Carl and Alice Jones, 1949. Pho­to­graph par­tial­ly eat­en by the fam­i­ly dog.

I recent­ly used a ser­vice from a web­site called Scan­Cafe, and have to say I was impressed by the qual­i­ty, speed and val­ueS­can­Cafe is an image scan­ning and dig­i­ti­za­tion ser­vice. You sub­mit an order, then ship them a box of your pho­tographs, neg­a­tives, and/or slides. Scan­Cafe then scans your images by hand and at a high-res­o­lu­tion. When they are done, you receive an e-mail and can go online to review the scanned images and choose which keep. You pay only for the images you keep, then they send back all of your orig­i­nals as well as a DVD of the scans.

What I found impres­sive about the ser­vice was the care with which they deal with the pho­tographs. White glove treat­ment is stan­dard. Addi­tion­al­ly, you can send them images in carousels and albums, and they will remove your images from the carousels and albums, scan them at their stan­dard rates, and replace them, in order, before ship­ping the carousels or albums back to you.

Carl and Alice Jones, 1949. After Scan­Cafe

They guar­an­tee your orig­i­nals, and will pay $1,000 if your images or lost or destroyed while they have them. While our images are irre­place­able and invalu­able, it’s still good to know that Scan­Cafe will feel some finan­cial pain if they do lose your images.

ScanCafe’s process is per­haps a lit­tle unortho­dox. You send your pho­tographs to an office in the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area. In turn, they for­ward them to their offices in Ban­ga­lore (Ben­galu­ru) India, where the actu­al scan­ning and restora­tion is done.

There are three key ben­e­fits I see in ScanCafe’s ser­vice:

  1. They only make you pay for the scans you keep. This came in handy for me, as there were some dupli­cates in the bunch­es of pho­tos I sent. I found the images among them scanned best, and didn’t have to pay for the oth­ers.
  2. They pro­vide best-in-class restora­tion ser­vices at a rea­son­able price. When your images appear on the cus­tomer area of the Scan­Cafe web­site, you can see their selec­tion of images they think they can improve with their restora­tion ser­vice.
  3. Their com­mit­ment to qual­i­ty and cus­tomer ser­vice is high and demon­stra­ble. Take a look at the restora­tion they did of the snap­shot of my par­ents at their wed­ding. The orig­i­nal was almost too painful to look at, hav­ing been under­ex­posed, the par­tial­ly eat­en by a fam­i­ly pet, and final­ly, crimped and fold­ed. Scan­Cafe removed all of these issues and got me the image pret­ty much as I always should have had it. (My only issue with this par­tic­u­lar image is that I think that it’s now a lit­tle over­ex­posed.)