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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Best Value for Bulk Scans
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.
Best Turnaround Time
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.
Best for Backing Up Media
Digital Memories partners with MiMedia to back up your scanned photos and other media up to a cloud service, protecting your photos from hardware failures. This is a critical feature many people fail to consider with a photo scanning service. While converting old photos and film to digital formats is the best way to preserve them, as digital formats don't fade or deteriorate, the storage formats containing the digital photos have a much shorter lifespan. The average hard drive, for example, is expected to last between four and eight years and CDs are easily scratched, broken and lost. Physical photos, on the other hand, can last well over a century. Having a solid backup plan for protecting your digital photos is essential.
Digital Memories offers 60 days of free backup service after you scan photos. You can continue the backup service at an additional monthly fee. This provides ample time for you to come up with your own backup solution, should you choose not to use the cloud backup service. MiMedia also allows you to back up your entire library of digital medial files, even files the service didn't scan. You can stream home videos and share photos from any Wi-Fi enabled device.
Best for Scanning Film
Most photo scanning services specialize in restoring and preserving all kinds of old photo formats and negatives. Many of these services don't convert videos or film, or only convert a few format types. ScanDigital is one of the few services to specialize in scanning and converting all kinds of video and film. If you have a box of home movies from the 1950's, this is the service to choose. You can convert VHS, MiniDV, BetaMax, Hi8 and Digital 8 to digital formats. They can also scan and convert 8mm, Super8, 16mm and 35mm film. In addition, the service has expert technicians to repair damage to old film.
The conversion process includes highly trained technicians inspecting and cleaning the film. They fix poor splices, broken sprockets and repair the film if needed. They also splice smaller reels together. Film is scanned and charged between $0.38 and $0.90 per foot while video formats are charged $23.95 and $29.95 per cassette. The converted video is saved to a USB drive.
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.
How Much Do Photo Scanning Services 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.
Why Not Scan My 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.
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.
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.
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.
Things to Consider 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 you 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.