Preserving Precious Family Photos with the Epson FastFoto Scanner
My sister-in-law, Camille Ridd Elder, is sharing today about the wonderful Epson FastFoto Scanner. At RootsTech 2019, I met Jack Rieger, product manager at Epson, who told me all about the Epson FastFoto Scanner. Watch the Facebook live video here: RootsTech 2019 FastFoto Scanner Interview. Epson gave us a loaner unit of the FastFoto to try out and share on our blog! Camille scanned all our Elder (and Ridd) family photos and shares her experience here.
In the last few decades our media uses have changed enormously. I’m only 22, and I still remember VHS and cassettes! Now I grab a 4 inch box and can access pretty much any music or video known to man. Because of the internet, our media use has lost some of its intimate and personal nature, but we are also able to share media, data, and records in ways our ancestors could have only dreamed!
One of my favorite things about media development is the ability we now have to share pictures over the internet. We can use email, a blog, DropBox, Google Photos or any number of other services available, and suddenly all of our family can access our most important memories and experiences in an instant, regardless of where they are in the world. However, I ran into a problem when I wanted to look back on memories that occured before this digital era. My parents were very good at taking pictures, having them developed or printed, and storing them away safely in photo boxes. My mother-in-law did the same, except hers were a little more accessible as they were in albums. But then what? I found that even though we had the memories of my husband’s and my own childhood, they were either in a box in a closet 750 miles away, or in an album that was viewed infrequently. I wanted to be able to take the best and most memorable photos to make them accessible to my family. I’ve been making fun books through sites like Shutterfly with our recent pictures and thought it would be so fun to be able to make similar books with my fun childhood memories as well! At the very least, it’s been fun to be able to compare pictures of my husband and I growing up with my son as he changes so rapidly in his infant years. With traditional scanners attached to home printers, these thousands of pictures would have taken months, if not years to scan. Another option was to pay a couple thousand dollars to a professional company and have them do it for me. It was overwhelming to say the least.
Then I found out that Brigham Young University’s Family History Library had an EPSON FastFoto FF-680W. It is accessible to anyone (with reservation at http://schedulefamhist.lib.byu.edu/; they also accept walk-ins, but one may have to wait up to four hours if another patron is using the scanner). Other libraries may have similar services available. I visited the library a couple times for an hour or so, scanning about a thousand pictures each time! However, it was a lot of work to find a babysitter and haul that many photos to the library and back.
Then, my sister-in-law Nicole received a loaner unit of the FastFoto to try out before RootsTech. She gave it to me so I could scan all our family photos and write all about the experience for this blog.
It was much less stressful to scan from home during my baby’s naps or after bedtime. I just had to put the little guy in bed and get to work. No babysitters, no driving to the library, no walking from the car with heavy boxes of pictures. Instead, I set up a temporary work station on my kitchen table and with the scanner, my laptop, and my hard drive. I am not very comfortable with technology, so I was surprised by how easily I was able to download the software and get going! There were step by step instructions right at the top of the box and before I knew it, I was ready to scan. It took a little bit to figure out the best way to organize my photos to maximize my productivity, but using the scanner itself was never an issue.
Edit 8/21/2020: Since the date of this post, EPSON has reached out to me to clarify something. In the original post I shared that I didn’t worry about putting photos the ‘right way’ and I didn’t have a problem. While this didn’t result in an issue for me, because the FastFoto scans both sides of the picture simultaneously, EPSON recommends placing photos face-up, top edge first. They say “in order to guarantee that the pictures are preserved All FastFoto FF-680W photos should be scanned with the top side facing up, as shown in the image below and on page 24-28 of the User Guide. By inserting them this way, the drive rollers do not come into contact with the top of the photo to protect originals.” Somehow I didn’t quite capture a picture of the best way to scan, but it’s like Figure 1 except upside down.
I did find that the process goes more smoothly if the photos were placed in the direction they recommend– that way not as many photos need to be rotated once they are processed on your computer.
The scanner does try to eat up scrapbooked pages like in Figure 3, so EPSON came up with this nifty page protector! Once again, it scans both sides and saves them as a whole page, so I didn’t need to un-tape or un-glue dozens of scrapbooked pages, which was very nice. If you want to save the photos without the background, it just takes a couple extra steps. After they are scanned, you can duplicate the file and crop each one. But it’s fun to see all the fun scrapbooking work too! When it comes to scrapbooked pages, there is another downside: the standard 12 by 12 inch pages don’t fit in this scanner. But any 8 ½ by 11 inch pages and smaller photos and documents do!
Whatever the positioning of photos, the scanning process is really simple. First you open the Epson FastFoto application (the instructions that come with the scanner show you how to get the application on your computer). Once open, you should see a screen like Figure 4, but without pictures.
If you click the blue ‘Start Scanning’ button in the top left corner, it takes you to a screen like the photo below which allows you to name your files. By typing in the year and month or season, it will come up with a name for every file in this scanning group. For example, if you typed 1989 and then December, the files would be named 1989_December_0001_a and so on. The a and b at the end of the files are to differentiate between the front and back if applicable, and each photo has its own number (0001, 0002, etc.) which is convenient if you have notes written on the back of a picture: it is easy to tell which photo goes with a given note, because they are saved right next to each other. The scanner did not save any blank backs, so I didn’t always have to worry about looking through each batch, but it was nice to not have to manually scan both sides when there were important notes! If the notes were sentimental, I kept them. If they just had marks from the printing of the photo and didn’t give any extra information, I deleted them.
After creating the month and year you can decide if you want the pictures to go into a subfolder or not. This just depends on your organizational preferences. Then it’s time to start scanning! I usually scanned about 30 pictures at a time as I found this most efficient for the way my photos were organized. However, whenever I did put more or less in, the scanner didn’t seem to have any problem with it.
After the scans are processed, a screen will pop up that allows you to scan another batch or be ‘done’. If you press scan next batch, the next group will have the same month and year labels. If you are done, it will allow you to view the photos like in figure 4.
Over the course of 2 months I scanned more than 3,800 Elder family photos and more than 10,000 Ridd family photos! I don’t know how I would have done it without Epson’s FastFoto. It is such a blessing to have more access to our family’s past.
Thank you Camille, for sharing your process! To purchase an Epson FastFoto FF-680W, go to Amazon here. As of today, they cost $499.99.This is an affiliate link. If you click the link and make a purchase, we receive a commission, but it doesn’t change the price of the item. Thank you for your support!