Organize Your Memories: Having Your Print Photographs Digitally Scanned

July 5, 2011 | By | Comments (4)

Our family moved in the month of March, and one of my biggest discoveries was a box full of print photographs and photo albums. A couple years ago, I had sent out thousands of images to be professionally scanned, and I thought I had sent out all of my printed pictures.

Apparently, I was wrong.

I’m now in the process of going through the photographs I unearthed from the back of a closet and am deciding which ones are worthy of being scanned and which ones can go in the trash (blurry ones of someone’s finger and ones where I forgot to remove the lens cap are trash worthy). Sorting the images is the most fun part of the project for me, as I enjoy the nostalgic walk down memory lane.

If you’ve been considering having your print photographs digitally scanned, check out the following information guide to help you through the process:

Why scan print photographs? The main reason people have their photographs scanned is to protect them. If your home is destroyed by a natural disaster, you’ll lose every photograph you’ve ever taken or that someone has shared with you. As a digital file, you can upload these images to a private online account (like on Flickr) so if anything happens to your home, you can still have a copy of these images. Additionally, if you ever want to share your images with friends or family members, all you have to do is email them a file. I like having print photographs scanned because it means I can get rid of the physical version and free up the storage space in my home.

How do you have print photographs scanned into digital files? If you only have a few print photographs, a high quality scanner is all you need. However, if you’re like me and have thousands and thousands of images, it’s much more time and cost efficient to use a professional scanning service. Professionals have equipment that automatically feed your images into the scanner and create digital files of these images in mere seconds. They scan your images, give the print photographs back to you, and also include a DVD of the digital files.

How do you find a professional photograph scanner? Start by checking with your local photography store to see if this is a service they provide. Many photography stores that used to make their money from developing images now make their revenue from scanning all those photos they printed for you. You can also use a company that specializes in scanning images, like ScanDigital and ScanMyPhotos. (I’ve used both these companies and like the results.)

What do you do with the print photographs after they’ve been scanned? Some people like to hold onto the print photographs, especially if they are organized in albums and family and friends frequently access these albums. Other people, like me, give most of them away to the people in the pictures. I’ve taken family photographs to a family reunion and told people to take what they want. I shredded the images that weren’t taken. If the images are specific to a time and place, the historical society in the location of the picture might be interested in them. Some local libraries and high schools also keep special collections that include images associated with their work, so contact them if you think the pictures might be appropriate.

What is the most difficult part of the process? For me, the most difficult part of the process is transferring the information from the back of the photograph into the “notes” field for each image. I use iPhoto to manage all of my digital photographs, but Aperture (for Mac) and Lightroom (for PC and Mac) are additional options for photography enthusiasts. It’s not that entering in the data is difficult, it just takes time. It’s very nice to know, though, that if I ever can’t remember what, where, who, or when a picture was taken that this information is in the note field of each picture. It also makes searching for an image incredibly simple. I just type Paris into the search field and every picture I’ve ever taken in Paris comes up in the search results.

How much does it cost? It varies by service provider, so find out rates before making a decision. Most companies charge just a few cents per image, and it only takes a week or two once you’ve dropped off or sent off your images.