ScanCafe Review & Examples
As a listener to Scott Bourne’s Photofocus podcast, I had heard the name ScanCafe mentioned quite frequently. I, personally, did not have a large archive of print photographs or slides laying around, however, I knew of the boxes of photos that my mother and grandmother had tucked away in drawers and cabinets. One of the benefits of digital photographs is that you can easily put the photos nearly anywhere. You can put them in digital frames, on website, or even have them as a screen saver on your television. The photos that are stored as prints in boxes though, they tend to be, at best, not viewed or, at worst, completely forgotten. I figured I would take my growing interest in photography as an excuse to dig through some of those old boxes of photographs and test out this ScanCafe service that I had heard about.
The initial shipment to ScanCafe was fairly simple. You just put the photos into a box and paste on the UPS label they provide for you. Their website lists advanced methods of sending photos (you can group them into different sets, send in complete albums, etc…), however I just put about bunch of photos in a ziplock bag in a box, packed it with shipping peanuts, and sent it on its way. ScanCafe provides you a way to track your photos as they’re moving through the scanning process, however, you won’t have to check the site very often since, and this is the first negative of the service, it takes quite a bit of time for your photos to be processed. I originally shipped my photographs on December 28th of 2009 and I did not receive both them (yes, you get your original photos back), and the scans of them (you can’t just download your scans, they have to ship you them on a DVD), back until February 16th of 2010. That’s a little more than a 6 week turnaround for the whole process. They do, however, offer a quicker “8 day rush service” which is currently listed at 14 cents extra per picture, for people who have time sensitive work. Also, it’s important to note, that they charge you for shipping on the return DVD (approx. $10 when I placed my order)
Generally, I was pretty pleased with the images I got back from ScanCafe. I chose to get their “Pro Library” option which includes both a high quality TIFF file and a JPEG that they have processed themselves (for an extra 24 cents a picture). If you’re not someone who’s really into photo-editing and color manipulation, you can probably skip the TIFF version of the file, since the JPEGs are pretty decent. I found, however, that I normally used the TIFF version of the file when I was preparing something I wanted to be printed. I then would do color correction and editing myself to get the photo ready for print. Here are some examples of photos that I manipulated:
Photo 1: Day at the Beach
ScanCafe JPEG Version
For my version, I used Nik Software’s ColorEfex Pro to both warm the image and to add a graduated neutral density filter to the sky.
Photo 2: Straight out of Mad Men
ScanCafe JPEG Version
The goal in my version is to prepare the picture for printing at 8×10, so that is why the crop is so drastically different. Additionally, my version of the photo is a little warmer, I smoothed his skin a little bit, and I used ColorEfex’s “Darken / Lighten Center” filter to direct the viewer’s eye more to his face.
Photo 3: Bulldozer Ride
ScanCafe JPEG Verison
Once again, I decide to crop this image a little differently than the original shot. Thankfully, the high resolution scans that ScanCafe provides enable this kind of thing. Also, I used ColorEfex’s Pro Contract filter to make the contrast stand out a little more.
As I mentioned before, I was pretty pleased with the overall ScanCafe process and result. The biggest negative was the amount of time that it took for the entire process to take place. Other than that, I would recommend ScanCafe as a way for people to get their old photos out of boxes and into digital form. Most importantly, it was a lot less painful than having to do all that work myself.
- The process produces high quality scans
- The process takes a long time
- You might end up having to tweak some of the results
- You do get your original photos back
- You can’t download your scans, you have to wait for them to ship them to you via DVD (and they charge you for shipping on that DVD)
- You don’t have to accept the scan for every image you send them