How Quickly You Could Scan Your Entire Photo Collection — What I Discovered From My First Week of Scanning

Plastic bin full of photos that need scanning
It’s almost hard to make out what’s in this photo. This is a typical family’s photo collection. We protect them in plastic bins and push them into the backs of our closets so we don’t have to see them. Just know, they want to be scanned… they NEED to be scanned! (I doubt my Mother will be happy with me that I showed the world the bottom of her closet — sorry Mom!)

So you have a closet with boxes full of old prints and slides that you are dying to have scanned and neatly organized on your computer.

The problem is, you’re worried about them either costing you way too much money to send to a scanning service, or taking too much of your precious free time to scan them yourself on a flatbed scanner.

Does this sound EXACTLY like your dilemma?

I’d like to share with you my experience back scanning photos for the first week.

If you want to make scanning your own photos fit into your busy and hectic life, I think my experience here might give you an idea how much time will be involved and how many photos you can easily get through.

But really quickly, here’s a little back story to why I decided to scan my collection myself.

A Big Reason Why I Chose Scanning Myself vs. a Scanning Service

My wife and I spent hours over a couple weeks counting all of my family’s photos and we came up with a total — a whopping total!  We came up with 3,508 prints and 5,805 slides for a grand total of 9,313 photographs!

And that’s not all of them.That’s just the ones I have managed to bring back from my parents’ house so far. But, it’s the lions share.

Before I created this website, I was very close to having ScanCafe scan them all. Considering how much work is involved, they are very affordable and could produce the results I was looking for. But, because I admit I have fairly “advanced goals” for my collection, once I started adding up the extra costs to have them all scanned at high resolutions and saved as “raw” uncompressed TIFF files, the price started reaching upwards of about  $.75 (US) per photo. That means my entire collection scanned would cost me — ball park number here — about $7,000.00 (US).

With a collection as large as mine, for me, when answering that whole “which is more important to you?” question, money easily trumped time.

But the problem is, when you are presented with a challenge so big as to personally hand-scan 9,000+ photos, it’s really easy to put it off. In fact, I managed to put it off for 8 years. And I knew I probably couldn’t afford to throw large chunks of time at it very often — like entire weekends.

If this sounds like your situation as well, let me now walk you through another more realistic option.

I Finally Challenged Myself With a Very Aggressive Goal

It occurred to me the only way I would ever get through my massive collection would be to consistently work at it a little bit at a time. So just recently, I set a goal for myself to scan a small batch of photos every day. That’s 7 days a week — no days off, not even one unless I was out of town.

It had to become part of my life, like brushing my teeth or reading the news. Yes, it would be a big commitment — huge even. But hey, my method before wasn’t getting me anywhere!

It doesn’t have to be a lot of photos I told myself, but just as many as I can do in a short amount of time. And when that time was up, I would just stop.

I am a tad bit slow waking up in the morning. So, I decided this would be a perfect time to accomplish this. Best case, I would probably still be so sleepy and delirious, I wouldn’t even be fully aware that I was doing it, and I might be surprised each evening when I had realized I actually accomplished the task!

Here’s how I envisioned my mornings:

I would roll out of bed every morning, grab a can of Seattle’s Best or Trader Joe’s Iced Latte from the refrigerator and then turn on the computer. I could put on some music, a podcast or an episode of “The Big Bang Theory” or “Three’s Company” on DVD and then I would begin attacking a small pile of slides or photos.

My First Day Back Scanning Photos

Small box of photo slides I'm halfway through scanning
Here’s what the right side of my computer desk looks like when I’m scanning slides. I found a nice little plastic box that helps me sort the slides I’ve scanned from the slides I need to scan.

February 10, 2012 was the first day I started the scanning “machine” back up. I was sick with the beginnings of an upper respiratory infection so I knew things might go a little slow. Yet, I was still determined not to let myself down by skipping the first day.

I had already scanned over 300 photos from the work I’ve done over the last year or two. So, even though it didn’t feel like it, I was already a little over 4% along on my scanning journey.

However, that first morning felt like I had just started from the beginning — like I had the impossible in front of me.

But you know what? I started. I just grabbed a few photo pages full of prints that my parents had taken in 1972 and I started to scan them. 

And well, I also started to cough a little bit — stupid infection.

Turns out I was right about starting slow. In my defense though, it was my first day back scanning after some time. But by 9:39 a.m., about 45 minutes after I started, I had only scanned what seemed like a pathetic 10 paper prints!

I decided I was going to keep a digital log (journal) of each day’s work so I could track my progress on this site. Here is my simple entry for day 1 that I will share with you: (ES stands for the software “Epson Scan”)

Day 1 - Scanning Journal Entry

The details of what went wrong for me aren’t that important for this post. I will save that for another time. Let’s just say I tried to pre-label a unique number on each of my prints and then have my scanning software automatically attach this number to the .Tiff file for each scan. Think of it like a barcode.

Needless to say, it didn’t work out so well. None of the numbers on the files matched what I had already written on the backs of the photos. So I used up a lot of time relabeling the files and trying to figure out how to actually make it work. I just can’t make things easy on myself. Ever! smile

Regardless of the problems I ran into, I was still very happy. I had just completed day 1. And that 45 minutes was over before I knew it!

And get this. I finished actually wanting to scan more !!  I was really having a good time seeing these slides I don’t think I had even seen before. But, I had to stop and go to work — yeah the work that pays the bills. smile

Days 2 – 7 Scanning Photos

So here’s how the rest of the week turned out:

FEB 11
Scanned 61 slides — Time Required: 4 Hours

I had just bought a new antistatic slide cleaning brush and a hand-powered air blower. I was trying to figure out what was the most effective way to remove the dust from my slides. I even tried using the DIGITAL ICE scanning “filter” in combination with the brush and compressed air etc. It was a lot of testing which is why I spent 4 hours on just 61 slides. (Saturday)

FEB 12
Scanned: None — Time Required: None

Day three didn’t go so well. I was so sick that morning, the thought of scanning slides felt like just about the last thing I was up for. Day three was spent on the couch with the cat a staring at our flat screen. (Sunday)

FEB 13
Scanned 13 slides — Time Required: 23 Minutes

Apparently this was a pretty short day of scanning — not even a half hour. (Monday)

FEB 14
Scanned 20 slides — Time Required: 68 Minutes

I made a lot of mistakes this day trying to take shortcuts to make the scanning more efficient. I learned when you are scanning slides with the Epson V600 at least, you have to hit “Preview” each time when in the “thumbnail view” or in most cases it won’t scan your next set of 4 slides correctly. This cost me a lot of time. Lesson learned. (Tuesday)

FEB 15
Scanned 28 slides — Time Required: 58 Minutes

This was a very successful day. Other than losing my special archival writing pen, which took me about 10 minutes to find before I started, I didn’t have any problems this day! I wrote this in my notes that day:

So I got 28 slides done today in less than 1 hour!  Fantastic!

FEB 16
Scanned 29 slides — Time Required: 62 Minutes

No problems today. Smooth sailing. Well I had a few I had to redo because there was excessive hair and dust — even blowing it with compressed air didn’t help that much.

4 Slides sitting in Epson V600 waiting to be scanned
And here’s the left side of my computer desk. Four slides lightly brushed of dust and waiting in my Epson V600 to be scanned. While these 4 are being scanned, I have time to get the next 4 prepared.

So How Did I Do?

For the mathematicians out there, you may have already figured out that in my first 7 days back, I scanned a total of 161 photos using a total of 8 hours and 16 minutes of my time. That’s a little over 3 minutes per photo. I knew I could do better than that.

For some context of how well I did, I remembered seeing statistics about this on the scanning service ScanCafe’s website. They have a page that does a good job convincing you that a service is the best way to go. It almost makes it seem like you are basically out of your mind if you even think you can scan your entire photo collection by yourself.

Well, let me rephrase that. The point they are trying to get across on their “doing scanning yourself” page is that it costs a lot of money and also requires a ridiculous amount of time. They write:

According to research firm GfK North America, the average American adult has 3,000 old analog images. Scanning and repairing those, once you’ve learned how and bought the equipment, should take about 7.5 minutes per photo. For 3,000 photos, that’s 22,500 minutes, or about 375 hours. That’s nearly 10 workweeks — or 47 Saturdays at 8 hours a day.

Now, please don’t let this paragraph scare you! I know it sounds pretty overwhelming. It’s not that what they said is unrealistic. But, allow me to put things in perspective. Most of the 7.5 minutes they quoted for each photo is alloted to “repair” the image of dust and color shifting etc. in photo editing software — 5.5 minutes to be exact.

Some may disagree with me here, but you personally may find that a lot of your collection, if well cared for, may not require much if any repair. You may be satisfied with the results of using the “auto color correct” setting during scanning or in your image management software. And it’s possible having a small amount of dust and scratches on your images won’t bother you.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you may find that intensive repair work on every single photo in your collection is a luxury to you and is by no means necessary for you to be content with the results.

This situation reminds me of a great saying that I know I can’t remind myself of too many times:

Progress is more important than Perfection.

So even though repair is important to me, I’m really just concerned with scanning right now. I can do photo repairing anytime I want later. For me — and I would suggest you do the same if you asked me — it’s most important to just get them all safely scanned first.

Time Required Just to Scan

Now, if we go back to ScanCafe’s 7.5 minutes per photo estimate, they actually say it only takes 1-4 minutes to “complete each scan” — the most important part. Which sounds just about right from my experience during this first week.

This made me REALLY happy. Do you know why?

This makes me happy because really, I had a pretty average to almost poor first week. Seriously. I mean it was my first week back and I was a bit rusty. I had problems remembering my scanning techniques I had used over the last year or so. Also, I was doing some testing to figure out how to be the most efficient while scanning and removing dust from my slides. And on top of that I was sick.

Yet, I still managed to scan 161 photos in an average of around 3 minutes a piece. And most of those were slides and not prints. Slides take a scanner longer to scan than paper prints because of the higher resolution you have to scan them with.

By the last two days, once I had picked up momentum, I had improved and was scanning about 30 slides in almost exactly one hour.

Yes — that’s a slide every 2 minutes !

Seriously. That’s not bad. That’s not bad for a pro-sumer level scanner and me just being a normal guy. What I mean is, I don’t scan for a living.

YOU could easily achieve this pace too after a little bit of experience just doing it.

By the seventh day of this first week, I was thinking to myself that I would be the happiest guy alive if I could just wake up early enough that I could clear a full hour of my morning — first thing — just for scanning. Because if I could, I could continually hit this count of 30 slides a day.

And I know with paper prints, I can get through 40-50 of them in a single hour of scanning!

At this point I was so excited, I couldn’t help but wonder how far along I would be in a year’s time at this rate. Would I be halfway through? More?  So I did the math.

Then How Long Would It Take You to Scan Your Entire Collection?

If I could scan just 30 photos a day, that would mean I would actually be finished with all of the photos I have here at my house in less than a year from now!

9,313 (total photos) ÷ 30 (photos daily) = 311 days

So You Might Be Saying To Yourself, “Who In the World Has a Free HOUR to Scan Each and Every Day !??”

Yeah, I suggested this goal to the guy that cuts my hair and he thought I was bloody insane (he’s British). With a wife, a young son and a never-ending list of clients fighting for his time, he couldn’t see any way to give up an hour a day to scan photos.

But here’s the thing, I doubt you’re going to need an hour each day. Not even close to it.

According to that earlier quote, if you have an average-sized collection, then you probably only have around 3,000 photos. Which means, if my math is correct, if you could find just 20 minutes a day in your busy schedule, you too could be finished scanning in just a year’s time.

If you could scan 30 photos in 60 minutes, that means you are doing 10 photos every 20 minutes.

10 (photos daily) x 365 (days) = 3,650 total scanned

What If You Wanted to Scan Just Once a Week

Is scanning every day too much to expect from you? Okay, what if you waited and did it all on the weekend — say on a Saturday afternoon while the kids are playing with their friends. If you did all of the scanning in one sitting, it would only require a single time chunk of 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Hey, that’s easily how much time many of us “waste” on social networking sites and watching mindless television shows every week here in the U.S.!

It’s Time

I may have procrastinated for 8 years, but eventually, I finally realized how important this was to me and made it a priority in my life. And boy am I glad I did.

You will discover the treasures you’ve totally forgotten about or never knew you had.

Couple posed in front of globe at 1964 World's Fair
On the sixth day of my first week back, I scanned this very slide. It’s my young parents on their Honeymoon at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Even though I wouldn’t expect this photograph to mean anything to you, I can guarantee you your collection holds a bunch of precious memories like this one for you. I had heard the stories of this trip for 30 years of my life, but I had never seen one moment of it until the day I scanned this slide.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re already talking yourself out of this, telling yourself you can’t do this because a year sounds like too long — like you’re thinking you’re never going to finish this project like you never finished learning to play the piano — just remind yourself this:

How many times a year do you say to yourself, “Man, it feels like just yesterday I [fill in the blank].”

Typically what you fill in this sentence with is something you did a year ago, like prepared your taxes, paid your car registration or celebrated your last birthday.

Before you know it, another year will pass you by. Only next year, your photo collection will have been scanned.

Just make this happen.

Whatever it takes.

Yes, you can do this.

You will never “find” time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.

~ Charles Bruxton

I’m sure after reading this, you have some questions for me. I would be glad to answer them for you in the comments below.

I hope this inspires you. Cheers!


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83 Comments on "How Quickly You Could Scan Your Entire Photo Collection — What I Discovered From My First Week of Scanning"

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hi there! Thanks for you info. How did you find the Epson scanner? and what resolution did you scan images at. I have a cubic meter of photos to scan and trying to figure the best way. thanks!


Reading your experience reminded me of when I started out with scanning. That was in 2007. I had about 7,000 slides to scan, the first of which dated to the late 1940s. And that was just the slides! I was also helping my club with its centennial celebration and people were sending me their photos to scan and return. I was determined, but somewhat overwhelmed.

Fortunately, I researched scanning prior to starting and immediately came upon the notion that I needed to scan in TIFF. Most of the prints I’ve scanned are in TIFF. That worked fine with prints, but not so with 35mm slides so I switched to JPEG. Here are some notes I took at that time.
* 1200 DPI, JPEG, Original size yields a 1 MB file. Four slides take 3-4 minutes.
* 1600 DPI, JPEG, Original Size yields a 1.5 MB file. Four slides take about 5 minutes
* 2400 DPI, JPEG, Original size yields a 3-4 MB file. Four slides take 5-6 minutes.
* 1200 DPI JPG, 4×6 yields a 20 MB file. 5 min/slide
* 2400 DPI, JPEG, 4×6 yields a 70 MB file. 1 slide takes 7 minutes
* 600 DPI, JPEG, 4×6 make a 5 MB file and take 4-5 minutes.
I decided to just do slides of mine that included historical photos of my club. I had them well cataloged in metal cases so finding them was not a problem. Still, it took a LONG time, more than I thought I could bear.

Then one day I saw a sign on the marquee of a local, highly regarded camera store, “10¢ SLIDE SCANS”. WIth that I immediately took in all 7,000. The scans were JPG files, all around 2.0 MB, and 3000 x 2000 pixels. That wasn’t as good as what I was doing, but given my deadline of July 2008, I had to do something fast. I decided to just get the entire slide collection done, and go back to rescan the more important images later. — Still haven’t done that since I’ve go so many old prints to scan, and I haven’t done near enough to catalog everything I’ve got. Your website will help I think. Still, I’m really glad I at least have a digital file for every one of those slides.

For management, I’m using iPhoto, but I likely will be moving to Aperture in 2014, unless further research leads me to believe that is not a good idea. I also keep the original scans in another location. After reading your piece on iPhoto, in which you point out that iPhoto stores originals and enhanced versions, seems I might have too many backups. Still, all it is costing me now is hard drive space. FYI, I also keep everything at CrashPlan in the cloud.

I’ve got nine iPhoto libraries that I manage using iPhoto Library Manager. That works fine, but I’m thinking that with Aperture I can merge them into one file for easier correlation and searches. I’d be interested in your thoughts on that.

You had a great idea when you started this website. There are many like us who realize the great things we can do for future generations, while also having a great time ourselves. I hope that from time to time I take a moment to contribute here. I really appreciate your willingness to share your experiences and knowledge.


Steven Seelig

Hi Curtis,
I really enjoyed your post. I will add my own experience
1. I scanned about 12,000 slides from my dad. I described my experience on my blog
2. I have also converted 8mm and Super 8mm film (approximately 150 x 50 foot reels) to 1080p digital files. I contracted this work out to While their website is a bit weird, they did a credible job. I worked with Gregg who was very helpful.
3. Lastly, I have started a project scanning old photographic prints and this project is the most challenging. My current system consists of the following:
1. Two Macs with the software Image Capture on it. Image Capture does a pretty good, not perfect, job in automatically recognizing the individual prints
2. Two scanners (Epson 2450) and Epson Artesian 835 (Wireless).

I would place pictures on one scanner, start scanning and then move to the second scanner, put pictures on it and then move back to the first scanner. I was scanning at 600 dpi and saving as TIFF files. Today, I did a ‘timing test’ and found I could do about 1.5 to 2 pictures per minute.

Once the pictures are scanned, I import them into a dedicated Aperture library for family print photo where I can sort through them, key word word them and place them into to categories.

These are projects of love.


Mrs.Floy Nell Bogard aka Leah

Thanks for all the info. Took my 6 boxes of snapshots out in 1990 to start catching up on all my old pictures albums and that week several things happened and the boxes were put back into the closet. What a horrible last 24 years, which is just life, much like a lot of other people have. I count my blessings everyday, things could be worse and maybe we’re going to have some better times now. Everyday comes with New Hope. I could write a book and have given it serious thought. Now 24 years later and I’ve never stopped taking more snapshots, a few with the movie camera. Anyway, anyone can see I’m at a critical point in my life. I’m 74, on oxygen and don’t get out much. So time I do have. I have the time to spend to get my pictures in order, a blessing that so many of you do not have because of having to work. Most of my family says I’ll never get anything done as the amount of boxes of pictures have grown considerably. I love my pictures and now with all the new technology I believe I can get this major project done. We have 4 daughters and I want to complete their pictures and give them to them all neat and tidy and completed. Maybe some collages of their baby pictures then their school days and so on. I think scrapbooking would be nice but I have too many pictures to try that and I think it would be too slow since I am looking for a fast speed ahead plan. I know my computer has a program that came in it that make an album for me and all I have to do is scan my pictures in and then choose which ones I want for each album. I figure I’ll get creative as I go along. I HAVE A QUESTION? Has anyone any had experience with these wand scanners. They would scan a bunch of pictures at one time. Mine are all nice and flat and have kept their color with the exception of the 50 year old ones. They’ve been in albums so they have just faded a little in color. Thank you for any suggestions.

Jeremy Catches

Could you get more specific about how you cleaned the slides for scanning? I am also about to attack my family’s big pile of pictures and slides.

My Great-grandfather was a navy Photographer, Lyman Goodnight ( He was also really into photographing birds and flowers, so as you can guess, his collection is a part of what I want to save. Also the big part of what I am trying to preserve were from his daughter’s estate (my Grandmother).

So I have taken on the task of scanning what I can find of his photos. I have a 14 MP Ion Scanner for the slides, although I am skeptical as to whether it is really 14MP, but my initial scans seem ok.

But as stated in the beginning, I would like to know the safest way to clean these slides of dust/ect, without damage to the slides. Some of the slides are washed out in the middle for the projector light, but I think there won’t be much I could do about that. I am assuming the best I could do is get one of those bulb-brush thingy that people squeeze to blow air, usually used to clean lenses. I was wondering if there were any safe chemicals that could be used without worrying about damage.

I also would appreciate any tips on scanning Tin-prints. As I have been running across some of these sometimes. The most recent were a set of pictures taken in the early 30ies of the Panama Canal.

Thanks for your time,
Jeremy Catches

Josep Munger

I have 5000+ photos with me and currently I am scanning a few at a time using my Epson scanner. I am able to scan 1 photo in approximately 1.5 minutes at 600 dpi. It seems like little slow but it does produce high quality scans. I also needed to scan my office documents. But the amount of the documents was too much for me to do it alone. So we hired a third party company named Ash Conversions from Weston to do all our scanning jobs at the office. With their own document management software, all my office works are paperless now.

Ignacio PP

I’m scanning about 3200 color slides 35mm. from my parents, (40 Kodak Carousels with 80 slides each)
Pictures are mostly from the 60’s and 70’s (Europe) in fairly good condition slightly faded and some dust.
Equipment: iMac (Late 2009), Epson V600, LaCie 2Big Network storage.
I have managed to scan a whole carousel (80 slides) in half a day.
Scanning 4 slides at a time on the V600 takes about 12 minutes.
My settings are as follows:
48Bit Color
4800 DPI
Unsharp Mask – Medium
Grain Reduction – OFF
Color Restoration – ON
Backlight correction – OFF (only used on some images with dark shadows, set to LOW)
Dust Removal – OFF
Digital ICE – ON

I set up a timer on my phone to remind me to change the slides every 12 minutes then go on to other things.
If I manage to keep a (fairly) regular schedule it should be done in about 2 months.

Files are saved in JPG format. On average about 5MB storage space each.
Image size at 4800DPI comes around at 6100×4100 pixels approx.

Some folks don’t like Digital ICE, but for me at least it takes most of the pain away from having to remove dust marks in Photoshop.


Great blog – it comes very handy for me! smile

And so we decided to just do it and bought that canon 9000f mark ii, today. We had that goal for quite a while on our mind. We start with our own collection of about 40*36 Photos plus an unknown amount of diapositives, I guess it will be about 1000 images, too. We’ve been carrying that stuff around for such a long time, without looking at one of the photos…

So we’re ambitious to get things done – there’s also a massive collection of diapositives made by my husbands grandfather who spent four weeks in scandinavia each summer, for a period of 30 or 40 years… And how he loved photography.

I was a bit scared by the speed (slowlyness) of that scanner – ofc we were taking scans with ridiculously large dpi… So I’m just reading your articles and get my mind to getting this task done within a reasonable amount of time. Step by step ofc.

I like your Idea of having a time window. That allows to scan an amount of images each day.

Keep up the good work!

Cheers Sibylle


Wow, just the information I was looking for. I have a stay at home period just starting from a heart surgery operation. My wife and I came up with the idea to get all of those slides and photos into didgital format. Like you I have over 3,000 slides from my time in the Navy during the 60’s and many more from the early 70’s when my kids were growing up. Also about 200 old photos my sister gave to me a few years back when my father moved to a retirement community. Like you, I did research the scan services and came to the same conclusions. A good friend of my suggested that I look at the Epson V600 and a Canon product. In the reviews that I read, it was always the Epson winning. Going to order my Epson on Monday and get started. As i get started and am able to get some number together regarding time and experiences of the process I will leave some posts for you.
Best regards
Steve B
St. Marys, OH.


Hi Curtis,
I started scanning a huge box of photos this week after purchasing an Epson V600. Thankfully I read your very informative article on labeling before I was too far in to my project. Thank you!

I have a series of 1961 black and white negatives and am having trouble getting good images. Could you be so kind as to tell me what settings I should be using?

I have been doing: B&W Negative Film, grayscale, 3200dpi,original target size and using Digital Ice. I insert the negatives then press Preview… Then I need to look at the thumbnail to add the marquee because the normal view cuts them at odd places. Next I push Scan. Am I doing everything correctly? Getting frustrated!
Thanks for any help.


WOW! There is a tremendous amount of info here.

I have about 25 years of slides (over 9,000) and uncounted hundreds of prints to scan.
Back when I was taking slides, I was never too good at editing/culling down to just the “keepers” – so I need to do that first. But I never seem to get passed looking at the slides to decide which ones are worth scanning!!!

I paid to get 500 done at a scanning service – but that gets pricey fast. I also have the Epson V600 and about 2 years ago I scanned 500 of my dad’s old family slides, but then I guess I just ran out of steam. It does take a lot of organization and patience to do this. You seem to have both!

So, I am glad I found this site and hopefully I will get motivated by reading the success stories from others in the same boat!

Pat Vance

I’m embarrassed to ask this but I bought the Epson V550 after reading your information. I think I misunderstood the photo scanning software. I understood that a few photos could be scanned at this same time and would be individual photos in the folder for organizing into different folders later. Am I correct in this assumption? Do they need to be in a TIFF format? Thank You

Steven Seelig

I don’t know the software that you are using to scan the pictures or the software that comes with the Epson V550 nor the computer. But, I use an iMac and/or a MacBook Pro and software ‘Image Capture’. Image Capture does a reasonable, but not perfect, job and separating out the individual pictures on the scanner and placing the scans of those pictures in a folder of your choice. The output does not need to be TIFF.


Hi. Do you know how to scan journals too? I have over 20 journals and would hate it if they were ruined by water or anything like that. I have a flat bed scanner and have scanned pictures for my family. Let me know if you have any tips. Thanks.

David Jeffers

The hard part comes in the binding of the books. Getting the pages to lay as flat as possible. I’ve done one and I used a scanning software called “Not Another PDF Scanner 2” to batch scan it and I just got each page as flat as possible on the flatbed scanner. I forced myself to do the entire book at once so I could save the entire journal as one PDF instead of a bunch of images. It’s what worked the best for me. The only downside is that I was unable to crop them at all.

The software I used supported saving as pictures and automatically names them in the order that I scanned them. So I could have told it to save as “1942 Jennifer’s Journal” and it would have named all consecutively. Then I could have still cropped and edited the images before then converting all the images into one PDF so they were all together.

Fernando Zamarripa

Hi Curtis

Thanks for sharing =)


Sandra B

Hi, Curtis! Thanks for all your scanning tips. However, I am looking for a photo organizing/management software. I know I need to do some sequencing up front before I scan the boxes and boxes that I have found in my mom’s house (of several generations and several branches of the family). But once they’re scanned, I’d like to add some data about date, location, people in the pic, and a caption that I will show up at the bottom of the photo when I create a slideshow and burn CD or DVD for my siblings. Most of the software that’s been reviewed has some of that, but “caption” isn’t mentioned in any I’ve seen. Can you recommend a photo management software that will allow me to query the photo database and create informative slideshows? Thanks!

Sandra B

P.P.S. I just found your post on adding captions. Looks like Lightroom is the solution for me. Thanks!


I LOVED seeing the picture of your parents at the World’s Fair. I was a junior and then a senior in high school in New Jersey when the fair was there, and it was a class trip each year. I have lots of wonderful memories of it, and it was fun to share yours.

Joyce Alford

I recently decided to follow through on scanning my photo collection and purchased an Epson Perfection V600 photo scanner. Yesterday I scanned a series of photos. The first went into my photo library but the others ended up shown on my desktop but I couldn’t figure out how to save them. I got frustrated and gave up but want to try again. Can you point me in the right direction to understanding and using a scanner and then organizing and later sharing photos?

Robert Lin

Very helpful and encouraging article. Thank you much for taking the time to write and share your story.
I have been thinking about this for the last 18 years… but I think “just do it!”
I will go online and order the V600 or later model of the scanner after posting this comment! thank you again!
Have a great day!


I have mainly photos and some negatives to scan – maybe 300 or so.
What photo scanner do you suggest that will get the job done for under $500 including
good (and compatible) software with touch up features for Windows 7?



I recommend using a standard flatbed scanner with a photo scanning software like Autosplitter.


I gave up on scanning my own. Too expensive for the amount I wanted transferred. ScanDigital ended up doing a pretty good job with my materials.


I had to share with you that I was just sitting on the floor with boxes and boxes of pictures surrounding me as I was trying to get started on my scanning journey! My daughter is a senior and I started telling myself over a year ago that I needed to get on this project. Well here we are a few months from her high graduation and I’m just getting started. I decided to google “fast ways to scan a lot of pictures” and I stumbled on this blog. How funny is it that today is Feb 9, 2016 and you started on Feb. 10, 2012…my plan is to start tomorrow :&gtwink …so I thought that must be a sign that tomorrow is THE day for me to get on this dreaded project. Thanks for the inspiration!! #february10


To scan slides in batch use a Reflecta Digitdata 5000/6000 series scanner. Just put in the whole magazine with 50 slides and come back after 2-3 hours depending on the resolution you have set. The scanner even has dust and scratch removal.

Janet Harman

I am so glad to have found your site. It will help me to get motivated to “do something every day”. Have you heard of the Flip-Pal scanner? It is a small scanner that can be taken with you to family reunions, etc. to scan photos there. Or, can be used at home while sitting and watching TV. Very handy and works well. Just a thought.


Thank you for your information. You are very motivating.
Is there a way to scan that it will recognize the size of the photo? There is so much time taken up with cropping out the dead space around my photos.


Thanks Curtis for a wonderful blogsite with loads of helpful information for someone embarking on digitalising my late mother and father’s collection of photos spanning 77 years until Mum passed away sadly in November 2014. I don’t know how many photos I have, a few thousand. My father was an avid photographer and I just scanned about 100 photos in the last few months. So many things got in the way of this project, not least the fact that I was the executor of Mum’s estate and it took a lot of my time up last year winding her affairs up. I know that the first thing I went in and saved after Mum’s passing were all the family photos that were scattered every where around her apartment and in the car park storage of the retirement village. My aim is to make a photobook celebrating Mum and Dad’s wonderful life together and their family history. I’ll give this to my brother and sister (aiming for this Christmas coming up). Future generations of our family can hopefully get an insight into Mum and Dad and their life, right through to our lives. Even the likeness of facial features is fascinating down the generations.

I am using Apple Photos, had a bit of a glitch when they retired iPhotos, so I had a learning curve transitioning to Photos and iCloud. Also then my hard drive decided to die early this year, luckily I had time machine. Since embarking on this project I am now looking into bootable back ups like Carbon Clone copier.

At first I thought my brother multifunction printer scanner would be good enough for scanning the photos, not wanting to get another piece of equipment. However on doing more research and unsatisfactory results on the MFC I have bought a second hand Epson V33 on eBay. Hopefully it will work well. It only cost me $68 NZD. I am also looking into whether the iPhone scanner apps are any good. I tried the Heirloom app which gave great results but not sure if the company is still operational as there seems to be no reply to their support email. Then I found Photomyne iPhone app which looks very promising as you can take photos of your album pages and it separates out and improves the discoloured photos. Of course they are probably not as good as individually scanning on a flat bed scanner but much faster. At present I’m just doing a test copy of an 8×6 Apple photobook to see how the scanned photos and resolution prints up in the apple printing before I go too far.

Anyway my aim is to scan all the best of the best photos, keyword them and face tag them in Photos, print photobooks, upload them to Smugmug website for future reference, make Smilebox slideshows, make Smilebox collages and make back up copies of the digitalised photos for handing on to my siblings. I’m really enjoying the project, did find it daunting to start with but have cleared the diary for the next few months and have prioritised this project with hopefully a completion date of end of this year.

I would be interested to hear what your view is on all the iPhone scanner apps for this sort of exercise. Sorry I’ve gone on a bit here. Love your site and it’s my weekend reading this weekend…


I have bins of old photos. If I scan them to computer, how do I organize originals, and which kid gets them after I pass?
By scanning to computer, then I could print albums for each child?

Or should I take the pictures I have taken with phone and iPad have them developed as a hard copy to make the old time albums. I am totally overwhelmed.

Also, when you scan where do you scan it to on the computer iPhoto?

Or take pictures of the originals with iPhone instead of scanning?

I don’t think it would be too bad if I just had a plan of the best practice for this endeavor. Any thought on the best way, would be appreciated.

Pat Vance

You have the same problems we all do when attempting to conquer this project! I can only tell you what I’ve done and works for me. Bought an Epson 550 photoscanner off internet. Around $120 and worth it! Has it’s own software you can use. Also have an external harddrive to save pictures to. I organized my photos slightly by event (2nd birthday or time period such as 1950’s) I try to devote one hr/day to project. When I get tired of scanning I rename pictures and use the system described in this blog. I’m usually not concerned with exact date but mostly month and year and names of people in pictures. On external drive I have files named 1960’s and in the folder I have events such as John’s 2nd Birthday. Fairly easy to go through and set up files for each of your kids that has the pictures you want them to have. I’m burning dvd’s when project is done to give my kids their photos. I don’t worry about an editing program most are too complicated and time consuming. You have Windows programs that let you do the basics and that’s all I want. Good Luck!


Thank you so much Pat. It seems like it would work for me also.

Jim Z

I realize that I can name a scanned file by date for example 2016 04 18 001 but how do I get the file to go into a program like Windows Live Photo Gallery and take its place in a calendar mode?


I am uncertain if this website is still active in terms of replying to comment, however, if so, I have a question about scanning time. I just bought a Canon MX922 to replace my HP 2710 purchased in 2005. I did so mainly because I had learned that the image capture is much better on the newer machines even so I was using 600dpi on my HP. However, my main goal was for the photo scanner to be much faster as I, too, have many many photos to scan and not that much time to devote to it.

The image capture was actually quite different than the older machine and closer to the original print. I tested the scan time and it is not faster; in fact, it took 3 min/picture once the scanner warmed up. So, per hour, you can calculate that not many will be digitized.

Any suggestions? Comments? Many thanks!

Lisa K

I just did a quick calculation and have a minimum of 9000 photos to scan. (That only includes the photos I considered worthy enough to put in photo albums – I probably have twice as many “unworthy” photos in shoeboxes in my attic and basement!). I am considering purchasing a self feeding, color document scanner for this project. It seems that the Fujitsu Scansnap product is the highest rated product but gets a mixed review for photo scanning. Some people love it and think it does a great job. Others indicate otherwise. It scans at 600 maximum dpi. What are your thoughts?

Pat Vance

I think we all have an absurd number of photos that we treasure otherwise no one in their right mind would consider these projects. I purchased an Epson V550 photo scanner off the internet. This scanner does a great job and I save the scanned photos to a file on an external drive. When I get tired of scanning, I go to that file and spend some time identifying each photo. I use the format Curtis suggested except I’m not usually real concerned with the exact date, month and year as well as names are good for me. I try to spend 1 hr. per day and I’m amazed how much I can accomplish. I can also change the setting to scan old newspaper articles and they turn out great. Something to consider. I’m very happy with my scanner. Good luck.

Davide Letizia

This post made me happy and inspired!! Thanks smile)


Very helpful. By reading your article twice, I ordered Epson 800 last night. Appreciate your time and your knowledge and your encouragement.

Anil H

Hi, Curtis.

Thanks for a very helpful post!

Like others, I have thousands of print photos of all sizes (3×5, 4×6, etc.). I looked at Epson V600 and other scanners but am wondering if there photo scanners with feeders that can scan each photo to a separate file, similar to how you can scan multiple documents via a feeder. For example, I would love to put a dozen photos in a feeder and have them turn into say, a dozen JPG files on a computer. Is that a possibility?

Rich Beck, Houston, TX
Rich Beck, Houston, TX

I have finally started my scanning process in earnest. I am taking a two pronged approach. I bought a automatic feed Fujitsu Scansnap IX500. 300 dpi color, 600 dpi BW I am also going to get the Epson V600 or V800. This is for a project to scan photos from the 1800s to present day. It can do 25 pages per minute of color at 300 dpi or you can do color at 600 dpi at a lower speed.

The IX500 has a sleeve that you can use for single delicate douments such as a 10 page letter my Dad wrote to his parents in 1945 after he survived a glider invasion.

For the run of the mill photos, I am running them through the Fujitsu scanner in bulk. While it is mainly a document scanner, you can set the default to JPG and one or both sides to capture notes on the back of photo prints. File naming can be set any way you want with sequential number tagged to what you set up, i.e., 1987-03-Paris-xxx. My process is to take the raw prints and run them through in volume all to a single file folder but with their date ordered file names.

For negatives, negatives, heirloom photos, pasted albums, and other special situations, I will use the Epson scanner I buy with the same numbering scheme. I am not worried about “manually” touching them up at this point just getting them scanned to be able to back up and share. I will use the digital ICE for these pics.

Creating specific albums and printing will be left for the future when I am retired. I have four 40 gallon plastic tubs full of photos on the way from NJ to TX so there is a ton of volume from my parents’ estates to take care of for the family.

I really enjoy this website and the work you put into documenting your processes. Thank you for saving me a lot of research and walks down the wrong path!

On a side note, I am very disappointed that Google has abandoned Picasa, as I found it a great program to use with its ease of creating albums and facial recognition that worked great across peoples ages. I still have it on a PC but worry about sticking with it. The other downside is that the changes and people albums are not easily kept if you move files within a pc or between pc’s.

Since I can not count on any of the online services to be around forever, I am sticking with keeping my picture scans and digital photos on my PC in year and month folders and occasionally duplicated in topic folders and backing them up with Carbonite. Any uploading or hosting on websites such as Google Photos is a secondary process for me not where I keep my main files.

While my scanning is a labor of love with my setup on a Maple Trestle table that my late dad made 60 years ago and we ate from everyday when I was growing up, I do want to actually get this done, hence my using the auto feed scanner for a majority of the prints. Once the table arrives from NJ, my setup will be the fujitsu on the left, mac laptop in the middle, and Epson on the right at this dedicated “workstation”.

ray junior

1) save time
2) save money

you cannot have both.

sometimes it’s totally worth it to save money. This is not one of those times, as the amount of time required to complete a project like this is utterly egregious.

do the math:

He’s talking about taking an hour a day for 365 days to scan, so that’s 365 hours.

If you paid someone $15/hour to do this work it would be almost $5,500.
time out of pocket: 375 hours
cost out of pocket: $0 + potential loss of all your valuable photos in a fire, etc….

or you can pay a service like under $200 and they can do your entire collection in under 10 minutes, and send it back to you on a dvd.
time out of pocket: 0 hours
cost out of picket: under $200, with no risk of photo loss through fire, etc..

it’s just nuts to do this yourself

ray junior

didn’t mean to sound harsh, just explaining

Amos H

I digitized 27,169 paper photos in less than a week for roughly $1000 – and that was for someone ELSE to do the actual work. NO, I am not kidding.

Slides and negs should be scanned, yes. But for those out there digitizing paper photos, I have found there is little benefit to scanning paper photos from 35mm negs vs photographing them with the dSLR you already own. The resolution of the final image will not be limited by the digital capture, it will be limited by the original photo. I used a 24 MP dSLR and I could make out the grain of the film in my final images. I set up a copy stand (read: I suspended my camera upside down from a tripod), and a remote shutter trigger under my foot, leaving my two hands free to position the photos in place and remove them afterward. I did use a pair of studio lights I happen to own already ($200). Time per photo: 2 secs.

I paid my cleaning lady (yes, my cleaning lady) $15/hr to do it while I was at work. Including time to download memory cards, open and close photo boxes, envelopes, albums, etc, (and clean the bathroom) it took her 40 hrs over 5 days. One week. And 816.6 Gb of memory (in case you were curious).


I didn’t see this in any of the previous posts–point it out if you’ve already covered this subject:
Were there reasons you didn’t use a photo app on an iphone or ipad — like Heirloom–
instead of a scanner for photos?
Please reply–I’m very curious. Thank you.


what kind of scanner did you use for both slides and prints? flatbed? did you try a scanner that accepts a group pictures? what resolution did you choose?

Michael Williams

Beautiful post! What I’d give to shake your hand and exchange stories!

Jacob George

So did you finish??



I was thinking to buy my mother a scanner as she has traveled for MANY years and has I believe around 25 000 slides(taht number is unconfimed smile. What do you suggest? Ive seen the V600 pop up int he comments quite often but that is way too much. I haev serached a bit and found this to be a decently good one. Also, I had a couple of core questions:

what is .tiff?!

Why is it better than .jpeg?

Do these scanners scan a slide as a file and just copy it to a drive?

How imporntant are high dpis(like there are quite cheap scanners that do 7000dpi), and how much does it take more or lees per level of dpi? Is it truly worth the time over acertain level of dpi?

Also, having never seen a scanned slide:

Does dust show up so bad on the pictures?

Is the colour loss so drammatic(some are 35 years old if not a tad more)?

Are there really no self feeding slide scanners out there at an accesible price? Why not?!

Is there no way to “cheat” a feeding scanner, into a loop, using some bricolage?(as in increasing a feeder size…)?



TIFFs are the exact scanner information and contain many more shades of color and no compression artifacts. The file sizes are also much larger as a result. A jpg might only contain 256 color shades whereas a tiff can contain 4096 or 165535 or even higher. Monitors don’t display all these shades of color, but printers can. Storage is so cheap it makes sense to save as TIFF nowadays.

Yeah dust does show up on pictures, especially landscapes. You should get your photos clean as possible.

Color loss can be bad if the film was poor quality and/or the photos were printed on paper that has degraded. A lot of software has the ability to take out the reddish or yellowing. The results can be dramatic.

For paper photos, a high dpi isn’t that necessary since most printed photos rarely contain over 300-400 dpi anyway. If you scan at 600, you are getting all the information. For actual film, you cannot have enough dpi. Regular cheaper flatbed scanners cannot match the quality of slide scanners. The DPI they advertise isn’t the actual dpi. A 7000dpi $600 flatbed might only produce 1700 real pixels or less. The resolving power of the lens is the issue. If the film was taken by a serious photographer with a real camera and using slide film like kodachrome or ectachrome, investing in a real slide scanner makes sense. They can scan darker slides with twice the resolution of flatbeds. It makes a big difference. If the film was just normal negatives on a cheap camera, an Epson v600 or the like would be fine.


..scanning is turtle slow, quality stinks, hands down the dumbest way to digitize your slides photos!
camera phone hands down the best and fastest method, takes average know-how. i made a quick gizmo to hold my phone on edge, a slot to hold color slide in front of lens and mounted a light source behind the slide, wiped each slide with microfiber cloth, insert in slot snap photo, rinse and repeat..i did need to tap the phone screen now and then to focus, no biggy..used google photos to send them from phone to pc reply to this comment if you need help, happy trails


Love this post!! So helpful! Can you explain how I can be sure to scan my photographson in the highest resolution possible? I have a Canon printer/scanner.


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