Can PhotoBridge save a collection of mediocre family photos?
November 23, 2012 6:46 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone used FotoBridge to enhance and digitize old photos, and if so how would you rate their services? (Asking for a friend.)

My friend has a large collection of prints of family photos (no negatives or digital copies) that are poor quality (dark, etc.) but that she has kept for sentimental reasons (two of the family members in many of the pictures have passed away in the last few years). She has tried taking them to other photo enhancement services at local camera stores with extremely poor results. I was skeptical that there would be much one could do without negatives, but then she found FotoBridge, which seems to provide what she's looking for. Does anyone have experience using them? Can you trust them not to lose your photos (this is really the most important thing)? Do they actually do a good job? Is it possible to make specific requests about individual photos (e.g. removing where a date was printed on the front of a photo, cropping a particular photo a certain way)? Is there a better service or better way of doing this (outside of investing money and time into buying and learning Photoshop, which I realize seems like the other obvious answer)? Any thoughts much appreciated.
posted by naoko to Grab Bag (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can not talk about the service you are talking about but I have used similar service called as ScanCafe. That time they were pretty new and had loads of features like you don't have to accept all pictures they scan (and saving you money, because the cost was per scan)

They will not misplace your pictures for sure but now that I have this experience under my belt, if I have to redo it then I will just do it myself. The reasons are
- Although they will not misplace the pictures, there is never a guarantee. If they lose your pictures, they will give you money (but the memories are priceless)
- They do not have a magic wand that the pictures will come out with flying colors out of their scanners. They will just look like as they look in the prints. Frankly, I did not really like the results but in all fairness, my prints were not great either.
- If you want tweaking/enhancing to be performed, manual hours need to be spent in front of the computer and that costs money. If she is willing to spend this money then there is nothing really to discuss, you just need to visit a forum like to get the expert opinions.

In hindsight, I did not have enough cost efficient resources to learn Adobe Photoshop but the newer version of Adobe Photoshop Element is pretty darn good. May be she should give a try to the trial version and play around with few scanned pictures. If she is happy, she could do it herself slowly and steadily (which I am doing now with the pictures scanned by ScanCafe).
posted by zaxour at 7:20 AM on November 23, 2012

We have used ScanCafe with good results for scanning - we have not used their restoration services, just the raw scan from both recent and very old prints as well negatives...
posted by NoDef at 7:20 AM on November 23, 2012

My family has a photo archive with over 10000 images, produced by my father, a prolific family photographer. Most of these photos are glued shut to the album pages. An year ago I became concerned about how much they deteriorated, and decided to digitize them.

After reading up on it, I figured that a) no photo service would be willing to deal with so many photos, which cannot be detached from pages; b) if someone agreed to do that, it would cost a serious amount of money; c) I wouldn't trust a postal service with sending albums back and forth across the country (it's OK to lose a birthday present once in a while; it's not OK to lose an album full of old photos).

So I decided to do it myself. Here's what I came up with:

Shopping list:
- Canon CanoScan 9000F
- Photoshop Elements 9

Reading list:
- "Digital Restoration from Start to Finish, Second Edition: How to repair old and damaged photographs" by Ctein
- "The Photoshop Elements 9 Book for Digital Photographers (Voices That Matter)" by Scott Kelby (optional, I had no idea how Photoshop works)
- Scanning family photos: The Best Way.
- Digitizing family photos while balancing time investment and quality.
- What are the best scan settings for archival photos?
- Help me fix these photos

Scanning process:
- scan the photos to produce 600 dpi, 48 bit color images;
Scanning at 300 dpi produces images with noticeable blur, scanning at >600 dpi contributes mostly to the size of the image file. 48 bit color means each color channel (red, green, blue) is scanned as 16 bit.
- save scanned photos as 16 bit TIFF images;
- edit in Photoshop Elements: crop, rotate, correct colors using Levels tool, convert to Grayscale Mode;
- save a 16 bit TIFF copy of an edited image;
- export to JPG using Save for Web tool.

This process works most of the time. It produces three copies of each photo: a scanned original, an edited original, and a JPG file. It also takes a serious amount of time, so I settled for a "slow and steady" approach, dedicating an hour each day to editing, while catching up on podcasts.
posted by ringu0 at 10:24 AM on November 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

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