Q&A: Mitch Goldstone on how to unclutter old photos

Nov 07, 2019

Mitch Goldstone is the president and CEO of ScanMyPhotos.com. He has been a pioneer in the field of photo imaging since 1990. The e-commerce photo-imaging company has digitized 600 million pictures and is located in Irvine, Ca. If you have shoe boxes and tattered photo albums full of old family photos, this is your chance to get some tips on how to get your photos under control.

. Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, Marie Kondo, the Property Brothers or Amy Astley, editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest, answer your decorating, design and decluttering questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and organizing. For more than 20 years, our Thursday Q&A has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share your own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small.

Mitch Goldstone is president and CEO of ScanMyPhotos.com. He has been involved in photo imaging since 1990 and his Irvine, Ca. company helps customers preserve memories. His work digitizing snapshots is particularly important in this era where fires and floods are destroying irreplaceable family photo archives. Ask him your questions about your own issues with preserving your boxes and albums of photos.

Here is a story my colleague Helen Carefoot did on organizing your photos.

Hello Jura, I am delighted to be here with you and discuss this important topic to declutter those decades of family photos. No more procrastination as it's no simple and extra affordable to finally digitize and safeguard all photo memories at ScanMyPhotos.com.


While there are loads of pointers from our experiences and knowledge from having digitized 600 million photos, the timing is extra relevant.


Last week in California, billions of irreplaceable family photos were destroyed by the wildfire firestorms, and the losses keep occurring -- from hurricanes to just the ravages of time. 


If your shoeboxes of family snapshots and infrequently visited photo albums are covered in dust it's time to bring all into the digital age to safeguard and share those precious memories.  


Mitch Goldstone



I was lucky to purchase not only my wedding photos (30 years married!) but all of the negatives (35mm film) I'd love to digitize but no one seems to handle 35mm film? Can you refer me? THANKS!

Good morning ... WOW 30 years that is GREAT.  It's also great that your photographer allowed you to purchase both your photos (make sure you do have a copyright release from your photographer for your photos) and your negatives (35mm).  

While it is quicker, easier and more economical to digitize photos you will get a better quality scan from negatives and we do scan 35mm as well as 120mm negatives. You can follow this link for information on 35mm film scanning: https://www.scanmyphotos.com/negative-scanning/35mm-negative-scanning.html

What a timely topic! I have a zillion slides that I'd love to have digital versions of instead of physically storing them all. That would be prohibitively expensive to have done. Is there a DIY alternative? It needs to be one that is faster than loading one at a time into a manual scanner unless it has an autofeed mechanism.

Slide scanning is very tedious, while there have been some auto-feed solutions we have found them not to be very reliable and can damage some of the slides.

The simplest way to digitize loads of 35mm slides is at this link for ordering fill the box service.  We do all the work:


I have a TON of photos (both prints in boxes and digital). I could kick myself for not doing a better job managing negatives (like, labeling!), tossing duplicates (whether prints or digital), and categorizing so I can find what I'm looking for Where do I start?? THANKS for the topic of this chat!

Knowing how to start a project like this is probably the most difficult part of the process.

Best is to take a deep breath and start by sorting through and separating your negatives from  your photos and then trying to categorize them my year/event etc.

After that you will then have a better idea of what your next steps should be.

Here is the link to our site:


I have thousands of digital images from trips and family functions. What should I do with labeling and storing these? My printed photos are in scrapbooks with captions, but these are all labeled with a number.

That's the magic number, the average order size we get are for about 5,000 photos.

Our favorite app for sharing and letting your family view, narrate and comment on all those pictures is https://keepy.me the Keepy App

Also you can store your photos on sites such as  Google Photos

I have a large collection (think boxes and boxes) of family slides. Is there any simple, cost efficient way to put them in a digital form? I would like to save the images but I can’t imagine that in their present form that they will last longer than I do! Thank you.

Where get this question a lot as well as with negatives and 8mm movie film.

For slides you can start here at our Slide Scanning landing page:


This should answer most of your questions.

Shouldn't you keep the originals of really old photos - like back from the 1920s.

Many older photos have family history handwritten notes on the back. We always suggest keeping those in an acid-free archival box.


When having those older pictures digitized select front and back scanning so that the historical accounts written on the back are digitally captured too.

Remember those old cameras that developed photos that popped out in seconds? Do those scan well?

Yes we do remember those as that was a fun way to see your "instant" memories ... just like our smartphone pictures today.

We do scan them (as long as they have not been mounted on cardboard).

I took a quick look at your web page, but I am wondering: I have maybe two dozen photo albums, the kind where all the photos are attached to pages in the album. Would we have to remove all the photos before sending them to you for scanning?

Yes. Always remove the photos from albums. And you can use index cards to write categories and subjects them bundle those attached by rubber bands.

I have a non-photo question I hope Jura can help with. I had a sofa and chair reupholstered a few years ago, and the stuffing in the cushions is compressing so much that I need to put throw pillows on the seats and backs. Is this something that can be remedied w/out total reupholstering again? The pieces are old (40+ yrs) but in very good shape .

It's a shame that whoever reupholstered these for you didn't offer to plump up the cushions. Forty year old stuffing isn't too buoyant. I'm afraid there is nothing you can do besides get large decorative pillows to layer on top.

What kind of flowers should you send? We asked top floral designers to weigh on the meaning of flowers an what's the latest thoughts on flower etiquette. Read my story here.

If you do put photos in albums, what are the best kind? And what kind should you avoid.

Look for albums that pass the P.A.T. (Photographic Activity Test).
Make sure it’s archival rated and acid-free. Look for Photo safe
Acid free
Lignin free
PVC free

I may not have made myself clear - the stuffing was new with the reupholstery ( about 4-5 yrs ago). It’s not the original fill material. ( and i’d had the pieces redone before, with all new stuffing, and never had this issue).

Complain to the upholsterer.

This is such a great topic! My question is can you share some ways to present digital photos to family members? For example, I never really made photo albums for my two sons. Should I just give them all the photos on a thumb drive or is there a nicer way to present without having to make several photo albums?

Great idea. By distributing digital copies of all the photos to everyone in your family also helps to safeguard everyone g by having off-site backups. Provided DVDs or thumb drives.

During thanksgiving, we recommend showing all the family photos on your TV and ask everyone to share their favorite music to get everyone involved. As the photos are displayed the music is included too.

"Also you can store your photos on sites such as Google Photos" My question is who owns the photos once I upload them to Dropbox or Google Photos or other sites? I don't want to give a company the right to distribute them.

Great follow up question.


One really needs to read the terms and conditions of each site before they use/subscribe to one, most but not all are just sites where you store your photos for your use and only your use unless you explicitly give permission for others to have access to your files.


It is sad to think of how many photos have been lost in the recent fires. Thanks Mitch for giving us ideas and tips for getting that photo archive saved. Next week sign in for blogger Joy Cho talking about building your dream house.

Many thanks for all the smarty questions. We are grateful to have this dialogue and to see so many are planning ahead. Last week here in CA the wildfires were an urgent reminder to finally digitize and save your memories.

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Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily Twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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