How Much Does Scanning Cost?

by Jiffy Page

What kind of scanning do you need?

How much does scanning* cost?


I’m asked that question a lot.


I usually respond with a question of my own – “What kind of scanning do you need?”


That question is usually met with silence; many inquirers don’t really know what they need. So, for those of you in that “I’m not sure what I need” category, I offer the following:


Scanning cost depends on:

  • what you need scanned 
  • the item’s size 
  • what resolution or final file size you need 
  • what image file type you want
  • whether the item is loose or in an album, frame or other container
  • whether you have any special requirements regarding image organization or file names
  • how many items you need scanned

Not sure what you need for resolution, file size or file type? See if these general rules help:

  • For internet/screen use (Facebook,, other web uses and email), a smaller photo file, 3 MB or under, works well for images that will simply be viewed, not downloaded. Jpeg files are the image file of choice as they are much smaller than tiff files.
  • For photo prints, book or video use, general home use and storage, you want images at a size you can make a print from but that aren’t so big that they are hard to manipulate or store. A print scanned at 600 dpi as a jpeg file would fit this bill. Similarly, a negative or slide scanned at 2400 dpi as a jpeg file would fit the bill.
  • For archival preservation, for that truly marvelous old family photo or for images from small prints or slides you’d like to make a large print of or do Photoshop work on, a tiff file will fit the bill. Same scanning resolution as noted above, but the tiff file will be about 10x the final file size of a jpeg file.

Not sure about how to digitize* photos? Here are three methods and considerations for each one:


You can take a picture of the photo print with your digital camera or smartphone

  • You need to know how to get the digital version from your camera/smartphone to your computer
  • Cost - $0
  • Note: this option really only works for prints although it could work for film positives or slides on a light table (lit, of course)

You can purchase a photo scanner and scan the photos yourself

  • You can learn about digital images, scanners, and how to properly scan images
  • Once you’ve made your initial investment, you can scan as many photos as you need
  • You have complete flexibility to scan when it is convenient for you
  • You know how important these photos are to you and will treat them accordingly
  • Cost - $50 to hundreds
  • Note: you want a photo scanner, not an all-purpose scanner

You can hire out the scanning

  • You know the scanning will be professionally done and the project will be completed
  • You don’t have to learn about how about scanners or how to properly scan images
  • Cost – under $10 to thousands, depending on type of scanning, number of images to be scanned, naming and filing requirements needed
  • Note: there are a variety of scanning services available, so ask around and do some research to see what service fits you best.

If you decide to “hire out” your scanning needs, you’ll want to compare services. Find out if they can scan the items you have, in the way you want to provide them, at the file size and type that you need. Be aware the low “per scan” price listed on the website may or may not be the cost of the type of scanning you want. Here are some questions to ask:

  • What type of preparation is required to get the low per scan price? (e.g. must the photos be loose? must they be grouped by size? are there limits to how they are organized?)
  • At what dpi will they be scanned? As what type of file? Is there flexibility in dpi or file type and what is the cost of those options?
  • Can you return the images in the same organization and order I provide them in? If that is an added cost, how much?
  • What files names will the digital images be given? Can I specify the file names? If so, how much does it cost?
  • Where is the scanning done? By whom?
  • Where are my original photos stored when they are not being worked on?
  • What happens to the digital image copy that remains after scanning and my project is complete?
  • What is your turnaround time? If I have to ship my photos, does that time include the shipping?
  • Who pays the shipping cost (if using a non-local scanning service)?

Finally – your budget. Scanning service pricing can seem to vary greatly; know what type of scanning you need and make sure the quoted price will give you that. Also, be sure you’re comfortable working with the company – after all, these are your irreplaceable family memories.


How much does scanning cost? As you’ve seen, it depends on what you need.


But, consider this: how much does not scanning cost?


*I use the terms “scanning” and “digitizing” interchangeably, and I’m not the only one who does.Smile


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