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Boxes of old photographs -- and a simple solution

Boxes of old photographs — and a simple solution

OK, what to do with the thousands of snapshots sitting in shoe boxes stacked in the top of the closet? It’s a problem that’s bedeviled photographers, amateur shutterbugs and pros alike, since before the dawn of the digital age.

You could spend days and weeks scanning precious family photos on a cheapie scanner, but where on Earth do you find the time?  So, lo and behold, I discovered a tweet (note to self: Tweeting sometimes has practical benefits) from that introduced me to its fast and inexpensive scanning services.

This was such a simple solution to a classic dilemma — picture hoarding. Most of the firm’s business is done via the Internet, with a simple fill-it-up box that you mail in. Toss everything in the prepaid box, drop it off at the post office, and a few days later a DVD appears along with your photos. It’s that easy.

“The average household has 5,000 photographs,” said Mitch Goldstone president of ScanMyPhotos. “We are talking about so many photos, spanning generations, that need to be digitized so you can share them, as well as safely preserve the memories on your computer.”

His scanning business offers two services: one letting you bring in up to 1,000 photographs, which for $64 are scanned while you wait (the office are in Irvine, a quick hop down the freeway); or you can mail in your photographs.

The mail-in option, the most popular service, provides the prepaid boxes that hold approximately 2,000 photos, for a total cost of $149.95, including shipping, scanning and handing.

For those of you with thousands of photographs, also offers an online promotion: If you order two boxes, you get a third one free.

Goldstone started his business in 1990 as a straight-forward photo processing facility, back in the good old days of 35-millimeter film.

“I realized we needed to reinvent what we do,” Goldstone said, “but I wanted to stay in the photography business. There isn’t anything more rewarding than helping people preserve these precious memories, then watching them smile and even cry when they see these long-forgotten pictures.  It’s such a fun, emotional business.”

Here’s an interesting tidbit: The firm’s largest order was about 24,000 photos from one family, who brought in two bulging suitcases full of photos, dropped them off, went to Disneyland and returned later that afternoon. All 24,000 photographs were waiting for them. According to Goldstone, the whole job cost less than their trip to D-land.

Using Kodak equipment, ScanMyPhotos can scan about 1,000 photos in 10 minutes. Even I, the technogeek, was impressed. In 10 minutes I could scan about 10 photos on my home scanner.

Given my own tsunami of family photos, this seemed like an easy, cost-effective solution. All my photographs are now scanned onto DVDs; I then import the whole archive into my Apple iPhoto library. Now I’m finally ready to make new prints and books for gifts … when I get around to it, of course. But who has the time?

It’s important to remember that you’re probably scanning 4-by-6-inch or smaller faded photographs, so they may not match the quality of your new prosumer DSLR camera with 18 eye-popping megapixels. Still, the quality of my old photographs on the computer was first-rate.

A reminder: Once your photos are scanned, this is a great time to implement a backup strategy for all your photos that are on your computer. It’s never too late, or too soon, to get started backing up these precious pixels.  As great as digital technology is, we all know (from sad experience), it’s less than infallible.

If you do have your photos scanned, make sure you get multiple copies of the DVD — and put them all over. It’s a simple way to safely store multiple copies of your precious memories. I’ll have a lot more to say on digital storage, another vexing issue, in future columns.

In the meantime, for more information, check out Now get your camera and make some memories!

Photos (from top) : Four photos of the process of having your photographs scanned including: a bin of snapshots, scanning on the computer screen, a DVD maker and a box sealed and ready for the post office; a closeup of photos ready to be scanned; Mitch Goldstone, president of ScanMyPhotos; pictures ready to be scanned and the finished DVD. Credit: Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times


  1. September 21, 2010, 9:35 am

    […] Boxes of old photographs – and a simple solution […]

  2. September 22, 2010, 5:54 am

    This is very cool Robert! Thanks for sharing information on this great service!

    By: John Fredrik
  3. September 22, 2010, 11:14 pm

    What is the resolution of the scanned photographs? How many photos per CD?

    By: DavidJ
  4. September 23, 2010, 9:41 pm

    The photographs are scanned at 300 DPI and approximately 3,500 images can be archived on one DVD.

    By: Robert Lachman
  5. September 23, 2010, 7:12 am

    Great idea. I agree.

    By: onepointsixoneeight

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