How to Digitize Your Old Photos

Have too many boxes of photos sitting around? By learning how to digitize your old photos you can make sure they stay preserved and enjoyed forever.

Why should You Digitize your Photos?

Before we get any further, it’s worth asking the question, why even bother to digitize your photo library? Well for one, digitized photos are much easier to share, as you can send them over email and text. Perhaps more important, however, is that it preserves them forever. Most old photos are very delicate, whether printed out or on film, and so the image is highly vulnerable to wear. Scrapes and scratches can irreparably damage the photo, and even if left untouched, temperature and humidity can silently wear it away. All of this means that it is important to digitize your valuable photos as soon as possible.

Your Options

Whether you’re looking to scan prints or film, you have one decision you have to make first, whether you want to scan the photos yourself or have them professionally scanned. Professional scans can get expensive, but they can save time, and ensure the best possible quality for the scans. On the other hand, scanning them yourself is much more cost effective. However, it can take a long time, and in the end the quality won’t be quite the same. Which option you go with will come down to how important the photos are, how much time you’re willing to spend, and your total budget.

One alternative that could work out for you is to combine both of these options. Pick out a few photos that are most important, pay to have just those professionally scanned, and then scan the rest yourself. What you end up with is the best of both worlds. The most important photos are preserved in the highest quality, and the rest can be preserved for a low cost.

Personal Scanners

If you’re looking to digitize a few prints, but not film, then the first option to try is a free app by Google called PhotoScan, available for Android and iOS. It uses your phone’s camera to take photos of the print from multiple angles, then combines them to reduce glare and correct the perspective. With a bit of practice you can end up with some high quality scans at no cost. If you want to learn more about how to use PhotoScan, click here to read our post which explains it in more depth.

Google’s PhotoScan works great if you need to scan a smaller amount of photos, but if you’re looking to scan a larger amount of media, then you have two main options: mini scanners and flatbed scanners. Mini scanners usually are capable of scanning a variety of different film types, are much more portable, and are simple to use. Flatbed scanners, on the other hand, can produce high quality scans of prints, and sometimes film. They are generally more bulky than the mini scanners, and require some more work to produce scans.

Mini Scanners

KODAK Film Scan Tool
35mm and Slides
$80

Wolverine Titan
35mm, Slides, and More
$150

KODAK Slide N Scan
35mm, Slides, and More
$170

*Prices correct at time of writing*

All three of these mini scanners will be able to produce a decent quality scan of your film. Going up in price will get you higher scan quality, in addition to more features, such as the ability to scan additional film types, and a screen on the device. It is also worth noting that the KODAK Film Scan Tool can only be used with a computer, while the other two do not need a computer to operate. Additionally, you will need to use an SD card with the Wolverine Titan and the KODAK Slide N Scan.

Flatbed Scanners

Epson Perfection V19
Prints
4800 DPI
$70

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Epson Perfection V39
Prints
4800 DPI
$100

Epson Perfection V600
Prints and Film
6400 DPI
$230

*Prices correct at time of writing*

If you’re looking to get a higher quality scan, or need to scan printed photos, then flatbed scanners might be right for you. They will have to be used with a computer, but can produce excellent quality scans of any kind of media. Going from the V19 to the V39 gets you some extra features, such as scanning directly to the cloud. Upgrading to the V600 yields higher quality scans, as well as the ability to scan film.

An important figure to look for in devices like these is DPI, or dots per inch. What this represents is the number of points scanned in one square inch of the photo. If the DPI is higher, the quality will be better. This figure also helps explain why your average home flatbed scanner won’t do a great job of scanning smaller photos or negatives. Even though it might be able to scan a larger page in good quality, it uses a low DPI, so it can’t capture all of the fine details in a smaller scan.

Photo Scanning Services

If the idea of digitizing your photos by hand seems too time consuming, or you are looking for the highest quality possible, then sending your photos to a dedicated scanning service could be the right option.

There are many online services such as ScanMyPhotos.com and DigMyPics.com which offer competitive prices for all kinds of prints and film. However, it’s worth checking your local area to see if there are any independent shops which offer the service. If you’re local to the Melrose area, Hunt’s Photo and Video is also worth a look.

Any Questions?

If you have any more questions, or want some advice on scanning a format not mentioned here, give us a call or email. We can answer your questions, or schedule you a remote or in-person appointment. If you have specific questions, or if our terminology isn’t clear, please use our contact form to send us a message. Thank you!

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