One of my biggest regrets as a photographer is not better maintaining my archive of negatives. And by better maintaining, I mean not throwing out. I accidentally tossed hundreds of negatives when I moved and miss them dearly. Recently I stumbled across a box of negatives in my parents attic from shows dating back to 2001. Excited, I ran to my place and began scanning them using my consumer-level negative scanner. The results were ugly.
Around the same time, my mom gave me a few photo albums of me as a baby that was in pretty sad shape. The shots were yellow, the pages tathered. I put them through my scanner, using the color restore setting and the results weren’t much better than the negatives. Stray hairs, color streaking, grain–it was sad.
So I did some searching and stumbled across ScanCafe, a photo digitizing center in San Francisco that outsources photo and negative scanning duties to India. They got rave reviews in Pop Photo and the prices are extremely reasonable.
I decided to give them a shot. First the baby photos, which ScanCafe claims they can scan at 600 dpi and color restore. I carefully removed the photos from the decades old album, destroying the book in the process and tearing a few photos. I taped them as best as I could, packaged the whole thing and prepped it for shipment to SF.
ScanCafe asks that you pay for half the processing in advance. Out of 166 photos, I ended up paying $32 to scan the first batch at 27 cents a scan. After they all get scanned, the photos will be placed online where I can select the which ones I want. I can also reject up to 50 percent of them, and just pay for the ones I keep. Obviously, this is a major body of baby photos and I doubt I’m going to be rejecting too many.
The first big hiccup I faced was when I placed the order. I purchased them the Sunday before New Years and for some reason their pop-up that prints the UPS form wouldn’t come up. It took a week to get someone to answer the phone at ScanCafe. When they answered, they were super friendly and fixed the glitch. However, I had now lost close to two weeks from the order date of Dec. 30. After an endless UPS ground transport from NJ to San Francisco, the package got their on Jan. 21 and has been in transit to their outsourcing plant since then.
According to the Web site, the photos will be scanned and online by March 19, two and a half months after placing the order. Here’s hoping the scans are awesome, because this is quite a wait. I’ll keep everyone updated on the process as it happens. If these come out well, I’m going to send all my negatives.