Monday, March 18, 2019

From Photo CDs to Family Hands

If you're lucky, a family member has one or two or, say, two dozen photo CDs. You know, the kind you got in the "old" days when you brought photographic film into the local store to be developed and pick up prints, along with a CD of the images, digitally ready for viewing. The old CDs actually had software that ran the photos as a show.

That was then. This is now: Who has a CD reader built into a PC or Mac any more? Time to retrieve those digital photos before the CDs are unreadable.

Old Digital Images Meet New Technology

Happily for me, Sis has saved all these old photo CDs from the turn of the century up through 2010 or so, when she ditched her film camera for digital.

So rather than having to scan snapshots, I took each CD and put it in my external CD drive, hooked up to my Mac. Copied each one, which takes less than 90 seconds, and named it according to what I saw on the images.

You know what else is great about these CDs? Don't need no stinkin' negatives when I have high-quality images directly from the developer!

Name and Date That File! 

Each image on each CD has a number and date attached by the developer (see at right for one example).

So as I cleaned images up, I added the month and year to each new image name.

Admittedly, not every photo is worth cleaning up and saving. In fact, I usually cleaned up only 6 or so out of 24 (or 36) images on a CD. I didn't delete any of the other images! I just opened and fixed the few photos from each CD that showed recognizable people, or something else meaningful.

I cropped, lightened or darkened, straightened, and otherwise tinkered with the best images from each CD, leaving the original exactly as it came off the CD. Then I renamed the cleaned-up images with the names of people in them (such as "Marian_Halloween_2009").

Share Those Images Now

I'm not waiting until I look at every single image on every single CD. After cherry-picking the best 6 or so from 4 different CDs, I emailed those cleaned-up versions to family members now.

Later, I'll put all on flash drives to send to relatives. But why make them wait? They're happy to see faces from the past. Me too. As I open and check more images from more CDs, relatives will be surprised to see the past in their inboxes. The more people who have these images, the more who can pass those images along to the next generation and beyond.


Sharing family photos, stories, and other details is a great way to not only interest relatives in genealogy but also keep family history "in the family" for future generations. For more ideas on safeguarding family history, please take a look at my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.


  1. Amazing how the "new" technology is so quickly outdated now. Good that you are going digital because it won't be long before a working CD reader is a vintage antique.

    1. Linda, you are so right. I'm racing to digitize everything I can lay my hands on!