Photo Scanning – The Spark for a Business
Photo scanning was a million miles from my mind when I was spending hours in the darkroom at university trying to make my monochrome landscapes look respectable. Digital photography hadn’t been invented, no jpgs, tiffs, dpi; just lightheadedness from the funny fumes.
Years later I set up a business (podServe.co.uk) to load music onto Apple iPods. Originally all the iPod would handle was music but later they added a colour screen and the ability to view photos. One of our iPod clients showed me a stack of photos of his children that he wanted on his iPod and asked me to scan them. I didn’t have a scanner so on the advice of a professional photographer I bought an Epson 4990 Professional photo scanner. That’s a flatbed scanner and it did a great job of the prints, one happy client.
It just crossed my mind that other podServe clients might want their photos scanned, and perhaps other photo lovers would send their photos to us to have them scanned. So to attract more clients I launched our photo scanning service – 1Scan.co.uk. Eight years later its amazing to think how things have grown.
For the first few months we mainly scanned photos, but I came to appreciate the power of the 4990 scanner when we got a few 35mm slides, negatives and medium format images to scan. Thankfully we weren’t flooded with work. I had invested in a great piece of software called Silverfast, but it’s very complicated to use so I was grateful to have the time to find my way around the program and the scanner.
An early bulk order seemed like good news, 850 photos for a couple who were divorcing and each wanted a copy of the family photos. The Epson 4990 scanner did a great job and I’d got the hang of the batch setting the whole project took nearly 10 days to finish. Then I was sent 300 half-frame 35mm slides, which the Epson could handle, but it was so slow.
We did some shopping around and decided to invest in a Nikon Coolscan 5000 scanner. Not only does it do a great job but compared to the Epson it races through slides, the colour restoration tools and Digital ICE for dust and scratch reduction are fantastic. It was a big step up. Thankfully we’ve been able to keep feeding the Nikon scanner and added another for backup and additional capacity. I was glad we had that configuration when we won an order from Imperial College London to scan 11,000+ 35mm slides and negatives.
After a couple of years we’d got the hang of adjusting scans to get a good result, restoring fading colours and our customers were really happy with the results. Originally I’d thought our clients would be people like me, people with a backlog of holiday slides or Christmas, birthday and graduation photos. In practice our clients were architects, designers, marketing companies and several universities. Although we get many clients from our local, Essex, area we’ve also spread out across the UK and into Europe / Scandinavia.
Through all the slide scanning I kept thinking how great it would be if we could scan photos in bulk. If we could get through hundreds of photos with a high speed photo scanner, we could offer great quality at a reasonable price. Then one day I stumbled on the Kodak website – a name I would trust in photography – and a scanner which scans prints in volume, boosts fading colours and can scan both sides of the print. I didn’t have to think about it, I just ordered one. It’s a brilliant scanner and it gives us the opportunity to offer great scans at a reasonable price. Since then we’ve worked closely with Kodak, giving them feedback on successive versions of their bulk scanning system. Today we’re up to our third model – it’s faster, produces better images, is easier to operate and overall does a brilliant job.
So here we are, deeply immersed in bits, bytes, jpgs, tiffs, dpi and the marvels of CD and DVD burning. Having become scanning enthusiasts we have to resist the temptation to talk techno babble, so if you ring we’ll make sure we speak English.