The best photo scanning services can convert your old photos, slides and negatives into digital files, helping you to preserve your precious memories for posterity. Physical images can be lovely to sift through from time to time, but if you have hundreds of them, they can take up a lot of room. There's also the danger that they could become ruined by mucky fingers, drink spillages or worse. By having them digitized, you can be sure that they'll maintain their original quality – and if you back them up to a hard drive or cloud service, you need never worry about losing them.
In this guide, we'll reveal our pick of the best photo scanning services available to US customers. All of the companies in this list can turn photos, slides and negatives into digital images, with some even able to restore degraded pictures to something approaching their former glory. Our choices also include firms that can convert VHS and 8mm film, making it easier for you to view your long-forgotten home videos.
If you fancy taking a DIY approach to upgrading your photo collection, it's perfectly possible to do so. In our guide to the best slide-to-digital-image converters, you'll find a choice of gadgets that'll enable you to transform your treasured snaps – though you should be aware that it can take quite a long time to get through a large collection. If you wanted to, you could even have some fun manipulating your converted images using the best photo editing software. And why not treat a family member to a very special gift? The best photo books are sure to bring a tear to the eye.
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.
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.
|Service||Scan Digital||EverPresent||ScanCafe||GoPhoto||Digital Memories||ScanMyPhotos|
|Online storage||None||Yes - free 90 days||None||Yes - free||Yes - paid||Yes - paid|
|Physical media option||USB drive, HDD||USB, DVD||USB drive||DVD||DVD||USB 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 2021
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.
ScanDigital User Reviews and Ratings
- Scores 3.5 out of 5 via Yelp.com
- Scores 2.5 out of 5 via Facebook
Out of the 33 reviews on Yelp.com, the users happy with the service found the price reasonable and appreciated the staff’s communication skills. Similar positive comments can be seen on the company’s official Facebook page.
On the other hand, users who left a low rating for the service on Yelp.com and Facebook were unhappy with the company’s service because their order was delayed. Some users were also disappointed with the quality of the files received.
Some users were neutral about the service, saying they either liked the final product but hated the long wait, or liked the customer service but the file quality wasn’t up to the mark.
- Read our full ScanDigital review now
EverPresent: Best for choice
- Excellent scan quality
- Loads of photo digitization options
- Extra services are welcome
EverPresent is one of the largest scanning services in the US, and probably one of the best services you'll get when you're getting your old photos digitized. The quality of the scans here are some of the highest we've seen, and while you do have to pay slightly more than average (certainly not much more) what you get back is well worth the money. Slides and photos are $0.59 per scan, although delicate photos run to $1.99 per scan. Albums can be scanned per page too, starting at $2.99 per page.
EverPresent offers services to scan photos, slides, negatives, old film, and some of the more obscure film formats too. It'll enhance the scans to a good quality, and return them to you via courier shipping. Your digital files can be loaded onto a DVD, USB, or hosted on a private website for 90 days, free of charge. It's an excellent service, and gives you all the options you could need. Shipping is pretty quick too, and you can actually drop photos into physical stores or take advantage of doorstep pick-up if you live in the tri-state area.
We also love the extra services EverPresent offers - it will design and create photo books for you, from your scans, and will also offer to organize the digital photos you already have. Again, the costs can add up, but we find it's better to spend the money and get it all sorted, rather than get not-quite-as-good results from cheaper, less comprehensive services. Our only real issue is that there's a lack of clarity over the digitization process, and the timeline for when it'll all get done, and we didn't find customer service as helpful as some other providers. The end results, though, are superb.
EverPresent User reviews and Ratings
- Scores 4 out of 5 via Yelp
- Scores 4.4 out of 5 via Facebook
EverPresent is a well-rated service, with dozens of positive reviews across Yelp and Facebook.
On both platforms, users praised the open communication style of the company, and most seem to be satisfied with the quality of files they received. Additionally, many users shared personal stories of how the service benefited their family and overall well-being.
The few but persistent negative reviews expressed frustration in the long wait times, as the service had slowed down during the coronavirus pandemic amid several lockdown restrictions. Some rare users also had trouble communicating with the staff, leading to a lot of disappointment and stress.
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.
ScanCafe User Reviews and Ratings
- Scores 3.5 out of 5 on Yelp
- Scores 4.7 out of 5 on TrustPilot
From the reviews on Trustpilot and Yelp, we can see ScanCafe is better rated on TrustPilot than on Yelp. The service has a whopping 3,037 reviews on TrustPilot, most of which are positive. Many users were happy with the service and several reviews appreciate the good quality of work delivered. Users also found the staff helpful and communicative despite the occasionally delayed package.
On the other hand, the negative reviews are mostly centered around delays, and surprisingly, payment issues. Some users had trouble completing the transaction and experienced a lot of technical errors while paying for the finished product. Users on Yelp were particularly unhappy with the quality of the scanned files, and some even compared the scanned photos to others delivered by a different scanning service.
- Read our full Scancafe review now
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.
GoPhoto User Reviews and Ratings
- Scores 2.5 out of 5 on Yelp
- Scores 3 out of 5 on Facebook
It’s really important to note that there are very few user reviews available for GoPhoto. In total, there are just 13 across Yelp and Facebook. This means that it’s very easy for a small number of negative or positive reviews to have a big impact on the rating.
A lot of the reviews are quite old, too. But most of them focus on negative aspects of their experience, namely slow response times. Positive reviews focus on scan quality, but it’s hard to draw a solid conclusion from such a small number of responses.
- Read our full GoPhoto review now
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.
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.
- Read our full Digital Memories review now
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.
ScanMyPhotos User Reviews and Ratings
- C+ rating via the BBB
- Scores 3.5 out of 5 via Yelp
ScanMyPhotos has really mixed reviews, but it scores 3.5 out of 5 on Yelp, which is roughly how we rated it, too. The negative reviews focus on customers who are unhappy at the inability to cancel or get refunds on orders. Positive reviews focus on all-round good quality customer service.
It’s worth noting that the Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating has dropped significantly over the past year. It used to be rated at A+ but this has now been downgraded to a C+ grade. There’s no clear indication of what caused this, but the C+ is not too unusual for a medium to large business (for comparison, Facebook is rated as an ‘F’ and ScanDigital is rated as a B-.)
- Read our full ScanMyPhotos review now
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?
Prices vary according to the media you’re scanning and the number of things you need to scan. You may also have to pay slightly more if you want a higher quality of image – some companies charge more to produce 24MP images instead of the standard 12MP. In addition to this, you’ll also usually have to factor in shipping costs, along with an additional cost for any type of storage device sent by the company, like a USB drive.
All of that aside, here are the basic costs for scanning each type of media.
- 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 media is possible, but you’ll likely need to buy a slide-to-digital image converter. A high quality machine can cost anywhere upwards of $500, but you can get decent scanners that cost as little as $40. Expect to put a lot of time into cleaning slides beforehand and formatting them afterwards. You’re also unlikely to find a scanner that can handle both photos and negatives, so you might need to buy two machines.
Unless you’re a serious hobbyist, who actively enjoys the process, you might prefer to use one of the above services. The experts at these companies not only handle all the scanning for you, they can also help clean up damaged and over-exposed images. As these companies have access to a wide range of machinery, employees can digitize a really broad range of media too, offering you the chance to digitize things like old film and VHS in addition to your photos.
Is it better to scan negatives or photos?
The majority of the scanning services recommend sending in negatives, rather than photos, if you still have them. These tend to be a bit sharper than printed images and they also hold more image ‘information’. This means that getting your negatives scanned may reveal details or colors that have been lost in printed photos.
If you don’t have the negatives, don’t worry. Experts at these companies are able to fix up your old pics too. But if you have the option, always go with the negatives.
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.
How you’ll receive your images: All good scanning companies will make sure your original images are returned, so you don’t need to worry about those precious family snaps and wedding videos being lost. A lot of the best scanning companies will give you a choice of how to receive your digitized images. Some of them will send you a simple USB drive – or hard drive, depending on the amount of scanned images – and others will use online cloud storage options, which allow you to browse and download your images. Watch out for the latter option, though, as sometimes there’s a limit on how long the company will store your images in this online format. It’s always a good idea to save images on a hard drive, too, so they’re not lost forever.
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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