(This article is an excerpt from How to Select a Photo Scanning Service for Highly-Valued Photographic Collections, published by FotoBridge. The entire publication can be downloaded here.)
How to Select a Photo Scanning Service (Part 1 of 4)
Understand Your Requirements
While most scanning services have tailored their offerings and options to appeal to a broad spectrum of potential customers, we believe that you may have some requirements that should fully understood before starting to look at providers.
- Formats & media types – the variety of photo prints, slides, transparencies, and negatives in your collection may exclude certain providers. Typically, the range of photographic print sizes a provider can scan is a function of the equipment they use. Similarly, while most providers can capture the most popular slide and negative types and sizes – if you have medium or large format negatives or other special formats (e.g. stereo slides or picture disks) those can represent specific requirements for providers. If scanning of special formats is provided, often the price will be higher than common formats due to unique equipment and labor requirements.
- Resolution – most reputable scanning services offer a variety of scanning resolution options. These options typically range from 300dpi to 600dpi for photo prints and 2000dpi to 4000dpi for 35mm slides and negatives. These values have become industry standards, and are widely accepted as providing maximum utility and flexibility to the largest number of consumers and professionals. Your scan dpi requirements are most likely to be determined by how you plan to use you newly digital images. While technically, scan dpi does not directly determine digital image quality, it will determine the size (in pixels) of the resulting image. We suggest that if you envision using you digital files to reprint enlargements, you select 600dpi for print scans, and 3000dpi or 4000dpi for 35mm slides and negatives. We also suggest that if you have the negatives for prints you are planning to digitize, you seriously consider scanning the negatives instead. Negatives contain more image information and typically provide more versatile image files as a result.
- Naming and Organization – determining how you would like to see your newly digital images organized may be one factor contributing to your choice of a scanning service provider. Large photo collections require organization and there are many ways to ensure the digital files you receive are organized in a manner that has meaning for you. Here, simplicity often provides unforeseen dividends both at the beginning of the process and as time passes. While some may have to fight the urge to devise elaborate, all-encompassing and complex organizing schemes, we advise simplicity for maximum benefit and utility. Often, simple grouping and naming schemes can provide the necessary organizing basics to meet most needs and does not prevent further refinement or specification of your unique organizing requirements after your collection has been digitally preserved. For example, we recommend organizing slides in groups of 50 to 100 slides and assigning a value and/or a short description to each group. The values and descriptions you select should naturally sort to the order you desire. During digital capture, the creation of your image file names is based upon the values and descriptions you assign. The resulting file names would then look something like this: 01 1969 Grand Canyon 001, 01 1969 Grand Canyon002, . . . 01 1969 GrandCanyon051. Tagging groups and indicating a start slide for each group is often all that’s required. The flexibility and utility of simple schemes provide fundamental organizing without compromising the ability to tailor your organizing system in the future.
- Basic Service Features – digital image quality and utility of the image files you receive from a scanning service is a function of many factors. Often, it is possible for services to dramatically improve and “finish” images during the digitization and quality assurance process. This may include restoring and optimizing colors and contrast, improving exposure or film developing errors, reducing red-eye, minimizing “noise”, and removing dust and fine scratches.
These are but a few items to consider when selecting a photo scanning service. As you begin, you will certainly define and consider many other factors that may distinguish providers. Clearly, the place to start is with understanding your specific requirements, constraints and desire for convenience and service. Today, many leading photo scanning services have established solid reputations and loyal followings by delivering value to their customer.
Stay tuned, coming next: Photo Scanning Services: Factors to Consider