How to Get Those Old Photos Scanned (and Into A Book)

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Toy Car How to Get Those Old Photos Scanned (and Into A Book)

If you’re like most of us, you’ve got boxes of great old photos gathering dust in your attic, basement, or spare-room closet. You know: Pics of five-year-olds who are heading off to college this year. Vintage black and white deckle-edge snapshots passed along to you by your shutterbug grandpa. And the slides! Oh, the slides.

All those images are patiently waiting for you to set them free in a beautiful book made by you. So, human nature being what it is, how do you get them out of the boxes and onto the page?

If you don’t have the time or the inclination to scan dozens or even hundreds of your favorite photos, not to worry. There are some good by-mail scanning services out there that will do the job for you at a very reasonable price. All you do is box up your photos, send them off, and you’ll get the photos and a disk back pronto. If you’ve got old photos that deserve kid-glove treatment, some services even scan every image by hand.

And if someone in the family is hanging on to photos you’d love to put in a book, make it a breeze for them with this excellent gift-box option.

Of course, we’ve mentioned just a couple of the scanning services out there. Which ones have you used – and which would you recommend?

So go for it – get those old photographic gems into digital shape. And while you’re at it, take a good long look at the hundreds of images on your hard drive. Then get started on your next amazing book.

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  1. This si the very thing I am planning to do this summer, with the help of family members and relatives.

      February 1, 2011 – 1:00 pm   Permalink
  2. Hi Katie,
    Glad to hear it – and we can’t wait to see the books you make with all those photos.

      February 1, 2011 – 1:03 pm   Permalink
  3. Great ideas here! I just had my blog printed into a 450 page book by Blurb…I just love it! I did a post today on my blog about it,(

    By Julie Harward
      February 1, 2011 – 1:20 pm   Permalink
  4. my parents have so many old photos I’ve wanted to do a book for them but didn’t want to be saddled with the tedious job of scanning. but this brings back my plans with a vengeance and I will be working at it soon. shhh, it’s going to be a christmas present for this year.

    By debbe behnke
      February 1, 2011 – 4:04 pm   Permalink
  5. Hi Debbe,
    Glad we could bring this to your attention – and mum’s the word on your new book!

      February 2, 2011 – 8:04 am   Permalink
  6. Hi Julie,
    So glad you’re happy with your Blurb blog book, and thanks for the kudos. Let us know how the scanning works out, too.

      February 2, 2011 – 8:06 am   Permalink
  7. The by-mail services have always made me a little nervous. Will my package be the one that’s lost in the mail? Fortunately for me, there’s a nearby Photozone in New Jersey that offers “shoebox scanning.” Check out this link: I have used them personally and take clients’ photos in for scanning.

      February 2, 2011 – 3:13 pm   Permalink
  8. Serendipity…I just returned from visiting with my parents (87 and 89), loaded down with boxes and boxes of old family photos made light by my good intentions! As I attempted to sort through them the other day I realized the seemingly daunting task I had so eagerly grabbed onto. Will I ever accomplish this? And then, I sit at my desk today and there is the message from Blurb….Will this be my life-saver? I can’t wait to browse through all the messages, tips, etc to see if there might be a light at the end of my proverbial tunnel…I am excited!!! Thank you! “Eager am I to go and my sails, full set, await the wind.”!
    (Will Blurb be my wind?!!) Sandy, PEI.

    By Sandy Rendell
      March 3, 2011 – 5:05 am   Permalink
  9. I made an 11×13 book a year ago about my father’s experience as a fighter reconnaissance pilot in WW2. It was a time consuming venture as I had to conduct research at the archives and in the newspapers, but the final product is amazing. Scanning was out of the question as many of the photos were in albums and quite fragile. I digitized them by photographing the photograph and with a little help from photoshop, the photos were great.

    By Penny
      March 3, 2011 – 5:47 am   Permalink
  10. I have spent hours scanning pictures of my kids from birth til they left home. I have 5 Children, and made a book for each of them….they love it…I got my moneys worth with my scanner! Thank you for the tips.

    By julie
      March 3, 2011 – 7:28 am   Permalink
  11. Do you need to use a professional service or can a personal scanner do the trick? Thoughts?

    By Greg Gough
      March 3, 2011 – 7:47 am   Permalink
  12. So has anyone ever tried a mail in service personally? The idea is very interesting, never thought of there being a service like that before. Just a little worried about sending off a box of treasured family memories like that. I have a large photo box of my dad’s and one of my mom’s I need to do and this would definitely help the projects move along much more quickly.

    By Pat
      March 3, 2011 – 9:23 am   Permalink
  13. Hi Greg,
    It all depends on the quality of your scanner. Chances are you’ll get better quality from more powerful (hence, more expensive) technology. If you’re a whiz at scanning and have sophisticated scanning equipment, a personal scanner is fine. If you send your photos away to a professional scanner, the odds are that you’ll have a better result. Why not send a few photos and compare results. That way you’ll know for sure. Hope this helps.

      March 3, 2011 – 10:58 am   Permalink
  14. Penny,
    Really useful information. Thanks for sharing!

      March 3, 2011 – 10:59 am   Permalink
  15. Sandy,
    We’d love to “be the wind beneath your sails.” Wait a minute — isn’t it “the wind beneath your wings” (think Bette Midler!). Anyway, either way, we’re delighted the info was useful and we look forward to seeing your book!

      March 3, 2011 – 11:00 am   Permalink
  16. Super quick scanning! Go to your local Sam’s Club and scan 20 pics in less than 1 minute! ( I had about 400!) Approx. 200 pics will be printed on a disc for $2.24!!! I’m creating a 100 page book for my daughter’s high school graduation.

      March 3, 2011 – 3:43 pm   Permalink
  17. Lauren – Great column and thanks for mentioning Thought you’d like to know how popular and well-read this blog is, as we have been fielding live support and calls nationwide from this posting.

    For more info, here’s a link to our “In the News” reviews.

    We’re accessible “24/7″ on our live support to help your readers unclutter and get their analog photos organized for today’s all-digital world.

    Mitch Goldstone
    President & CEO

      March 3, 2011 – 4:26 pm   Permalink
  18. I lost most of my photography including my darkroom after a house fire 8 years ago, and most of the slides and black and white negatives were thrown out. Recently, I discovered in the garage a little more than 900 slides that were sitting there waiting for me. I purchased a small scanner from a retail store, and sat and hand scanned them on a SB card. I had old photos that I have uploaded to Facebook, and friends from long ago are loving them especially ones of Norfolk, Va. waterfront, before it was built up and photos I took while on assignment on the USCG EAGLE.

    By Genevieve Seguinot
      March 3, 2011 – 8:55 pm   Permalink
  19. Hi Mitch,
    Happy to pass on good info to all our bookmakers. Thanks for the shout out.

      March 4, 2011 – 9:54 am   Permalink
  20. We look forward to seeing your book, Laura. That’s a great graduation gift. I’ll be making one for my son, too. Shhh! Don’t tell him.

      March 4, 2011 – 9:55 am   Permalink
  21. Looking for recommendations on a personal scanner.

    By Cindy Voda
      March 7, 2011 – 6:26 pm   Permalink
  22. Love Blurb!

    Do you plan to offer any new (additional) page design options? They have been the same since my first book and I was hoping as time went on you might give us even more layout options. It would certainly be welcomed.


    By Sandy Szczuka
      March 9, 2011 – 5:42 am   Permalink
  23. Hi Sandy,
    There are some great developments coming soon. We’ll keep you posted with emails and, of course, here on the blog. Make sure you’re opted in for our newsletters and emails. Thanks for your comments and your suggestions — always welcome.

      March 9, 2011 – 10:52 am   Permalink
  24. I am happy to answer questions about photo scanning!

      March 13, 2011 – 3:56 pm   Permalink
  25. I had hoped this link would have been more than a commercial? As I have 10′s of thousands of fotos from my Professional Photographer/ Parents archives and as many of my own images I was lookimg for more specific info I myself set scan settings for 200% @ 300dpi I was hoping to confirm those settings sometimes I even go bigger depending on the project and if thats not enough I photograph the subject enlarge print and rescan. The relative ease and low price of good scanners would preclude the need for a commercial service Don’t You Think?

      June 3, 2011 – 6:17 pm   Permalink
  26. Hi David,
    Good scanners do make a considerable difference. However, lots of people just don’t have the time or equipment to scan their photos themselves and that’s where commercial services come in. Either way, scanning photos makes making books easier — that’s for sure.
    Eileen H.

      June 6, 2011 – 3:05 pm   Permalink
  27. I recently scanned a photo of my Mom from the 1940s. I was getting very poor results and realized/remembered the photo was a scan of the original that my sister had sent. I’m hoping I can get my hands on the original. A friend told me about using high end equipment at a photo service shop by the hour. Do you think I could get decent results from a scan of the original on this more sophisticated equipment?

    By Cathy
      January 20, 2012 – 11:38 am   Permalink
  28. Hey Cathy,

    A good home scanner should get great results from an original photo. Scan it in at 300 DPI for the size you want to output it to (i.e., the page of your book: 7×7 inches, 8×10 inches, etc.). Of course, scanners can really vary in quality. But scanning from the original will definitely be an improvement over scanning a scan.



    By Kent
      January 20, 2012 – 2:16 pm   Permalink

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