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I have a lot of paper photos. A whole lot. Like 10 large albums each containing around 150 photos. I recently tried to convert them to digital by using a scanner. The job was massively mind-numbing and I quit after 6 photos. But I still wanted digital copies.
So I checked out a couple of services that claim to do this. The best one is probably DigMyPics.com. They offer scanning at 300 and 600 dpi. For 300dpi (which is similar to a 2 megapixels digital photo) , the cost to scan all my 1500 photos is around $410 or $0.27 per photo. For 600dpi (similar to 8 megapixels), the cost is $675 or $0.45 per photo. Plus shipping and handling, of course. I’d say anything over 300 dpi is overkill.
It’s kind of pricey, but what really kills it for me is that I have to mail the photos to them. If the photos are lost, they are lost forever. However, it’s an impressive service.
Craigslist to the Rescue
So seeing how I have zero patience for scanning, I decided to hire a person to do it for me. I posted an ad on Craigslist (in the computer gigs section). My terms were $40 for 4 hours of work, so $10 an hour – a bit over the $8 minimum wage in California. I honestly did not expect a lot of response, but to my utter amazement I got a massive amount of emails. I had a hard time trying to decide whom to give the job to. Eventually, I settled on a lady that lost her job recently and seemed in real need of money. Plus at her last job, she used to scan a whole lot.
Before the lady arrived, I set out to create a process to make sure that the scanning was as fast as it could be. I decided to go with 300 dpi, rather than scanner’s default 150 dpi. This meant that the scanner worked almost twice as slow. With my scanner (Canon LiDE30), I could fit 3 photos at a time in 2 different configurations.
|Configuration 1 ||Configuration 2 |
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Configuration 1 would have been perfect, but I wanted to use Photoshop’s Crop and Straighten Photos feature, which splits up the scanned image into separate photos. Unfortunately it is not smart enough to figure out where one photo stops and the next one starts and, thus, requires white space between the images. So to go forward with this config would require manual cropping.
Configuration 2 provides the white space, but it requires that photos 2 and 3 be rotated (so a bit of extra work). So I settled on this configuration.
When my hire showed up, I quickly walked her through the process and she was pretty efficient going forward. She worked 4 full hours and while she waited for the scanner to do its thing, she worked on her unemployment application. Somehow she seemed to enjoy the work and at the end asked me whether I wanted her to come back to scan more photos.
All in all, she processed 110 photos. So applying the math, that works out to be about $0.36 per scan. It’s a bit pricier than DigMyPics but not obscenely so. 110 photos in 4 hours does not seem like a lot, but she was actually working fast. There are a couple of steps that slowed the process down.
- The scanner itself needs to be faster.
- Removing photos from the album and placing them back in after the scan takes time.
- Having to always rotate 2 images.
- Saving each cropped file takes a bit of time. I had her saving files as PNG and Photoshop asks you every time whether you want to interlace the file. I did not find a setting to tell Photoshop to stop asking.
- The file naming scheme. I basically told her to name files numerically, so she always had to look up what was the last number that she saved.
How to speed it up.
Or a better way to ask this is how to reduce the cost of scanning a single photo. So method #1 is easy, get a faster scanner.
Part #2 has a bit more hair. I am planning to write a Photoshop script (.jsx script) that will do the following 3 things automatically:
- Scans the 3 photos
- Splits them up into 3 separate images
- Auto rotate images 2 and 3
- Saves the images to disk.
Combining these two methods will hopefully bring the price down and speed up for the next go around.