Family Archivist: Mobile Scanner Tips

By Sunny Jane Morton Premium

How can a mobile scanner help you digitize, inventory and archive your genealogical research? We asked Diane Miller, technical marketing specialist for the Flip-Pal mobile scanner.

Q. Why should genealogists scan 
all photos and documents?
A. First, you protect the images when you scan and store multiple copies in multiple places so they don’t get lost [or ruined]. You can keep them accessible and organized on your computer, so you don’t have to shuffle through boxes and files to find them. Plus, digitizing photos is a great way to easily share them with grandchildren and others.
Q. How does a Flip-Pal scanner 
differ from other scanners?

A. Flip-Pal is a compact, mobile flatbed scanner. With most other portable or handheld scanners, you’re tethered to your computer or a power source. Not this one. You can go to a relative’s house or sit on your own comfy couch and scan your photos. I’ve even known someone to scan photos while in the passenger seat of a car in motion. It’s also really fast: I once scanned 450 snapshots in a single afternoon while watching TV. It runs on four AA batteries so you can scan anywhere.

Q. Why is it called a Flip-Pal?

A. Because you can remove the scanner lid, flip the whole unit over and place it on whatever you’re scanning. It has a window on the back, so you can see through it to line up what you’re scanning. You can hold it upright and scan something on the wall. Or you can flip it upside down and scan images from a photo album or fragile book without disturbing the book. You can even scan across an old book that won’t lay flat. (Just tuck the far end of the scanner into the binding, then gently roll the Flip-Pal in sync with the scan bar.)

Q. What kind of images will I get?

A. The Flip-Pal scans a 4×6-inch surface to a JPG at a resolution of 300 or 600 dpi. A 300-dpi scan will give you a high-quality print at the same size. The higher option, 600 dpi, is perfect if you want to enlarge that image up to twice its size. This is also good if you want just a part of the photo such as a specific face you want to crop from the photo. Either option is fast: 300 dpi scans in 6 seconds and 600 dpi in about 11 seconds. The first usually results in a 1.2MB size, and the second about 1.6MB. You decide whether to take the extra time and storage space.

Q. Don’t archivists recommend using 
TIFF format, not JPG?

A. Some photo archivers work with the TIFF format because it doesn’t degrade slightly in image quality every time you edit and resave it, but a JPG does. It is recommended that you save a copy of your scans as TIFFs and never edit these just in case you need to go back to the original scan. On the other hand, perceptual studies have shown that people cannot see the difference between a non-edited JPG and a TIFF until enlarged six times.

Q. What if my pictures are bigger than the 
Flip-Pal’s 4×6-inch scanning surface?
A. The Flip-Pal comes with software that will easily stitch multiple overlapping scans of a large original back together. The software is included right on the SD card. All you need to do is place the SD card in your computer (it also comes with a USB adapter if you don’t have an SD card reading slot in your computer), bring up the stitching software, choose the parts of the large original and touch the Open button. The pieces are automatically put back together. It’s fairly sophisticated pattern-matching software that’s very easy to use.
From the March/April 2013 issue of Family Tree Magazine