Digitizing My Photos: 7 Attempts to Success

I didn’t embrace digital format photography until 2009.  That means that prior to that, I had created 110 photo albums of more than 22,000 photos. Every picture I ever took was neatly placed in an album and each album was catalogued on the spine.  I could find anything in a minute.  My system worked and I loved it until I saw the benefits of digital photography and desired to have all my photos in one place.

Prior to the digital age, I felt my backup system was pretty good.  I paid $75 a year for a safe deposit box at the bank where I stored all my negatives.  Over the course of that box’s rental, I had spent over $1500 safeguarding my negatives.  In this day and age, if a fire were to destroy my pictures, where could I even have all those negatives made into prints at a reasonable price? Then next would come the task of organizing them and remembering what each event was and when it was taken.  There had to be a better way.

I knew I wanted all my pictures digitized because I enjoyed launching slide shows of various trips and seeing the images flash by on a large screen.  I wanted that experience for all my life events. Thus came the task of finding away to turn all my 4×6 photos into JPEG images.

First, I tried the negative scanner.  This process was quick, but when I later viewed the images it created, I wasn’t pleased with all the results.  All the images took on a blue-green hue.  In addition, every spec of dust or lint on a negative strip was greatly enhanced and often negatives were scanned backwards or upside down.  I decided not to proceed with this approach.

image from negative scanner
Image from negative scanner-Note the green/blue hue and that it’s inadvertently reversed

I tried using the flat bed scanner on my printer.  This yielded high quality photos but was painstakingly slow.  To scan 22,000 pictures this way would take years.

Next I read about an app I could install on my cell phone that would scan up to four photos at once and crop each.  I found this app hard to use and not every image was saved. Further, there was no way to have the images come out without some glare.  Overall, it just was too hard to use.  I became frustrated and gave up.

I set my DSLR on a trip-pod in my basement where I had perfect lighting and took pictures of the images.  This worked well, but like the flat bed scanner, it would take years to digitize all my pictures in this manner.  In addition, the images took on a dated look for some reason.

I thought I won the lottery when I saw a Groupon for ScanMyPhotos.  For $29, I could have 1000 pictures digitized.  That meant for the 22,000 pictures I had, I would be spending $638 and probably another $450 to ship the pictures to them.  Compared to what I was spending in a safe deposit box over time to store my negatives, I thought it was a small investment.  In order to ensure the order of my pictures wasn’t compromised, I numbered 1000 pictures from 1 to 1000 on the back of each, I grouped them into groups of 100, and boxed them up.  On my way to the post office, I was gripped by fear.  “What if they lose my photos? What if the paper with my address gets separated from the box” What if…?”  I couldn’t do it.  Shipping off my child’s baby pictures knowing that I may never see them again was a risk I couldn’t take.  I contacted Groupon, and they refunded my money; no questions asked.

It was at that point, I thought that I would just purchase a professional grade photo scanner. Searches on Amazon and eBay turned up mediocre scanners that were in my price range.  Yet, I wanted a scan quality of at least 600 dpi and I needed something fast. In order to acquire a top quality, high speed scanner, I would have to spend over $1600.

Finally, it hit me!  “What if there is a way to rent that $1600 scanner?”  A Google search turned up a company in Florida that did just that. For $295 dollars, EzPhotoScan.com shipped me a scanner and laptop for three days.

The man I talked to told me that the three-day record was 33,000 photos scanned.  I knew in order to be the second place finisher with 22,000, I had to be organized.  Prior to the arrival of the equipment, I took every picture from my albums and sorted them by event and stacked them ready to be scanned.  I wanted the images to be flat so they would scan with minimal machine jamming so I ensured to pack them very tightly in boxes.  I let the images get compressed in the boxes for two weeks before the equipment’s arrival.

Two of the three shelves of photo albums I had to scan.
Two of the three shelves of photo albums I had to scan.
The process of removing my pictures and stacking them in boxes.
The process of removing my pictures and stacking them in boxes.

With a free weekend on my hands, I began the task.  At 11:00 a.m. on a Friday, I picked up my equipment from a local FedEx store and had it home and set up by noon.

Unloading the equipment
Unloading the equipment
Scanner center is set up and ready to roll.
Scanner center is set up and ready to roll.

I scanned pictures from noon on Friday until 11:30 a.m. on the following Monday stopping only to go to the bathroom, to eat, and to sleep for five hours each night.

The feeling I had upon completing the project was immense.  I would recommend this process to anyone wishing to convert pictures to JPEG files.  Below is an example of the quality of the scanned results next to the first photo for a side-by-side comparison.

Image from photo scanner. Note the improvement in color quality and the proper orientation.
Image from photo scanner. Note the improvement in color quality and the proper orientation.
image from negative scanner
Image from negative scanner compared to scanned photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~Bella

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