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.)
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