8 Min Read – Today’s article is part 2 of our series on Digitizing old photos. We’ll discuss some options to do it yourself or outsource to a service.
In part 1 of digitizing old photos, we discussed why it’s time to digitize and photo filing strategies. We also looked at sorting your photos & most importantly, how and where to backup & store your digital photos. If you haven’t already, you can read Part 1 by clicking here
Digitizing Old Photos – First Steps
As we mentioned in part 1, there are a few important steps to complete before actually digitizing your old photos, including:
- Sorting your printed photos into a logical order
- Discarding photos that you no longer want
- Cleaning up your current digital photos (getting rid of duplicates)
- Creating a photo filing system
- Putting a backup/storage strategy in place
Tackling these steps first makes digitizing your photos a much smoother process. Knowing where and how you’ll backup your photos insures precious memories will live on.
Digitizing Old Photos – Which options might work best for you?
Here’s the big question: Do I want to tackle this project myself or pay someone else to do it? Both are viable options. In our case, we chose to digitize the photos at home. Let’s look at both.
Using a Company to Digitize Old Photos
As we mentioned in part 1, digitizing old photos is a lot like working a big jigsaw puzzle. It requires lots of sorting and organizing, a dedicated area to work & most of all… patience.
With two of us digitizing off and on at home, it took 4 weeks. That’s not for everyone. Boxing up old photos and sending them off to the professionals might be a welcome alternative.
Here’s two examples of photo digitizing services worth considering – I’ve included links to there sites should you want to investigate. We don’t have a relationship with either.
Scan my photos is a service that’s been around since 1990. Photos, videos, slides, negatives can all be digitized for a fee; from small orders to very large. Simply send boxes of media and they will convert them for you.
They even offer a prepaid photo box that lets you send off up to 1800 photos to be scanned and returned on a Thumb drive, for as little as $170 (72DPI).
Scan my Photos also offers per photo scanning, photos restoration, storing on the cloud or downloading directly to your computer. All for additional fees.
A quote from Scan My Photos might look like this:
- Photo Box – 1800 scanned photos @ 300 DPI to Thumb Drives – $325
- Scan photos in order (by date, time frame etc…) .07 cent per phot0 – $126
- Computer enhance photos to correct some fade .07 cents per photo – $126
- Detailed Restore of 1 damaged photo – $45
- Convert a VHS tape to MP4 video on Thumb Drive – $25
- Return your original photos or discard – $25
1800 photos Total = $672
DVD Your Memories is a company with locations across California that offer the same services as Scan My Photos. Since they are local to Californians, you can hand deliver the photos and meet with a local specialist that will handle your process.
The Upside of Using a Service
- Using their equipment, they do all the work
- Professional advice
- All mediums can be addressed (photos, video, negatives etc…)
- The process is quick
- You get hours of your time back
The Downsides of Using a Service
- The costs of additional services can quickly add up
- You need to turn your photos over to someone else’s care
- You’ll still need to sort your photos to get rid of bad pictures & create an order
Digitizing Old Photos at Home
The alternative to sending your photos out to be digitized is to do it yourself. The cost and quality of at home photo scanners is reasonable and pretty easy to operate. If you can spare a table in your house, sorting & organizing old photos can be a fun project. Patience is the key to this one as boxes of old photos & memorabilia take time to process.
Some of the Tools you Might Need to Digitize at Home
Hand Held Scanner Apps
Some of our memorabilia is in the form of press clippings, oddly shaped or very old photos that we’d rather not put through the Auto scanner. Instead, we turned to photo scan apps.
PhotoScan is a new app from Google Photos that lets you scan and save your favorite printed photos using your phone’s camera. It takes enhanced, glare free, digital scans of pictures. It scans in seconds and has edge detection & smart rotation. Best of all it requires no special skill or knowledge. It’s a great choice for a handful of photos you need to convert. It’s not a viable solution if your handling hundreds of photos
Another great photo scanner app, Photomyne offers more advanced editing features, like adding in dates. With an upgrade, it can also tackle slides
A Quick Word About DPI
The quality of scanned images is calculated in DPI. DPI is the dots per square inch of a photo, which will be converted to pixels when you digitize your photos. Without getting into the weeds, most 4×6 printed photos are 300 DPI.
When considering purchasing a scanner, it should do a minimum of 300 DPI with an upper end of at least 600 DPI.
Why 300 to 600 DPI?
If you decide to enlarge a photo or highlight a tremendous amount of detail in a picture, you can scan at a higher (600) DPI. When reprinting & significantly enlarging your photos from their original size, more DPI is helpful.
There are expensive high resolution scanners out there that can do 1200 & 2400 DPI. That said, the higher DPI you use, the larger the photo file. This can become a storage issue if you’re scanning boxes of old photos. It also takes longer to scan photos at higher DPI’s.
Also, unless you’re enlarging lots of photos, your eye won’t be able to tell the difference between a 300 DPI and 1200 DPI photo. For most people, 300 to 600 DPI is more than enough to retain the quality of most photos and leave room to print enlargements.
Digital Photo Scanners – For the bulk of the Digitizing Your Photos
There are reasonably priced digital Photo scanners available to handle the volume of photos you want to convert. From flat bed scanners to high speed auto-feeders, you can find a scanner to meet your needs
– Color Photo, Image, Film, Negative & Document Scanner
At $339 Epson’s V600 is a high end, feature rich photo, film & document scanner
- The V600 can handle photos, negatives, film & documents
- Creates extraordinary enlargements from film. Up to 6400 x 9600 dpi
- Offers a large scan area for bigger photos – 8.5 x 11.7 inches
- Comes with software to quickly remove the appearance of dust, tears & scratches
- Restores faded colors
- ArcSoft PhotoStudio is software included, to help edit and enhance your digital images
- Led lighting makes for quick scanning. No warm up time needed
Because the V600 is a uses a flatbed scanner rather than a photo feeder, it requires you to lift the lid, set the photo, close the lid, scan and repeat. I know that sounds a little lazy, but if your planning to scan a 1000 photos, the time does begin to add up.
Jaunty’s choice for our project…
We chose the $199 Plustek Photo Scanner to handle our digitizing needs. We’ve been pleased with it’s performance. Scanning with the auto feeder is quick. The software to enhance photos is easy to use & importing photos from Plustek to Apple Iphoto is straightforward. We also ran into a cable issue with Bev’s laptop & Plustek’s customer service walked us through the problem & quickly resolved it for us.
- $199 is a good price
- Auto feeder is quick and easy. 2 seconds to scan a 4 x6 photo
- Will scan 3×5, 4×6, 5×7, 8×10 & A4 paper size
- We scanned old newspaper articles & letters with great clarity
- Up to 600 DPI for high resolution & enlargements
- Faster than a flatbed scanner
- Quick and easy image enhancement functions to restore faded images
- Helpful, Responsive, customer service
- Because the auto feeder is not as large as a flatbed scanner, some photos needed to be scanned sideways, then rotated after the scan
- The Plustek doesn’t do negatives or film. We’ll need to send film to an outside company
Plustek’s enhancement functions bring faded photos back to Life…
– Wireless High-Speed Photo and Document Scanning System
The $835 Epson Fastfoto is the fastest, most feature rich photo scanner of the bunch
- Lightening Fast! Can scan 300 dpi photos in 1 second
- scans up to 8.5 inches wide,
- postcards, polaroids, panaramos are no problem
- Epson photo software lets you scan, restore, organize and share pictures
- Up to 1200 dpi available for enlargements
- Place batches of photos in the auto feeder. Can also handle multiple sizes
- Document scanning with OCR
- Connect with USB or wireless to your computer
- Can simultaneously capture the picture on the front and any notes on the back
- A tad pricey…especially for a device that you may not use that much, after you’ve converted all your old photos
Part 3 of Jaunty’s Article on digitizing old photos look at some ways to display your newly digitized photos