Everyone has them: Boxes and boxes of old family photos. These scattered memories may not be in any chronological order and the photo subjects may be distant and forgotten relatives, but these are still family photos. As Baby Boomers have aged, many inherited their parents photo collections that start at the turn of the 20th century and move on up through decades. Industry experts estimate there may be as many as 3 trillion photos in closets, in boxes, in attics or in basements, fading away.
Converting those analog memories into digital files has become consistent business for a wide range of companies, including retailers, online merchants and app developers. Google even got into the game recently, with its Google PhotoScan app, which uses a smartphone to capture individual prints.
Despite rave reviews, Google PhotoScan and other photo-scanning apps are not a productive solution for users with large collections. It’s a long tedious process to scan images one at a time, especially since high-quality smartphone apps, like Google PhotoScan, take multiple images per photo, and combine them for the best quality.
A decade ago, Eastman Kodak (now Kodak Alaris) introduced it popular Kodak Picture Saver scanner series of professional-quality, high-productivity scanners. Based on a document scanner, this desktop scanner was optimized to handle multiple sizes of photo prints, and was coupled with specialized software to improve image quality and enhance color. Top resolution is 1200 dpi. Not only that, the device brought high-quality photo scanning to the masses.
Sendaway scanning market
One of the first channels to go after the bulk photo scanning market was the “send-away” online business, where consumers put their photos (and videos) into a box, send the box to a company, where the scans are done and the finished files are made available to customers. While usually very affordable, on a per-scan basis, some consumers balk at the idea of entrusting irreplaceable photo memories to the mail system.
Leaders in this market include ScanMyPhotos, iMemories, LegacyBox, ScanCafe, FotoBridge, YesVideo and many more. Many of these same sites partner with retailers, as drop-off and pick-up locations. For example, Walgreens has partnered with iMemories for this service.
The Independent Photo Imagers buying group has developed a version of this concept, The Gather Box, which incorporates the “throw-it-all in a box” model of websites with the convenience of a retail store.
As mentioned above, many consumers are not comfortable sending their images away, which is why the in-home market developed. This is where scanning is done in the customer’s house with equipment they have either purchased or rented, or with the add of specialized boutique service providers, called photo organizers. These entrepreneurs, who usually belong to the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO), help customers cull their collections, scan the photos and organize the images into a coherent collection.
E-Z Photo Scan, the leading marketer of Kodak Picture Saver scanners, offers an in-home rental program, where a complete scanning system (scanner, computer, cables, etc.) are mailed to a home for a weekend or a week, then returned, postage paid.
Even more recently, Epson introduced an affordable desktop scanner, the Epson FF-640, which scans 60 4-by-6-inch prints at 600 dpi resolution. While not as robust as the Kodak Picture Saver, the Epson FF-640 is also half the price and available at leading retailers nationwide.
Not to be outdone, the retail market has added photo scanning as an accessory service for print kiosks. Kodak added the Kodak Picture Kiosk Rapid Print Scanners well as a flatbed scanner, for its G4 and APEX kiosk systems. Fujifilm added a flatbed scanner to its GetPix kiosk.
Recently, E-Z Photo Scan partnered with Vancouver, BC-based Storefront.com to bring high-speed photo scanning to retailers. Storefront’s NEO PhotoKiosk offers high-volume/high-quality photo scanning through integration with Kodak Picture Saver Scanners. E-Z Photo Scan also offers several other self-serve solutions, including tablet UIs and integration with Scannx Book ScanCenters.
(Full disclosure: E-Z Photo Scan is a current client of the author. Also, the author consulted with Epson America for the development of the Epson FF-640 scanning system.)