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  • Writer's pictureDevon Noel Lee

Overwhelmed By Digitizing Old Photos? Then Outsource It!

Do you have trunks in attics full of loose photos, photo albums, and other scrapbooks? Are you feeling overwhelmed by the process of scanning each image?

There is NO NEED to feel overwhelmed. Instead, invest in your sanity and your family archive by outsourcing the job today!

Is Outsourcing Expensive?

There are many times when do-it-yourself projects are less expensive than hiring a professional. This is not one of those times.

You will either going to pay with your time or your pocketbook.

With experience, it can take about 5 minutes to scan and correct a single high-resolution image. If you have a collection of 500 images, it will take about 41 hours to digitize all of the photos. If you have a collection of 1000 images, it may take 83 hours.

Digitizing slides and negatives may take longer, depending on how much you spend on the appropriate scanner.

Do you have two solid weeks of free time to digitize your images?

Consider your expenditure of time as a cost.

Some photo scanning services charge about $0.45 per image to scan 500 photos at standard resolution. That amounts to $225. Their costs may be higher for picture touch-up services.

If you earned minimum wage ($12 in New Mexico), your time to scan and correct 500 images is about $492. While that's a cost that doesn't appear in your bank account, this is an intangible value of your time. We also haven't calculated the time spent researching scanners and learning how to use the technology.

Add to the intangible cost, the expense of both a quality digital scanner ranges from $107-1,200.

You'll also need to purchase a quality photo editing program that can touch up, organize, and add metadata to your images. I use Photoshop Elements and it costs around $69-100.

The actual outlay of dollars to scan 500 photos yourself could start at $150. If you're photo scanning service is $225 for 500 images, DIY costs may see like a money saver. However, you have to factor in the cost of you spending over 40 hours scanning rather than doing other genealogy or preservation related tasks!

Additionally, there is the intangible cost consideration that scanning companies often do a better job processing your images than you. The technicians have training and more hours of experience than you or I could ever gather from our home collections. They put that experience to work and you reap the benefits.

Soon, the question of expense tips in favor of the scanning companies.

Also, do not forget how much overwhelm you'll reduce by having someone else doing the tendinous job of scanning images. Saving your sanity has an unquantifiable cost you should also factor into your decision.

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Make Scanning Services More Affordable

While digitization companies over an amazing service, your costs will increase unnecessarily unless you do the following.

Gather Photos in One Location

The best cost savings benefit batches of photos. You spend more if you have to send additional photos or photo books that you forgot you had in an attic or other hidey-hole.

Organize Photos

If you send a disorganized batch of photos, you will receive a disorganize digital image library in return. Thus, you'll waste more time sorting your photos on your computer than you'd likely wish to spend. Instead, organize your photos BEFORE you send them to the service.

  • Photograph photo album pages (so you can remember arrangements later, which might have genealogical clues that you need.)

  • Carefully remove the photos from albums and scrapbooks whenever possible. (Loose photos cost less to ship and scan than albums).

  • Initially, sort loose photos smaller than 5x7 by year or decade. Set larger photos aside.

  • Then sort the photos by months and events within a month (or across months).

  • If a photo doesn't fit, create categories as needed.

  • If the photo is unidentifiable, set it aside until all photos are arranged. Attempt to place the picture in the chronological arrangement of photos.

  • If you still can't identify the photo, set it aside. You can create a scan yourself later if you figure out the person's identity. Don't spend money digitizing unidentifiable images.

You can further organize photos by family unit or surnames, depending on your collection.

Reduce the Clutter

There is no sense digitizing photos that aren't worth preserving. These include extremely blurry or damaged photos, duplicates, photos were a finger is covering most of the important features in the photo, and so on.

Remove such photos from your collection.

For those photos that are slightly blurry or need a small amount of touch up, make note of those images and pull them out of the chronological arrangement.

When you submit those images, you'll sent notes to the service company about your photo restoration needs.

Out Source the Scanning of Your Photos

After choosing one of the following services, follow their instructions for submitting your photos, photo albums, slides, and negatives.

While the technicians scan your photos, spend time climbing your family tree or sipping hot chocolate. Whatever you do to relax, that is what you should do.

When the photos return, fine tune the organization of the digital images and being adding them to your family trees and your writing projects!

Copies That Can Digitize Your Family Archive

Many copies have digitization services. Several of these are featured annually at RootsTech or other genealogy conferences. In other words, they work for and with genealogists on a regular basis.

  • LARSEN DIGITAL - can digitize your photos, audio cassette tapes, and various other media. They have offices in Sandy and Bountiful, Utah. And they have been a long-time supporter of RootsTech.

  • THE MULTIMEDIA CENTER - If you are have listed on the ExtremeGenes radio podcast, then you will know about Tom Perry at TMC. Their services are also all carte pricing covering photos, slides, negatives, films, audio formats, and more. If you don’t live in Springville or Spanish Fork, UT,, they will also refer you to a high-quality digitization service provider near your home.

  • CONVERT (formerly Legacy Republic) - charges a price based on what you can fit into a box, not based on a la carte fees. Additionally, a local representative will help you prepare your box for mailing.

  • LEGACYBOX - Legacybox is very similar to like Legacy Republic, except without a local representative to help you fill your box. You fill a box with items you want to have digitized and mail it in. Legacybox process your items and send an archival DVD or an optional thumb drive for your storage items.

There are additional scanning services that I'm unfamiliar with but are popular in the photo scanning services space. Check out this post Best Photo Scanning Services for additional options.

Take the Overwhelm out of Digitizing Your Family History

You no longer need to stress out about digitizing your family history. Organize your material and outsource it.

Better yet, ask extended family members to chip in for the project or collect donations at a family reunion. You can even request this service for a birthday, anniversary, or Christmas present.

After you have digitized your family history, you are well on your way to Downsizing With Family History in Mind.

Learn more family history preservation tips:

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