Photo scanning service recommendations?
May 3, 2006 7:46 PM   Subscribe

We have several hundred old family photographs in various sizes, shapes, and conditions that we would like to have scanned. We're looking for advice from anyone who has had personal experience with specific companies.

(Note: we don't have any negatives.)

There are lots and lots of companies out there doing this (it's rather an easy business to set up), and we're hoping someone has used or knows someone who has used a particular company and can give us some hints as to who's reputable...
posted by dmd to Media & Arts (11 answers total)
Why not buy a scanner and do it yourself? Once you get experienced with it, it actually goes pretty rapidly.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:39 PM on May 3, 2006

I'd go the DIY route myself. Get a fast scanner and you can do on avg 1.5 a minute (maybe more).
posted by maxpower at 9:07 PM on May 3, 2006

No offence, Steven C. Den Beste, but professional scanning is not something a person enters into on a whim. There's a reason that people still get paid to scan other people's photos in this age of ubiquitous and cheap scanners. Yes, anyone can scan a photo. Scanning hundreds, and doing it well, takes better equipment and training.
posted by lekvar at 9:09 PM on May 3, 2006

If the buy-a-scanner-and-DIY thing is an option, the Epson Multi Photo Business Card Feeder might be a solution - ~$270, or $150 if you've already got an Epson scanner.
posted by unmake at 10:50 PM on May 3, 2006

There are a number of free image editing software solutions to help you make the images as sharp as possible (and it's easy, easy, easy to do), so all that's required is a scanner to DIY--whatever you'd spend to have it done, unless it's under $60 or so (what I recently paid for a printer/scanner/copier), you'd be better off doing it yourself. Plus, it's fun.
posted by wordswinker at 11:24 PM on May 3, 2006

As someone who's scanned almost 3000 photos at home, and now scans negatives, I'm going to go with lekvar. If you want to get web-quality scans with (this is usually one of the main problems) poor shadow detail, then go the DIY route. Professional scanning will give good/excellent images when reproducing photos at the same size, DIY scanning will give you decent/poor images, unless you really know what you're doing. There is a reason people still make money scanning - it isn't that easy.

Sure, anybody can cook a pasta dish, but there are many reasons why we often pay others to do it for us.
posted by jedrek at 1:37 AM on May 4, 2006

I'm going to have to be making a decision about DIY versus going with a company, too, and I'd love an answer to dmd's original question, so I can make an informed choice - has anyone had any experiences with specific companies that they'd be willing to share? Or general advice about what to look for in choosing a company?
posted by Chanther at 3:15 AM on May 4, 2006

Response by poster: Ok, let me clarify.

We've already researched the DIY vs. professional issue, and made a decision.

I don't mean to be rude, but the question wasn't "DIY or professional?".
posted by dmd at 7:33 AM on May 4, 2006

My father has used digmypix for scanning tons of slides and for converting home movies to digital video. He's found them reasonably speedy and the quality of their work is good. One of the things that I like is that they put the photos online (in addition to delivering them on a DVD) so that he can give family members a login and we can see them all and say "oh hey, send me a copy of that one" or even save a low-res JPG to our own desktop. I don't have much to compare it to, but he's done a fair amount of work with them and has liked them, and he's not the easiest guy to work for generally so it's the equivalent of a big thumbs up.
posted by jessamyn at 7:51 AM on May 4, 2006

Your best bet is an established local photolab that survived the transition to digital.
Discuss your expectations in person and avoid shipping the photos.
Do some test scans before hundreds.

The first question will be, "What are these scans for?"
Reprints? Family archives? Web? Scrap Book? Posters?
Scans are "purpose built", one scan does NOT work for all applications.
Are you expecting cleanup, cropping, color correction, retouching, and/or repair?
What's your budget?

Price varies with the file size, operator time, equipment cost and perceived quality.

Also, most independent camera stores offer excellent scanning services, as do some one hour labs.
posted by Fins at 8:16 AM on May 4, 2006

I'm sorry I can't answer your question directly, but Fins has the best suggestion for finding the service provider you're looking for.

Go in with a list of questions, the bigger the better. If the person at the counter doesn't answer the questions in a clear and easy to understand fashion, or fails to make suggestions, or in any way steers your decision without explaining why, move on. For a sizeable project like yours the counterpeson should be able to explain what they'll be doing and why, clearly and concisely, and be able to make rational suggestions based on the purposes you're planning for the scans.

It's also important to have a good idea what the final usage is going to be. Scans for the web are going to be processed in a completely different way than scans that are meant to be printed, and even then there's a difference between your deskjet, the camerashop's film printer and my 5-color Heidelberg.
posted by lekvar at 12:25 PM on May 5, 2006

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