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I'm gearing up for digitizing my family's archive of photos, slides and videos. And I'm wondering if anyone has any experience doing this and if they can share some learned experiences on the matter.

  • What do I have to look for in the hardware?
  • Which software is the best to use?
  • What was good, what was bad, what would you try differently?

I am currently thinking I will purchase a flatbed scanner for photos and a dedicated slide scanner. I am also thinking that I might just send off the video tapes for professional processing.

Ideally I would lay out photos on the scanner, hit scan, a program takes the scanned image and cuts it up and stores the images on an external drive. Does such a thing exist ready for consumption?

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I think this is a good question. Shopping recommendations alone would be off-topic, but I guess the scope is fine and we might get a few insightful answers. – slhck Aug 10 '11 at 22:36
By the way: If you think you don't get that many useful answers, you could use the "flag" link to inform a moderator and have your question migrated over to Photography, which is a photography community. – slhck Aug 11 '11 at 7:57
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Ok, I did the scanning in November. I used a flatbed scanner and here is what I learned.

  • Dust is your enemy.
  • The reason there are not many photo scanners with feeders is because of dust getting caught in the sensor and ruining your scans.
  • Almost every scanner you can buy these days has software that can cut up multiple photos.
  • Any dust on the flatbed will join those photos together.

My method eventually worked out to the following:

  1. Clean scanning bed.
  2. Place 3-4 photos on bed.
  3. Hit Scan.
  4. Wait X seconds and read news feeds to stave off the boredom.
  5. Scan completes, computer is processing photos, take photos in bed put to one side, load new photos, wait for processing to complete.
  6. Processing completes, hit scan.
  7. Check processed photos to ensure that they were split up properly; if not, place failed scan photos back into "To Scan Pile".
  8. After scan completes, goto 1.

If you can scan 20 photos a minute you are doing fantastic.

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I would get a decently fast scanner that has a feeder tray, so that you can you leave it alone for hours. Generally speaking, if you have pictures that are the same size, you can just tell the scanner how large it will be, and it will be every quick and easy.

If for some reason your pictures are all different sizes, that is something else that you need to look for in a scanner. Something that will detect the size of the picture. If it does not have that feature, I am sure that there are many tools out there that can crop the whitespace right off in any case.

If you want to scan slides, you are right in that you will need another machine, but consider the cost of sending to a professional. Same for the videos. If you have so many videos that it would be cheaper to get the machine, then do it. It depends on how many you are trying to do.

As far as storing all the data to an external drive, that is the easy part. Almost all scanning software can do that.

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Well I've scoured Amazon, Craigslist, kijiji, ebay and the websites for fujitsu, kodak, cannon, hp, epson. I can't find a model with a feeder tray. – Biff MaGriff Sep 26 '11 at 15:05

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