Click Here to Receive New Posts
in Your Inbox

This form does not yet contain any fields.

    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.

    Now Available

    Follow Me

    Entries in scanner (2)


    Microfilm to Megapixels: Use a Digital Camera as a Film Scanner

    The line to use the microfilm scanning machines at the Family History Library is longer than the line for the Women's Restroom at the Superbowl. Microfilm is cool. Digital copies of microfilm is way cool. But, it's RootsTech week and the Family History Library is packed with eager researchers. What to do?

    I was recently in Salt Lake City for ten days with the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), the Association of Professional Genealogy Professional Management Conference (APG PMC), and a bit of personal research. It was a perfect time to beta-test a new digitizing workflow.

    My equipment included the Samsung WB250F Wi Fi Digital Camera, the Joby Gorillapod with camera mount, and my iPhone 4S. And a pad and pencil for notes.

    My goal: to find a fast, efficient method to digitize microfilm images. 

    Camera vs. Film Scanner?

    Yes, the FHL microfilm scanners produce clear, crisp images at no cost to the user. But, sometimes -- like during busy conference weeks -- there can be a waiting line for time on the machines.

    And, yes, smartphone and tablet cameras with scanning apps can do a good job digitizing any image. But, I wondered if there was a method that might be faster, yield sharp images, and be easy to use.

    The Samsung WF250F is advertised as a compact 14 megapixel digital camera that performs especially well in low-light conditions. But, for me, it's standout feature is WiFi connectivity making it possible to use a smartphone as a remote shutter release. 

    I attached the camera to my Joby Gorillapod using a universal smartphone mount, and wrapped the legs of the Gorillapod around the film ledge of the microfilm reader. The camera was suspended above the image table.


    This photo shows the camera suspended above the image viewing table
    with my iPhone acting as a Remote Shutter Release. The
    smartphone shows the same view as the camera viewfinder.


    Next, I activated the WifFi link on the camera, connected to my iPhone and . . . the image viewed by the camera lens was now shown on my iPhone. The iPhone app allowed me to zoom in for the picture, adjust focus, and remotely activate the shutter. This was the most important feature. 

    The resulting photo was clear and readable. Certainly acceptable for reading, transcribing, and extracting information.


    Here is the image taken with the Samsung/WiFi setup. My iPhone is in the foreground.
    The image is certainly clear enough to be used on my computer for reading and
    transcribing. Click on the image for a full-size version

    But, was it "as good as" the microfilm scanner? No. But using the camera at the microfilm reader was undoubtedly faster than unloading the film, going over to the microfilm scanner, reloading, and scanning images. 

    When Time is Limited

    My average digitizing time was about thirty images in ten minutes, or three photos per minute. With one hand on the microfilm handle to forward the film, and one hand holding my phone with my thumb ready to hit the Shutter button, I was able to quickly film the entire index to a Vermont Land Record book. The images are definitely clear enough to be read and transcribed.

    I may not use this method for all digitizing, but when the library is busy or I need to make many images from the same film, a WiFi camera is a cool tool for the digitizing toolkit.



    This Holiday Season, Use your Flip-Pal Like An Archivist

    Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, do you know where your family photos are? Will you be visiting friends and relatives, and hoping to work in a bit of family history sleuthing between the drumstick and the pumpkin pie?

    Most family historians have experienced the frustrating situation where a relative shows us a photo or document, but is reluctant to let the item out of their hands to be scanned or photocopied. A digital camera can do a good job in these situations, but a scanned image will be even better. The battery-operated Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner is an ideal travel buddy for holiday get-togethers.


    If you plan to pack your Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner along with your potluck dish, plan ahead  with a few tips that will turn your heirloom scanning into archival quality images.

    Mobile scanners like the Flip-Pal and wand-type scanners can give great results, but you will need to do a few follow-up tasks to turn your image scans into archival copies.

    Before You Go

    1. Take extra batteries and memory card.
    2. Bring a microfiber cloth to clean the glass scanning bed.
    3. Purchase a pack of 4 x 6 -inch index cards and/or the Flip-Pal Sketch Kit to use in identifying people, events, and places.

    As You Scan

    1. Organize the photos by size or event. It will be easier to work with them at home if the images are in meaningful groups for cropping and file naming.
    2. Use the highest setting, 600 dpi, for photos; use 300 dpi for documents.
    3. Use the index cards or or the Flip Pal Sketch Kit to write captions or identifying information. Write along one side of the card, place it in the margin next to your photo, and scan image and information together. Or, Use the transparent sheet in the Flip-Pal Sketch Kit to identify people without writing on the photo itself.
    4. Use the cards or sketch kit to create an Index Image that indicates a new series: Uncle's Joe's army pix, 1942-43; Stella's Wedding, 1 Jan 1952.

    After You Scan 

    1. Transfer images to your computer, using the included software to stitch together any oversize images.
    2. Import images to your photo organization software. Use batch renaming when available to give your images meaningful filenames, for example: brown-arline_1915_wedding
    3. Create an archival format TIFF copy of all images and store on an external hard drive. Photo editing software uses different commands to convert files; look for Convert, Export, or Save As commands that allow files to be converted and saved. Select TIFF format and direct the file to be stored in a separate folder.
    4. Use a copy of the TIFF image file for extensive photo restoration work; use the JPG files for sharing via email, photo books, and web.

    JPG vs. TIFF File Format

    The Flip-Pal scans images in JPG format, a popular and widely-used image format. JPG is useful because the file sizes are not too large; however, it's also a "lossy" format, so called because the the file is compressed and loses quality and information when it is edited and  saved. To avoid this problem, museums and archives use the "loss-less" TIFF format for preservation copies, although the file size will be much larger than a JPG version.

    I convert JPG images to TIFF and store these large files on an external hard drive to create Archive Preservation copies of my images.

    Special Offer

    For a short time, Family Tree Magazine is offering a free copy of my Scanning Secrets video class with the purchase of a Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner. The Flip-Pal makes it easy to scan photos and documents when you're on the go, and the tips in Scanning Secrets will help you transform standard scans into long-term preservation copies.

    Scanning Secrets video class is regularly priced at $29.99 and includes ideas to help you

    • Select the best settings for your desktop scanner
    • Use a scanning workflow to streamline projects 
    • Set up a scanning station
    • Choose the right scan resolution 
    • Use adjustments for color restoration and descreening
    • Tips for faster, easier scanning

    Use THIS LINK and the offer code SFTFLIPPAL to receive the Scanning Secrets Video free with your purchase of any Flip Pal mobile scanner. Special offer valid through November 7, 2012, cannot be combined with other offers. Flip Pal mobile scanner must be purchased with code SFTFLIPPAL in order for offer to be valid. 

    Find us on Google+