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Creating a Digital File

From a Paper Original to a Flash Drive Duplicate

flatbed scannerIf your photos and/or documents are not already on your computer, they will have to be placed there prior to placement on your awaiting flash drive.  This can take some time if there are a multitude of documents to copy, but it need not be looked at as a difficult task, which is necessary, but something to be dreaded.  On the contrary, a few simple steps will soon see the job accomplished.

Step 1: Capture the Image

To take your original document or photo and translate it into a digital file, or something that can be stored on your computer, you need to "capture" the document image by using either a

  • Scanner - scan the original
  • Digital camera - take a photo of the original
  • Mobile phone camera - take a photo of the original.

Generally, the use of a flatbed scanner is the best option to choose unless it is not a document with which you are working, but instead an object of some sort of which you wish a record.  Note, though, that many scanners can successfully be used to record the images of small 3D objects.  Coin collections or jewellry would be good examples of that sort of usage.

Step 2: Upload & save on your PC

The next step is to upload the image or images that you have produced with your scanner or camera, and save to a location on your computer that you can easily access.  The creation of a special folder or folders may simplify this task for you.  Whatever the case, remember where you have placed your images so that you will have no difficulty in finding them later.

If using a scanner it is certainly possible to translate original documents into some sort of a word document using the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software that comes with the scanner, but this will require additional "proofing" of the final product and is usually not necessary. Just remember that not using the OCR software means you are recording images of the original, and your computer will recognize it as a picture and not as text.

When scanning pictures it is generally a good idea to select a high resolution, but not too high.  One expert has advised, "Determine the best scan resolution to assure the quality and usefulness of your digital photos. The optimal resolution depends on how the image will be printed, saved, or displayed. A good rule of thumb is to scan your photos at a minimum of 300dpi (Dots Per Inch) to assure decent quality for enhancement and restoration techniques. 600dpi or greater is even better if you plan to eventually store these photos..., and have the space on your computer hard drive to handle such large images short-term."  You will also need to take into account the fact that higher resolutions might also mean much longer scan times.

In most cases the image should be saved as a gif, jpg, jpeg, or perhaps a pdf file.

Step 3: Check the Image quality

You want to make sure that your copy is legible.  After having saved the image, simply open the file to check that you can easily read it, if a document, or view it, if a picture.  If blurred or too lacking in detail, or if you have "cropped" something that should not have been cropped, please discard the file and repeat the process from step one.

This will take an extra moment or two of your time, but it could save all sorts of frustration later on.

Step 4: Copy your files to your flash drive

Plug your flash drive into an available USB port.  Typically, your computer will immediately recognize it as a new drive. If you have not used a flash drive before, you need only realize that you will be treating it as you would an external hard drive, an extra hard drive, or even an old fashioned floppy disk.  Simply take the appropriate files that are now on your computer and load them onto the flash drive in the same manner that you would have used with these other devices.  It is as simple as that.

It is recommended, of course, that you check to make sure that all files have been successfully loaded before concluding that it is a "done deal" and removing the flash drive from its USB port.



If using a camera, the image quality will be improved if the photo is taken in a brightly lit room, and if the original is laid out flat on a dark surface or a black piece of cloth or paper.  Do not use the camera flash.

If using a flat bed scanner and the original is smaller than the standard 8.5 x 11" size, place a white piece of paper on top of it prior to attempting the scan. If scanning a photo you may find that your scanner has special settings for this, and the placement of the paper will not be needed.  When in doubt, consult the manual.

For Further Reading

You might want to check out an excellent article by Chris Cummins: How to Preserve Old Photos Without Losing Your Mind.

To quote Chris: "Feeling overwhelmed with the idea of organizing your family photography? Does the thought of losing all those family memories in a disaster leave you sick to your stomach? Feeling lost because you don’t even know where to begin when it comes to organizing and preserving all those old family photos?

"This guide will help you."

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