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Best Photo Scanning Services 2020: Digitize photos, slides, and more

Best Photo Scanning Services 2020: Digitize photos, slides, and more
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Picking the best photo scanning service for your needs is an important decision. Most people get their photos digitized to preserve their precious memories for the future, so you want to be sure you can trust a photo scanning site to not only do a good job, but to handle your photos, slides, and negatives with absolute care. You will also likely be looking to have your images restored and improved during the digitizing process, and this is definitely something your chosen photo scanning service should be providing.

When selecting the best photo scanning sites for our list, we considered a number of different things. The quality of the final digital image is important, for sure, and we did look at how well each service restored and enhanced older photographs. While few will turn in poor results, some services go the extra mile to give you higher resolution images, and pictures that have been lovingly restored to their fullest potential. We also considered price, and the method by which the files are either uploaded or returned to you.

We tested five of the best photo scanning services in the US to create our guide. We rated scan quality, service, pricing, and the quality of the website for each provider. We also researched over 400 user reviews, looked at testimonials, and considered other options for photo scanning at home to deliver our most comprehensive guide to date.

Our promise to you

However, one of the most crucial services that any photo scanning site can provide is that constant customer service. We looked at which services provided pre-prepared boxes for you to mail in your photos and other media. We considered how clear the instructions were on doing this, and how well explained the process is from start to finish. We also rated the website for each provider because it's important to trust every aspect of the process, from start to finish, and if a provider can't put together a decent website... can it really be trusted with your precious photographs?

There are alternatives to even the best photo scanning services, if you'd rather not pay to go through the whole process, but still want to digitize your pictures. We've created a guide to the best slide to digital image converters, many of which convert photos as well as slides and negatives. And we've also created a guide to the best photo editing software, to help you enhance your own images, once they're digitized. However, if you'd rather let someone else do it all for you, then read on.

How we choose the best photo scanning services

1. Photo Scanning Quality
The quality of a digital image can vary dramatically. We looked at the minimum and maximum resolution images that each provider creates - from 72 dpi through to 600 dpi. We also considered how good the enhancement is on older or faded images.

2. Price
Obviously the cost of your photo scanning is a big factor. We looked at not only the average cost per image, but also the bundles and packages available from each provider. We then measured that against the service you get, and the quality of the final images.

3. Postage options and care
Does the photo scanning service offer a pre-paid postage service? How clear are the instructions on how to package your image? And what happens to the photos once they arrive, when they're scanned, and how they're sent back? Some companies can scan whole albums, but few will put them back together. Many will sort images online, but will they repackaged groups of photos as you sent them?

4. How are your digital images sent?
There's often a choice of digital delivery with photo scanning services. Some will post a physical item back to you, like a DVD, USB drive, or an external HDD. Some will host your images in the cloud, and allow you to download them to whatever device you like. Some charge extra for this, some don't. We factor these things in when reviewing each service, and considering the value they offer.

Photo scanning services features

We tested a range of photo scanning services to see which ones are worth your time and money in 2020. Many offer the same kind of services, but they vary in terms of price, results, and customer care. These are our top picks.

Photo Scanning services at a glance
ServiceScan DigitalScanCafeGoPhotoDigital MemoriesScanMyPhotos
Photos
Slides
Negatives
VHS
8mm film
Online storageNoneNoneYes - freeYes - paidYes - paid
Physical media optionUSB drive, HDDUSB driveDVDDVDUSB drive, DVD

As you can see, most of the best photo scanning services offer similar features, so a large portion of your decision comes down to personal need and price. We recommend going to image quality over speed, as you'll be keeping these pictures for a long time. We also suggest asking for pictures to be returned on a USB drive, as DVDs are rapidly falling out of use in modern PCs and laptops.

Best Photo Scanning services 2020

ScanDigital is our best photo scanning service for 2020

(Image credit: ScanDigital)

ScanDigital: Best photo scanning service overall

  • Wide range of formats supported
  • Good website, clear pricing
  • Offers free rescans if you don't like the first pass

From the first time you visit the ScanDigital website you'll understand why they're our top pick. ScanDigital guides you through every stage of the photo scanning process: from ordering and pricing, through to packaging, all the way to receiving your digital photos and any additional work. You feel assured and looked after.

While this isn't the cheapest photo scanning service, you do get what you pay for here. You're provided with a pre-prepared box for sending your original pictures and given instructions on how to package them. You can select between two levels of restoration - Premium and Professional - and both yield great results. However, if you're not happy with the scans you receive, ScanDigital will actually give your images a second scan/restore for free. That's excellent customer service, and you get your digital pictures or videos sent back on a USB drive or HDD, rather than an outdated DVD.

The downsides are that ScanDigital takes a little longer to complete the whole process than other providers, and there is no option for hosting or viewing your images online, which other providers do offer. We would always recommend you choose your own provider for hosting photos online anyway, so this second point isn't a huge drawback. Overall, we're very impressed with ScanDigital.

Check out ScanDigital direct

Go direct to ScanDigital and choose from the site's various packages for restoring and digitizing your old photos, negatives, VHS tapes and more.VIEW DEAL ON ScanDigital

ScanDigital User Reviews and Ratings

  • Scores 3.5 out of 5 via Yelp.com
  • Scores 2.8 out of 5 via Facebook

We looked at 97 user reviews across several platforms for ScanDigital. While there were a large number of satisfied reviews from customers, there were also a series of 1-star ratings from people who had obviously not got the service they expected. The overall service was praised by most, especially when it comes to actual photos, slides, and negatives. Most of the less positive reviews focused on a couple of main areas.

Criticisms are levelled at the company's work with VHS conversions, which are inconsistent in terms of quality and organization of transfer (according to the negative comments). The use of Groupon deals was the other main cause of concern, as several users were concerned that they paid additional charges that were not listed on the Groupon deal. Many of these reviews around Groupon deals, however, are older ones.


ScanCafe - great for value bundles

(Image credit: ScanCafe)

ScanCafe: Best value for money

  • Great for bulk orders of photos
  • Value kits are a top feature
  • Professional website is easy to use

If you're looking for value on bulk orders of photos or slides, ScanCafe is the place to go. Not only does it offer a range of 'value kits' to help you get large numbers of photos, slides, and videos digitized, you can also choose from a variety of services to suit your needs. In our tests, ScanCafe fared well in terms of overall value, speed of service, and the actual images that came back. The average turn-around time is about 12-days, with UPS shipping, and what you get back is good quality. 

ScanCafe is especially good at removing scratches and speckles from older images, cleaning up and smoothing out photos to make them look more modern. It isn't the best for color correction and sharpening, but if you're simply looking for cheap cleaning up of your images, it's great. ScanCafe also does VHS, 35mm film and other media.

Overall we love the ScanCafe website too, as it's easy to use, although the pricing options aren't quite as clear as they are on some competitor sites.

Check out ScanCafe direct

If you're looking for bulk digitization of photos, we highly recommend checking out ScanCafe. Go there direct for a quote.VIEW DEAL ON ScanCafe

ScanCafe User Reviews and Ratings

  • Scores 4.7 out of 5 via TrustPilot
  • Scores 3.5 out of 5 via Yelp

We looked at 300+ reviews of ScanCafe across various sites like TrustPilot and Facebook. It scores very well on TrustPilot with a rating of 4.7 out of 5, with most users praising the quality of the digital images they received. Most of these reviews are very new too, so you know that ScanCafe is doing an excellent job in 2020. Some reviews criticised Scan's turnaround time, but accept that it takes longer during COVID, and to its credit ScanCafe is good at responding to complaints and positive comments.

Lower-rated reviews criticise the quality of scans, some errant communication from ScanCafe, and occasional long delays in returning images. However, they do seem to be outliers, so there's a very good chance you'll have a great experience with ScanCafe, like most other customers.


GoPhoto is great for getting exactly the scans you need

(Image credit: GoPhoto)

GoPhoto: Best a la carte scanning service

  • Only pay for the photos you need
  • Very good at sorting images for you
  • Free online checking

If you want total control over the scanning of your old photos, then GoPhoto is the best option. Not only can you choose the exact number of images or films that you'd like to be processed, but you can also look at the results online and only pay for the ones you want to keep. We love this about GoPhoto. 

Once your photos have been scanned, you'll be given access to an online album, with images sorted smartly by the GoPhoto team. You can then look at each one, inspect the quality and subject of the photo, and decide which ones you want to keep and which ones you'd rather not pay for.

The quality of the images GoPhoto creates is good, and the turnaround time is above average too. Sure, you'll pay a little more, and the website is very dated and a little tougher to navigate, but overall we like the service on offer here. The fact that they organize and sort through your original photos, and do their best to return the images in the same order, albums, and groups you mailed them in is a nice little bonus too.

Check out GoPhoto direct

If you're looking to scan a handful of images, or have a more specific order, GoPhoto is a great option. The service is excellent too, as is the online checking.VIEW DEAL ON GoPhoto

GoPhoto User Reviews and Ratings

  • Scores 3 out of 5 via Yelp
  • Not yet rated via BBB

GoPhoto isn't widely reviewed, so the list of user reviews to compare is low. The users who left positive reviews praised the service of GoPhoto, and the efficiency of the whole process. As with many other user reviews, the negatives seem to largely focus on outlying bad experiences, where photos were lost or where the user thought they would be getting a different type of service.

One such negative review complains that the digital images were blurred and out of focus, but this does seem to be a rare example. While we found GoPhoto to be among the more expensive options, we found several user reviews praising the value offered by the service, so it seems people like what they get for their money. 


Digital Memories offers extensive online storage options

(Image credit: Digital Memories)

Digital Memories: Best for online storage

  • Store your digitized images online
  • Wide range of services
  • Good final scans

If you're looking to go completely digital, Digital Memories is a good option. Once this company has scanned your photos, slides, VHS tapes etc, it will host them online for up to six months, allowing you to access them and download images to any internet-connected device. The catch here, however, is that you pay for this online storage in addition to the cost of the actual scanning, so it is a more expensive option. What we recommend is that you get your images back and look at your own Cloud storage options, like Google Drive, OneDrive, or iCloud.

Digital Memories offers a decent range of scanning services for all kinds of media, and has various pricing options for bundles, a la carte scanning, and more. In fact, we found the pricing - and the rather dated website - a little confusing, so you should shop around before committing to scans from Digital Memories.

The quality of the work here is good, and the turnaround is about average for photo scanning services. We suggest trying out this online format for a few weeks, before moving your images to a different cloud location.

Check out Digital Memories direct

Digital Memories will scan photos for you, and will store them online for up to six months after, before offering you the chance to move over to MiMedia for permanent online storage.VIEW DEAL ON Digital Memories

Digital Memories User Reviews and Ratings

  • A+ rating via the BBB
  • No user reviews on Yelp

It's tough to find user feedback on Digital Memories. There are no user reviews on the BBB site, or via Yelp, which is highly unusual. The DM website features carefully curated user testimonials, which unsurprisingly rave about the service without listing any negatives.

Given the dated nature of Digital Memories' website, perhaps it's no surprise that they have a small digital footprint. We found them to be helpful and professional, with decent results, so they should be thought of like a local business that doesn't rely on online customers for its ratings. 


ScanMyPhotos often has sales and discounts

(Image credit: ScanMyPhotos)

ScanMyPhotos: Best for speed of service

  • Very quick turnaround of images
  • Offers decent value and has many sales
  • Has a good range of scanning services

Anyone looking to get images scanned quickly should check out ScanMyPhotos. Not only does it offer a wide variety of services, covering everything from regular printed photos to 8mm film, but it does the whole thing a little quicker than most other providers. Granted, everyone is experiencing delays during the current climate, but photos are usually done within 10-12 days. You'll get your digital copies back via a DVD or USB drive, and you can pay extra if you'd rather have them uploaded to the Cloud.

ScanMyPhotos doesn't necessarily excel when it comes to quality of work (although it's certainly not bad), and both the pricing structures and website navigation could be a lot better. We like that there are regular offers and discounts available here, so you'll usually be able to save money - ideal if you just want someone to scan your photos quickly and cheaply. It's great for larger batches of photos, as you tend to save money the more you send over.

There are a decent range of formats available for scanning, including VHS and 8mm film if you need old footage restored. Overall, recommended for speed, but there are better optimization services out there.

Check out ScanMyPhotos direct

Go straight to ScanMyPhotos and check out its latest deals. We find that discounts are frequent at this site offering both value and speed if you need photos scanned.VIEW DEAL ON ScanMyPhotos

ScanMyPhotos User Reviews and Ratings

  • A+ rating via the BBB
  • Scores 3.5 out of 5 via Yelp

Overall, ScanMyPhotos has a rating of 3.5 on Yelp, which is the same as we scored it in our review. Reviews vary wildly - some praise the excellent customer service, and the all-round care that SMP takes with its photo scanning, and actually call out staff by name. That's the sign of a great small business. We also like how many customers refer to the fact that ScanMyPhotos are in constant email contact during the whole process - that's very reassuring.

Other user reviews complain of poor quality scans and optimizations, and of late delivery and a lack of communication from ScanMyPhotos. These do seem to be outliers, however, and the majority were pleased with the service or at least satisfied by it. There were several people complaining about Groupon deals too, although some found the Groupon value excellent.

Photo Scanning Services FAQs

While it's a fairly simple process, we understand that you'll want to over-research photo scanning, given that these companies will be handling and digitizing some of your most treasured items. The below acts as a Q and A to help you learn as much about the process before you commit to a specific service.

How much do photo scans cost?

There are several pricing factors to consider when scanning photos, video and film – the size and resolution of the digital files, the original format, organization and whether you need expert technicians to restore film. Here is a rundown of the basic pricing structures for photo scanning services:

  • Photos cost between $0.16 and $8.35 per image. It depends on the format, size, and resolution requirements. More expensive prices are for old photos and negatives that may need expert restoration. Some services charge extra per photo if the photos are in an album.
  • Film (8mm, Super 8, 16mm, & Super 16) costs between $0.25 and $0.90 per foot, depending on the format and restoration requirements.
  • Video (VHS, VHS-C, SVHS, Hi8, Digital 8, MiniDV, BetaMax) is charged by the cassette or the hour, and usually priced between $18 and $30 per video.

Can you scan your own photos?

Scanning your own photos is certainly an option. A cheap photo scanner costs $40 or you can purchase a high-end scanner for around $500. However, scanning photos is a laborious project, especially if you have a large library of memories to get through. Not only does scanning photos take a lot of time when you're scanning one to eight at a time, but you must crop each photo then go back and edit any irregularities, such as dust from the scanner. 

If you don't have time for photo scanning as a part-time hobby, then a photo scanning service is the best option. These services do all the work for you: the scanning, cropping and editing. They even have expert technicians to help restore damaged photos and old, faded photos. You can get your entire photo library scanned and returned to you in a few weeks. 

What should you look for when choosing a photo scanning service?

If you’ve decided that now is the time to finally scan and digitize all the photos you’ve been holding onto for years, here are a few things to think about when choosing a service:

You Pay for Shipping: You’ll need to ship your photos, negatives and film to the company. This costs from $10 to $20, depending on the company and how quickly you want to send and receive your photos. Shipping options vary from company to company, and some work with UPS to provide shipping materials.

Think Local: Depending on where you live, there’s likely a local shop or two that can scan, digitize, and restore your photos. You’ll save money on shipping and may also be able to get smaller jobs done – many online photo scanning services have order minimums you need to reach. Prices from local shops we looked at were competitive with the online services we reviewed.

Do They Need Retouching? If your photos have been damaged by water or age, you may need to pay for retouching or restoration, which is expensive and time consuming. Most companies charge an hourly rate for retouching, though some minor work may be available at lower prices. It can also take several weeks to complete the work. Even if you have your own scanner, you may still want to pay for retouching because it requires expertise and software you may not have access too.

Photo Scanning glossary

  • Cloud storage: Where your images are stored online, and you can view and access them from a number of devices (as long as you have internet access).
  • Colorization: The process of adding color to black and white or sepia images.
  • DPI: Stands for 'dots per inch' and is a standard measurement of the resolution of an image.
  • JPG: Jpeg files are what you'll likely receive once your images have been scanned. Although some offer png, tiff, or psd files if you need more post-production control.
  • Negatives: The images you captured on the film used by your old, non-digital camera.
  • Retouching: A general term for how your photos are improved. This can be anything from simple scratch and imperfection removal, all the way through to color correction, sharpening of the image, light levels, and more.
  • USB drive: A stick or external hard drive that you plug into your computer - often used to store digital images on.
  • VHS: Video Home System - a format used for watching and recording footage, before it was superseded by DVD, Blu-ray, and digital formats

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