My grandmother was an amazing woman who loved red lipstick (and nail polish, her family and God), and opened her arms to anyone who needed it. She was a beloved matriarch who lived to the age of 92. One of the touching items I inherited from her was a sketched portrait of her as a young nurse. She had sent a photo to her brother who was stationed in Germany (post WWII) and he had an artist create a pencil sketch from the image. Over the years it had been slightly torn and then browned from exposure to the sun. Unfortunately, the portrait was drawn on acidic paper and there was no duplicate photo in existence. I knew that I needed to find a longer-term way to preserve the image and share it with my extended family.
Now I have a slight advantage because I have a background in preserving and organizing photos. So I knew the right questions to ask when looking for someone to scan and restore my grandmother’s photo. I chose to use Charter Oak Scanning located in Stonington, CT because I had toured the facilities and felt confident they could do a great job.
Here are some characteristics I recommend that you look for in choosing a scanning company:
- Make sure they are doing their scanning in-house. I was able to deliver and wait for my priceless and very delicate portrait to be scanned. There was no mailing involved and I was not asked to leave it behind.
- Ask at what dpi your photo will be scanned. 600 dpi should be the minimum for a photo that you would like to print out later.
- Ask what is included in the scanning price. At Charter Oak, “each scan is adjusted by cropping, rotating and small color correcting as required.” This was great for my father’s graduation photo I brought in to be scanned. It had been hanging on the wall for so long it was a maroon color. Just getting it digitized brought it back to its 1970’s glory.
- You may need more than just scanning. After looking at a scan of my grandmother’s portrait, I was able to see fold lines and discoloration I had not noticed before. I wanted this image to be worth passing on to future generations. Getting it restored was an investment in something that held a lot of value to me. I consulted with the company to find out what level of restoration was possible.
- Talk to the scanner about an estimate for how long it will take to restore the photo and the total cost. If it is more than you can afford, try prioritizing what you want to be restored. Amazingly, my photo only required one hour of restoration time. One thing to note: even though it would only take one hour to restore, restoration of a photo is never a one-day turnaround. The scanning company usually has other projects they are working on ahead of yours. If you need it sooner than 2 weeks, expect to pay a rush job fee.
- Shop around. Make sure you like the answers you are getting and the level of customer service. Charter Oak Scanning not only had the right answers, they provided top-notch customer service and didn’t try to upsell any products or services that I didn’t want.
In the end, I received a restored image of my grandmother in a digital format that I could share with my distant family. I also gained a peace of mind because the image was preserved in a format that could last longer than the original paper sketch. But best of all, I now possess a beautiful image of my young grandmother that emulates her kind personality and allows me to pass on her legacy.