Review: Photo, 35mm Slide & Negative Scanning Services
Preserve Memories: Scan and Digitize Your Old Photos, 35mm Slides and Negatives to DVD
If you are like most people (including myself), you have old photo albums and perhaps a box or two stashed in your closet with hundreds if not thousands of old photographs, just gathering dust, and with the colors fading away. They haven't been looked at for years because you never got around to putting them in albums and probably never will, because by now it's just too overwhelming. And wouldn't it be nice to have those boxes of slides digitized or converted to prints? But how? Scan your old photos, negatives and 35mm slides and give them new life. It's not as hard to do as you may think.
Photos, Negatives and Slides Can Fade and Change Color
Pictures inevitably degrade over time — the colors fade and they can develop a yellow haze. Experts say color photos begin to degrade in just 12 years. The best remedy is to scan your images to digital and preserve your memories before it’s too late.
You can store your newly scanned and digitized pictures on your computer and archive them on DVD, then share them, create digital scrapbooks and more. The problem is, scanning a huge stack of photos and carousels of 35mm slides can be a daunting task. You need to get each image properly aligned in the scanner, make sure the photo and the scanner bed are free of dust, smudges and specks, scan your photo, and then most likely correct the color and clean up scratches. Then repeat 100 or 1000+ times! I've done this; now just the thought of it is enough to make me say forget it; let them continue gathering dust. That's where a professional photo scanning service comes in.
A Professional Scanning Service Can Save Time and Money— and Your Photos
A high quality photo scanning service will scan your photos, 35mm slides and negatives, then correct them for damage such as scratches, fading, and color-shift (i.e. correct that pink, yellow or blue haze that sometimes develops over time on prints). Then they'll put them on their server where you can view or share them. You'll get your originals back along with the scanned images on DVD, CD or even on a hard drive.
While there are numerous scanning services available, there are two that I particularly like and that have received numerous positive reviews:
- ScanCafe, an award-winning photo scanning service rated best by CNN Money, and received raves from Popular Photography and pro photographers, and
- ScanDigital, featured in Real Simple, Popular Photography and Redbook.
Both services operate fairly similarly but have some price and turnaround time differences and unique features. I'll explain how the scanning process work and review both services.
Photos can discolor or color shift over time (see first photo above). Luckily, they can be color-corrected (see 2nd photo) during the scanning process.
Organize Your Pictures, Slides and Negatives for Scanning
Collect all your prints, slides and negatives. Don't forget the ones in albums. I was looking for some college photos that I wanted to scan and upload to my FaceBook page, but found they had faded and discolored terribly. Perfect candidates for a professional scanning company. ScanCafe and ScanDigital will even accept whole albums as well as scrapbook pages, large format prints and APS film. If you have hundreds of slides you want to convert, inn most cases you can even leave slide carousels intact, for a small fee. The scanning service will remove the slides, scan them and replace them.
Packing Your Items for Scanning
The sites recommend that you put your negatives and their envelopes into plastic sleeves or ziploc bags and clearly label each sheet or bag with your name and subject matter. Slides can be rubber banded together or kept in slide boxes. Pack your pictures and slides carefully. A sturdy shipping box is strongly recommended. A padded envelope is not enough protection. Both sites have detailed information about how to package your items, how their scanning process works, and even info on how to protect printed photos.
Ordering Your Scans
Both services have straightforward online ordering processes. Fill out the self-explanatory online order form, which clearly explains the process including shipping, how you want to receive your photos (i.e. DVD, hard drive). Both ask you to estimate your order quantity; you don't have to be exact. ScanCafe will ask for 50% payment at time of order. Once your images are scanned, you will be able to review them online and reject up to 50% of the images. ScanDigital offers a discounted prepay plan for 1000 images or more.
Both ScanCafe and ScanDigital have a partnership with UPS whereby as part of the order process you can print a shipping label on your computer and drop your box at a UPS pickup location. You'll have a tracking number for your package which provides a safe, easy way to ship and track your package without fear of it getting lost. You will receive emails advising that your items have been received. Both companies provide online tracking systems so you know the status of your order from the time it leaves your hands to receipt at their facility to scanning status to return shipment. While it can hard to let your precious memories out of your hands, both companies have strong security measures in place. ScanCafe offers a $1000 guarantee if your scanning order gets lost or damaged. As far as I know, they are the only company to offer this.
ScanCafe scans images to jpeg format (tiff is available at additional cost) by hand at 3000 dpi for slides and negatives, and their print photos are scannned at a standard 600 dpi, which is great if you want to make enlargements. They use Epson 4490 for prints, and for slides and negatives Nikon 5000 and Nikon 9000 ED. In addition to prints, 35mm slides and negatives, ScanCafe also does 110, 120, 126, 127 & 200 (medium) format film.
Each scanned image will be individually reviewed and hand corrected if needed for color, redeye, scratches. After the scans and corrections are completed, you will be notified by email and you can review all scans online. You only pay for what you want to keep. If there are scans you decide you don't want, you can delete them (up to the previously mentioned 50%) without charge. Your scans can be reorganized among folders or new folders added as you review them. The thumbnails provided for review are fairly large, about 200k, which is nice, but If you have thousands of images to review on line, the process can be quite slow. I recommend that, if you are able to, you break your order down into several smaller orders to make it more manageable.
ScanDigital uses Epson 4490 and 4990 scanners for prints and the Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED for slides and negatives. They scan 35 mm and APS negatives, 35 mm slides, and printed paper photos up to 8.5" by 11". Photos can be scanned at 300 dpi or 600 dpi (higher cost). All images are cropped, rotated and color corrected and red-eye is removed. Dust and smudges and minor blemishes will be removed. Photos will be organized online according to whatever labels your provided when you sent your photos. You can view images on line, organize and share them. SanDigital will provide TIFF files instead of JPEG files at no additional charge. If you want both TIFF and JPEG, there is an additional charge of $.20 per image. The TIFF files are left raw, unedited, while the JPEG files are edited by their editing team.
Completing the Scanning Order
Once you have reviewed your images with ScanCafe or ScanDigital, they will burn a DVD or CD with your scans and send it along with your original images. The option of getting your photos on a hard drive is also available with both companies. Again, there will be a package tracking number provided. The digital images will be high-resolution for prints or enlargements. Your scans can also be viewed by family and friends online.
How Long Does It Take
ScanDigital takes an average of 30 days turnaround from the time your items are received until they are ready for viewing online. All images are scanned in Los Angeles County, CA. All material stays inhouse and they have a bar-coded tracking system that enables you to track your material at every stage.
ScanCafe also takes an average of 30 days because they use manually processing -- all images are hand-scanned and hand-corrected. The scanning and correcting is done in India (you ship your items to their Burlingame, CA facility and they are securely forwarded to their state-of-the-art scanning facility in India). While it may concern you to have your images processed outside the country, ScanCafe has a very secure system in place with bar-coded tracking from start to finish. They state they have scanned more than 20 million images and have never lost or damaged an order. As mentioned, ScanCafe offers an exclusive $1000 guarantee should your images be lost or damaged.
Both companies have toll-free telephone and email support; ScanDigital also has live online chat support.
Bottom line: If you have just a handful of photos you want to scan, it may make sense to do it yourself at home if you have a scanner or an all-in-one-printer/scanner. But if you have loads of originals, a scanning service such as Scancafe or ScanDigital makes the most sense in terms of time and headaches.
|Photo Scanning Service|
|Ordering process||Fast, easy and explained clearly||Easy and explained clearly|
Receive a 10% discount on your order, Use coupon code DIGITALPHOTOS101 expires 7/9/2014
|Scan Quality||Excellent images with good color balance and exposure and crisp detail. All scans done by hand.||Very good to excellent with good exposure.|
|Basic Corrections||Includes manual re-orientation, cropping, scratch and dust removal, color correction, red-eye removal||Includes manual cropping, rotating, color correction and redeye removal. Dust and minor blemishes removed|
|Basic Prices||$0.29 for paper photos (standard 600 dpi), 35mm slides (3000 dpi) and negatives (3000 dpi)||Photos 300 dpi - $0.48, 600 dpi - $0.68
35mm slides 2000 dpi - $0.68, 4000 dpi - $0.88, 35mm & APS negatives 2000 dpi - $0.58, 4000 dpi $0.78. Prepay for 1000 photo scans: $0.38 at 300 dpi or $0.58 at 600 dpi
|Extras||Can review photos online and discard up to 20% at no charge. All scans done by hand for quality control. View, organize and share online. Photos available on portable hard drive. Photo restoration service available for extension damage repair from $6.95||Images can be viewed, organized and shared on line. Photos available on portable hard drive. Lifetime storage of scanned photos online. Also processes video and reel-to-reel film.|
|Tiff format||Files may be saved in Tiff format $0.19/scan extra||Tiff files are availabe instead of JPG at no extra cost. If you want both, they are $0.20/scan extra. Tiff files left RAW; JPGs are enhanced.|
|Special Media||APS, newspaper clipping/letter/full album page, b&w 35mm negative, medium format slide/negative, 110/126/127 color slide/negative||Photo albums, scrapbook pages, 110/126/127 film, large and medium format photos, stereo slides, 2.25 inch slides, disc negatives|
|Turnaround Time||30 days (8-10 Day US Express Service available||30 days|
|Overall||This is my top pick for price and quality if you are not in a big hurry. ScanCafe is the # for scanning slides, negatives and photos. Over 70 million photos scanned by hand.
||Scanned in California.|