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Picture Perfect

Protect Your Priceless Photos

1. SCAN 'EM

Home scanning of the average photo collection can take up to 100 hours. Hiring a bulk scanning company is more efficient, says photography expert Jeff Sedlik of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Some photo shops offer the service; mail-order companies include ScanDigital (888-333-2808) and ScanMyPhotos International (949-474-7654). Ideally, for safety, have pics scanned in the U.S., not overseas.

2. SIZE 'EM

Prices start at 5 cents per photo; to save a few bucks, scan pics 5-by-7 inches or smaller at 300 ppi (pixels per inch, which refers to resolution). Because a higher resolution doesn't significantly improve image quality for smaller photos, pay for this only if scanning pictures larger than 8 by 10.

3. SEND 'EM

Put photos in sealed plastic bags and then in corrugated cardboard boxes. Transport them in batches, so if one box is damaged or lost, you won't lose everything, says Gary Pageau of the photo-imaging trade association PMA. If shipping, use a trackable service such as UPS, FedEx, or USPS Express Mail.

4. STORE 'EM

Your newly digitized photos saved on CDs or DVDs should arrive in a few days or weeks—depending on your chosen service—along with your original print pictures. Be sure that digital files have been saved to archival CDs or DVDs, which allow images to stand up to long-term storage.

Back Up Images on Your Computer

So you've digitized your print photos and saved them to disk. Now you need to back up digital images stored on your hard drive (or risk having them zapped by a computer virus). Look for systems such as Clickfree Easy Backup Photo DVD or Verbatim's PhotoSave DVD: the disks contain software that locates photo files and saves them to DVD. Clickfree and Verbatim DVDs run $14.99 for a five-pack and $9.99 for a three-pack; each disk holds about 2,000 images. For extra security, store disks at another location, such as in a safe-deposit box.

—Marc Saltzman

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