New life for old photos

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Step 6: Add copies to iPhoto

Once the Automator workflow has run and you have your JPEGs, you can drag them into iPhoto to organize them. By default, iPhoto will copy the files into its own file structure. (iPhoto ’06 lets you avoid copying your digital images into its managed library; you can instead point iPhoto to a folder elsewhere on your drive. However, this feature introduces a new set of complications. I recommend sticking with the managed-library approach.)

You can now remove the original images from your Mac’s hard drive, knowing that they are safe and sound on backup drives and discs. And be sure to maintain the same file-naming conventions for your JPEGs that you used for your masters. That way, you’ll be able to match up the versions later if necessary.

Step 7: Add image details

Digital cameras embed important details such as the photo’s date and camera setting within a file, but scanners don’t know anything about your original image. If you want to take advantage of search tools, you’ll need to supply this information yourself by adding keywords and captions.

Add Vital Data Details such as when and where the shot was taken, who the subjects were, and what was happening at the time will be valuable as the years go by. One of the easiest ways to add this type of data is with iPhoto’s Information panel. To display this panel (if it’s not already visible), select an image and then click on the Show Information button at the bottom of the Source column. From here you can change the date to reflect when the photo was taken, supply a rating (to quickly weed out the good from the bad), and add a useful caption in the Comments field (you can also use caption data as a search tool). If your cursor is in one of the Information panel’s text fields, you can quickly jump to the same field for the next image by pressing Command-right bracket (]). Pressing Command-left bracket ([) moves you to the previous image.

Add Keywords Keywords give you another way to retrieve your images from within your iPhoto library. For example, I add the keyword Scan to all my scanned images. Later, I can simply click on the Scan keyword to see just the images that were part of my archival project.

To add keywords, select an image in your library (or Command-click to select multiple images), then go to Photos: Get Info. Click on the Keywords tab, and then click on the box next to keywords you want associated with your pictures. If the keyword you want to use isn’t already listed, you can add it by opening iPhoto’s Keywords preference pane. Click on the plus-sign (+) button, and then type the word you want to add. Your additions will immediately appear in the Keywords tab of the Get Info box.

To use keywords to search for photos, click on the Find Photo By Keyword button (represented by a key icon) below the Source column, and then select the keyword you want to use in the search. iPhoto displays only those images that include the highlighted keyword. To further narrow your search, click on additional keywords.

Just the beginning

Once you have your prints and negatives scanned, cataloged, and labeled, you can work with them as you would any digital photos. And with a photographic history that goes back past 2001, you can create photo projects that tell a larger story. For example, you can create a slide show of old family photos for a reunion, or a book with one page for each year of your daughter’s life. Best of all, you’ll have preserved some of your family’s most precious documents and mementos from the ravages of time. l

[ Derrick Story is the editor of O’Reilly’s Photography by Peter Belanger. ]

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