.

    March 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEndre

    Thanks, Endre, for stating this so clearly. For most of us, JPEG is just fine but I do appreciate that TIFF "master" when I want to get back to the original. Your comment about using TIF to create smaller size JPEGs is something new to me. I'm all for keeping the file size small and compact, so thank you!

    March 22, 2014 | Registered CommenterFamily Curator

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