We have just about 1 month now until we start our long trek up to Alaska and it’s beginning to feel like major crunch time. Nothing like a glance at the calendar to help get your ass in gear.
As I mentioned in a previous post about downsizing, one of my biggest goals was to digitize my loose photos and albums. It’s been quite an overwhelming task and one that I’ve put off for years. But now that we’re moving, I wanted to put in the time to just get it done. And so I did.
Looking at the stacks of albums and loose photos – all scanned – I feel a huge sense of relief and accomplishment. Now I know that if anything does happen to the physical copies of my photos, I’ll still have a digital backup. That’s truly priceless.
This photo I took of my grandparents in Denali National Park in Alaska is one of my favorites of them and I’d hate to lose it.
And high school graduation only comes around once…
And while it was the experience of a lifetime and I’m glad I did it, I’m pretty sure I won’t be jumping out of any more planes in the future.
A New Project for You?
Because some of you may have taken pre-digital-era images and may be wanting to take a similar project of scanning your photos, I thought it might be helpful to go over my process in digitizing my images so that maybe you can do that same for yours. It’s probably a big task but I’ll bet you’ll be so happy when you’re done!
Ways to Create a Digital File from a Print or Negative
1. Scan the Photos Yourself
Your first, and perhaps most obvious, choice is to scan your prints or negatives yourself.
I knew I wanted the control of doing it myself so I did some research and bought a scanner suited to the task.
I settled on the Epson V330 which wasn’t top of the line, but wasn’t the cheapest unit, either. It scanned way faster than my old printer/scanner and had the ability to scan negatives, too. Something I thought might come in handy.
- You have control over how fast (or slow) your stuff gets scanned. During your free moments, you can sit down and go to work.
- Your memories also don’t leave your possession. The main reason I chose to scan my stuff myself is because I was a bit worried that if I sent it in to have it done by some company, they could lose some files or the package could get lost in the mail and everything would be gone forever.
- More cost effective. Doing it myself saved money over having someone else do it (even figuring into account the cost of the scanner).
- It’s tedious. No matter how you look at it, if you have more than a handful of photos, you’re looking at a large project.
- Depending on the type of scanner you buy, the scanned image may not result in a very large file so you won’t be able to make large prints.
- The scanned negatives look decent, but not great by any means. The bigger issue is that I found it far too time consuming to sort through all of my negatives to find just the few that I thought I may want enlarged. I decided a simple scan of the 4×6 or 5×7 I had already made was good enough for me.
2. Take Photos of Your Photos
Once I started scanning, I noticed that even with my newer faster scanner, each scan still took a while – about 30-60 seconds a scan. That may not sound like a lot at first, but it sure adds up over time.
My second option was to take photos of my photos. It may sound a little silly, and in fact it’s not a great option (see Cons below), but it’s a much, much faster one.
For images that I wanted simply to preserve but didn’t care as much about the quality or ability to print again in the future, I simply used my Canon s95 camera to snap a photo of my photo. I could quickly get through a stack of photos that would’ve taken 2-3 times as long had I scanned them, instead.
- Fast and Easy.
- For large photo album pages, taking photos was pretty much my only option. I didn’t want to splurge on an oversized scanner, so for album pages that exceeded the width of my scanner, I either had to scan one page multiple times or settle for taking photos of the page. I opted for the latter.
- Problems with glare. Most of my older photos were glossy which makes it much more difficult to take photos of them because reflections and glare are super hard to eliminate. Finding just the right angle was difficult, but in most cases I could minimize it enough that I found the result acceptable.
- Lower Quality Image. Due to the glare mentioned above, there was no way to get a high-quality photo of my photos.
3. Pay a Professional
The last option is to find a service that specializes in digitizing photos and negatives and have them do all the work for you.
Most services may be out of state for you, so you’d have had to mail in your box(es) of negatives or prints. They’d then scan it for you and (hopefully) return all of your images back to you with everything digitized.
- Easy. You don’t really have to do a thing except mail your stuff to them. They do all the work for you.
- Bigger enlargements. You may be able to make larger prints if you use a service versus doing it yourself based on the equipment that’s being used.
- Risky? I personally thought it was a bit scary shipping off my photos and negatives since they were my only copies. It probably would’ve been just fine, but I was wary nonetheless.
- Pricy. You pay for the convenience of having someone do it for you. The services I looked at were pretty expensive.
Since I’ve never used a service myself, I can’t really say much about them. But here are some links for further reading if you’re interested in this method:
- Outsource Your Photo Scanning Projects
- Online Photo Scanning Comparisons
- The Best and Worst Services for Digitizing Your Photos
I’m pretty happy with my results. Overall, I probably scanned about half of my images and took photos of the other half.
After scrolling through my images, I’d say it was definitely worth my time and I’m so grateful to now have copies of all of my images in digital form so that if anything happens to my physical copies, I’ll at least have something left for myself and future generations.
And I mean, really, how frickin’ cute is this Wallaby in Australia? Seeing animals during my travels is by far one of my highlights every time.
I do want to mention that the images I was preserving were all personal and not professional. I chose the methods I did because I simply wanted to preserve every image, even if it wasn’t perfect. I know I sacrificed quality, but it was a worthwhile tradeoff of time and money for me.
For professionals or those who want high-quality scans, I’d say you’re better off outsourcing or investing in a much better scanner than I did.
Whatever your choice, if this is a project you’ve been meaning to take on for a while, then there’s no time like now to get started! Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to help.