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Digitizing Film-Based Photographs
Archiving service generates revenue for retailers and labs



The idea of consumers scanning an entire photo collection on an inexpensive flatbed scanner, even one with a feeder for 4x6s, would be time-consuming—not to mention the associated daunting task of color correction, resizing, and restoration, if necessary. The better option is for the photo specialist or lab to scan the photographs using a high-speed scanner such as Eastman Kodak's line of document scanners.

Originally designed for use in the finance and banking industries, Kodak's document scanners have become popular fixtures in the photo lab and specialist dealer's store over the past year. Which scanner you choose depends on your needs.

In addition to archiving images electronically, digitizing these prints adds to the number of images that consumers can use in creating photo-related items. "Any kind of photo gift these days needs to be made from a digital file; hence, the perfect complement to photo prints and gifts is a document scanner," says Cindy Brooke, Brooke International's founding consultant, and a Kodak document scanner reseller. Brooke offers retailers and photofinishers the Kodak i1200 and i1300 series scanners.

And for those who can post images to their website, there's also the opportunity to sell reprints directly to your customers' family members via the web.

Archive Before It's Too Late

Why the rush to scan in entire photo albums, or "shoeboxes" of prints? Just ask Robert Moldaner, president of Moldaner's Camera & Imaging. The New Orleans, LA–based retailer has firsthand knowledge when it comes to experiencing a natural disaster, having lived through Hurricane Katrina. "We're in New Orleans, and post-Katrina, archiving is a big issue," Moldaner says.

In addition to the scores of consumers wanting to have prints scanned that were damaged from Katrina—as well as photographs not damaged by the storm—Moldaner has a large number of professors, doctors, and lawyers seeking his archiving services not only for prints, but for large slide collections as well. The medical centers and schools, such as Tulane University, near his relocated store, have a lot of slide archives that they are now seeking to archive digitally. Moldaner says it has been his focus to offer scanning and archiving services to this customer niche: "It's a great service to offer people who want to and need to archive a lot."

Moldaner has only had his document scanner for a couple of weeks (he purchased it through Brooke International), but he says it is "real easy to use." The scanner is fast, and he can choose enough of a resolution for whatever he needs to scan, whether it's for eventual reprints or restorations.

To scan slides, he uses a Kodak HR 500 film scanner with an automatic slide drive. Moldaner notes that he'd rather utilize the film scanner for slides only—which are mostly what his customers want to archive. The digital files are burned onto Delkin Gold CDs, as the gold media offers increased longevity.

Moldaner has been in the camera business awhile—his father opened the store 40 years ago. He explains that the cost versus return of scanning images and archiving them is better than selling a digital camera.

Arik Paran is president of Digital Pickle, a company that specializes in the preservation services of all types of media—from photographic slides and negatives to prints, movie footage, video, and audio onto CD and DVD. The company, whose whimsical name often elicits cries of "I'm in a pickle," was founded in 2004. Paran purchased the San Francisco–based company a year ago. He explains the company's name means preservation, since pickling food is preserving it.

Paran sees a growing demand for archiving services. He says his company has archived hundreds of thousands of still images, and millions of feet of film. He notes that about 50% of the company's business is from local customers who are uneasy about trusting their precious memories to a shipping company and instead choose to use someone local. The other half of the business is via the web.

Paran says what sets Digital Pickle apart from its competition is the company's hands-on attitude. "One of the different things about us is [our] high touch, high quality, and high technology," he explains. Paran says that utilizing the right equipment, such as the Kodak document scanners, "offers us the ability to do the work and compete with companies who send work offshore."

Digital Pickle archives customer files onto Gold CD and DVD media. The company also recommends to its customers that they store the discs in a safe location and make duplicates, as well as store the files on hard drives for redundancy.

Todd Fitzgerald, VP for Kingston, NY–based Artcraft Camera & Digital, recently added a Kodak i1220 document scanner to his business. While Artcraft has only offered the scanning services for about a month and a half, Fitzgerald says it paid for itself in only three weeks. "The ROI is incredible," he says.

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