How to scan and archive your old printed photos

Hiring a Photo Scanning Service

Plenty of companies can scan your photos for you. Usually, it works like this: You mail your images to the company, and they take some time to scan them. Once your images have been digitized, the company sends you a link or a login to an account where you find all the digital copies of your pictures. Sometimes you have an option to purchase a DVD or USB drive with your images on them, too. At the end of the process, the company mails the original photos back to you.

Some benefits of using a photo scanning service are:

  • Professional results

  • Convenience, sometimes with the companies even supplying the shipping materials

  • Someone else does the tedious work of scanning each image

Some cons of using a photo scanning service are:

  • Risk of damage or loss when sending original photos through the mail

  • Cost; while some companies advertise a low per-photo rate, you might find the total cost much higher once you read the fine print about volume pricing, additional fees for retouching, and other charges

  • Time because it could take months before you get your original images back, depending on the size of your collection and how backed up the company is with orders

We at PCMag have not tested photo scanning services and therefore cannot recommend any per se. A few well-known companies, however, include GoPhoto and ScanCafe, which specialize in digitally repairing images that have been damaged, and ScanMyPhotos, which is known for offering low-cost scanning.

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Storing Old Photos

To store photographs individually, place them in plastic sleeves void of PVC. These can be purchased at photo supply stores and some craft stores. Plastic sandwich bags are a good, inexpensive alternative to plastic sleeves if special supplies do not fit into your budget.

Store large quantities of photos by layering them between sheets of acid-free paper in metal or cardboard boxes marked acid-free. Large photo archive boxes can be easily stacked in a cabinet or closet, or even slid under a bed if storage space is at a premium.

A good rule of thumb is storing photos where you are also comfortable: not too hot, cold, wet, or dry. Keep photos out of attics, garages, and basements where they'll be subject to extreme temperature fluctuations and excessive humidity.

Use a Retail Stores Service

If you don't have a photo scanner and aren't interested in using a camera or smartphone to digitize photo prints, use the photo-scanning kiosks or drop-off services at stores such as Walmart, FedEx, Staples, Walgreens, Costco, Office Depot, Target, and CVS.

Prices, quality, turnaround time, and customer service can vary among them, so be sure to ask about the details first. Many of the aforementioned companies can process prints and digitize images, but some won't return your original film and negatives.

Scanned photos from retail stores typically come on a CD, DVD, or flash drive, or they're uploaded to the cloud. From there, you can copy the photos to the desired folder on your computer. The physical CD/DVD or flash drive acts as an extra backup.

Table of Contents

PART 1: Organize

Chapter 1: Digital Imaging Basics Chapter 2: Transfer Tips Chapter 3: Photo-Management Software Chapter 4: Online Photo Services Chapter 5: Digital Photo-Management Work Flow

PART 2: Digitize

Chapter 6: Heirloom Photo Collections Chapter 7: Digitization Preparation Chapter 8: Scanning Equipment Chapter 9: Scanning Tactics Chapter 10: Heirloom Photo Storage

PART 3: Create 25 Keepsake Photo ProjectsView Color Project Photos

Chapter 11: Core Photo Project Skills Chapter 12: Card, Collage, and Scrapbooking Projects

– thank-you card– mouse pad collage– holiday greeting card collage– ancestor collage– custom Facebook cover photo– digital scrapbook tribute page

Chapter 13: Calendar Projects

– wall calendar– perpetual celebration calendar– year-in-the-life calendar– family foodie calendar

Chapter 14: Smartphone and Tablet Projects

– mobile apps to label a photo– tombstone photo enhancement– photo book– family history timeline– audio photo book

Chapter 15: Fabric and Home Décor Craft Projects

– vintage holiday photo pillow– photo quilt block

Chapter 16: Photo Book Projects

– custom photo book– auto-fill birthday book– heirloom reproduction book– family yearbook– grandparent and grandchild memory book– photo book for busy people– remembrance and celebration book.

APPENDIX: Photo Organizing and Digitizing Resources

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Large or Fragile Images

This large 11 x 14″ antique photograph shows the old family homestead during the 1870s. This one-of-a-kind image was mounted to a sheet of non-acid free board which has now become brittle with age.

By scanning this image before storing it, you can enlarge sections to help identify specific family members and other details in the image. You can also print copies of it for your photo album, or to email to other family members for their own collections or for help in identifying the people, places, dates, and events.

The scan offers access to the image while the fragile original can be safely stored in a resealable Crystal Clear Bag with a sheet of acid-free White Card Stock for support. Store it with other large family photos or documents in a 1-1/2″ or 3″ deep Drop Front Box, which will provide a safe, archival environment for decades to come.

Best Photo Restoration Software

Photoshop may not be the best option for you if yo

Photoshop may not be the best option for you if you don’t have enough time for photo editing, have too many photos to retouch, or can’t hire a professional service because it’s too expensive.

Fortunately, there are photo editing software that have easy editing tools for old photo restoration:

For Windows Users

  • Fotophire – this isn’t made exclusively for photo restoration, but it has precise editing tools that can help you easily erase blemishes.
  • Image Mender – like Fotophire, this isn’t made for restoring photos only, but it also has some great editing tools.

For Mac and Windows Users

  • AKVIS – this is made exclusively for photo restoration and will do most of the work for you.
  • Inpaint – like the first two on this list, it has precise editing tools.

Post navigation

Prev Tintypes | How to Archivally Preserve Your Family Photographs

Next Safe Alternatives to Basement & Attic Storage for your Old Photos & Heirlooms

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