There’s nothing better than a photo to share family history with others. Putting family photographs online is not something that is new. But there are some challenges and often the result is a static photograph that either does not have enough detail or is very large and takes a lot of time to download.
For example, the following photo of my Grandfather, Andrew Charles Tucker, training as a Private for WWII:
The thumbnail photo is too small to see details. Clicking the image will show the original, but it is a static photo.
As you will soon see, there is a way to make photos more interactive. I will first show you the end result and then explain how you can do the same for your family history photos.
What you see above is an image viewer from a site called Zoom.it which takes a very high resolution photo and gives you the ability to zoom different areas of the photo very quickly.
The four buttons on the bottom-right corner are zoom in, zoom out, go home, and toggle full page view:
You can zoom in by clicking on the photo. The scroll wheel on the mouse also controls zoom in and zoom out. To pan the image, click and drag. If you have ever used Google or Bing maps, you should be comfortable with the interface. The image viewer is built with a technology called Silverlight which is similar in many ways to Flash.
After getting this photo online today, I brought each of my sons (ages 9-13) in separately and asked them to find their Great Grandfather in the photo. To help them, I showed them a separate photo of him in his uniform. All three were able to find him and spent additional minutes zooming around and exploring the photograph. That is more than they would have done if it were a static image.
Spend some time exploring the image. Can you find the only man wearing glasses? How about the Staff Sergeant insignia? One soldier has crossed rifles on his collar. The detail is amazing. I can even count buttons on uniforms. In case you are wondering, Andrew C. Tucker is on the top row, 4th from the right.
How Did I Do It?
The main steps that I followed are:
- Scan the image
- Post image online
- Convert image with Zoom.it
- Embed the image viewer in your website
Step 1 – Scan
I scanned the image as 256 shades of gray at 1200 dpi which resulted in a .tif image that was 11,952 x 9436 pixels and 107 MB. That is a huge file but you need that many pixels to allow for deep zooming of the image. I could get a smaller, less zoomable image by scanning at 600 dpi instead.
Step 2 – Upload
In order for the Zoom.it site to convert the photo, it must already be online. This step might be the most challenging as there as many different ways to accomplish this and the file size is so large. Being a software developer, I host my WordPress site on a shared Linux host so I used FTP to upload the file. It took about 20 minutes.
Step 3 – Convert
Go to the Zoom.it site and paste the link to your image into the textbox and click the Create button. The image will be fetched and converted which could take 10 minutes or longer depending on the size of your image.
The link that you submit can be: images (.jpg, .png, .tif, .svg), web pages, or pdf files.
Here are a few highlights:
- You must be the copyright owner of the content that you post or the content must be in the public domain.
- You are still the owner of your content after posting it to the service.
- There currently is no way to delete content from the service once it is posted, but since access to the content is through a randomly-generated link it would be difficult to discover the link without you sharing it.
Step 4 – Embed
Once the image is converted, you have access to either a link:
or an embed:
that you can post on your site.
Here is the embed that I used on my site:
The only thing that I changed was the value of width from auto to 55opx.
A final note is that the unique id (ex: ldH1) is case-sensitive.
So those are the steps that I followed to get the image of my Grandfather on the site. Some steps are time-consuming but I was able to start the step and go do something else. Without getting into the details of how the deep zooming works, the Zoom.it site divides the original photograph into tiles of various resolution. This allows for quick showing of only those tiles needed to complete the image at a specific zoom level. If you needed to wait to load the entire 107MB image before viewing, it would take a long time and consume a lot of your computer’s memory. Try it with this link to the original image. You can end the download by clicking your browser’s Stop button or by pressing the Esc key.
If you want to experiment with Zoom.it but don’t want to use your own images, try the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs collections.
Here are links to two Civil War photos in the public domain that I made viewable from Zoom.it:
- 17th New York Battery Artillery Depot, Camp Barry, near Washington, D.C. (Library of Congress, Zoom.it)
- Major General E.V. Sumner and staff (Library of Congress, Zoom.it)
I hope you find this useful. Please post your comments or share links to content that you made deep zoomable using Zoom.it.
On a genealogy note, I don’t know much about my grandfather’s military service. I don’t even know what RTC 85D means on the flag. Is this group called a company or another name? Is this the same group that he would have been sent overseas with?