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Scanning Lots of Photos

If you can scan one picture, you can scan all the old family pictures, but is that really how you want to spend the next few years?

Scanning originals — one by one on your printer/copier/scanner — is time consuming, especially if it’s just the first step in a bigger save-the-family-photos project.

You have some options:

  • Purchase a high-speed scanner: Rather than place each image on your flatbed scanner, feed them through the high-speed scanner. These machines can be pricey, but scan fast(er) and you don’t have to part with your pictures. However, the size of the high-speed scanner determines the size of the originals you can scan, and you cannot scan images that are in books, albums or frames.
  • Send the originals to a scanning company: Scanning services will scan your images for a few cents each. Some will even digitally enhance/correct old or damaged photos. This is well worth the cost, but you have to part with your originals by either dropping them off or mailing them. Compare companies online for price, process, turnaround time, and what they send  back (downloadable images online, flash drive, disc). You also might inquire whether they digitize slides, audio tapes, and old videos as well.
  • Have a “scanner” come to your house: Some companies send someone with a high speed scanner to your house. You don’t have to part with your images, and you don’t have to scan them yourself. If such a service is available in your area, be sure you agree on the scope of work: will they take images out of frames? Is the fee based on time or production? In what format will your imaged photos be?
  • Take a picture of your pictures: In one second — literally — you can have a digital image of an old family photo. But is it a good enough likeness? Pictures of pictures can have shadows, be distorted (if not taken exactly head-on), or show bends or dog-eared imperfections in the photograph paper itself.

Perhaps the best plan is a combination of these options: buy a high-speed scanner for  photographs, use your flatbed scanner for books or albums, hire someone to do the slides and old movies, and, finally, take a picture of the elaborately framed portrait on the wall!

What you or your family might do with the digital images — videos, photo books, genealogy projects, illustrated memoirs, etc., is well worth the effort of scanning.