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How to Digitize and Share Your Priceless Family Slides, Movie Reels, and Photos

Solving the mystery of  the thousands of slides and fifteen 8 mm movie reels, I rescued from my brother’s basement in 2008, ended up being a long project for me. I sorted through them looking for labels of what slides were there and who was on the movie reels. When were they taken? Where? With the help of Dig My Pics, my HP computer, a new LG super multi DVD rewriter, and a whole lot of perseverance and determination, I finally finished the Meyer Family Collection in DVD format in August, 2010. This was in a format I could use on my computer so I could label them and share them with others, too.  Digitized – in a format I could use on my computer was my goal.  I knew if I got them on my computer, I could make data disks on DVD. I could even make slide shows.

After searching on Google, I checked out three or four sources, then I decided to go with Dig My Pics. It wasn’t the most expensive. It wasn’t the cheapest. However, I thought it would be the best quality and price for me. I searched through Google for companies that would digitize slides. My scanner wasn’t powerful enough. I found several. They also did the 8 mm films.  They put them online so you can choose to delete certain pictures from the set. You could delete some without paying for them. They emailed me when they received the order. They emailed me when they mailed the order by Fed Ex to me. I chose to have them sent back requiring a signature.

You can have Fed Ex pick up your box of slides, movies,  and/or pictures. I discovered that the US Post Office won’t insure pictures for more than the cost of the film and the processing. However, I used priority mail. I trust it because everything I have ever sent by priority mail has gotten to its destination.

If they have questions, Dig My Pics will email you or call you.

Digitize slides. I didn’t have a slide projector or viewer to check out the slides. So I used a flashlight lantern to show the slides. I chose the ones I wanted to digitize that way. Slides generally have a month and year on them. I fixed them all going the same direction. I put rubber bands around them. They wanted the slides in groups of 40.  I had to put some of them in groups of twenty, put rubber bands around them and then put two groups of twenty together. They will put short labels – 1957 Meyer – Ohio.  1977 York – Mollie’s Birth. I used sticky notes. I cut them the same size as the slides, and put the label there.

Another reason, I chose Dig My Pics was because they will sell you a book at a reasonable price with all the slides in it with the groups labeled. Not the individual pictures, just the group titles. They will also format the DVDs so you can watch slide shows using your DVD player. I didn’t do this I wanted each picture in the slide show to be labeled. My advice: spend the money to get the formatting for a slide show.

1. View your slides, using a slide projector or flashlight lantern.

2. Choose the ones you want digitized, put in groups of 40 with post-it notes label for each group. When you get them back, each group’s slides will be in a separate folder with the label you chose.

2. Put in box to mail to the company you choose to digitize your pictures, slides, or 8 mm films.

3. Go online and print out your order form and mailing slip for the company. Put one copy of mailing address inside the box, and put the other on the outside of the box with your return address, too.

4. When you receive your DVDs, copy them to your computer or a portable drive.

5. Look at each slide and label it with year first and then where and who.  If this is the 5th picture of Jane on her birthday, put 5 after her name. Save it.

6. Make a data disk of all the slides, you can group them into years and months, years and place, etc.

7. Make copies of the DVDs. Label each one using permanent marker. Save a master copy of the labeled slides. Save one set for your master copy. Put in safety deposit box or other safe keeping place. Save the DVDs you got from the company that digitizes your slides.

8. Share with family. My plan was to put all the pictures into a video show with their labels showing, but my plan didn’t work. My daughter, Lorrie said, “God must have wanted you to empower us to make our own slide shows with the pictures we wanted.” Very wise thinking. You can do the same.

Digitize  8 mm Movie Reels.

1. Label each reel with sticky note with year, where, and who or put number the reels, #1, #2, #3, etc.

2. Pack in a box. Fill empty space with plastic grocery bags.

3. Go online and print out your order form and mailing slip for the company. Put one copy of mailing address inside the box, and put the other on the outside of the box with your return address, too.

4. When I received the digitized movie reels, I played them on my DVD player. I made notes of what was on Disk 1, Disk 2, Disk 3, Disk 4 with year, where, and who and the occasion, what they were doing.

5. I opened a word document,  took my notes from the movies, wrote out what scenes were in the reels, the year first, where, and who and a clue about what they were doing.  I printed this out and included this with the copies of the DVDs.

6. Make copies of the DVDs. Label each one using permanent marker. Save one set for your master copy. Put in safety deposit box or other safe keeping place.

7. Share with family.

Digitize photos of all sizes and shapes. I haven’t done the pictures yet, for my family. I have thousands of them in different boxes in our house. My plan is to eventually get them done. However, I’m taking a rest from this project for awhile. I did do my husband’s family pictures that he had in a box, there were 1,078 photos of varying sizes.

If you’re ready to digitize your photos, here’s the way most places want you to send pictures:

1. Group all pictures of the same size together. This aggravates me because I want to put them in order of time and place.

If you have them in albums, they will charge extra. Therefore, it’ll take a lot of determination:

2. Take the pictures out of albums.

3. Put a rubber band around 30 pictures of each size, put a sticky note label at front, with year(s), place, and name of people

4. Go to website of company you’re sending your order to, they’ll ask how many photos, which sizes, etc.

5. Mail to company in a suitable box where pictures will not be squashed, bent, or move around.

6. When you get the pictures back, copy the disk onto your computer or portable hard drive.

7. Label each picture with the year, place, and name of people for each picture.

8. Put the pictures back in the album they came from.

9. Now copy all of the labeled pictures to a DVD data disk. Remember to choose a name for your disk. Otherwise they choose a number.

10. Make copies of the DVDs. Label each one using permanent marker. Save one set for your master copy. Put in safety deposit box or other safe keeping place.

11. Give a copy to each of your children or other members of your family. Share with family and friends, as you like.

You’ll need a good DVD rewriter to copy the data (slides with labels, movie reels on DVD, and/or photos).I purchased a new DVD rewriter. I chose an LG Super Multi DVD Rewriter with Lightscribe. You have to purchase special disks for LightScribing (more expensive than regular DVD disks). I decided not to do the LightScribe. I labeled each DVD with a permanent magic marker. I purchased different colored  thin colorful plastic containers to store the DVDs.

If your DVD player only plays DVD+ formatting, then you need to purchase DVD+ disks.  If your DVD player only plays DVD- formatting, then you need to purchase DVD- disks.  My DVD player happens to play both. Computers use both. If you send one to someone in your family, and their DVD player won’t play it, they can copy it to the right DVD disk on their computer, and then play it on their DVD player.

Mail to relatives. If it’s only one disk, you can use a bubble mailer. If it’s seven or eight disks, you can use a Priority Mail Large Video box, and stuff the empty space with plastic bags you used to bring home groceries from the grocery store.

I spent many hours working on this gift. Those who received the Meyer Family Collection of slides and movies I created with the help of Dig My Pics have told me how much they love them. They can uploaded pictures to share on Facebook. They can create their own personal slide shows on Shutterfly picture gallery or other online gallery, or with their own slide show software.  They can even choose to upload the videos to You-Tube.

Children and grandchildren can see their grandmothers, grandfathers, great grandmothers and great grandfathers. In these pictures, they’ll recognize a little of themselves and realize if they could do it, so can I. This is a gift I hope my family can treasure and view for many years to come.

If you have specific questions, feel free to write a comment below, share other resources and similar experiences.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please sign up for an email subscription from the “Sign me up” block from the top of the left hand column. The 50th person to subscribe from the left will receive a free paperback copy of Flip Flap Floodle or a 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer.

Joan Y. Edwards, Author/Illustrator
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Copyright © 2010 Joan Y. Edwards. All rights reserved.


4 Responses

  1. Joan,

    I’m so glad you decided to share this project and the steps with your readers. I imagine lots of people will find this very helpful and it may inspire them to tackle a similar project. You’re amazing! What a treasure for family members.

    Linda A.


    • Dear Linda, Thanks for telling me you thought people might like to see the steps I took. I took your advice and wrote about it. I hope I didn’t make it too complicated. Thanks for saying that I’m amazing. I am bowing humbly.

      Hop right to it

      Write – Draw – Explore – Dream – Research – Check out the lily pads available for you Joan Y. Edwards


  2. *Oh my goodness! an amazing article dude. Thank you However I am experiencing issue with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone getting identical rss problem? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkx


    • I don’t know why you would experience problems with the RSS. Do you have an account set up with You can subscribe by email from the left hand column of my blog. That would be great.
      Do something good to celebrate you today.
      Never Give Up


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