Digitizing and Preserving Plant Images and Information

People prefer to store their images and information digitally for several reasons. Hard copies are easily damaged and can be lost forever to fire and water damage. You can store lots of data on a hard drive, which saves physical space in your home. The best part of all is that you can use software to ‘clean up’ and enhance old images that you’ve digitized. 

Many amateur and professional botanists have lots of images of plants that they wish to preserve. Here’s how to go about it:


The best way to digitize your old pictures and information is to scan and upload them onto your computer. Scanning can be time-consuming, so be prepared to spend a lot of hours with the computer. The scanner you buy will depend on your budget. 

Speak to the salesperson when you’re buying yours and tell them what you plan to do with the scanner. It will allow them to make a product recommendation that will suit your needs and your pocket.

Some scanners can also scan negatives and slides. They will cost quite a bit more but are essential when you don’t have prints of the images and documents.

  1. Organizing first

Before you even get to the scanning of your plant images and information, go through them, and organize them carefully. You might not choose to scan everything right away because it takes quite some time.

Make notes about what you plan to name each file once it’s scanned and uploaded. Your document management software will name your files if you don’t. However, it will give them a name, followed by a number. The number increases sequentially as you save files. If you want to find documents and picture files easily, develop names for them first.

  1. Filing

When you’re determining file names, keep certain factors in mind. You can name your files starting with the date on which they were taken or obtained. Alternatively, you can name them according to the species of plant they feature. Another option is to name them according to where they come from.

Create folders to put groups of images and documents in for ease of reference. Saving them without folders is like storing your documents in piles in a drawer.

You must go through all of them to find one that you’re looking for. When you file documents in folders, it’s easier to find them. The principle applies to the digitization of photos and documents as well.

  1. Scanning and uploading

Always check what you’re about to scan. Handle old images and documents carefully and make sure they don’t have dust on them. This will affect the quality of the scan.

Check the settings on the scanner. At a minimum, you should be scanning at a quality setting of 300 dpi. If you plan to enlarge your scans, your quality setting should be around 600 dpi. Make sure you’re scanning in color, even if you’re scanning old black-and-white images and documents.

  1. Digitizing apps and services

If you’re only wanting to scan old photos so that you have a digital copy, you can consider installing a digitizing app on your phone or tablet. It’s better than taking a picture of a photo. This is useful for when you’re visiting a friend or family member who has photos you want a copy of.

If you have thousands of pictures and documents and insufficient time, there are digitizing services that will do the job for them. It is quite costly but could be the solution for digitizing your plant images and information.

Allen Wilson

Allen has been writing about gardening for over 30 years. He is a retired professor of Horticulture.