I have thousands of old pictures which were sitting in a photo album. Unfortunately, instead of the photo album protecting the pictures, the plastic coverings yellowed, and the pictures themselves had to be carefully extracted from the books. There is also quite a bit of powdered paper (the backings on the books pretty much fell apart while we extracted the pictures), and the fronts of the images are still a bit sticky.

These pictures are 30+ years old, are often extremely faded, and were originally taken on (what I think is) "110 film" -- they are approximately 2.5" squares.

Anyway, I need to scan all these images in to preserve them from further decay. Unfortunately, it's taking forever -- going through less than 100 images took an entire day, even if one discounts any time spent in Photoshop trying to remove some of the photo album's artifacts on the images.

What I really need is some method of scanning the images in faster. Most automated solutions aren't going to work because they accept 4x6s as their smallest image size, and even if that was not the case, the adhesives still stuck to the prints would probably ruin any such device in 5 seconds flat.

Is there a better way of doing this (i.e. fast scanner?) that wouldn't take so much time?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you got the negatives still? You'll generally get a better result from scanning those, rather than the prints. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 27, 2010 at 16:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rowland: No, I don't, unfortunately. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 27, 2010 at 16:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you give us a sense of what your budget is? \$\endgroup\$
    – Reid
    Commented Nov 28, 2010 at 20:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Reid: "Poor" college student. As cheap as humanly possible :P \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 28, 2010 at 21:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BillyONeal yes, I meant that same "110 film" you are linking to (the Wikipedia article also links to the older roll-format film with same number). \$\endgroup\$
    – Imre
    Commented May 2, 2011 at 18:29

6 Answers 6


Do you have money to throw at the problem? Because the fastest way is undoubtedly to have someone else do it. And there are plenty of services just waiting to take your business. ScanCafe is one, but there's others as well, almost certainly including your local photo shop.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 I came in here to say that! The only real way to speed the process up is to have it done for you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Nov 27, 2010 at 1:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 I would check DigMyPics too (here is what they have to say about their ScanCafe, to be taken with a grain of salt, digmypics.com/getTheRealTruth.aspx, and vice-versa: scancafe.com/pricing/pricecomparison) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 27, 2010 at 2:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another vote, services that convert analog formats (photos, videos) are betting more and more common. Probably you'll may even find a local shop near you that will do the job \$\endgroup\$
    – t3mujin
    Commented Nov 27, 2010 at 17:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can anyone recommend a specific service (that's available in the UK)? (photo.stackexchange.com/questions/2965/…) \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Finch
    Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 15:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Have a "green bent angle thing" by popular demand. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 17:29

I did this last year, using equipment I already owned - tripod, DSLR and a macro lens - rather than buying a scanner. I used a little lightbox for negatives and soft diffused daylight for prints. I wrote up my experiences on a flickr thread that can be seen here. I managed to get through about a hundred an hour without much difficulty.

  • \$\begingroup\$ By the way, 110 was miniscule, rectangular, and quite poor quality. Your prints sound like they're contact prints from much larger negatives. \$\endgroup\$
    – Max Sang
    Commented Nov 29, 2010 at 13:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is definitely the best DIY option. Once you're set up you can scan in the time it takes you to load a normal scanner. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 21:09

If you have some time on your hands, but have lots of photos, you can save money by doing the scanning yourself. You can either use free image editor tools to crop and save the individual images (after scanning multiple images per go) or you can try AutoSplitter. This simple Windows utility will do the painful splitting and cropping task automatically for you. You can also adjust manually, should it be necessary.

Edit: yes, I'm the author - created the software after having the same problem.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems awfully like an advertisement. Are you affiliated with this software? If so, that's okay, but you need to disclose that connection. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 21:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I tested your app among the others. It is not bad but still needs improvement \$\endgroup\$
    – Suncatcher
    Commented Apr 3 at 5:34

Use a high speed page feed scanner like the DR-2010C from Canon. It can scan up to 20 pages per minute and automatically crops the scan image to the document size. You can get it from $370- from Amazon (amongst others)

If you have thousands of photos to scan it will be cheaper to buy this scanner than to use a service like Scancafe. 1680 photos at Scancafe will cost $370-. If you factor in your selling price your breakeven point will drop to about 1000 photos.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it capable of scanning the 2" squares that I mention in my question? Will it be broken by the adhesives I mentioned in my question? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 28, 2010 at 3:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ It can handle a minimum size of 1.9" Width and 2.1" Height so it should work for you. I have worked with the DR series of page feed scanners, using them for document and label scanning. In my experience they are robust and high quality. They should easily handle your prints. From time to time you will need to clean the rollers and platens with isopropyl alcohol. \$\endgroup\$
    – labnut
    Commented Nov 28, 2010 at 7:03

Sort through the photos to identify the rarest, most precious photos, and scan these (or get them scanned) on a flatbed scanner. Slow, but will give the best quality.

For the rest, try Pic Scanner app for iPhone and iPad. It scans, auto-crops and saves photos, and is very easy to use. The free download allows 10 scans to try out the app, then a $2.99 purchase is needed for unlimited scanning and sharing.


Another suggestion: wait until you have money to throw at the problem. It's probably not too difficult to change the storage method now to minimize further deterioration, and then either save / wait until you have a better income / find a relative with money for the next few years and then do it.


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