This is a guest post by Art Taylor

You’ve considered scanning your collection of photos but for some reason or other, possibly because you don’t want to invest the time or money in buying a suitable scanner and learning how to use it properly, maybe because you don’t have the time to do the job, you’ve decided to hire someone to do the scanning for you.

prints stacked for shipping to scanning service

 

How do you decide which of the various companies who offer this service you should choose?

You might consider the Scanning Services Resource page here on Scan Your Entire Life that lists the main scanning services in the United States and breaks down some of the major criteria for each one of them so you can compare and choose the one that's best for your needs.

Additionally, if shipping your photos makes you uncomfortable and you are interested in finding a scanning or photo restoration service near where you live, Curtis has listed some world-wide photo services in his Photo Services Business Directory.

 

Remember, we’re talking about sending your irreplaceable original photos, whether they’re prints, negatives, or slides, to somebody located possibly half-way around the world. Will they make the round trip safely? What will you do if they’re lost or damaged somewhere between when you ship them out and when you get them back with your new digital copies?

A Few Overall Ordering Tips

Don’t make your final decision based ONLY on price per scan.

Find out as much as possible about what exactly you get in return for your money. Some vendors may offer a very attractive price per slide but provide only a choice of 300 or 600 dpi (dots per inch) resolution.

This may be fine if you want to look at your digital files ONLY on a computer monitor or include in emails, but it means that any print you make from such a file will be satisfactory only at a size of approximately 1 inch by 1.5 inches. Any print at any larger size will be totally unsatisfactory.

Be sure to consider the largest size print you are ever likely to want to make from any digital image and make sure your slides and negatives are scanned at an appropriate resolution.

 

When comparing prices among vendors, determine that you’re actually comparing apples with apples, oranges with oranges.

In other words, make sure the scan resolutions from one vendor are the same as those from another vendor before comparing the corresponding prices. It’s better to pay a little more for higher quality, higher resolution scans that you can use for more purposes in the future.

 

It’s often best to go for the best available quality digital image the first time.

This way, you don’t end up needing to send your originals out to be scanned again, just because they were not scanned at sufficient resolution to meet your needs. Get the job done right, the first time.

 

Questions For Any Scanning Service

Here is a list of 45 questions you should ask any vendor (scanning service company) you might be considering trusting your precious original images to.

Some of the answers to these questions may be easily found on each vendor’s web site. The site might also provide endorsements from independent reviewers and/or customers’ comments.

Other answers might require you to specifically ask the vendor for that company’s policy. Do your research before sending your precious originals anywhere.

The answers you get from each vendor for the following questions should help you reach a satisfactory decision.

Under a few of the questions, I've provided hypothetical answers in quotes how a scanning service might personally respond to your question. These answers do not apply to any specific, real scanning service vendor.

Services/Formats Offered

1 What scan resolutions are offered?

In general, we recommend to our customers at least 2400 dpi for 35-mm or smaller slides and negatives; 300 to 600 dpi for medium format slides, negatives.

— Scanning Service

See the very clear explanation of “resolution” at Digital Memories in their article, “Scan Resolution Explained: Comparing On-Screen Resolution, Printing Resolution, and Archiving resolutions“, if you want a better understanding of this. It has good information about the needed resolution for different needs (use on computer screens/TV, making different sizes of prints, and archiving your original photos).

Print Sizes vs Resolution
Print Size (Original) Dots per Inch Pixels MegaPixels TIFF Format File JPG Format File **
3″ x 5″ 300 900 x 1500 1.3 4.0 MB ~ 1.0MB
600 1800 x 3000 5.4 16.2 MB ~ 3.2MB
4″ x 6″ 300 1200 x 1800 2.1 6.3 MB ~ 1.3MB
600 2400 x 3600 8.64 26.0 MB ~ 5.0MB
5″ x 7″ 300 1500 x 2100 3.15 9.45 MB ~ 2.0MB
600 3000 x 4200 12.6 37.8 MB ~ 7.6MB
** Since JPG/JPEG compression varies with image content, these sizes are approximatee. A CD can hold 650 or 700 MB, depending on the specific disk, and a DVD can hold about 4400 MB or 4.4 GB.
35mm Slides and Negatives vs. Resolution
(Based on 35mm image area being ~ 1.3″x0.9″)
Dots per Inch Pixels MegaPixels TIFF Format File JPG Format File **
2500 3250×2250 7.3 21.9 MB ~ 5.5 MB
3200 4160×2880 12.0 39.5 MB ~ 9.0 MB
4000 5200×3600 18.7 56.1 MB ~ 14.0 MB
** Since JPG/JPEG compression varies with image content, these sizes are approximatee. A CD can hold 650 or 700 MB, depending on the specific disk, and a DVD can hold about 4400 MB or 4.4 GB.
2 What color depths are offered?

(i.e. 8-BIT, 16-BIT, 16-BIT + 8-BIT I-R for Dust and Scratch Removal, as in VueScan Pro)

For any size slide, transparency, or negative, and any size of photo prints, we recommend 16-bit color depth to provide the greatest flexibility and quality during editing. Except for Kodachrome slides or black-and-white (silver-based, not chromogenic [Ilford XP-1, XP-2, XP-2 Super, Kodak's TCN-400 and Portra 400 B&W, Fuji Neopan 400CN]) negatives, we recommend the 16-bit + 8-bit IR option.

This option does not work well with these exceptions so we do not offer it.

— Scanning Service

For a good explanation, see Michael Reichmann's article “Understanding Bit Depth.”

Kodak BW400CN Chromogenic Film Strip

A sample of Kodak's BW400CN chromogenic film. Notice the Kodak film name at the top edge of the film strip. Most films will have similar information in that area to help identify the type and brand of film. Black-and-white prints will be printable from these negatives, even though they look somewhat like color negatives.

Illford Black & White Delta400 Film Strip

Here's a sample strip of Ilford's conventional black-and-white Delta400 (ASA/ISO 400 speed) film for comparison.

3 What sizes of originals (negatives, slides, prints, posters, etc.) can be submitted for scanning?

(Kodak Disc negatives, APS film, 110 slides/negatives, 126 slides/negs, 35-mm [24×36 mm image area], 828/Super-35 [28 x 40 mm image area], SuperSlides [40 x 40 mm image area], 127 negatives, 6 x 4.5 cm, 6 x 6 cm, 6 x 7 cm, 6 x 9 cm medium format slides or negatives, 3.5″ x 5″, 4″ x 5″, 4″ x 6″, 5″ x 7″, 6″ x 8″, 8″x10″ negatives or transparencies, 8.5″ x 11″ letter size paper, 8.5″ x 14″ legal size paper, 11″ x 17″, 12″ x 12-inch scrapbook pages, photo albums, metric paper sizes, etc.)

 

Some vendors have a minimum size of print they will scan. Not all vendors will offer to scan all formats. Often, the Kodak Disc negatives and APS (Advanced Photo System) formats will not be scanned since they need special equipment and neither format achieved much popular use by consumers so there’s relatively little demand for scanning such films.

There are some vendors who do offer this service, so if you have examples of either or both formats, be sure you find somebody who can and will scan them. In theory, the Disc negatives can be scanned on some flatbed scanners (I’ve tried it on an Epson V600), but it’s a very time-consuming (about 5 to 10 minutes per image), frustrating process with very unsatisfactory results (grainy and unsharp).

It’s definitely something I don’t recommend trying yourself.

Camera Kodak Disc 4000 with Disc Film

A Kodak Disc 4000 camera, with film cartridge on the right and the negatives at left.

Sample Kodak APS Film Cartridge and Negatives

A sample Kodak APS film cartridge with its negatives.

Standard slide mounts

Standard slide mounts

 

35mm and medium format sizes compared

35mm and medium format sizes compared

4 Is Dust and Scratch Removal available as an option?

Yes, for all originals except Kodachrome slides and silver-based b&w negatives. This option does not work well with these exceptions so is not available for these formats.

Manual dust and scratch removal is available for all formats, at an extra price per image. Please see our price list for details.

— Scanning Service

 

5 Is Digital ICE available for Kodachrome slides or black-and-white negs?

Except for chromogenic black-and-white negatives (Ilford XP-1, XP-2, XP-2 Super, Kodak's TCN-400 and Portra 400 B&W, Fuji Neopan 400CN), it does not work well with these formats so it is not available.

Chromogenic films use essentially the same chemistry for both the film emulsion and for the developing chemistry as regular color negatives, although they produce nominally black-and-white negatives. Some earlier generations of chromogenic films, in particular, had a blue or purplish tint.

You should be able to determine if your negatives are from a chromogenic film by looking for the film’s name or code letters along the very edge of the negatives strip, between the sprocket holes and the edge of the film.

Ilford introduced the first chromogenic film, XP-1, in the 1980s and Kodak and Fuji introduced their films shortly afterwards. If your negatives are from earlier years, they’ll be conventional, silver-based emulsions.

Since Digital ICE has difficulty distinguishing the actual grains of silver in these emulsions from specs of dirt or dust, it tends to blur desired fine details in any image so is not generally used with either Kodachrome slides, which have a similar grain structure, or silver-based black-and-white emulsions.

 

6 Are exposure, color balance, contrast, or other image-editing features offered either as standard or optional features?

This will likely vary among vendors and may be “Yes, as optional features on ‘Custom’ scans. Please see our price list for details.”

Some vendors may offer basic levels of such edits as part of the standard price package, with more extensive editing at additional cost.

 

7 What is the typical turnaround time for various sizes of orders?

(e.g. 10 originals, of mixed sizes and types; 100 same size and type originals; 5,000 originals, same or mixed sizes and types)

Turnaround time varies with the quantity of orders in the office at the time your order is received. We aim to complete and ship your order to you within ‘X’ days/weeks from the day we receive it.

You can help reduce our time by sorting your original images by size (for prints, slides, and negatives) and by type (for slides [i.e. Kodachromes from all other types of slides], color negatives, b&w negatives, chromogenic negatives).

See our instructions page for more information about how you should prepare your images: slides–in trays, plastic boxes from processing lab, in metal slide file boxes, plastic slide pages; prints loose in piles, sorted by size; in photo albums; in plastic pages; etc.

— Scanning Service

 

8 Is a priority, rush service available?

“Yes” or “No”, depending on the supplier.

 

9 What, if any, surcharge is there for 24-hour or 48-hour turnaround service?

Either “Rush” service is not available, or a specific surcharge applicable for any specific special service should be given.

10 What digital formats are offered?

(JPG, TIF, PSD, DNG, etc.)

The vendor’s web site should indicate which file formats are provided: Adobe .DNG, .TIF, and .JPG copies of each original image.

Other formats, such as .PSD, .PNG, may be available upon request but at an additional cost. Please see their price list for details.

For more information and the benefits of each available format, check out “Web Style Guide” by Patrick K. Lynch and Sarah Horton, “Graphic File Types” by Lawrence San, and “Graphic File Format Overview” by Expresso Graphics.

11 Are the digital images delivered to the customer along with the originals or are they available only on-line at the scanning service's web site?

This response is likely to vary from supplier to supplier. Please see additional questions below if they are available only on-line.

Be aware that such files are likely to become unavailable at some (hopefully specified) future date, although you should be given advance notice of that date and offered the opportunity to download all of your digital copies. Request the supplier to provide, in writing, an agreement about what, if any, cost will be involved at such time.

Also, be aware that your files may be lost without notice should the supplier experience major technical problems with the site or cease to carry on doing business for any reason.

It’s OK if the supplier retains an archive copy of your digital images in case you need or want to order additional copies in the future or in case anything happens to the copies you received initially, but you should probably insist on receiving at least one digital copy of each image when your order is completed and your original images are returned to you.

Because of their larger file sizes, .DNG, .TIF, and .PSD files are not likely to be available over the Web. They take much more storage space on the vendor’s web server (computer) and have longer upload and download times than .JPG files. Vendors might keep archived copies of these file formats for a specified length of time, in case you decide to order extra copies or if anything happens to your CD/DVD of digital images and needs to be replaced. There would most likely be an additional charge before you could obtain such files.

12 If available only on-line, how long will they be stored and accessible to the customer?

This will likely vary from supplier to supplier but should be specified on the order form provided to you prior to you placing your order.

13 If they are delivered to the customer, what medium is used?

(i.e. CD, DVD, Blu-ray, USB thumb drive, USB/FireWire (IEEE 1394) hard drive)

The supplier should specify this information, including any available options, with specific costs, on the original order form provided to you. You need to indicate your preferred choice, if you are given options. It would be helpful to know the specific brand names and models of media offered.

14 Customer supplied or vendor provided storage media?

The supplier/vendor should specify whether the customer may or should supply the desired storage medium along with the originals. Some vendors may not offer this option, in which case, they might offer a choice of storage medium, with appropriate prices, on the order form so the customer can specify a preferred medium.

15 Is there only one copy of each digital file provided for the base fee or are two copies provided for the initial fee?

Some vendors may include two copies of each digital file on the same or different media (e.g. USB thumb drive and CD/DVD) in the original price. Others may make the second copy available at an extra charge, although this charge is likely to be lower if ordered initially when the order is placed instead of being requested later.

16 What other services are offered?

Other services which might be offered are:

  • document scanning
  • paper scanning
  • periodicals (magazines) scanning
  • business card scanning
  • book scanning
  • microfilm/microfiche scanning
  • newspaper scanning
  • conversion of scanned images to DVD-Video for slide shows to watch on either a computer or a TV
  • conversion of various formats of home movies (8.0 mm, 9.5 mm, 16 mm) and home videos (Video-8, Hi-8, Digital-8, Mini-DV, Betamax, Super-Beta, VHS, VHS-C, S-VHS, S-VHS-C) to DVD-Video
  • conversion of 78-rpm, 45-rpm, 33 1/3-rpm record albums, audio cassette tapes, 1/4″ reel-to-reel audio tapes to Audio CD
  • sales of archival storage supplies for prints, negatives, slides, and storage boxes for other items
  • photos printed on mugs, mouse pads, jigsaw puzzles, etc.
17 What, if any, satisfaction guarantee is offered?

Reputable vendors will clearly explain their satisfaction guarantee, in writing, frequently on their web sites, and likely also on their order forms.

18 What are the guarantee’s specific terms?

Reputable vendors will clearly explain their satisfaction guarantee, in writing, frequently on their web sites, and likely also on their order forms or accompanying documents.

19 How can I be assured that unauthorized copies of my originals won't be made and kept by any staff member(s) at the scanning service?

This issue is likely to be important to customers submitting confidential originals (such as family history documents or business records) for scanning. Reputable vendors should provide information about this that is satisfactory to the customer.

20 How am I assured of confidentiality of my originals while they're in the service's control?

This issue is likely to be important to customers submitting confidential originals (such as family history documents or business records) for scanning. Reputable vendors should provide information about this satisfactory to the customer.

21 Is the scanning done in-house or sub-contracted or sent out to an overseas plant or affiliated company?

This should be clearly indicated on the vendor’s web site but the client should ask before submitting an order, especially if the information is not evident.

22 How should slides/negatives be submitted?

(In Kodak Carousel slide trays, in Sawyers' / European style straight slide trays, plastic/cardboard boxes, plastic slide pages, with 20 slides/page, etc.)

This should be indicated on the vendor’s web site. Some vendors will charge extra if they need to remove slides from slide trays or pocketed slide pages. It’s unlikely that vendors who do charge extra for removing slides will return the trays to the client, although the loose slides should be returned.

Any such conditions should be evident on the vendor’s web site and/or in documentation with the order form provided to the customer.

23 If submitted in trays or plastic pages, will they be returned in the same order or even in the same containers or will the original containers be kept/returned with the loose slides?

This information should be evident on the vendor’s web site. If it isn’t, ask.

Since extra time would be required to return slides to trays or pages, there’s likely to be an added fee for this service. The bulk and weight of slide trays, particularly, will increase the shipping/postage charges if they are to be returned, and some vendors might not want to bother with the expense and labor of adding the extra expense to the customer’s order when it’s quicker and cheaper to just scrap the empty trays.

24 Does the vendor offer archive copy storage on-site?

This will likely be indicated somewhere on the vendor’s web site. Ask if you’re not sure.

This can range from a week or two after delivery of completed order to a year or more, although there might be a charge for longer storage periods. This will likely be indicated somewhere on the vendor’s web site. Ask if you’re not sure.

25 Do you scan copyrighted photos or other materials?

A few vendors might scan copyrighted materials or photos, but usually only if you include written permission from the copyright holder to do so.

Studio portraits and other photos are copyrighted by the studio and/or the photographer. Even if you bought and paid for a print of a photo you had made at your request, you own only that print.

The copyright remains with the photographer. When a photographer dies, or a studio goes out of business, the heirs of the photographer or the studio’s owner, inherit the copyright for all photos produced by the photographer or the studio’s staff.

Books, magazines, and other publications are all copyrighted by their publishers. Check with the appropriate government agency in your country for current copyright regulations, since they do change from time to time.

 

Scanner Settings / Hardware Used

26 What specific scanning hardware is used for different types and sizes of originals?

A dedicated 35-mm slide/negative scanner may do a high quality job of that format original but forget about getting satisfactory results from any other sizes of negatives or slides.

Different sizes of original slides or negatives will either be cropped in one or both dimensions if they are larger than the 1.0″ x 1.5″ image area of a standard 35-mm slide or negative. If they have a smaller image area, there will be a border on at least two, likely all four, sides. Please see the examples (below) of different sizes of slides/negatives for more information.

Very few dedicated 35-mm slide/negative scanners can be used with APS films and none will handle Kodak ‘Disc’ films. These formats require special-purpose attachments or special scanners so not all vendors will offer to scan these formats.

There are a few models of medium to large-format dedicated film scanners available but such format originals are most likely to be scanned on a flatbed scanner, with a Transparency Adapter Unit (TPU) either built-in or available as an optional accessory. Vendors offering to scan these formats of film (slides or negatives) will either have such equipment or might sub-contract such projects out to another company.

 

Many flatbed scanners can handle reflective (non-transparent) originals up to Letter Size (8.5″ x 11″), although some can handle up to Legal Size (8.5″ x 14″). Larger format originals, such as 12″ x 12″ scrapbook pages, are likely to be scanned in two or more passes and ‘stitched together’ in software unless the vendor has a larger-format scanner available.

These specialized scanners are most likely to be found with companies who frequently scan maps, blueprints, or other large originals. Because these larger formats usually require more time and labor, they are likely to be significantly more expensive than formats up to Legal Size.

 

Epson Perfection V600

A flatbed scanner (Epson V600) for 35-mm or smaller, medium format slides, negatives, and reflective materials.

Pacific Image Memor-Ease Plus Scanner

A dedicated 35-mm slide and negative scanner will crop larger images and add borders to smaller images.

CROPPED AREAS OF LARGER-THAN-35-MM IMAGES

The bright red area, top left, shows the area of a standard, 35-mm slide. The reddish tinted portion of these sizes of slides will be included if scanned on a dedicated 35-mm slide/negative scanner. Image areas larger than the 35-mm standard size, shown in gray, will be cropped out of the scan. For images smaller than the standard size, part of the mount, shown in light red here, but usually white in reality, will be included and visible in the scan. They can be cropped out manually, after the scan is finished, but only with extra time and effort, hence, more expense to the customer.

27 What specific scanning software is used for different types and sizes of originals?

Does the vendor use VueScan Pro, Silverfast, the scanner vendor’s proprietary scanning software, or an image editing program such as Adobe Photoshop CSx for scanning?

Each program has its own advantages and disadvantages and some are preferable to others since they offer more control over the quantity and quality of image data captured during the scan.

28 What color space is used during scanning?

(sRGB, AdobeRGB 1998, ProPhoto, etc.)

These are the most commonly used color spaces for scanned images. They vary in the gamut (range of color values) they can record, with sRGB, with the fewest recordable color values, being the standard for use on the internet and also being compatible with virtually all image editing software, on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux computers.

The Adobe software company, makers of Photoshop, Illustrator, and other major graphics programs, introduced the higher-quality AdobeRGB 1998 in that year. It can record and reproduce accurately a greater range of colors and is often used by professional graphic artists, photographers, and serious amateurs.

ProPhoto is a newer color space, often found in graphics aimed at professionals. It’s also available in some scanner software, such as VueScan Pro.

Not all consumer-level image editing programs can work with either AdobeRGB 1998 or ProPhoto, so if you plan to do any editing of your digital images, check to see if the program you plan to use can work with either of these formats before you order scans in them.

If you plan to edit with professional-level software, such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom, or hire someone to do editing for you, choose either of these higher quality formats for your scans, if you have a choice.

A diagram showing the variations among the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhoto RGB color spaces. ProPhoto RGB can reproduce the greatest range of colors so is best for image editing. (Image from Wikipedia.)

A diagram showing the variations among the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhoto RGB color spaces. ProPhoto RGB can reproduce the greatest range of colors so is best for image editing. (Source: Wikipedia)

 

Pricing

29 What is the price per scan for each type of original image?

This will vary among vendors. When comparing prices, be sure you’re comparing prices for similar scan resolution, color bit depth, etc.

Vendors offering hand-scanning will usually charge more per image than those offering high-speed, high-volume scanning.

Be sure also to determine what, if any, degree of image editing is included in the base price.

30 How much do additional copies cost?

This will likely differ from vendor to vendor and might vary depending on the number of copies ordered and whether they are all requested with the initial order or later, during production.

There may be additional shipping charges for extra copies.

31 At whose expense are additional copies delivered? — customer's or scanning service's, and how are they delivered?

This will likely vary from vendor to vendor.

  • If digital copies are provided with the originals, they will likely be returned the same way they were sent to the vendor.
  • If dropped off in person, then they’d be picked up;
  • If they were mailed in, they’d be returned by mail, probably with the cost of return postage, by the customer’s choice of rate (parcel post, express, registered mail, etc.) being included on the original order form
  • If sent by courier, returned by courier, again with the customer pre-paying the chosen rate and possibly choosing the courier company to be used.
  • If the digital copies are retained by the vendor and made available to the customer at a private web site, for a specified period of time, the originals are likely to be returned the same way they were received, as above.

Some vendors might pay the return shipping costs after the customer has paid the initial shipping costs but more likely, return shipping will be added to the customer’s bill.

32 Is it possible to place a scanning sample test order?

(i.e. submit up to 10 or 12 typical images for scanning, wait to evaluate results, before placing a bulk order)

Some vendors, especially those who offer discounted prices for bulk scanning orders, may use high-speed scanning equipment to decrease the turn-around time for large quantities of slide scans. These vendors may offer a somewhat higher, per scan, price for small orders such as a dozen or fewer samples, but such small orders may be processed with different equipment and thus not be representative of the quality of a bulk order from the same company.

Other vendors may encourage customers to submit a small, representative sample of their slides so the quality of their service can be evaluated before committing to a large order. Check the vendor’s web site for details.

33 If a bulk order is subsequently placed, are the initial sample images included in final total price, priced as a small order, or free?

This will depend on an individual vendor’s policies. Ask if you’re not sure.

34 What, if any, extra charge is there if the service needs to remove slides from any kind of container?

This should be shown on the vendor’s web site, possibly in a section or on a page giving instructions for how to submit slides, negatives, or prints for scanning.

35 What forms of payment are available?

(i.e. credit card, debit card, personal check, money order, PayPal, cash on pickup or drop-off of order)

This should be clear on the vendor’s web site. If in doubt, ask before submitting your order.

36 What percentage of total amount is acceptable as a deposit when order is placed?

Some vendors may require only a specified percentage of the total cost of the order be paid when the order is placed. The balance would need to be paid before the customer receives the completed work.

Other vendors may require payment in full at the time the order is placed. The vendor’s web site, and likely the order form also, should make this clear.

37 Is balance payable upon job completion but before final delivery to customer?

This should be indicated on the vendor’s web site and on the order form.

38 Is full payment required in advance (at time order is placed)?

Some vendors may require only a specified percentage of the total cost of the order be paid when the order is placed. The balance would need to be paid before the customer receives the completed work.

Other vendors may require payment in full at the time the order is placed. The vendor’s web site, and likely the order form also, should make this clear.

39 Are on-line samples offered on a private web site for client approval of cropping, exposure, etc. prior to proceeding with entire job?

Vendors may post samples of the client’s scanned images to a private web site for client approval of cropping and exposure.

Do not try to judge color correction, saturation, etc. with on-line samples–most likely .jpg images, since there is likely great potential difference in color balance of reproduction on client’s monitor, in browser, supplier’s scanned sample, ISP’s hardware in both upload and download so not realistic to try to evaluate colors.

40 If archive storage is offered, what is the price/unit of time (month/year)?

This will likely be indicated somewhere on the vendor’s web site. Ask if you’re not sure.

Shipping

41 How are originals and digital copies returned to the customer?

This will likely vary from vendor to vendor.

  • If digital copies are provided with the originals, they will likely be returned the same way the order was sent to the vendor – if dropped off in person, then they’d be picked up
  • If they were mailed in, they’d be returned by mail, probably with the cost of return postage, by the customer’s choice of rate (parcel post, express, registered mail, etc.) being included on the original order form.
  • If sent by courier, returned by courier, again with the customer pre-paying the chosen rate and possibly choosing the courier company to be used.
  • If the digital copies are retained by the vendor and made available to the customer at a private web site, for a specified period of time, the originals are likely to be returned the same way they were received, as above.
42 If returned by mail or courier, are the originals and copies registered and/or insured with the carrier?

This depends on the vendor’s policies, which should be stated either on the order form or with an accompanying document. Most likely, the client will need to pay extra for these services.

Problems/Customer Support/Contact Information

43 What kind of in-house tracking service is used to ensure that no originals get lost, misplaced, or damaged during the production cycle?

In smaller companies, perhaps one person opens the customer’s package, compares the number of images of each size, type, received to information provided by customer on order form; performs all scans, any agreed editing, re-checks output with input numbers, packages originals and digital copies, delivers package to post office/courier service, or notifies customer to pick up order in person, depending on original arrangement with customer.

Larger companies should have an appropriate tracking system in place to record where a customer’s order is at any time in the production process.

44 Does the vendor’s web site or literature provide comments from satisfied customers and/or reviews from independent sources?

A reputable company may post negative comments, along with favorable comments.The lack of such negative comments is not necessarily a negative factor, but should be taken into consideration.

45 How can a customer contact the vendor by phone, email, postal mail, fax, other?

Each company should list the relevant information on its web site.

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