5 Must-Have Photo Identification Tools

There are items on my desk within easy reach that I can’t live without.  These tools are integral to my work with family photographs.  Here are my five top photo identification tools.

A Loupe


These small magnifiers come in handy.  This small plastic Kalt Afga loupe is indestructible. It fits in my purse and goes everywhere with me so that I can examine details in pictures. Most photo stores carry them.

This isn’t my only loupe. I also own a jeweler’s loupe (with a built-in light) for looking at daguerreotypes and the Lens Mag adapter. It turns my phone into 15X magnifier.

White Cotton Gloves

Gloves are an important part of your photo ID toolbox. At some point you’re going to have to handle pictures.  Wear white cotton gloves or non-latex powder free examination gloves to avoid leaving residue from your hands on the images. You can buy the latter at your local pharmacy.

Soft Lead Pencils

There are a variety of pencils that you can use for writing on the back of pictures.  I like either an ebony pencil or an 8B (note the B for lead softness). Both are available at my local art store. Don’t forget to buy a sharpener for the ebony pencil.

Non-PVC Sleeves

After looking at pictures I place them in a non-pvc sleeve for protection/preservation.  They come in a variety of sizes and designs. I prefer sleeves that are open on one side so that photos don’t slide out.  DON’T buy sleeves with a sticky edge though, you can catch the images on the glue and destroy the pictures.  Library suppliers, special stores like ClearBags.com and Amazon.com sell non-pvc sleeves.

A Scanner

Clients want to know what type of scanner I use. There are a lot of different models on the market but I’m a loyal Epson fan.  I like to examine the little details present in a photo. A good scanner is key for scanning at a high resolution. Those all in one machines don’t scan cased images well and those mobile scanners don’t either.  Invest a couple of hundred dollars in a desk-top scanner. Watch the holiday sales online to get the best deal.

I carry these items (except the scanner) in a zip bag that fits in my carry-on.  I never leave home without it.

Learn More About Tools & Organization With the Photo Essentials Course