A CD-ROM Photo Album

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My wife's grandparents both passed away a little while ago, and in going through their things we discovered a treasure trove of old photographs, including one particularly old photo album with pictures from the early days of this century through the '30s. The album and the photos in it were quite fragile, and many of the photos were washed out or had blemishes on them.

So I set about a project that would make the images more attractive, protect the fragility of the original album, and create a holiday present that would double as a wonderful keepsake for all the family members. The end result was a CD-ROM (one that works on both Macs and PCs) that featured a slide-show containing all the photos that were in the original album.

Once you've mastered the technique I describe here, you'll find it can be adapted for any number of uses. Just a few months back, my sister-in-law got married, and present for the occasion were two digital cameras. The result was a nice wedding gift for the new couple: a CD-ROM album of their wedding day based on the photos taken on those two digital cameras, and a companion Web site for those who missed the big day but wanted to see what it was like.

The first step was to scan in all the photos in the album, which took some time and quite a bit of hard-drive space. Then I used Photoshop to adjust the brightness and contrast of the images, giving them a less washed-out appearance (and making them seem much more modern and much less like a relic of a forgotten time). I also used Photoshop's rubber-stamp tool to eliminate scratches and other blemishes from the old photos.

After editing those photos, I made sure they were small enough to fit on a screen -- I limited the maximum image size to roughly 600 pixels by 450 pixels, so that they would fit even on small computer screens. (Important note: your monitor isn't as advanced as your eyes. Be sure to keep your original photographs in a safe place--a 600 by 450 pixel computer image only offers a fraction of the quality of the original. It's good enough for a project such as this, but you should keep the originals around for future generations with more advanced technology.)

With that done, I saved the images in JPEG format, the image format that's best suited to displayed photographs on the Web. I chose JPEG because I decided on creating my project using Web images and Web pages because those formats can be viewed on most of today's computer systems and are likely to be still be viewable years from now on computer systems we haven't conceived of yet. Another benefit: it's just as easy to post the results of your work to a Web site as it is to make a CD-ROM; most of the time, I end up doing both--making a CD-ROM for a limited group of people, and letting any other interested parties visit the Web site.

Since my primary destination for these photos was CD-ROM, I chose to save the JPEG images at the highest possible image-quality setting--which results in large image files. If I were making an alternate version for the Web, I'd save a separate version of each image in a different folder, with a lower JPEG image-quality setting. Those images would be smaller and would transfer faster across the Web. I gave each file a name preceded by a number, such as "01-first shot.jpg" and "19-closeup.jpg", so that when viewed alphabetically, my slide-show files are in their correct order.

After getting all my JPEG files in one folder, I wrote an AppleScript application that takes a folder filled with images and generates an HTML page for each image, with hyperlinks to the images that precede it and follow it in the slide-show. (We've placed a version of this script, the Slide-Show Page Creator, here at Macworld.com for you to download and use yourself.) After creating a first page that introduces the slide show (also available from our site ) and links to the first image of my slideshow, I had a complete set of Web pages with the contents of the original, paper-bound photo album.

Then it was time to burn the CD-ROM. I used Adaptec's Toast application, and burned a CD-ROM that was in ISO 9660 format, a CD-ROM format that works on both Macs and Windows PCs. Because I knew some of the people who were going to receive the CD-ROM use PCs, I was careful to select this format and make sure all my files had three-letter file extensions--.htm instead of .html, and .jpg instead of .jpeg--to make them more compatible with Windows. Finally, since just about every computer around either has a Web browser or can get one, I didn't need to include any special software on the CD-ROM. (I also posted a version of the slide-show (with more highly-compressed JPEG images) to a Web site, where people who didn't end up with a copy of the CD-ROM could still see the photos.

My last steps were cosmetic: I printed out one of the photos of my wife's grandparents as a young married couple onto CD labels from Neato on an Inkjet printer, and printed the cover image of the original photo album to use as the cover art of the CD-ROM's jewel box. The end result was a cross-platform photo album that won't yellow with age and will protect these particular family memories for a long time to come.

Macworld.com Editor JASON SNELL's project was one of those described in " Crafty Creations," a story in the December 1999 issue of Macworld.

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