Computer Help forum

General discussion

What is the fastest and best method to scan photos into a computer?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / September 18, 2008 2:30 AM PDT

What is the best way to scan photos at home if I have hundreds and don't want to stand over a flatbed scanner all day long? I am thinking of starting a small business, but I want something that can do a little volume with a little speed, and I have found document scanners aren't set up well for photos and offer lesser quality even at similar resolutions. I can spend a little money on a decent option, but I don't want to drop a ton of money on it either. Help?

--Submitted by J. Lang

Here are some featured member answers to get you started, but please read up on all the advice and suggestions that our members have contributed to this member's question.

Best way to scan photo --Submitted by Watzman

What is the fastest and best method to scan --Submitted by SCosgrove

I discovered a great scanner --Submitted by bdaleday

Bulk photo scanning --Submitted by Zouch

Don't do it at home. will do 1,000 for $50 --Submitted by DavidSSutton

If you have any additional advice or recommendations for J. Lang, please click on the reply link and submit it. Please be as detailed as possible in your answers. Thanks!
Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: What is the fastest and best method to scan photos into a computer?
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: What is the fastest and best method to scan photos into a computer?
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
Don't do it at home. will do 1,000 for $50
Collapse -
Scan My Photos
by mcsue / September 19, 2008 10:27 AM PDT

I have used this service and was very, very satisfied. One option is that they will send you a prepaid box that you can fill with as many photos as it will hold (in our case 2100, with careful stacking)for a very reasonable price. I shopped for local options first and nobody came even close to this price--it was double, triple or more locally. The end result was remarkably good, as well as surprisingly fast. I opted not to pay them to turn them all the same way on the photo disk and to allow them to scan in random order; for my purposes this was fine. The only bad part is shipping off precious photos and worrying that something will happen to them en route.There is some risk there.

It sounds, however, like the questioner is thinking of starting a business that involves photo scanning. If that is the case, Scan My Photos might still be an option to consider--pay them to do the work.

Collapse -
ScanMyPhotos has a lot of fine print
by legohead1 / October 4, 2008 1:37 PM PDT
In reply to: Scan My Photos

How do you allow a company to mix up thousands of family pictures? I mean it'll take a lifetime to reorganize your pics afterward. And then nothing is rotated or anything. And if you have albums, you're supposed to destroy them, remove all the pics, and then have ScanMyPhotos mix 'em all up? And they even have tons of rules on how everything needs to be organized b4 sending.

It is true that the major photo outlets like Walgreens, Ritz and others have exorbitant prices for the same. And I probably wouldn't trust them either with all the traffic in those stores. Employees can't focus on solely on your pics.

There's a place doing albums I heard of - . They have good prices, do all the rotating and keep your stuff organized. They have an interesting slideshow option that'll zoom on each photo so you don't have to take each photo out.

But really, I'd Google for providers in your area. Fact is that your time is money and when you factor in the cost of a scanner, and all the time you'll spend doing the work on your own, it's just worth hiring someone. Flatbeds are not made for this kind of work.

Collapse -
May we suggest you look at our services
by sciregn / October 4, 2008 9:27 PM PDT


Not to intrude but to tell you that our company does specialize in what you are talking about...
If you wish you can have a look at our website or call us and we will be glad to answer all your questions


Collapse -
On Site Scanning
by mynond / October 5, 2008 1:23 PM PDT

We are a small company in Utah that addresses the concerns you have of mailing your photos off to a large company. We go to our client's home and scan their pictures. Their irreplaceable memories never leave their possession. We are also able to organize their photos with their input. We do accept mail in orders for those who don't live close, but our main emphasis is on in home scanning. If you live in Utah, we may be the answer to your concerns. Give us a look at

Collapse -
scanning your old photos to disc
by rosiemyrosie / September 21, 2008 2:40 AM PDT

Thank you for this great article about the company doing this tedious task.

Collapse -
Is digital really an improvement?
by foxwood farm / September 26, 2008 1:18 PM PDT

I have mixed thoughts on the wonders of the digital age. I have actual photographs that are over 70 years old and still like new. I have 35mm slides that are 50 years old and again like new. I have read many articles the past few years on the shelf life of home made CDs and I expect the same applies to DVDs. Viruses mess up hard drives, wear causes them to crash. None of these modern devices seem to be a real improvement over the old "hard copy" of my pictures.

Collapse -
Why digital is better overtime.
by Gerard5819 / September 26, 2008 8:34 PM PDT

I am one of these people who would like to know if there was a faster way to scan photographs into a pc. The only software I want is one that can tell the difference between landscape and a portray picture. I would prefer to load the picture as they are, because in time software is getting better at repairing old pictures and when I need a hard copy I then can go to work on repairing it as I think it should be. Having the original on file is always the best practices. A lot of editing can be done before the scanning is started. Such as, family, work and business shots all lined up separable. Moreover, on each of them you can use there dates as an index. All that is needed now is a magazine holder for each type of picture size and some type of auto feeder. I was thinking of a small feeder as they use for scanning your lodgement document into the bank, but adapted for cards. If this was designed to be linked to a digital cameras instead of a scanner it would speed up the process and allow any size picture and negative to pass thought. Lighting and auto sizing and position of shots is all that is needed. As I said early on, the rest can be done when needed. The most important thing is getting it into the digital form into your pc.
Digital pictures are made up of pixels that have a number attached to each one, that never changes. Each colour and shade has a number also. Unlike emulsion pictures stored over a long time, they do not fade. The colour and shade is as true as the first day it was taken. Each picture is as true as the printer and paper is capable of producing it. The digital negative if you can use an old meaning does not change in time as does emulsion. Emulsion is a chemical reaction that is still going on and that why it is not suitable for very long storage of pictures. It becomes a guessing game when trying to work out the true colour and shade of an old shot. This is not the case with digital as each colour and shade is recorded and number when first taken. Finding a secure way to store numbers, which is what a digital picture is in the end, is all that is needed. There are many ways to do this now. As to know which is going to last over time, it is clear that a hard copy cannot compete in any way.

Collapse -
scan old photo's
by enigma_mike / September 26, 2008 11:52 PM PDT

I have just scanned over a 100 old images to my computer, using a HP Office Jet 5610 all-in-one in conjunction with Corel Paint Shop Pro. Corel Paint Shop Pro ask's if you want your images automatically rotated, which is great and saves loads of time manualy rotating invidual images.

Collapse -
Scan old pictures even if you prefer the old paper format
by suzcomptime / September 26, 2008 11:46 PM PDT

In response to the message about having 70 year old pictures and preferring them. That is fine but since my parents had a house fire right after I moved out many years ago, I would always suggest that people scan those old photos and have an online backup site or have copies of the cd's at your parents or child's home.

My parents lost many of their photos of our childhood vacations, some were salvaged but many lost. Everyone thinks it would never happen to them but seeing pictures of peoples homes after a hurricans, tornado or fire is enough to remind me to backup even my digital photos.


Collapse -
About catastrophic calamities
by sciregn / September 27, 2008 12:03 AM PDT


You mention the fire at your parents' house.

This is exactly why we supply (as I explain in a message further down) a full duplicate of the external hard disk onto which we scan all images.

Please see below or log onto


Serge Ciregna

Collapse -
paper vs. digital
by rrrock / September 27, 2008 4:58 AM PDT

Regarding foxwood farm's comments on the shelf life of digital media and whatnot, I have to say that the logic doesn't quite pan out. No matter what you do, your paper photos, as well as the negatives from which they were printed, will deteriorate with time to the point at which they are essentially gone. Furthermore, as someone else pointed out, their quality will slowly deteriorate even before they become junk. Your 50 year old photos may be in excellent shape, but they are not as good as the day they were printed. In ten more years, they will be slightly less good.

On the other hand, digital media, no matter how poor the shelf life of CD's, DVD's, or magnetic media may turn out to be, can be backed up indefinitely at very little cost, and because the media is digital, the backup copy is exactly as good as the original, and always will be. If you have a way to back up your hard disk already, as many of us do, all you have to do is keep your photos on your hard disk. If you back it up regularly, you will always have an extra copy. If you are worried about the chance of losing both your primary and backup disks, in a fire say, then you can keep as many CD backups as you want, wherever you want. Again, each backed up copy will be exactly as good as the original copy.

Just a thought.

Collapse -
re mixed thoughts re wonders of the digital age
by bixxo / September 27, 2008 7:33 AM PDT

Note to foxwood farm---

Thanks for your observation re "hard copy" pics from olden times are probably as reliable as digitized versions---that was my conclusion as well, so it was nice to read a confirmation.
When you want to send a copy to family/friends one can just scan those in for eMail. Otherwise with a dig camera just start anew creating a digital pic library.
The best of both worlds, keep the old and phase over to the new.
Bixxo, Los Angeles

Collapse -
Scanning Color Negatives
by Fred D L / September 27, 2008 6:13 AM PDT

I have an Epson Perection 4490 PHOTO. It comes with a plastic frame designed to hold various sized negatives. The frame I use holds frames of six 35mm negatives. It scans the negatives into twelve color photos. I have digitized thousands of my 35mm negatives without trouble or faults. All came out in Jpeg format and there has been no problem modifying or printing any of these pictues.

Collapse -
Check out Hammacher-Schlemmer Store
by jwellman / September 19, 2008 9:18 AM PDT

I haven't tried this product but I do know that previous experience, products purchased at H/S have always been good quality.

"The Photograph To Digital Picture Converter.
This device quickly and easily converts photographs into digital images, allowing you to confidently preserve your memories for generations to come. Faster and easier than a conventional scanner, this device instantly captures the whole image using a 5 MP CMOS sensor, the same found in digital cameras. With up to 1,800 dpi resolution, 10 bits per color channel, automatic exposure control and color balance, clear, accurate digital images are assured. Photographs are placed into a tray that slides into the converter; the touch of a button records the image instantly. For photo transfers and power, it has a USB cable that plugs into a PC running Windows

Collapse -
Scanning photos:
by echuckg / September 27, 2008 1:55 AM PDT

You post of an inexpensive method of scanning and the cost of same but I can find no mention of how to purchase? I'm in Canada and have thousands of old pictures. How do I get this unit.
Regards, Chuck G.

Collapse -
scanning photos
by fjmp / September 27, 2008 2:47 AM PDT
In reply to: Scanning photos:

I'm in Canada as well.
The company has a Canadian branch and you can get the catelogue sent to your home or office. There is also a 35mm neg and film scanner but I don't know how good it is.

Collapse -
by davidd301 / November 27, 2008 8:45 AM PST

I recently used

They scanned about 500 of my photos for around $60 plus shipping. Good job. Best of all I didn't have to scan them myself. I tried scanning myself and it drove me crazy. They had them scanned within 4 days.


Collapse -
Scan Photos Alternative
by davidroper / September 19, 2008 9:44 AM PDT

I don't know how many photos you have but there IS a way to get them to a digital jpg state very quickly. The "purists" out there will probably gag at this answer but it will allow you to get JPGs quickly to make a DVD or DC with the pictures on it. Just old them up in the noon day sun and use your 5 meg or 8 meg digi camera in close-up mode. If they need flattening then try a pane of glass but you may get a reflection that way. My attitude is that a DVD of "crappy" old photographed pictures are better than No DVD with "perfect" picture scans. It's your call. You wanted a quick way, but it certainly isn't the best. Try a few and see if it is good enough for you.

Collapse -
Taking a photo of a photo
by RalphDV / September 27, 2008 12:00 PM PDT

That is certainly one way to 'reproduce' a print but I don't recommend it even though I've been forced on more than a few occasions to do it exactly that way. Without a well planned work area the results are most often disappointing. Reflections from the print surface alone will soon drive a person nuts if they are trying to light the prints with a direct source such as the sun. Even indirect lighting will have some degree of reflections. And glass to make the prints stay flat? Again maddening reflections. Using a polarizer when doing this technique can help but isn't always a sure thing.

Another thing that has to be done almost perfectly is to get the print perfectly even within the frame but it doesn't stop there. The plane of the print and plane of the film or digital sensor also need to be in near perfect in parallel alignment. Distortion is almost guaranteed no matter how careful you are. There are photo copy stands made for this very purpose but a good one would probably cost more than a scanner and the time involved using a copy stand would be more.

But as a last resort this technique (taking a photo of a photo) used on a limited basis can get you some usable results when nothing better is available. I would not recommend using this technique if 1)you are wanting better than average reproduction and 2)you don't have six months of free time.

Oh, one more thing....don't even think about doing this technique without using a tripod.

Collapse -
Slides, too
by sauna6 / October 3, 2008 11:25 PM PDT

To digitize our old slides, I used a home-made method: projecting them on a translucent paper, taped on a glass picture frame, and simply photographing them from the other side.
The result is OK for viewing on a PC screen - the days of Hi-Fi photography on slides are (hopefully temporarily) over anyway, and this process is super quick. To remove dust and color fade from 40-year old slides takes of course a lot of Photoshop time, but you need it also if slides are scanned.
However, professional scanning services are recommendable. The advantages are obvious.

Collapse -
good suggestion.
by newtronbom / September 29, 2008 3:25 PM PDT

I have done the very same thing with my mobile phone camera. USB'd them onto my HD and got a "surprisingly high quality" image. I have a question of my own. Don't know if this is how I go about it.....but could you or anyone, for that matter, please tell me how to convert a scanned photo negative, into a photo please? I have an HP Photosmart C6280 All-in-One scanner/printer, which can do really "high" res scans. I can not see though, any menu for this conversion. Nor can I find it in photoshop 7. I have Windows XP Pro as an OS. Any ideas? Thanks.

Collapse -
Thanks I have been looking all over as well and the solution
by SMorris / September 30, 2008 9:25 AM PDT
In reply to: good suggestion.

I have recently purchased an HP J6480 scan, copy, print, fax. I thought that was all I was going to do. Your suggestion prompted me to try using the hopper and scanning my photos. I am not looking for original scans just a way to clear some of my forty years of photos laying around. The scanner is doing the job. Little problem HP software doesn't let me set scan file results so I have to be sure to scan all of the photos associated with event we photographed at one time. Sure is saving me time and money and I now have created space for another 40 yrs of CDs this time.

Collapse -
Best way to scan photo
by Watzman / September 19, 2008 10:13 AM PDT

Re: "What is the best way to scan photos at home if I have hundreds and don't want to stand over a flatbed scanner all day long?"

The honest truth is .... there is no easy way to do this, or at least to do it well.

I have a small business buying, servicing and reselling used Nikon film scanners. These scan negatives and slides, not prints, but I get the same question all the time, and it goes something like this: "I have {hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands} of {slides, negatives or prints} taken over a period of {quantity} decades by my family and it's earlier generations. How can I scan these quickly and inexpensively.

And the answer is, unfortunately, you can't.

QUALITY scanning of photographs (or anything, for that matter) is not just a matter of slapping the media on the scanner glass and pressing a "scan" button and POOF! you are done. Yes, you can do that, but you won't get quality. Scanning is a complex task and the learning curve for GOOD scanning software is steep and requires some understanding of the physics of light, printing, photography and video displays. If the image quality is important, you will want to set the resolution, do a preview scan, manually crop, manually adjust the exposure parameters (typically brightness, contrast and "gamma" (all of which sometimes go by other names)), then do a final scan. You may want to correct color, which is much more involved, and you may want to do post-scan processing with photoshop or another photo editing program to fix any number of different types of defects. You will be very lucky, no matter whether it is film or prints, to average much better than 4 to 6 minutes per image. And if you are talking about thousands of images (and I'd say that most families have that many, oftne going back generations to pre- World War II) .... well, you are talking about hundreds of hours.

There are services that do scanning of film and prints (by the way, if you have the film (e.g. negatives or slides), SCAN THOSE NOT PRINTS ... the quality is MUCH higher, but you need a good film scanner). However, there are two problems with services: The first is cost, if they charge 79 cents per image, which sounds reasonable enough, but you have 2,000 images, suddently you are looking at almost $2,000 (there are "extra" costs that add up) ....... And then there is the other problem, precisely because this is a labor intensive task, most of these services send the originals to 3rd world countries where the labor is cheap, so you photos or film gets a round trip to Haiti or Bangladesh or India or Pakistan .... and sometimes, not often, but sometimes it just disappears.

To be sure, some equipment is better and/or faster than others, but the actual scan time is often only about 20% to 50% of the total image processing time. But don't fall into the trap of buying equipment that either can't do a good job or won't because it needs serviced. I also service Nikon film scanners, and one of the things that I hear often is a half-joking (but half-serious) E-Mail after I return a freshly serviced film scanner that goes something like this: "Damn you, I just got may scanner back, and the images are so much better than what I had been getting that I am now faced with an demanding compulsion to rescan my entire collection. Your "repair" is going to cause me to have to put in hundreds of hours of additional work !!"

As to the equipment: One strategy that works well is to buy a good used scanner, use it and resell it. Although the scanner may cost hundreds to perhaps even $1,500, depending on what you get, this stuff holds it's value well and if you bought it used, you may well recover all or substantially all of your purchase price when you resell it. This is more of an issue with film, however, because prints can usually be scanned well with any really good quality flatbed scanner. As to brands, for prints, I'm partial to Epson and SOME (but not all) HP scanners [avoid any scanner with a "CIS" imaging system]. For film (either slides or negatives), I really think that there are 3 good choices, they are Nikon, Nikon and Nikon, but I am biased and some of the Epson flatbed scanners really can do an excellent job with film (and they may be the only choice if you need to scan film images larger than 35mm). When buying a scanner to scan film, don't even consider a unit that does not have a feature known as "digital ICE". This technology (which uses an infra-red scan in addition to visible light scans) is pure magic producing georgous, defect free scans of even very badly scratched and damaged film. Unfortunately, it doesn't work with prints, black and white film or SOME slide films, but it is just magic with most negative films and most but not all slide films. Digital ICE was a patented technology developed by an independent firm and licensed to many scanner makers, but only some brands (including both Nikon and Epson) offer it, and even then not necessarily on all models of their products.

I hope this helps, but I understand that wasn't the answer that you probably wanted to hear.

Collapse -
Watzman Post on scanners
by mdculpepper / September 26, 2008 1:54 PM PDT
In reply to: Best way to scan photo

I'm interested in buying a used Nikon film scanner and Watzman mentions that he sells used Nikon film scanners.
I would like Watzman send me a contact e-mail address or work telephone # so I can purchase a film scanner.

Collapse -
Film Scanner
by usarmymsg / September 26, 2008 9:49 PM PDT

Please send your contact information.
I too, am interested in a used film scanner.

Collapse -
Scan 35mm & slides
by firetutor / September 27, 2008 9:31 PM PDT

Hi I use Summit Photofix for XP & Vista to scan my slides & negatives

Collapse -
Best way to scan photos
by cnemo1 / September 26, 2008 2:57 PM PDT
In reply to: Best way to scan photo

I would be interested in a used Nikon film scanner from Watzman; if you could give him my email address so he could contact me.

Collapse -
35mm Transparencies
by reholmes / September 26, 2008 3:16 PM PDT
In reply to: Best way to scan photo

For slides and 35mm negatives it's hard to beat the Nikon Coolscan V ED.

Collapse -
That's true
by Bryan_Clark / July 16, 2009 9:47 AM PDT
In reply to: 35mm Transparencies

You may also want to invest in the auto-feeder for that unit if you have a lot of slides. Nikon SF210, if I remember correctly. DVD Your Memories, as well as several other professional scanning services, use these.

Popular Forums
Computer Help 51,224 discussions
Computer Newbies 10,453 discussions
Laptops 20,090 discussions
Security 30,722 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 20,937 discussions
Windows 10 1,295 discussions
Phones 16,252 discussions
Windows 7 7,684 discussions
Networking & Wireless 15,215 discussions


Enter for your chance to win* a game hardware bundle

One lucky winner will walk away with a gaming monitor, keyboard and mouse. Two lucky runners-up will score a gaming headset.