From Fotomat to Photoshop: How to best copy & print a lot of old photos?
September 7, 2013 12:19 PM   Subscribe

I need to copy a bunch of photo prints (estimated at 80) to have made into duplicate prints for multiple people. (Reason: I found my birth family, and they all want photos of me from throughout my life.) The photos are many different sizes and ratios, like 3x5, 4x6, square, 5x7, etc, and some have been cut with scissors into odd sizes/aspect ratios.

The goal is to make 4 print copies of each photo that are good enough for 4 different families to display in frames in their homes. Secondary use is photo albums, not frames.

Options I know about:

- Scanning & uploading to Snapfish, ordering prints. Problem: I already know Snapfish doesn't deal well with non-standard ratios, and there is no custom cropping I can do myself, at least not that I'm aware of. e.g., I've received prints from them with heads cut off because they'd been digitally cropped at a non-standard ratio before upload.

- Scanning & uploading to Flickr, ordering prints. I've done this, but not with odd ratioed photos. Will the Snapfish thing work here? i.e., if I upload a square photo, will I receive back a print with all the heads cut off?

- Scanning & doing my own custom editing/cropping, printing on photo paper locally. Is that still a thing? Could be quite expensive, yes, because of the price of photo paper? We're talking ~320 printed photos here.

What am I missing? Are there places where I could drop off this batch and have this done for me that aren't, say, CVS? My last experience with copying printed photos at a drugstore wound up with blurry, crappy results. Admittedly this was over a decade ago. Probably two decades, now that I think of it.

Bonus question: I have negatives for maybe 20% of these photos. Is the answer to my "not CVS" question directly above different if there are negatives involved?
posted by ImproviseOrDie to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
ScanCafe. Send them your prints or negatives, and have them digitized. Then, you can print out copies in whatever sizes and shapes you want from wherever you like, and you can share them with all the family and friends you want, plus you have permanent backups. They scan and retouch each photo by hand, so the variety of sizes and shapes won't bother them, and they'll be able to fix any fading or other issues with the older photos. Everyone I know who has used them has had great results.
posted by decathecting at 12:24 PM on September 7, 2013

Best answer: Are there places where I could drop off this batch and have this done for me that aren't, say, CVS?

In my small city there are two locally owned photo/camera shops that still offer this kind of custom service. There is surely at least one in Baltimore. Ask on a local/city-data forum if nobody here names one.
posted by headnsouth at 1:53 PM on September 7, 2013

Best answer: I think the biggest time-suck would be the scanning of the photos, but you could probably do it in an evening while listening to a DVD commentary track or something. I wouldn't send them off to be scanned--it's only 80 images (and it would cost money, shipping times, and potential scanning mistakes on their part). 600 dpi seems to be the AskMeFi recommendation for scanning photos.

Once you have all the scans, open them in Photoshop (or a similar app that allows for cropping in constrained aspect ratios--like iPhoto on the Mac) and crop them using the selection tool set to a 4x6 aspect ratio (or 3x5, 5x7, etc). For the cut-out images or square images, I would just crop around them using the 4x6 ratio; the resultant image will be surrounded by white space which you could then just cut off of the final print.

Note: some scanners allow you to lay multiple images on the scanning bed and then it selects each one--you would want to turn that feature off for the non-standard sized photos, otherwise it would be cropping the images to their actual size (ex: the 1-inch by 7-inch cut-out picture of Aunt Ruth). Again, you want to have some white space around your non-standard sized images so that you can crop them to 4x6 without having to cut through any of the image (just white space).

To print photos, I use because I can order prints online (in matte or glossy, with or without white borders) and then pick them up at the Camera World in downtown Portland about an hour or two later.

Once you have all the photos cropped and ordered, I'd throw them on a CD (make sure to label it with a Sharpie so if it gets put in a drawer, people will know what's on it later without having to put it in a computer) and send that along with the printed photos to the relatives. That way, if someone wants an extra copy of something, they can easily print it up themselves.
posted by blueberry at 2:28 PM on September 7, 2013

Response by poster: Here's what I ended up doing, after not being able to find the time to scan them myself:

Took them all to Ritz Camera, a chain in my area. Got them scanned onto 3 separate disks. Each branch of the family gets their own disk to do with as they please. The whole thing cost less than $30.

If I had printed them all out, 3 copies each, it would have cost 80 cents a print, or $192. Even though cost wasn't a factor I mentioned in my original question, the difference between $30 and $192 was big enough that I let go of my requirement to give everyone a print of every photo. With disks, they can choose which ones to print out.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 6:10 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

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