After receiving questions and requests for advice on how to digitize old photos and slides, I’ll make some suggestions here, based on my own experience and recommendations from a website I trust.
There are two ways to get your old pictures into high-quality digital format: 1) do-it-yourself with a good scanner, or 2) use a professional scanning service. The first option costs a lot of time but not much money, and the second one is the just the opposite.
Thankfully, one of my favorite websites, thewirecutter.com, has reviewed both options.
DIY with a scanner
About ten years ago, I purchased a flat bed scanner to scan some old slides and photos for a fiftieth wedding anniversary party for my parents. The scanner worked well and I was pleased enough with the quality of my scanned images, but it was an extremely slow and tedious process – especially for the slides.
Here is the link for The Wirecutter’s review of scanners and recommendations: http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/the-best-cheap-scanner/.
I suggest you read the whole article, but if you want the bottom line, skip down to the last section “Wrapping it up.” Basically, the Canon LiDE 220 is their pick for just scanning prints and the Canon 9000F Mark II is the best one for scanning prints, slides and film.
Back when Groupon was all the rage, I stumbled upon a great deal for a scanning service called Scan Digital. At the time, I was anxious to have all of our home videos digitized before the tapes disintegrated. I had videos on Betamax, VHS and 8mm tapes, which are now safely saved on an external drive, in my computer and in my cloud backup, Crashplan.
Since then, a number of scanning services have cropped up, offering everything from average quality scanning of photo prints to archival restoration for all print and video mediums.
The Wirecutter reviewed a dozen scanning services in this article: http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/the-best-photo-scanning-service/. Their favorite service is Memories Renewed. They did try the company I used, Scan Digital, but Scan Digital’s turnaround time was too slow for their review requirements.
I know that I do not have the time or patience to scan the thousands of remaining photos that I want to have digitized, so I will be saving my money to use a scanning service. I also recommend searching for online coupons. Scan Digital still offers some great deals on Groupon.
Some final thoughts
- Scanning negatives vs. prints. Most experts and scanning services recommend negatives over prints, if you have them and they are in good condition. A Google search will direct you to many articles, but here is a good one I found: http://www.digitalmemoriesonline.net/scan/scan_processing/prints_vs_film_scanning.htm
- If the scanning service you choose offers shipping packaging for a nominal fee, I recommend purchasing it.
- If you like to create your own albums, slideshows or movies on your computer, send a new, small external drive with your pictures or videos. You will find it much easier to work with your digitized copies from one drive.
- Only use a scanning service that scans in-house in the United States. You do not want your originals being shipped to India for scanning.
- You will have to choose the scanning resolution you want for your digitized pictures. There are many explanations online to help you decide. The bottom line is that the higher resolution (and more expensive) option is better for passing these photos down to your descendants who will be using tv and video screens that are higher resolution than we have now. Here is an excellent explanation: http://howtoscan.ca/scanning-tips/best-scan-resolution-for-hdtv.html