When you decide it’s time to scan your family albums, one of the first questions you’ll have to answer is whether you want to do it yourself or use a professional photo digitizing service.
On one hand, it’s possible to do everything yourself if you’re willing to invest some time and money, but you might have to make compromises in terms of quality.
On the other hand, finding the right photo restoration and retouching provider can be a hassle, and you also might have to pay a premium if you don’t find one that offers fair pricing.
So, which option should you go with?
Let’s go through some of the most critical considerations between DIY and professional photo digitization, which will hopefully help you make a more informed and confident decision you will be happy with.
Do It Yourself: Pros and Cons
First, let’s look at the pros and cons of the DIY option because that’s what most people consider first. After all, if you could achieve good results on your own, why would you want to hire someone else?
First, let’s look at the overview of what the process might look like. In terms of tools and hardware, you’d need a way to scan the photos, a place to save the digital images, and a way to ensure consistent quality in each picture.
For most people, that will mean using a scanner or a camera to digitize the photo, a computer or an external storage device to store them in, and photo editing software like Photoshop to make sure the images look good.
At first glance, all of these are relatively simple to obtain, which can cause many people to think that the task is more than manageable on your own. After all, most folks already have a scanner or at least a smartphone camera, a computer, and can imagine themselves using software to make some minor edits.
However, this equation is missing a critical fourth step that often causes the most significant challenge: experience (or the lack thereof).
Sure, anyone can take their smartphone or a simple household scanner and get the pictures digitized. But while they will get some results, the quality of the newly-digitized images will probably not be something you would expect.
And while tools like Photoshop are becoming more convenient every year, they are still nowhere near simple enough for someone who has little to no experience using it.
In fact, it can take months to even begin understanding how to use the software effectively and how to get the most out of what it has to offer.
Finally, there’s the issue of equipment.
As mentioned before, the results you can get with a household scanner will not be very good. Add in the fact that most people don’t have Photoshop or other photo editing tools readily available.
What that means is that before even getting started, you’d be looking at significant expenses just in the hardware and software that you’d need to get the task done. At least if you want to have a shot of achieving good results.
Sure, you’ll find plenty of tutorials on DIY photo digitization projects that suggest using a smartphone camera and free photo editing tools, but unless you just need to digitize the photos and don’t care about the quality, this is not a method that will produce good results.
With that in mind, let’s look at what hiring a photo digitizing service could offer instead.
Professional Photo Digitization: Pros and Cons
Hiring a professional to handle your photo digitization project is a decision most end up considering. After all, even the best-kept photo collections deteriorate, and as we’ve discussed in the previous section, doing it yourself is not a viable option for most people.
But before you go out and look for a provider, it’s essential to understand what to focus on in your search. One of the primary reasons why people are disappointed with their experiences of hiring professionals is that they didn’t understand what they wanted and went in with the wrong expectations.
So, what should you focus on?
Well, for one thing, you should look at hiring photo restoration and retouching not as an expense but as an investment. It’s hard to put a price tag on the most precious memories stored in those pictures, so having them digitized and ensuring that they won’t deteriorate will be a decision you’ll be happy with for the rest of your life.
In terms of the scanning service itself, you should look at what the company can offer you in terms of quality. One crucial metric to look at is how many DPIs it provides. On one hand, a higher DPI means higher resolutions, but it will also be harder to store the larger files, so look for a provider that could offer you cloud storage or DVDs for your files as part of the package.
You also want a service that can provide you with the most common image formats such as JPEG or PNG, as well as the original TIFF files, which allow preserving more detail.
Finally, look at the company’s expertise. It’s likely that at least some photos in your collection will have deteriorated and will require some work, so you need to be able to trust that the company has the expertise and the equipment to handle it.
Look at their previous work and evaluate how they handled challenging situations. Were they able to restore old photographs that have been damaged? How good was the quality of the edited photos?
Most commercial photo scanning companies will have relatively good equipment, but the experience you can get from experts with decades of experience is just as valuable.
If you can find a reputable and experienced company, you’ll have a much higher probability of success because they will have seen almost every situation imaginable and will know the exact best method for achieving good results in your case.
Brandon Harris is the owner of Smooth Photo Scanning Services, a photo & convert vhs to digital service in New Jersey. Prior to that, Brandon owned and operated a small bakery. Other than working to grow and improve his business, he enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter, and family.