Old photos get new life in Tom Bigford's hands

Old photos sit in a box, some maybe in photo albums. As time goes by, the quality of the photos fade, but there are ways to preserve them for future generations.

Williamsburg resident and owner of Digitize My Images, Tom Bigford, 82, helps create pictorial documentation of people’s lives by restoring and preserving their photos. He does so by converting them to either DVDs or a flash drive and making videos.

He prefers flash drives because, he says “they are very hardy and hold more.”

He repairs cracked photos, restores faded photos’ clarity and creates a directory for the photos.

“The older the better, is my personal favorite,” he said.

He also converts old slides and silent eight-millimeter and 16-millimeter films.

What holds many people back from preserving their memories and family history is simply getting started. Many people accumulate a large number of photos, slides and films over the decades and that can pose a daunting task to sort and organize, he said.

“It can be a big issue for most people, when they have hundreds maybe even thousands of photos and slides,” Bigford said.

People will sometimes give him all the photos and film without sorting and tell him to just scan everything. But if cost is a concern, be warned that this approach can cost more than anticipated

To get started, Bigford said people need to accept that the undertaking will take some time, but it also will be rewarding.

When the sorting begins, eliminate scenery photos taken if no family member is in it.

“Your family members don’t want to see a picture of the Eiffel Tower you took, they can see a photo like that anywhere. They want the people,” he said.

Eliminating scenery pictures also reduces the cost, he added.

Bigford works differently than companies where you mail off your photos to be scanned. He makes home visits, gives an estimate and adds music. The customer selects the music style. He also adds sound effects — he’ll add canon sounds if someone is standing near a historic canon in the picture.

It’s smart to make several copies of the final product when multiple family members want the same photos, he said.

Bigford, a retired marketing executive, said while he does charge for his time, his prices are reasonable and it is rewarding work.

“One of the greatest personal rewards in helping neighbors preserve their family memories is getting to know a lot of really interesting people. However, I warn them that if they let me handle their precious memories, I will, by necessity, become part of their family,” he said.

Learn more

To see if Tom Bigford can help you preserve your memories, contact him at tbigford@cox.net. His house calls are free.

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