We all know that we ought to digitize our most precious photo prints. After all, the dyes in color prints are unstable—making them prone to fading and shifting. If we scan our photos now, we can preserve the images as they are—or repair some of the damage to them, email them to our friends and family, and make multiple copies of them to decrease the chance we'll lose them to fire or other accidents. Yet few of us go to the trouble of scanning our prints, despite the many arguments in favor of doing it. Who has the spare time?
That's why I became excited when I saw an offer from ScanMyPhotos.com. You can send up to 1,000 photos to the company to scan and store on a CD for you for free, plus shipping costs to and from the company's lab in California. Photos must be 4 x 6 inches in size, or smaller. Offer good through May 11.
This service is free if you belong to one of these social-networking, photo-sharing, and blogging services: Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, and Blogger. If you don't have an account with one of these services, consider joining them, because it's free and easy to do.
Click here for details on the ScanMyPhotos offer. The price of shipping photos to the southern California store is about $20 each way if you use USPS's Priority Mail service.
Of course, you can use your own scanner to do the job, saving you money. But the project can be time-consuming, particularly if you want to mend your images with photo-editing software.
I've used ScanMyPhotos and have been pleased with the results. But there are some aspects of the company's work that you may not like, depending on your tastes...
Scanners convert photos into a grid of dots which, as you may know, are called pixels. The finer the dots, the smoother and clearer the image. Resolution is measured in dots per inch, or dpi, and this company scans at 300dpi, which is fine for most images, though a very good print might have detail worth printing at a higher dpi. In other words, if you're an aspiring professional nature photographer, this service is probably not high enough quality for you.
And even amateurs should know that the scanned images at 300dpi may not be sharp enough to blow up into prints that are larger than the originals.
Another hassle amateurs should know about: The images are saved as numbered files on the CD or DVD, which requires you to open each image to know what it is.
More fine print: If you want them to color-correct, or otherwise digitally enhance your photos, you have to pay a fee of $50. Storing your images on a DVD instead of a CD is an additional $10 charge.
Once you have your files in a digital format on a CD, you should copy the entire photo folder to a safe location, such as an external hard disk that connects to a USB port. (A 60GB model will hold thousands of photos and cost about $50). A cheaper option is to upload the files to a photo sharing service. Flickr.com, for example, charges $25 a year for unlimited storage of images.
Once your favorite photos are scanned, restored, saved, and backed up, you can share them via email with friends and family who may not have seen them for many years, if ever. You may also want to make a digital photo album that you turn into a photo book you print for family or friends, using tools such as Shutterfly.com.
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