Batch scanning photos can be daunting but this breakdown of the process should help get you started.
Time – Time is your biggest factor when batch scanning masses of photos. Planning and streamlining any process will make it far more enjoyable. Making a plan will help all the more, than with no plan at all.
Organise – Organise your photos into sections.
Loose photos – small passport sizes, old 2×3’s
Packet photos – those 24 or 36 prints in processed envelopes.
Large prints – A4, A3, 20×16, sizes bigger than a postcard
Scanner – Get the best and fastest you can afford. The time saved with a fast scanner will pay for itself. Slow scanners will make you feel like giving up before you have even started.
Scanner software – You’ll need some software that is flexible enough to allow you to swap and change swiftly and make minor or major adjustments on the fly. I still use Canon Scan Gear an amazingly flexible scanning interface. Talked about here in my review of the Canon scanner 9950 and 9000F
Being able to quickly select photos on the scanner bed and scan them individually, each with their own resolutions and exposures and settings is a godsend.
Scan all the large and loose photos first – You soon learn to get into a rhythm and how best to move photos on and off the scanner in a clean efficient way.
Cleaning as you go – Dusting with compressed air, photo cloth, or brush as you go. Whilst photos are scanning clean the next batch ready to lay down. The lessons you learn from on fly exposure and scanning setting adjustments here will be useful in keeping it super streamlined when moving to the “packet” photos.
Scan all the negatives – Assuming your scanner can scan negatives it is a good time to process these. Negatives take longer and tie up your PC or Mac for longer periods. If you have two screens it is easier to carry on working on other things whilst monitoring the scanning on the other.
Scan packet photos – These are the images in batches of 24 or 36 familiar to many of us during the processed photo boom. This will test your mental skills. If using an A4 scanner, load 4 on and scan at desired settings, making adjustments to each image as you go. The scanning software will let you highlight each image and adjust accordingly. For those that vary In size, draw quick selections around each photo and scan.
Get into a rhythm – Scan, prepare next batch, dust, save scanned photos, lift the lid, store photos back in the packet, repeat! After each packet, give the scanner a quick burst of air or dust down and move on to the next.
Saving – Scan and save the images in a resolution suited to your needs. If you are only going to view them on a screen then you may not need as high a resolution than if you may want to crop and print part or all of the images you are scanning. Choosing to save a TIFF or low compression JPEG is a personal choice. A 600 DPI scan of a 6×4 can easily come out at 8Mb and a TIFF at 24 Mb. If scanning 6000 images that are 144 GigaBytes.
Set aside as much time as you can give. If you want to break it down into 1 hour a day no problem. Work out how many you can do in 1 hour and then you will be able to work out how long it will take for any number of photos. With batch scanning many thousands of photos it is up to you how to plan.