School of Hard Knocks – Creating a 90th Birthday Celebration Book

Old Photos

School of Hard Knocks – Creating a 90th Birthday Celebration Book

I just finished a project to celebrate my husband’s aunt’s 90th birthday. I’ll call her “A” in this post. My objective was to gather as many photos as I could of her eventful life for the purpose of creating a digital photo book. Though never married, and always having lived in the same city, “A” has had a full life – full of friends, family and fun vacations.

Flip Pal Mobile ScannerI spent an entire day scanning as many pictures as I could, using my portable Flip-pal Scanner ( I also took some albums home. These were the old-style albums with the black pages and corners held down the photos. These albums were literally falling apart. “A” said she did not care to have these albums back.

Once home, I transferred the photos from the SD card of the Flip-pal Scanner to my laptop, erasing the SD card. I returned to my laptop after a week’s vacation. It did not turn on!! I tried everything. I finally had to erase everything on it, reinstall the operating system and restore from a backup. Needless to say, I lost all the pictures I scanned that day at her house!

Lesson 1: Always Backup!

Resolving to move forward with what I had, I scanned around 1500 pictures from the albums. The only pictures I scanned were the ones with people. I did not scan the numerous pictures of giraffes at various zoos, landscapes, etc. I used my Epson FastFoto FF-640 ( to quickly scan the fronts and backs of the photos. I also let the FF-640 create enhanced scans so I could decide whether to keep the original or the enhanced photo. I typically opted for the original, and used Photoshop Elements to enhance the photos.

Lesson 2: Be very picky about the pictures to scan! Sort out the blurry and dark pictures. Sort out any picture which will not reproduce well.

There were around 70 pictures which could not be scanned by the FF-640. I scanned these using my flat-bed scanner – an Epson V800.

Egypt“A” also gave me two VHS cassettes which contained scanned slides of various vacations from 1959 to 1973. I’m sure they were scanned using the best technology available in the mid 1970’s. But these slides were very blurry. I captured around 65 of these, because they included such gems as “A” on a camel with the Sphinx behind her, in 1964.

Lesson 3: Review your storage medium every five years, or so, to be sure your memories have been preserved properly.

I curated these pictures down to around 250 that I would consider putting in the book. I uploaded 155 pictures to Shutterfly (, and ended up using about 110 of these pictures.

Because I had big time gaps in the photos I had collected, and because I do not know “A’s” friends and extended family, I opted to create the photo book more by theme than by chronology. For instance, I had several pictures of “A” and her cousins over time – pictures of “A” at around 6 years old, in her 30’s or 40’s, and in old age. I placed these pictures together on one page.

Using the theme-over-time concept, I created pages for life-long friends, work, parties, international travel, domestic travel, and extended family, to name some.

Lesson 4: Work with what you have and allow yourself the freedom to try new approaches.

If you think that you are in need of personal photo organizing or have a project in mind, please view my pricing and request a quote.

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