Scan, Scan, Scan!

Years before I became a professional organizer, I researched ways to scan my family pictures.  I was a little overwhelmed by having a blend of print and digital photos.  Instinctively I knew it was better to have digital scans of my prints, but how would I accomplish this? 

Christmas of 2014, my husband gave me a Wolverine negative and slide scanner. I knew nothing about technology or what is needed to capture images of my precious family memories.  I sat for hours watching movies and zipping each negative strip through this little device.  The images were captured and I thought that was that.

Ha! I’ve learned so much since then and now own an array of scanners.  All those negatives I scanned in 2014 have been scanned several times since, each batch with better scanners and higher quality techniques.  Here’s what you should know. 

Photo Insurance

If anything were to happen to your printed photos, you’d want to have quality digital versions.  Therefore, it’s worth the investment to pay a professional service.  A good service will remove the dust from your photos, ensure each image is scanned well, and may even batch-name your photos as they’re being scanned.  We never want to consider the possibility of losing our family photos, but if that were to happen, you’d want the digital scans to be high quality. 

If you prefer the DIY approach like me…

What NOT to use:  If you choose to purchase a scanner to digitize your collection, avoid All-in-One scanners and phone scanning apps.  They’re fine for a quick image to post on Facebook, but they will not give you the quality your photos deserve overall. Also avoid using a document scanner.  They scan to a PDF format rather than a jpg or png, the two most common photo formats.  Finally, I admit, I do not recommend the little Wolverine slide and negative scanner I told you I used in 2014.  Again, it’s a quality issue.

What scanner SHOULD you use?

There are various flatbed photo scanners where you scan each photo individually. these are time consuming, but it is safer for older, more fragile photos as well as larger size pictures. High-speed photo scanners allow you to scan a batch of photos at a time.  It is a quicker process, but they generally accommodate standard size photos up to 8″x10″ and the pictures need to be in good condition to feed through without being damaged. Epson makes nice quality high-speed photo scanners. A good model is their FF-680, which runs about $600.  If you have a sizable photo collection and want to do the scanning yourself, there’s a bit of a learning curve and time investment, but it’s a manageable project. 

The most important setting

Remember, your photos tell your story.  It’s so easy to share your pictures more freely when they are digital.  Whether on social media, with family, or in photo books and other projects, you are more likely to use and share pictures in digital form.

Taking that into account, you want your scanned images to have a high resolution.  The recommended setting is 600 dpi.  Whether you are using a scanning service or your own scanner, make sure the setting for digitizing prints is 600 dpi.  Heads up: companies which offer “economy” pricing are only scanning at 300 dpi, which will limit what you are able to do with the photos in the future.  For example, if you want to view your collection in a photo slide show, a 4”x6” print will be blurry on an 18” computer monitor.

Invest in Your Story

Bottom line, scanning your photos will be an investment—of money if you pay a service, or of time and money, if you have to purchase a scanner to scan your photos yourself.  But in the end, your family memories will be preserved.  That’s what matters most.

Saving Your Photos Forever

The next step is to ask where you’ll store your digital photos.  I love the FOREVER platform.  It offers so much versatility in what I can do to organize and share my pictures.  But the main reason I use FOREVER is because the storage is permanent, safe and private.  When I upload my scanned photos into my FOREVER Library, I know they will be there with no risk of shutting down, getting lost, or ongoing subscription fees. 

We’ll take a look at the FOREVER platform next month. 

For now, assess what you need to have scanned and decide on a course of action to get it done. 

Find a scanning service or, if you want to do it yourself, figure out which scanner(s) you’ll use. 

And yes, I do offer scanning to my clients.  Please reach out to me with any specific questions about scanning your photos.

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2 thoughts on “Scan, Scan, Scan!”

  1. Hi Denise, I’m getting there. I am thinking I might want to scan myself. I have 1000’s of photos. Many 1000’s if I include Brendan’s family’s which I have somehow been given. I’m not quite there yet, but thought I would begin to research scanners. What do you use? What would you recommend? At least I think I will do this.

    Also can you tell me what you charge to scan 1000 photo’s? I truly have no idea. If I can, do you organize? Give me some things to think about. I cannot leave this mess to my kids. Hopefully I have several decades to get it together.

    Thank you

    1. Hi Annmarie! Are your photos sorted? If you go through them and sort them using the A, B, C’s of Photo Organizing (see this recent article) you could choose to scan just your best photos.

      If you want to scan yourself, the best photo scanner I know of is the Epson FF-680. I use a Kodak PS-80, previously, the standard for photo organizers, but that line has been discontinued and the Epson is the best one available. My rate is $.50/scan @ 600 dpi, which is generally a standard starting rate for that resolution. That includes batch naming the photos and loading them into your Forever storage account. So after you give me the photos to scan, you will see them in your account, ready for you to create photo books! Oh, and of course, I give you back your original photos. =^D Let’s have a conversation to get into the details and see how I can help you!

      And I agree with you–I believe the best gift to give your children after you’re gone is a culled and organized photo library! These days, That’s a rare thing! I really hope I can do my part to encourage people to take steps.

      Keep me posted on what you decide!

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