Finding the Good Photographs


Hand painted photograph. Dad, Singapore, 1947

The biggest hurdle in sorting the stash of old photographs was just getting started but I determined to do it efficiently.  My aim was to quickly reject as many unnecessary photographs as possible and get to a much smaller pile of keepers. Once there I could figure out how, in the circumstances, to preserve and present them in a meaningful way. This is part two (Part one is here)

The photograph below, taken in 1927, was easier to digitise than more recent coloured prints that had faded quite badly. I’m cool with the imperfections and made no attempt to clean up this digital copy. To me the blemishes are akin to wrinkles in old people! (More on digitising in following posts).


I gathered 3 boxes and labelled them:

  1. Not needed
  2. Keepers
  3. Others

And then started to systematically work through the collection of old photographs.

Round one – done at a speedy pace and without much agonising.

Photographs that went immediately into a NOT NEEDED box were:

  • Out of focus – the ones that made me question if I needed new glasses.                            
  • Any that were so faded that they would not be easy to reproduce.                                    
  • Duplicates.                                                                                                                                      
  • Similar ones – taken with enthusiasm, but seriously, we only need one image to remind us we stood under the big baobab tree.
  • Those with a tiny dot in the background – “it could have been an elephant or was it a mouse? Might have been taken in Africa but perhaps it was in the allotment behind us?” … yawn.
  • Those with aunt Agnes – “no it’s Uncle Fred … let me think about it … actually I don’t know … probably a stranger.”
  • Those that had been feasted on by silver fish and other insects.
  • The unflattering variety: ‘the fork full of food just about to reach the gargantuan orifice’, kind of ones, or the really, really ‘bad hair day’ kind … unless they are worth keeping for the hysterical laugh factor.


Round two – done at a reasonable pace, without too much thought as to the content.

Of the ones that did not go into the not needed box. Sorted into two boxes: KEEPERS and OTHERS

The KEEPERS must meet the following criteria:

  • Be in good condition
  • Have meaningful content
  • Be sharply focussed
  • Able to be digitally reproduced e.g. colour not too faded, clear detail

The OTHERS were those left over – not terrible, not excellent but may be needed down the track.

Next post:  Getting more strategic with the KEEPERS box and dealing with some of those ‘dilemma’ images.


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