Most of us have a box (or two or three) filled with old photos. Photographs of new babies (“Is that Grandpa?!”), graduations (“Hey, Mom! Those were some rockin’ feathered bangs!”), birthday parties, school plays circa 1986. They’re all tucked away, gathering dust and deteriorating a little more each day.
Naturally, our first thought is to preserve and restore these family treasures by scanning them in to our computer, but this can be a rather overwhelming task depending on the number of photos involved. While some folks choose to tackle this project head-on, others choose to hire a team of professionals, so to speak.
Here is a list of pros and cons to consider when making the choice between outsourcing and scanning your own photos.
Do It Yourself Photo Scanning
See also our article “How to Scan a Photo“
- Control and Privacy – By choosing to do things yourself, you’re the only one handling and viewing your photographs. This may not seem like a big deal, but some folks have a hard time entrusting their most precious memories to strangers. Besides, we’ve all had – or have at least heard of – a “lost in the mail” or “damaged in shipping” fiasco. Doing things yourself eliminates this worst-case scenario altogether.
- TLC – Older photographs are extremely delicate and require appropriate measures such as hand-scanning (as opposed to being fed into a mass-scanning machine) to ensure they’re not damaged further during the restoration process. (Think: Who would treat your Great-Great Grandfather’s old war photos better than you?)
- Time & Patience – No matter how you look at it, scanning stacks of photos, slides and negatives requires a tremendous amount of time and a never ending supply of patience. (Two things most of us do not possess in spades.) If you’re new to scanning or photo enhancement work in general, this too requires patience and diligence as you develop your skills. According to research firm GfK North America, the average American adult has 3,000 old photographs. Scanning and repairing the photos, (once you’ve learned how and bought the scanner), should take about 7.5 minutes per photo. For 3,000 photos, that’s 22,500 minutes, or 375 hours. That’s nearly 47 Saturdays at 8 hours a day.
- Cost – Assuming you already own a computer, scanning your photos will require the additional expense of a good flat-bed scanner and/or film scanner (for those negatives and slides), along with photo-correcting software such as Adobe Photoshop. Now, if you’re not exactly a Photoshop “whiz”, you may find yourself frustrated with the program and in need of a few tutorials or books to help you along, which may further add to the expense. (See above.) You will also need a stack of DVD’s or CD’s to burn your photos to, or extra hard drive space.
Using a Photo Scanning Service
- Saves Time & Sanity – If you don’t have buckets of time and patience to spare, outsourcing this task will save you both.
- Cost Effective – Unless you already own a quality scanner and necessary photo editing software, the approximate $0.22-$0.39 per photo charged by scanning services often trumps the alternative investment. In addition, some scanning services will provide you with an online preview of your photos and allow you to delete a portion of them, reducing your overall processing costs.
- Professional Results – Scanning services employ highly skilled individuals who will remove scratches, dust and other blemishes from your photos and restore their original color at no additional charge.
- Turn Around Time – This can vary widely between companies, anywhere from 2-4 weeks or more. The reason for this is that some companies perform all their services in the US, whereas others have the work performed overseas. If keeping your photos on American soil is a priority for you, be sure to ask each company what their procedures are prior to shipment.
- Organization – Some companies prefer you to organize, group and sort your photos prior to shipping versus sending them off in one big package. This can prove to be quite laborious and downright tedious to some who are in a hurry to just “get the project completed.”
- Minimum Order – While many scanning service providers accept orders of any size, there are a few which require a minimum order, anywhere from $50-$100. So, if you’ve got a small project on your hands (say, one photo album or a small stack of prints), this may not be the best option for you.
Photo Scanning Services Price Comparison
|35mm Color Negativesat 5-7MP||35mm Color Slidesat 5-7MP||Prints (to 5×7) at 600 dpi||DVD / CD||Min. purchase||Pay only for scans you want||$1,000 safe handling guarantee|
|$0.78||$0.78||$0.59||$5 / $5||$5||No||No|
|$0.39||$0.39||$0.49||$6 / $12||No||Yes||No|
|$0.39||$0.39||$0.49||$7 / $12||None||No||No|
Price comparisons as of 4/10/2011.
Whether you choose to scan photos yourself or “leave it to the professionals”, remember: Scanning your photos is vital to the preservation of your memories for future generations. Don’t allow time and the elements (including musty, dusty air!) deteriorate your photographs a moment longer. Scan them, preserve them – and of course – share them.
See also our article “How to Scan a Photo“
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