What with the downward-facing economy, most consumers will probably try to spend less on holiday gifts this year. One camera maker I spoke with last week predicted that gift-givers will go DIY with homemade items like photo calendars, photo books, coffee mugs, key chains, and more. All you need is a JPEG to create your own at sites like Shutterfly.com, Picasa.com, Kodak Gallery, Snapfish, and others.
But why not apply today’s technology to yesterday’s photos? I used a service called ScanMyPhotos.com to scan film prints of photos from my diaper days through my early 40s, when I switched to digital cameras (David Pogue’s a fan–read more about his take on the service here). These predigital photos are great material for holiday gifts because, well, no one is expecting to get a fridge magnet made from a 40-year-old personal photo.
ScanMyPhotos.com will scan up to 1,000 prints for $49.95. An alternative is the prepaid fill-the-box option: The company sends you a prepaid box, you stuff it with as many photos as you can, and send it back (the postage is paid). This service costs $125 per box but ScanMyPhotos.com is now running a special in which you buy two boxes and get a third free. The photos are scanned as 300 dots-per-inch JPEG files and burned to a DVD-R data disc.
I went for the box-stuffer option. When filling the box, you must ensure that all your photos are face up, but other than that, I just packed them in and mailed the box back. A week later my box returned (with the photos more neatly stacked than I had sent them), along with a DVD with 1,386 scanned photos. That’s a cost of 9 cents per scan.
I copied the disc to my computer’s hard drive and took a look at the results. The photos were a bit of a mess—some were upside down or sideways, and the quality of the scans is dependent upon on the original photo. But if you’re looking for an easy way to preserve and organize old prints, it’s a pretty great deal.
And gifts made from these prints are sure to be surprising. Your Aunt Tasie just won’t see it coming when she unwraps that photo key ring emblazoned with your darling little five-year-old mug.