As simple as it sounds – and it actually is – most people are overwhelmed by the thought of taking hundreds or even thousands of photos and organizing them into searchable digital files.
Then there are the videos that have been shot on different versions of chunky cameras over the decades.
Perhaps the most daunting version of disorganized photographic memories are slides. There used to be so many jokes about boring dinner parties, now they’re covered in dust with no hope of ever seeing the light of a projector again.
Anyone with a $ 229 scanner and computer can create searchable digital files of photos and slides. To convert videos to digital files, you’ll need the original camera they were shot with or a VCR, $ 87 adapter, and a computer.
Here’s how to scan photos and digitize your new page.
Five years ago, professional photo curator Sabrina Hughes decided she could make it her business to help people organize their photos, videos, and slides. Your company, PhotoXO, has a compelling slogan: “Show your photos the love they deserve.”
Her years as a photographer, as well as her degree in art history and her experience as a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Florida, make her a shrewd photo archivist. However, all this expertise and experience is not required.
“There’s a point where I don’t do anything that you can’t find out for yourself,” she said. “A student, or really anyone, could do this for extra cash.”
Hughes is offering an online course called Disaster to Done for $ 297, which includes lifelong access to course materials. She also shares her tips with The Penny Hoarder.
Get the right equipment
- scanner. There are hundreds of scanners out there, but she prefers the Epson v600, which sells for $ 229.
- Video adapter. Hughes uses Elgato Video Capture to digitize VHS tapes. It can be bought online for $ 87.
- Warehouse. “When I started, I put everything back on hard drives,” said Hughes. “I tried to get away from DVDs because most computers don’t even play them anymore.” She then offered flash drives with the photos. Although they are also becoming increasingly rare, this is probably still the best tool for beginners. Hughes is now uploading everything to their website, which has permanent storage.
- Software. Hughes uses Adobe Lightroom ($ 119), which allows her to annotate photos for search, and has photo editing capabilities. However, no software is required to organize unlabeled photos into folders.
Develop and perfect your process
The first step in starting your photo scanning business is to designate a space in your home. It can be as small as a corner of your bedroom or a desktop when an actual office or guest room is not an option.
Next, create a storage system for customers’ photos and videotapes while your work is in progress. Of course, clear boxes that stack up are great, but they come at a cost. Cardboard shipping boxes work just as well. Put white sticky labels on the ends with the client’s name and the date the work started. You can put new captions over them when a project is complete and the next client’s photos get into the boxes.
To digitize photos and slides, scan each one with the scanner to upload it to your computer. Create files for specific years or themes like “1970s beach trips” or “kids birthday parties”. Drag and drop the photos into the appropriate file.
A college student, or really anyone, could do this for extra cash.
For videos, they must be played in full on the camera that originally recorded them, and the adapter transports the movies to a computer. If you don’t have the camera, you can play it back on a video recorder connected to the computer with the adapter.
Warn your customers that digitized videos won’t look as good on a TV, especially if it’s high definition, because the videos were recorded at a lower resolution. They look best on a phone or a computer screen.
You may need to limit the number of photos that can be digitized if the customer wants to save time and fees. If the photos are organized in albums, ask the customer to mark the photos to exclude with sticky notes. If they’re loose in boxes, suggest which ones to use.
“Sometimes it’s easier for third parties to make decisions to narrow things down,” said Hughes. You can choose what you think is the best of the three or four repeating photos.
To organize and select loose photos with cluttered shoe boxes or laundry baskets, Hughes hand-sorts them into piles based on clothing, backgrounds, and time of year.
You can offer photo editing if you can handle it. Hughes uses a very simple process in Adobe Photoshop. “You can do it while you are scanning them,” she said. In addition, many scanners have color correction options.
Decide what to charge
It is wise to charge by the hour at the beginning and give an estimate of the project duration.
Determine in advance how many photos you can scan in an hour. As you sort and scan it may be more difficult to estimate, but it will likely add another 30 minutes to each hour of scanning. Let’s say you can scan 40 photos an hour. Then it would take you five hours to digitize 200 photos that don’t require sorting.
A high school student might charge $ 30 to $ 50 an hour, or approximately $ 150 to $ 250 for 200 photos. Spend an extra hour on computer problems, labeling files, and calling the client with questions.
Hughes started charging by the hour, but found that customers spent so much time “organizing” their photos to save money that it took them six months or more to get ready to archive them start. So she switched to a flat fee of $ 2,222 for unlimited archiving of slides, photos, or videos. She charges $ 7,777 for all three formats. She also offers small projects à la carte based on the amount of work.
How to attract customers
You may need to offer to digitize photos for free for a friend or two to get an idea of how long the process will take and what you will be billed for.
Then spread the word on social media. Provide an estimated price of how many photos you can take for a given price. Invite your early customers to share something about how wonderful it is to finally organize and save photos forever.
Digitized photos are ideal as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Christmas gifts. Promote your business online and in emails during these times and throughout the year.