Best Photo Scanning Services of 2018

Rebecca Armstrong ·
Updated
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We spent over 20 hours sorting through the dozens of photo scanning services online to pick out the best option for archiving your old photos, slides and negatives as digital files. Overall, we recommend GoPhoto because it is easier to use than any other photo scanning service we found and because you get to see your scans before you pay for them. We also liked ScanMyPhotos for its bulk packages and ScanCafe for its photo restoration options that can give your photos little extra attention. 

Best Overall

GoPhoto

GoPhoto is the best photo scanning service because it is super easy to use and because of its post-pay policy, where you only pay for the scans you keep.
View on GoPhoto
Best Value for Bulk Scans

ScanCafe

Though other services also offer bulk scanning packages, ScanCafe’s Value Kit is the best and easiest option for creating up to 10,000 quality photo, negative and slide scans.
View on ScanCafe
Best Turnaround Time

ScanMyPhotos

ScanMyPhotos is a great photo scanning service if you’re in a hurry. Most pay-per-scan orders are completed within seven to 10 business days, and there’s even a one-day scanning option.
View on ScanMyPhotos
Best Overall

GoPhoto

GoPhoto is extremely user-friendly and has a streamlined process thoughtfully designed to be as stress-free as possible. Four key things really make GoPhoto stand out among the competition.
The first is the flat-rate shipping. No matter how much stuff you send them, it’s $20, round trip. You print out a UPS label when you open your order, and they subsidize any shipping fees over the set amount. The second is that you don’t have to organize your media at all in order to send it to GoPhoto. You can even send whole photo albums or slide carousels, and they’ll carefully remove your photos and slides, scan them and replace them in the same order. The third thing is their payment structure. Most photo scanning services require you to pay about 50 percent upfront, but you don’t have to pay GoPhoto until you’ve seen your scans. You can then choose to keep or delete any of them, and you only pay for the scans you keep. The last little touch that GoPhoto throws in is a free, unlimited online library. This is great for organizing your photos, keeping a backup and sharing images on social media. GoPhoto also offers add-ons like rush service, extra copies of your photo scan DVD, home movie conversion and Pro options if you’d like TIFF formatted files or higher resolution scans.
Pros
  • Easiest to use
  • Only pay for scans you keep
  • Free unlimited online gallery
Cons
  • No discount for bulk orders
  • Price per scan is slightly higher than others
  • Slides and negatives scanned at lower resolution than some
VariesGoPhoto
Best Value for Bulk Scans

ScanCafe

ScanCafe’s offers many services in addition to photo scanning, including restoration and video conversions, but its Value Kits are what makes it stand out.
If you have a ton of photos, slides and negatives, this is a great option, as you can send them all together in one kit instead of parceling them out separately like other services require. You can choose kits in sizes of 500 to 10,000 scans, and ScanCafe will send you appropriate shipping materials and a label. This does take a little extra time, as their processing facility for the value kits is located in India, and rush service is not available for this option. There very limited customization options with the kits, but each scan gets three to four minutes of individual attention – just like with ScanCafe’s pay-per-scan service. Be aware, though, that you have to prepay for the bulk kits and there are no preview options. ScanCafe’s pay-per-scan option is also a good value, as you can review and delete up to 20 percent of the scans without paying for them. So if you send in 100 photos and don’t like 20 of the results, you only pay for the 80 you keep.
Pros
  • Can combine different types of media in value kit
  • Free quotes on photo restoration
  • Limited corrections done on every scan
Cons
  • Processed in India unless you pay for U.S. service
  • Value kit options not customizable
  • Scan files aren’t sorted into folders
VariesScanCafe
Best Turnaround Time

ScanMyPhotos

ScanMyPhotos is the best choice if you need your photos digitized right now. The company’s average turnaround for pay-per-scan photos is seven to 10 business days, and there’s also a unique one-day scanning option on orders, including prepaid boxes that can hold up to 10,800 photos (but not any other media like slides or negatives).
You can even set up an in-person appointment at to their Irvine, California, scanning facility – if you’re local. ScanMyPhotos’ super speed does come with a few inconveniences, however. You have to invest some time cleaning and organizing your photos before sending them, as the company has pretty strict rules regarding what it will and won’t scan. You can get your photos scanned in order (so you don’t have to sort them by size), but this option costs extra. Another item of note is that the company warns if photos are packaged backwards, you’ll get a scan of the back of the photo instead of the front – which indicates your photos likely don’t get the detailed attention they might with other services.
Pros
  • Fastest service with one-day scan option
  • Bulk scanning available
  • Offers restoration and video conversion services
Cons
  • Different types of media must be scanned in separate orders
  • Minimum fees for pay per scan option
  • Strict sending and packaging guidelines
VariesScanMyPhotos

Why Trust Us?

We know that handing your treasured family memories over to someone else can be tough, especially if you don’t know who you can trust among the dozens of photo scanning services that pop up when you start your search. Our team of insatiably curious and infallibly helpful digital service evaluators performed over 20 hours of research into several photo scanning services. Our goal was to find only the best, most reliable options for digitizing your photos, slides and negatives to make it as easy as possible for you to choose between them to find the right fit. We judged these services as carefully as we would have if we were going to use them for our own photos or recommend their services to our favorite aunts.

How We Evaluated

In everything we do, we strive to recreate the consumer experience as closely as possible. To that end, we began our 20 hours of research into the best photo scanning services by looking to see what pops up when you search for the “best photo scanning service” on Google. We referenced other online resources as well to create a list of the highest rated and most visible photo scanning services available. We then researched each service individually, ranking them based on price, available services, add-on options, turnaround times, ease of use and other factors. We immediately cut out any service that does not return your original media to you. We also excluded services with limited plans, extra-high prices and weird or questionable shipping practices. We narrowed down the list to the top ten photo scanning services and did some additional research into the top options so that we could make specific recommendations for different kinds of needs. We compiled all our research and narrowed it down to the most important information, highlighting the good and the bad so that you can quickly and easily make an informed decision.

If you have a lot of photos, slides and negatives to scan, look for a service that offers discounts or packages for high volumes.

Choosing a Photo Scanning Service

Over time, photos, slides and negatives deteriorate. It’s a limitation of that analog technology. Digital files, however, have no such limitation. Scanning photos by hand is a time-consuming project, so thankfully there are services that can do it for you so that you can preserve your memories and save yourself some time. When you’re choosing a service, these are the things you should keep in mind:

Type of Media
Most of the photo scanning services we researched can do more than just scan printed photos. Many offer negative and slide scanning as well. Some have home movie conversion services to transfer film or VHS tapes into a digital format. When looking into the best fit for you, make sure the service can cover all your media types.

Resolution
Different photo scanning services offer different choices for the resolutions of your scans. This is usually measured in dpi, or dots per inch. Depending on why you’re scanning your photos, you may only need lower resolution copies, but if you plan to print, crop or enlarge your photos, you’ll want higher resolution scans.


Photo Restoration
The best services lightly touch up your photos when they scan them to fix some fading or correct some colors, but some photos may require a bit more intensive attention. Many photo scanning services also offer digital restoration services to repair images that may have had a run in with mold or water damage.

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