Have someone else digitize your old photos

How long would it take you to scan 1000 photos? I’m thinking it would take me quite some time and I don’t think I’d be able to do anything else if I wanted to get them scanned in a reasonable amount of time. If you have a large amount of photos sitting in closet, basement, or attic, you may want to check out ScanMyPhotos.com. The service promises to professionally scan 1,000 photos for you, the same day it receives them, and put them on a DVD for $50.

The company uses a Kodak scanning machine that can process a hundred photos per minute. From an informative New York Times article about the whole process:

Because it must feed your photos through this machine, ScanMyPhotos has set some rules. Photo sizes can range from 3 by 3 inches (Polaroids) to 11 by 14.

The photos must be put into similar-size bundles (4-by-6 prints together, for example) with rubber bands. The only way to label the batches is to write on index cards, which are scanned along with the photos like title cards. If you want the bundles scanned in a certain sequence, you can number the index cards.

The photos can’t be in albums or scrapbooks. That’s understandable, but it can be heart-wrenching to have to dismantle photo albums that somebody once spent a lot of time and effort creating.

Your photos can’t be in envelopes, either. For my test, I submitted about 20 years’ worth of pictures. (I found out later that there were more than 1,800 in all. I had no idea it was that many; those bundles look deceptively small.) They came from dozens of drugstore envelopes, meaning that I had to separate them from their negatives, probably forever, given that matching 1,800 prints with their original envelopes would take the rest of my life. And my descendants’.

The photos are scanned exactly as you send them. If one is upside down or backward, that’s how it winds up on the DVD. Similarly, you’re supposed to ensure that all horizontal photos are upright, and all vertical photos are consistently rotated 90 degrees the same way.

Finally, you pack your bundles into a box, stuffing it carefully to avoid shifting.

The company’s Web site offers copious photos of the right and wrong ways to pack up your pictures. The bottom line is, ScanMyPhotos will do the scanning. But you have to do the prep work, and it’s not insubstantial.

This seems like a pretty reasonable option for digitizing your old photos. Preparing your photos for shipment looks like the most labor intensive part of the whole process. It seems like a rather even tradeoff, though, for getting a DVD full of your digitized photos.

52 Comments for “Have someone else digitize your old photos”

  1. posted by Deborah on

    I use photoshop to change, size, upload and post pictures. I like how you can copy and place the image in your own files for clickable links.


  2. posted by Robert M on

    As a member of the photo industry for over 35 years, I can tell you there is more to look at than price. If you do just a little research, I think you would find that most real photo specialty camera stores offer this same service, with the advantage of working personally with the people who actually do your scans. We are a retail camera store, and its a service we offer as well. Although we do get some jobs through our website at http://www.moldaners.com , most of our work comes from locals. We have been handling people’s memories for over 60 years. As good as some of these online places may seem, many are just a couple of guys with a couple of scanners and a high-tech website, thats all. Or, they’re shipping your photos to India for scanning, where some teenager sits in front of a scanner not unlike the one you have at home, and runs your prints through in auto-mode. Its great to hear the good stories, but even if they only lost one order, if it was yours you would be pretty unhappy. I would think you would prefer to know that someone had actual experience in working with peoples photos. For instance, not only do we work with consumers, we also work with educational institutions like Tulane University, the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Historic New Orleans Collection.

    Remember, you can’t put a price on your memories.

    Also, as far as transferring movies to DVD, do it as soon as you can, because you will probably never have to do it again. Think for a minute: have you ever burned your own CD or DVD? Well, once your movies are digitized the first time (to DVD) you should be able to do any future conversion yourself. Want to upgrade to Blu-Ray? Soon any new computer will come with a BD burner standard. Put in your DVD and make a copy.

    I hope some of these thoughts help.

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