Recently our family visited the home of an elderly uncle who regaled us with hilarious stories accompanied by fading photos of cousins, aunties, school friends and war buddies who have long since died. The kids were fascinated, and I was reminded that those old snapshots are a link between the present and past generations.
At that point I was determined to save those priceless snapshots and talk Uncle into helping me catalog them.
So what are my options?
There are a number of ways to go about digitizing those photos. There are professional services such as ScanCafe (scancafe.com), ScanDigital (ScanDigital.com) or ScanMyPhotos (ScanMyPhotos.com) that will do it for you. Price varies anywhere from 30 cents to 50 cents per scan.
Some people might be uncomfortable about putting their photos in the mail, so alternative No. 2 is to do it yourself. There are some good scanners out there; you can get a decent one for as little as $100.
Here’s a good place to look at some good products: www.consumersearch.com/scanner-reviews.
We took a look at the Epson, which was recommended by an archivist friend. I did some homework and discovered it got some good reviews from PC Magazine, MacWorld, PC World and by users at Amazon.com. It was also cheap ($90).
I use a Windows computer, but the program also comes with the Mac OS. You simply install the program, plug in the power cord, the USB cable and you’re in business. It’s user-friendly — it has only four push buttons: one for the scan utility, the other three are for copy, e-mail and save to PDF. It warms up quickly and gives you the option to scan both film and slides and has multiple resolutions.
(You’ll want each photo scanned at a resolution of at least 300 dpi — dots per inch — so they’ll look nice when you print copies. If you’re reproducing tiny photos, as we did, you’ll need to scan at 1,200 dpi).
The stock software from Epson is good but pretty basic, so you might consider Adobe Photoshop Elements, which incorporates many of Photoshop’s features without overwhelming the user. The program has two components: the editor, where you manipulate the image, and "organizer" or album setup, where you store and retrieve your photo files. The interface for the editor is the same whether you use Mac or Windows — this program has just about anything you’ll need to dress up a yellowed snapshot and make sure that you can find and display it.