July 4, 2016

The Lightroom/SmugMug Super Combo

I've been working hard on getting my image library into pristine condition since switching from Apple's Aperture to Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop a while back (see previous posts). This last winter I did a bunch of research on backing up my ever-growing and precious bank of images, and man, there so many options. Hard drives? RAID array? Cloud? Discs? Well, no, not discs - that's so old school!

Hard drives are certainly getting affordable - 2 TB models are a sweet spot at around $100 or less. But they can fail. So I knew something online would be best. I settled on using my long-time SmugMug account (alwpics.com), since I already pay for a subscription to keep the site alive as a showpiece. Since they offer unlimited cloud storage and use an iron-clad backup process, I reasoned that SmugMug just makes sense.

So I set up the excellent Lightroom plug-in from SmugMug, started creating Smart Galleries to capture keywording, and developed a relatively simple process to store all my photos on the site, not just the ones I considered worth sharing (I can make folders, galleries or images private).

So now I have a great process. I store all my images on my iMac, back them all up to a small external hard drive, and back them up to my SmugMug site, all with Lightroom as the primary tool. It's great, generally simple, and even fun. And I can access my site on all my devices, from my Kindle Fire, Android phone, or even the kids' iPads. Great combo, and what nice age to be living in!

Oh and on these posts about digitizing my old "analog" photo albums - 1991 is done, 1992 is in progress and 1993-2002 are still in queue. Many more hours of that to come!

February 27, 2016

Digitizing Old Images

I'm finally started!
After a few attempts, I settled on a method to digitize our many old images, most of them from prints, and now the first album is done (about a dozen to go).
The Setup
It's really low tech. In my basement studio I'm using a table, 60w incandescent clamp light at a 45 degree angle, and a piece of 11x17 low glare picture framing glass I found in one of my old art frames.
I used Scotch Blue tape to border the edges of the glass, and made a small rectangle on the table to easily place photos in the same spot. In this image, a photo is laying on the tape spot. Using my Canon G15's live view, I fine tune the placement and gently lower the glass onto the photo. Then I make sure the camera is still (bumping the tripod causes vibrations so I wait 3-5 seconds) and snap the picture with the remote cable release.

Now the things are set up this way, I'll spend an hour or two a few evenings a week to work through our other albums.

Why not scan or some other way? I tried scanning on my flatbed and didn't like the images - contrast was extreme, among other things. This method allows me to adjust white balance in-camera, and by shooting RAW, I get large files that I can adjust in Lightroom. Many of our negatives are lost, so this is the best way I think I've found to digitizing from prints, besides expensive professional scanning.

How do they look?
On screen, just like the prints! The ones I'm doing now are from 1991-1993 and were shot with really inexpensive cameras (one was a 126, for those who remember!). Here's an image from summer of 1992 of my dad, with only a few exposure, contrast, color and clarity adjustments (no noise or other cleanup done yet):
And now to do about 10 more years' worth of albums, including our wedding and honeymoon in 1994. Looking forward to permanently preserving these priceless images!

January 31, 2016


Many hours of work are behind me as I close in on the finish line. Of the 17,000 images I've been sorting, some 3,300 dupes and out-takes are gone, leaving the pristine collection at 13,264 images. Of those, 10,065 are family pictures and 2,659 are personal (all the nature, travel and other stuff). These are just the images taken since January of 2003, when I switched to digital.

Next, after I load the remaining 5,000 images or so onto alwpics.com to back them up, I'll start digitizing the images from my film days, going back to around 1991. I have no idea how many there are, but guess around 5,000 or so. Many are slides, so digitizing will be an interesting endeavor, to be sure.

Lightroom is turning out to be a great tool. I like the clean and efficient way it links to my web site, making it easy to manage the folders and images there right from the application. I resisted switching from Aperture for some time but can say now I'm even more glad I did!

January 9, 2016

Major Site Refresh Underway!

Now that the holidays are over and I have Lightroom set up, it's time to dust off the galleries and clean up Alwpics.com. I'm fast at work with Nature and other galleries. If you browse through, you'll notice a simpler layout (e.g. Nature will have just four galleries, one for each season) and lots more images. New galleries will also appear for special subjects, like trips, interesting things, and animals.

For family, I tend toward privacy and password protect most images. For you family members, I'll share more as I take down old galleries and add more over time. It'll be really big - I'm going to be setting up the site to be my permanent online backup, so most of the 14,000+ family images will end up there.

More to come as I make progress!