Digital Memories
by Clark L. and Kathryn H. Kidd

How to create a digital scrapbook.

This column was written on a momentous day. Not only were we celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary, but we were also enjoying our second day of a week-long Thanksgiving trip. We are spending the next few nights in New Bern, North Carolina-a quaint little village with a lot of charm and a very relaxed feel. It will be the perfect place to relax and catch up on all of those neglected chores, like the writing of this column.

During our quarter-century of married life, we have been blessed to do quite a bit of traveling. One of our goals was to spend at least one night in every state. We are not there yet, but are about 90% complete. We have also had the opportunity to visit several countries outside of the United States.

One thing that has made our travel more memorable is that we have been pretty good about keeping souvenirs and organizing them into scrapbooks. This has turned into something of a semi-annual ritual for us. We gather the souvenirs in large plastic bags and store them away until April and October conference. Because we are fortunate enough to be able to watch General Conference on satellite television, we can sit around in our pajamas and put together our travel scrapbooks as we’re listening to the speakers. Having some mental project to keep your hands busy actually helps to keep you more alert and attentive to the speakers-something that women who do knitting or sewing have undoubtedly known for years.

On occasion we will look through the scrapbooks and allow them to bring back all the fond memories of the places we have visited. The kinds of things we keep and place in the scrapbook include photographs, postcards, airline ticket stubs, hotel and restaurant bills, and matchbook covers. These items provide a visual log of when we traveled, what we saw, and where we ate and slept. They can refresh the memory when we start to talk about a distant trip, and can’t remember all the details about what we did. They are also helpful if we want to revisit a destination, to make sure we go back to some of our favorite spots from an earlier trip.

The creation of scrapbooks, journals and similar records has always been a hallmark of the LDS people. There are some that speculate that much of the health of the scrapbook industry today comes from LDS enthusiasts, or the neighbors of LDS members who have inherited their love for the hobby.

Scrapbooks Have Entered the Digital Age
But what does all this have to do with home computers? Isn’t that supposed to be the topic of this column? Well, in case you haven’t noticed, scrapbooks have entered the digital age. All the work that you used to do with paper, scissors, glue and photo mounts can now be done faster and easier with your trusty home computer. The results may also look more professional than your previous efforts, and can probably be done in less time.

The first step is to get your photographs in some kind of digital format, so that they can be manipulated and stored on your computer. For existing photographs, a scanner is the solution. A flatbed scanner is usually the best, although a hand-held wand scanner will work if you are on a budget. If you only have a limited number of photographs to digitize, there are photo services that will scan either your prints or your negatives and return you the digital files.

For new photographs, most of the larger processing labs give you the option of producing prints and/or digital copies of your pictures. For the digital option, you can get your files on floppy diskettes, CDs, or via the Internet.

But for those who are serious about digital photography, the answer has to be a digital camera. These have all the features of regular cameras, but record their images on memory cards, diskettes, or even CDs. The cameras that use memory cards will also provide connecting cables and software so that you can upload the pictures onto your computer’s hard drive. You can also purchase additional memory cards for those long trips where you will take a lot of pictures before getting back to your computer.

We purchased our first digital camera about three years ago. We didn’t know how much we would use it, because it was a basic camera and had none of the features of the professional photo equipment we had used previously. But since then, our expensive cameras and lenses have collected dust while our cheap little digital camera has been our constant companion on all our travels.

Some Advantages of Digital
Once you have experienced digital photography, there are just too many advantages that you don’t want to lose by going back to the old way of taking pictures. You can instantly preview your pictures, so that you can erase the ones that didn’t work and then shoot them again using different options. Once you get home, you can instantly transfer your work to your computer where it can be edited and then printed or uploaded to the Internet so that family and friends all over the world can see your images within minutes of their being captured by your camera. You don’t need to waste the time and money waiting for a lab to process your pictures, all the time hoping that they won’t destroy or lose your precious film.

We have all seen those television programs where a computer expert will manipulate a photograph so that you can read a license plate on a car a mile away, or recognize an individual face in a crowded stadium. Although these extreme examples are laughable, most of the techniques they use are available today using common editing tools for digital images. You can crop or rotate images, sharpen them, increase or decrease the brightness level and change the color balance. You can remove or alter distracting backgrounds, or create entirely new photos by piecing together portions of other photos. We have all seen those innovative movies and commercials where the images of long-dead celebrities have been juxtaposed into more contemporary settings. Such techniques are really not that far fetched for anyone with a home computer and some editing software. The old saying, “a photograph doesn’t lie” is unfortunately no longer true.

Many of your digital photographs will probably never be printed. You will upload them to web sites, or view them only on your computer screen. Much like the families of thirty years ago used to gather around the slide projector and the portable screen, today’s families may gather around the home computer and enjoy some fresh popcorn while viewing a “slide show” of digital images. Or they may use treasured vacation snapshots as screen savers that will serve as constant reminders of happy times.

But you will want to print some of your images, and you need to know your options. Once again, if you don’t print that many pictures, the larger photo processing labs will accept your digital files and turn them into prints that can be mailed back to you. Some makers of digital cameras also make digital photo printers designed to work with their cameras. These will usually connect either to your computer or to the camera directly. You can also achieve excellent results using your own color printer if you print on photo quality paper and use the printer settings designed for that paper. It may take you 15 minutes to print a photo, but the result should rival anything you will get back from a processing lab. We have been amazed at the high quality results you can get from a moderately priced (under $300) color ink jet printer using these techniques.

Now that you have a better understanding of the tools and techniques, let’s get back to the issue of scrapbooks. Using digital techniques, your scrapbooks will have the same basic look, although they should look more professional. The difference will be that you will compose each page on the computer, rather than piecing it together with scissors, glue, and photo mounts. Publishing software will allow you to build pages that contain text, borders, graphics, and digital images. You can use different type fonts and alter their sizes, alignment and color. You have complete latitude in terms of how you compose each page, and what you include on it. Once you are satisfied with the pages, it is simply a matter of printing them out and putting them into the scrapbook.

We are still not to the point where our scrapbooks are 100% digital. We could scan in the postcards, but it just seems better to have the originals mounted on the pages. We think we would also lose some of the charm if we digitized such things as ticket stubs. But allowing the computer to do the majority of the composing work has certainly improved the look of our recent scrapbooks. The creative joy of composing each page is as great whether you are using a glue stick or a mouse.

We use a publishing program called Print Artist that has been around for a long time. There are probably others that are as good or better, but Print Artist is ridiculously inexpensive, easy to use, and it works for us. You can use it (or any publishing program) to create signs, banners, business cards, certificates, brochures, greeting cards, invitations, stationary, labels, and many other items. Most of these programs come complete with hundreds of templates that you can modify just slightly to meet your own needs. When we recently bought a package of Kodak photo quality paper, the package also included some free software that can be used for managing a digital photo library and assembling and printing the images in a number of different formats. Although not as powerful as Print Artist, we were impressed by the capabilities of this free program.

We started this column talking about our anniversary. As part of our celebration, we had a little dinner party and invited a group of friends. We created the invitations ourselves, including a recent photograph and one taken shortly before we were married. We received many compliments concerning the invitation, but we didn’t tell anyone how easy those invitations had been to make. Digital technology and publishing software can turn anyone into a creative genius, and can usually do it before lunch.

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