Photo, Slide and Negative Scanning

Sponsored Links #3

If you’ve been a photographer (or anyone in your family, for that matter) for more than 5+ years, you probably have a bunch of prints and slides laying around somewhere (think shoe boxes and those sticky photo albums - you know you have them somewhere). With digital storage becoming increasing affordable, not to mention the fact that those prints are probably fading (if you can even find them), it’s really probably rather prudent that you convert those slides and prints into a digital format. Now, scanners are fairly affordable these days - in fact, a lot of printers are now scanner/copier/printer three-in-one thingies. But if you have even 100 prints or slides, we’re talking days of work to scan them in, save and crop them, then fix them up. It’s fun for a little while, but an entire weekend later, you might begin to consider abandoning the project.

Enter ScanCafe.

They scan and fix your slides and photos, and send them all back to you. In some sense, it’s as simple as that, but in other ways, it’s a pretty complex process as well. Let me outline it for you (you can also check out a cool “How it Works” page on their site).

How it Works

First, you find all your photos/slides/etc that you want to have scanned/restored. You don’t actually need to count, organize or sort them even. Just gather them up.

Second, you head to their website (, and place your order. You print up a shipping label, and drop your photos (they’ll tell you how to best package them up) off at your nearest UPS store. From the shipping label, you can track the package as it leaves your hand until it arrives at ScanCafe. Once they receive it, they’ll send you an email.

Once they’ve received your photos, they scan them all in with a high resolution scanner, rotate, crop, remove dust and scratches, and perform color enhancements. Once this process is complete, they send you an email telling you to preview the images online (yes, they create an online viewing album of all your photos). You go through all the photos/slides that they’ve scanned in, and choose which ones you want, and which ones you don’t (and you don’t even pay for the ones you don’t want!).

After you’ve picked out all the scans that you want, they burn them on to discs and ship them to you along with your originals. While you’re waiting for your originals and your discs, you can share the photos with your friends and family via the online album.

Finally, you receive your originals back, along with the discs containing the scans. Now your old photos and slides are preserved digitally, and you can put the originals back in their shoe boxes and sticky photo albums and put them back up in the attic.

The Review

If you remember back to the PhotographyCorner 2007 Photograph of the Year contest, ScanCafe was a sponsor. While they currently only service the US, more than half of the winners were from outside the US. ScanCafe totally stepped up and set up a special way for those winners to use the ScanCafe service and claim their prize. I was totally impressed. I even wrote a blog post about it. Shortly after the contest completed, they offered me a chance to try out their service free of charge. I’m in Canada, so again they set up a special way for me to try out the service. Bonus points right there.

I had long since scanned in all my old photos, so I had my parents package up some of their old photos and send them to me (I had promised my mom that I would scan them in, so this was a great way to “kill two birds with one stone” so to speak). Eventually (and I’m talking months later), I got the photos from my parents, and I went through the ordering and shipping process. Admittedly, it was a little more complicated because of the whole “shipping to and from Canada thing,” but overall their interface and ordering process was simple and straightforward. In retrospect, I could have just had my mom do it herself. Really. It was that easy.

I shipped off my photos, and tracked the package to ScanCafe. Shortly thereafter, I received an email saying that they received them. Then I waited. And waited. The time between ScanCafe receiving the photos, and getting them scanned in took a while. On their website they say it can take 8 weeks. Considering the whole process (and the fact they’ve now scanned over 10 million images in the past couple of years), it makes sense. But I warn you now - if you need them back quickly, this is not the service for you. But, if you need them done well (and at a WAY cheaper price than any competition on the market), then ScanCafe is for you.

Back to my review. So about two months later, I receive an email saying my photos have been scanned in, and I can check them out online. I head over to the gallery, and I thumb through the photos. The scan quality looked great, colors looked good, folds had been cleaned up, dust removed. Overall, the quality looked even better than expected. I picked out the photos that I wanted (in my case, all of them, since I was reviewing the service, and they were doing the scans complimentary for me) and selected the storage options I wanted (CD, DVD, hard drive, etc) and submitted my order (this is the time where you’d pay as well - remember, you only pay for the scans that you want!).

At this point, most people should expect to receive their originals and scanned images within a week or so. Of course, since I’m up in Canada, shipping and whatnot took longer, but it all arrived eventually. The first thing I checked was the originals (my mom would KILL ME if they were wrecked). They all looked the same as they did when I mailed them. Then I checked out the DVDs of my photos. The scan quality was great. They did some basic dust removal and color correction as well. Sure, I could probably fix them up a little better if I did them myself, but it would have taken me a lot longer.

Then, the final test came. I showed my mom the scanned photos. She loved them. She said they looked fantastic. Probably even brought a tear or two to her eyes (our family is like that - they say our eyes are attached to our kidneys). And really, if it passes the “mom test,” then it passes. As a guy how works and plays with photography all day, am I going to be able to find some imperfections in the scans? Of course. I can probably find imperfections in most photos. There’s always something we can do to make each photograph a little better or a little cleaner. But ultimately, the average client will look at the scans the same way my mom did.


Would I recommend ScanCafe to a friend? Yes.

Would I use them again myself? Yes.

Is the pricing reasonable? Can’t be beat as far as I have seen.

Is the quality good? Yes.

What about shipping times? On the slow side.

How’s their customer service? Great.

You think my mom could use it without my help? Probably - you might want to give your grandma a hand, though.

Overall score? 8.5 out of 10 (would be closer to 10 if it weren’t for the “not shipping outside of the US thing” and general turn-around time).