Photographic Memories

Film canisters

Part 1: The Old Way

1) Purchase a roll of film. (I used to buy 36 exposure rolls.)

2) Load film into camera.

3) Accidentally waste first exposure checking to see if film is loaded properly.

4) Take 35 pictures.

5) Remove film. Set aside.

6) Find film some months later and take it to the drug store for developing.

7) Order double prints – just because it is such a darn good deal, and somebody might need an extra copy.

8) Wait a few days for the pictures to come back, or 1 hour if you have the $$$.

9) Pick up pictures, pay lots of money.

10) Sit in car and look at pictures, and wonder how out of 70 prints, you only like 8 of them.

11) Put best photos in an album, and all additional copies and bad pictures in a shoebox, along with negatives. Leave for 20 years.

12) Make statements that, “One day I will scan all these photos.”  (FYI: You won’t)

Depending on how old you are, you will either think I am just kidding, or you will say, “Yep. He’s exactly right.”

There is a reason I have been thinking about this process lately: My son started his own business that digitizes (scans) photographs for digital use and storage. We finally sorted through some of those proverbial shoeboxes and gave him a couple thousand pictures to scan – and we haven’t even had him start with the actual photo albums.

I told him his company motto should be “Sure, you can scan them yourself – but you won’t.” Because that’s how it has been for me. No way.

He scanned the pictures for us, put them on a thumb drive, and uploaded all of them to a cloud storage site, so we could organize them and name them – and protect them. I figure they represent our family history every bit as much as our written words do.

What has been fascinating is seeing some of these images of long-forgotten events. Seeing how cute and cuddly our kids were, places we’ve lived, places we’ve been. Of course, there are downsides as well – constant reminders that we are not as young as we used to be. Time destroys more than just photographs.

But it has been wonderful reminiscing and clicking through these lost treasures.

Part 2: The New Way

I went digital in 1999, with a Kodak DC220 camera. Yes, that means I stopped using film about 16 years ago. I bought that camera just before our Father & Sons outing, and it was there that I took my very first digital selfie. (Alex and Danny included)

Father Sons 1999

Yes, I was taking selfies back before today’s teenagers were even drooling on their Fisher-Price toy cameras.

Since then, I have collected nearly 10,000 photos in my digital archive. About 30% should be deleted immediately. (My EC probably has another 10K, with 20% that could use a visit to the trash bin.)

The process nowadays is much easier:

1) Point phone or camera and shoot.

2) Keep or delete photo.

3) Repeat, 8 bazillion times, or until your device is full and cries for mercy.

4) Load pictures into computer or to the cloud.

5) Go back years later and wonder how you could have possibly taken so many terrible pictures – and yet decided to keep them.

6) Marvel at how everyone looks so good in the group photos, except for you.

7) Make a declaration that “One day, I will go through and delete some of these.” (You won’t)

The reason I have been thinking about this, is that my EC keeps her computer in the kitchen, where there is a never-ending slide show of our family photos while the computer is sleeping. Sometimes I will find myself sitting in front of the screen for ridiculous amounts of time, as random glimpses of my life, and the lives of my family flash on the screen for a few seconds. It is a happy kind of hypnosis.

I love it.

There is a real beauty in not having to balance the cost of film and developing against which moments you want to capture. As long as the moments don’t slip by because we are too busy capturing them.

I also love being able to have those photos readily useable to print, or post online,  or send. Back when I was buying double prints of my mission photos so my Mom could have a copy, I never would have envisioned sending a digital image to anyone. (By the way, guess who inherited my Mom’s photo album of my mission pictures.  Yep.)

For me, photography is definitely one area where “the good old days” pale in comparison to the “here and now.”


PS:  If any of you are interested in having your photos scanned, shoot me an email and I’ll pass it on to my son, Alex. (You could contact him directly, but then I would lose my leverage.) mmm@middleagedmormonman.com




About the author


  1. Loving refinding this blog again- it’s been a year since I’ve read.. A lot has happened.

    Ps. I work for a company called chatbooks that can print all those photos for you into very inexpensive books! Check us out!

  2. 10,000 photos? Amateur. I haven’t actually counted, but I’m sure I’ve shot well over 100,000.

    And I’ve organized and done something useful with… fewer than that.

    And yeah, I’ve got several hundred rolls worth of prints sitting in boxes to be dealt with at some future time as well.

    Photos are definitely a great part of family history!

  3. Equipment changes; we old folks don’t. Of course, most of our physical photos were destroyed by our second baby, and then our third. You’d think we’d have locked those things in a vault or something.

  4. Hahaha…I always bought the double prints too! And we have the same shoe box full of negatives and pictures, although I think I actually bought a “photo box” at Wal Mart aren’t I cool 😀 I should get your sons business info, we have tons of pictures, lots of Army pics from Germany of my Husband, and pics from the Middle East, and those must be preserved, its his proof that he was incredibly fit during those years. Nice post, you can tell your Grandkids that you were the first to take selfies they might be amazed, or there might be some new awesome technology by then and they’ll say “What’s a selfie Grandpa?” thanks for sharing this, have a beautiful day!

  5. Happy: I actually have been busy the last couple of year scanning all of our old photographs. This became a priority a couple of years ago when my mother crossed the veil. I inherited boxes (and boxes) of scrapbooks, photographs and other memorabilia from the life of my mom, her mom, and her mom! As I started sorting through it, I scanned the material then placed it in a folder to send to my various aunts & uncles. talk about wonderful memories. They all loved the DVDs that I included with all of the scanned material

    Sad: My EC complains that once I download the pictures out of the camera onto my hard drive….they are never seen again.

    Truth: every 6 months or so, I reload the SD card for our digital picture frame with new pictures ensuring that the 1,000+ pictures are a good mix of family history, our childhood a raising our children. If you make sure the file creation dates are aligned, you get to watch out family grow. Way better than the old picture album. And we sit on the couch and sometimes watch it cycle through also.

    Best of all, some of the pictures have been uploaded to Family Search to give faces to names of people that had crossed the veil long before I was born, and other relatives can reconnect….or become connected.

  6. Uhhhhh another thing I my list. I can’t imagine how good it must feel to turn over your stuff and have someone put it one one neat little device. I need to get busy…..As far as printing off pictures from negatives, you will need to contact a photo shop (yes, there are a few around). They will drool when you walk in with more than 5. They are expensive to print.

  7. The screensaver on the computer connected to our TV gets a lot of play time. Wishing I would have gone digital so much sooner.

  8. Tried the email link to get in contact with your son, but it wouldn’t go through. Love the blog!

  9. I tried to get some photos from negatives. Couldn’t do it. If anyone knows where I can do this please comment.

    1. Walmart will still process negatives…..but you won’t get the negatives back, just a CD and the prints

Add your 2¢. (Be nice.)