Digitizing My Photos

It’s long been a dream of mine to be able to make a collage like this with just a few clicks. I knew I didn’t want to do the scanning myself, and so I put it on my 101 in 1001 list thinking I would get to it eventually. When Groupon emailed me about a deal for photos scanning I decided to go for it this past summer.

The project was enormous, and I wanted to walk you through what I did, and what I would do differently next time. 

The first part of the process was going through all of my photos. ALL of them. For the first pass, I grouped them by years, doing a lot of guessing when photos didn’t have a date on the front or back. I created groups by year, event (if it was a particularly photo heavy event like Junior Miss), and sometimes who the photo was with (grandma+me, sisters, friends, etc) For the second pass I tried to eliminate duplicates, and be hyper critical about which photos to keep and scan. Because I knew I was paying for each one, I asked myself over and over “Will I, or anyone else, care about what’s pictured here in a few decades?” For the third pass I created post-it note labels and counted the number of photos in each bundle because the scanning companies would be asking for an approximate number of how many I’d be sending.

The Groupon I bought was with ScanDigital. My Groupon only covered a certain number of images, and so I decided to scan the other half with ScanCafe (which offers a discount code for first time users if you do some searching). Both had positive reviews online, and I felt good about sending off my (irreplaceable) childhood photos to them. The verbage on the website described the process as being rather similar, although Scan Cafe adds in the extra step of giving you an online gallery to look through so you can let them know which ones you don’t want. This was a nice way for me to spot duplicates that I had missed, although the system was a bit clunky and cumbersome to look through.

Where the experience between the two companies started to break down revolved around the amount of time it took me to get my scans back. Throughout the process ScanDigital sent me six emails, the first arrived in my inbox on 7/22 to let me know they had received my order. On 8/3 they told me my order was inventoried and prepared for processing. 10/3 they let me know they let me know they began processing my photos. On 10/12 my photos were shipped, and they arrived at my mom’s house on 10/17. This means it took almost 3 months for them to scan and prepare my pictures, and return them safely to me.

ScanCafe sent me the first email on 7/22 saying they had received my order, and on 8/2 they let me know my pictures had arrived at their facility. They began processing my photos on 8/24, and on 9/13 the scanning was complete. On 9/28 they were shipped back to me. ScanCafe took 2 months for the same amount of photos, and they encouraged me to log in to their website at any time and check on the status of my order. As I said before, they also let me log in and choose which photos to keep, which saved me some money.

Once I had the digital files on my computer, I was able to see that there was another, very significant, difference between the companies. ScanCafe scans in the photos at 600 dpi, which means the average file size of my 4×6 and 5×7 photos is 3-6 MB. Glancing over my photos from ScanDigital I noticed that the file sizes are somewhere around 250-700 KB. That difference in quality could be significant one day if I wanted to enlarge one of the photos from ScanDigital for something.

Although it was an expensive and time-consuming project, it’s wonderful to be able to email old friends a photo and say “Look at us!” Which reminds me, I think it’s time for me to start uploading photos of my childhood friends to Facebook. ;)

16 thoughts on “Digitizing My Photos

  1. Thank you for this review. We keep talking about doing this with my grampas photos. =)

  2. I’ve been wanting to do this, so I appreciate this review–especially the difference in file size!

  3. I did this with a TON of photos last year and had a very similar experience. Going through everything to figure out what to send is really time-consuming, but the end result is worth it. I also used ScanCafe and was really happy with them. They’re always running coupons so you can get a discount if you just look around.

  4. So glad you wrote about this! I have two different groupons to use up, so it was nice to see how you organized yourself and documented the process!

  5. Has anyone ever told you you look exactly like Peggy from Mad Men?!

    Jenna Reply:

    I think maybe. I love Elizabeth Moss, she is on The West Wing as the president’s daughter. I can never see the resemblance when people say I have a doppleganger though.

    Hannah Reply:

    I have to say, I love Elisabeth Moss but I think you are far, far prettier than her!

  6. Awesome! This has also been on the list in the back of my mind for a while, but hadn’t even gotten around to looking into what the options were.

  7. I’ve been wanting to do this too! Quick question – what did you do with all of the photographs when you got them back? Are you keeping both digital and prints, are you putting them in albums – I have choices to make and can’t decide how I want to do this. I also am not sure what I’m going to do with pics with ex’s.

    Jenna Reply:

    I sent them all back to my mom. If I didn’t have her house to store them at, I would have backed up my disc of scans 15 different times, made sure If elt like all of the photos were really secure, gone back through one last time to choose my very favorites to keep in original form, and tossed the rest.

    I didn’t have any serious committed relationships with anyone other than S (except high school boyfriends who were also friends) so I didn’t have to worry about that too much. :)

  8. Thanks for the review: this is really interesting to me as I’m thinking about doing something similar!

  9. Grammatical notes:

    I’m not sure what style your business writing class prefers, but generally numbers should be written out rather than using an alphanumeric for numbers one to ten. (Associated Press style says one to ninety-nine, but I think one to ten is generally acceptable.)

    A quick tip for who/whom: Switch the sentence around and see how you would answer it. If the answer to the question is he/she/they, then use “who.” If the answer is her/him/them, use whom. (There was one misuse in the second or third paragraph.)

    Etc. has a period at the end of it.

    If there is no closing punctuation within a parentheses, you need one on the outside of it (like this).

  10. - You need a comma after scanning in the 1st paragraph.
    - verbiage (not verbage)
    - In the next-to-last paragraph, you should have a comma after “glancing over my photos from ScanDigital.”

    Jenna Reply:

    I’m so happy to have someone point out I’ve been spelling verbiage wrong all along!

  11. I am a digitized picture novice. Which has the best quality? The 250 – 700 KB or 3-6MB???

    Jenna Reply:


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