Scanning pictures is a pain in the ass

I spent the better part of a day over the weekend scanning old pictures — probably about 200 of them. Many I scanned one at a time, but that got too slow, so I started at some point scanning two, three or four at a time.

This is part of an ongoing project — a DVD that I’m making for favors at our wedding reception in September, with a slide-show of Cindy and I, along with the people we care about, set to music. (It’s a very cool idea, and props to Cindy for thinking of it.)

Anyway, this round of scans, when I’ve scanned more than one photo at a time, I’ve been careful to keep the orientation straight, so that I minimise the amount of work I have to do later in Photoshop. An ounce of prevention and all that…

But it’s still too hard.

Why can’t someone come up with a scanner that takes a photo in one end, and spits out a scan and the photo for returning to your album at the other end. It would automatically (with a couple of $0.02 sensors, and a $0.25 motor) rotate the picture if needed, and sense its dimensions, so you wouldn’t have to rotate or crop anything once it was digital.

I can handle making sure that it’s right-side-up when I stick it in the slot at the front, but I don’t want to have to finesse the thing when laying it on a flat, slippery piece of glass, while not getting finger prints on anything, and not breathing so I don’t screw it up. I mean really — what if I were 70 and had a tremor — it would be impossible.

Once the hardware is covered, couple it with some software to do some basic level balancing, flagging you on the go if it thought it was about to make adjustments too far outside of the normal range. (A dialog box with Ok, Edit, Cancel, Skip — or something like that sounds right.) I think along with an auto-sensing/auto-positioning scanner, we’d have a very powerful little scanning suite capable of dispatching large numbers of pictures without too much chance for error, and without unnecessary interaction or uncommon exterity.

Ok, so that’s version 1. For version 2, add some automatic (and sensible) solution for delivery — give me a DVD, a web directory, and 3×5 prints on my BubbleJet™…

Version 3 could add a slide scanner option with an auto-feeder tray and 1200dpi. Version 4 could do noise reduction, anti-red-eye, and Photoshop integration.

I think there’s a small fortune to be made here by someone. I’d pay $350 for a scanner and software that did version 1, at medium quality (300dpi), without bothering with noise reduction and fancy Photoshop plugins, and I’m pretty sure that I’m basically mid-market as far as scanning is concerned.

I guess what I want is a consumer version of the digital archiving stuff that commercial and government folks are presumably using, because scanning pictures is a pain in the ass. And if they aren’t using something like this, then there’s an even bigger opportunity here.

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