Do you have some pictures that you want to digitize? Would you also like to restore the color or to fix "speckles" and scratches? The answer is simple: scan them. Well, that's a simple answer unless you have a few thousand old family photographs to convert. Sitting in front of a scanner and manually feeding in a thousand or more old photographs is not a chore that I envy. Now there is a new service that will do the hard work for you: ScanCafe.
ScanCafe is based in India, where labor charges are lower. Real humans do the scanning and analyze the results. This is not an automated service of "feed everything into the hopper of an automated scanner and hope that it all works." Each scan is made by hand and then reviewed by human eyes.
You initiate the ordering process online, where you get information on the process, packaging requirements, etc. You then pay half the estimated price. The online service will print a UPS shipping label on your local printer. You place all your photos in a package, affix the label, and send them off.
Your package first goes to ScanCafe’s U.S. headquarters in California, where it’s examined, re-packaged, and shipped off to India. You can track progress every step of the way online. A few weeks later you can review low-resolution versions of the scans online. Here comes the good part: you can discard up to 50% of what they already scanned in. If some of the photos are duplicates or are near duplicates, you can mark the ones to delete from the final product. You don't pay for the discarded scans. Who needs six nearly identical poses from one birthday party? You then pay the other 50% of the scanning fee, minus the price of the discards.
In a few weeks your package arrives in the mail. The package will contain all your pictures in high-resolution on a DVD plus all of your original photographs. Your photos are now preserved in digital safety. I'd suggest immediately making a backup copy of the DVD and perhaps storing it off-site at a relative's house, preferably a relative who would also like to see those pictures.
ScanCafe can scan old photographs, negatives, and 35 mm slides. All scanning is done by hand, and old photographs are handled delicately. Since your old color photos almost certainly have changed color over time, color correction is critical to making sure your images look brand new; but, it has to be done by hand. ScanCafe analyzes every photo and makes corrections as needed. If needed, scratch removal and red-eye removal can also be performed.
The biggest risk I see here is all your photos being placed together in one container where they are at the mercy of the shipping companies. I'd hate to have my package lost in shipment. I suppose that isn't much more risk than leaving them all together in one place in my closet, but somehow I do feel uncomfortable shipping off all my family photographs at once. I'd be tempted to break them up into separate batches and send each batch one at a time, even though that will probably cost me more in the long run.
Scanning costs $0.29 per negative/slide/photograph, and discounts are available for large orders. Damaged photographs may be restored for $6.95 or more, depending upon the amount of damage.
You can read more at http://www.scancafe.com. Save your photographs!