Monthly Archives: April 2010

the final scancafe review, part two: the review process

(Continued from part one.) I started on the review process immediately. I spent about 5 hours a day after work going through the images, until my eyes blurred and I could take no more. I wondered if they gave the same amount to time (14 days) to orders of 100 photos. They scanned the slides first, which were okay. They were in order.

The review process goes as such: After logging in, you go through a few screens to get to your folders. How they organized the pics into folders, I’ve no idea. I think the slides were given a folder per slide sheet, but the negs I’ve no idea. Some folders were huge, others had three. Once in the folder, there are tiny thumbnails of the pics. You hover over each one for it to appear, as in the screenshot above, which can take some time if scancafe’s servers are jammed. Having a large order probably didn’t help (that will be the refrain of this review). The folders, or “albums,” are at the right. Some of the color correction was questionable, but I kept on.

When I got to the negatives, things went downhill. Yes, some negs were twenty years old, and negs don’t scan as well as slides, which are positive images. But some of the colors were hideous and looked nothing like the original. In one photo, my mother’s face was cherry red. In another, a blue carpet slightly purple. And the negs weren’t in order. Ugh! Some of folders went from years 2001 to 1989 to 1996, making it extremely frustrating to chose edits of similar images if split into different folders and far apart.

I sent an email to scancafe, which was my second or third as I’d been locked out of their site once or twice. It typically takes 2 days for them to reply because of the time difference between NYC and India. This was my response:

Dear Anastasia,

I would like to inform you that as per our process, we scan, upload and return all the media in the same order in which we receive. [This is untrue. I later realized that the negs had been given folder names (unlike the chromes) based on what the tech had gleaned from my notes on the file sheets. Files were misnamed, e.g. Bukley (Berkeley), and were sorted by misnomer, rather than upload time. Diaster.] However, please let us know the folder names in which the images are out of order and the image file names that are not up to your satisfaction. I can then forward a request to our Imaging Center to relook into the images and provide us with an update within 24-48 hours. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your patience and help in resolving this issue. [The number of folders out of order would have taken me hours to make right, so of course I decided to bare with it in the review fix it on my own when I got the scans back.]

Also, please be informed that once the images are online, you have the privilege to delete images (you can discard up to 50% of the scans), move images within a folder as well as across folders and rename folders. [I was deleting, thanks, and moving the images around in their system would have been a nightmare. And if I did, could I trust them to honor that order?]

In order to move an image, all you need to do is open the album in which the image is present, click on the image and then drag that particular image to the albums (folders) into which you want to save holding the mouse button down. The albums will be listed on the right hand side of that page (if its not present on the first page, you can click on the small blue triangle to view the next page of albums). You can then move the displayed image to the new list of albums. Please wait for some time (~5 sec) until the image is moved (until the change is saved). You can then open the second album to confirm that the image is moved. Its simple. You need not do anything else. The changes will be saved automatically even if you log out. [~5 sec per thousands of images = simple? Not on my time.]

Also, you are able to view a larger view of the image once you hover the mouse on an image. This is a feature of our interface so that our customers can have a larger view of the scanned images. However, you can just drag the image to the required album. You can also double click on an image to see a larger view. [This much was clear. I wasn’t editing images based on the tiny thumbnails.]

We are aware that the process is tedious and time taking and our technical team is working on the issue to get it fixed. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your patience. [My patience, drained, because the scans weren’t uploaded in the order I gave them, but my misnamed files.]

[I’ve cut a bit of the redundant how-to’s out.]

To delete an image, you just have to select the image that you wish to delete and click on the “Delete” button just above the images. Once you click on that you will see a small cross mark in a red circle just below the image that you choose to delete. This will indicate that you have deleted those particular images. The image will not be deleted as you may want to undelete them before the final checkout. The changes you make will be saved automatically.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions or concerns and we will be happy to assist you.

It’s always frustrating to state issues to someone who should be able to fix them—or compensate—and be told 1) it’s not the case, 2) resolution will require you a lot of time when the mistake was not yours, and 3) how to boil water when the issue is that the recipe was given with instructions in the wrong order.

A day or two later, I complained about color corrections. I received a similar reply to the above, until I posted my displeasure on a forum at photo.net. Shortly after, I received a reply from a scancafe quality assurance manager, Joson, who’d “found some quality issues with my order.” This manager worked with me for the rest of the ordeal. Overall, he was very helpful and he did his best. He did not give me answers of the boiled water variety, though I’m not sure what they did in rescanning the photos, as there wasn’t much improvement. When I was asked if the order of the images could be fixed on this go, I was told yes, but, if they were, I’d lose the deletions I had chosen—which had taken me over 50 hours to select. I could choose one or the other. I chose to keep the deletions and incorrect order.

I will say a few things about corrections now. Given the small files and the quality loss involved with .jpgs (.tiffs are $.19 per image, which would have doubled the cost of the service), it would have been better that the images weren’t corrected at all. The techs there are not photogs (unlike many techs here). They aren’t professionals. From what I can tell seeing the final files, they are auto-correcting tone, contrast, and color. Auto-correcting is never a great idea, especially when saved as jpg. You really want all the original info there you can get. Alas, this became clear much too late. I didn’t mind the jpgs at first because I’m not using these for print. I’d always go back to the original negative for that.

A few comments on reviewing—the images are very small, so that you can’t nick the ones you don’t choose and pay for. Keep in mind, images that don’t look great full size (or even at 400×600) look better smaller. So you are likely to choose images you won’t like larger because the flaws are more obvious.

So, where was I? On Tuesday, October 27, 9:27am, I was told that the images would take 3-4 business days to reprocess, which meant by Friday at, October 30, they should be online.

It wasn’t until two weeks later, on Tuesday, November 10, that my images were ready. In the meantime I kept receiving automated messages like : “Review deadline: 3 days! Your photos are online and awaiting your review.” My patience was tried. There was less and less time until I left for a two-month trip to Australia, where I’d rarely be online. November 10 was only two weeks before the trip. Who has time to be going through 6,000 image images again while preparing for such a trip? I guess I did.

Some of the rotations had been lost, as well as negatives from years 1998-1999. The latter a cause for alarm, although much of what I shot those years was slides, except for a trip to Pakistan. When I asked the manager about that, he looked and said, simply, that there were images scanned that could be Pakistan (they were Iran), but everything was scanned. It wasn’t until I got everything back, and put them back in with their contact sheets (in March, 2010) that it was clear that they were sent, but not scanned or returned. Scancafe never answered to that, and by that point, I was too tired of dealing with them further. I should have looked earlier when I still had the energy. Alas. Hindsight.

Dear Anastasia,

I would like to inform you that as per our process, we scan, upload and return all the media in the same order in which we receive. However, please let us know the folder names in which the images are out of order and the image file names that are not up to your satisfaction. I can then forward a request to our Imaging Center to relook into the images and provide us with an update within 24-48 hours. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your patience and help in resolving this issue.

Also, please be informed that once the images are online, you have the privilege to delete images(you can discard up to 50% of the scans), move images within a folder as well as across folders and rename folders.

In order to move an image, all you need to do is open the album in which the image is present, click on the image and then drag that particular image to the albums (folders) into which you want to save holding the mouse button down. The albums will be listed on the right hand side of that page (if its not present on the first page, you can click on the small blue triangle to view the next page of albums). You can then move the displayed image to the new list of albums. Please wait for some time (~5 sec) until the image is moved (until the change is saved). You can then open the second album to confirm that the image is moved. Its simple. You need not do anything else. The changes will be saved automatically even if you log out.

Also, you are able to view a larger view of the image once you hover the mouse on an image. This is a feature of our interface so that our customers can have a larger view of the scanned images. However, you can just drag the image to the required album. You can also double click on an image to see a larger view.

If you wish to move an image within an album, you can just click on the image and drag to the required location holding the mouse button down. However, suppose you have 10 rows of images in an album say A through J and you are able to view only 3 rows per screen(you need to scroll down to view the rest of the rows). In such a case, if you wish to move an image from row A to row F, you will have to first move the image from from row A to row C, scroll down so that row C is now the first row of the screen and then drag the image from row C to row E and then again scroll the screen down so that now row E is the first row and then again drag the image in Row E to the required position in Row F.

We are aware that the process is tedious and time taking and our technical team is working on the issue to get it fixed. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your patience.

In order to rename an album, you first need to click on a particular album to select it. You then have to click on “properties” link from (Properties/Cover/Hide empty albums) present just above the images. This will take you to another page where you can edit the album title and save it.

To delete an image, you just have to select the image that you wish to delete and click on the “Delete” button just above the images. Once you click on that you will see a small cross mark in a red circle just below the image that you choose to delete. This will indicate that you have deleted those particular images. The image will not be deleted as you may want to undelete them before the final checkout. The changes you make will be saved automatically.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions or concerns and we will be happy to assist you.

Best Regards,

the final scancafe review, part one

I’ve been thinking about the female form a lot in the last week or so (a switch from my usual state, dwelling on the male form, which I’ve realized occurs despite a hell of a lot of visual bombardment of the former, and possibly only because I do my best to limit that bombardment), but this is going to have to wait. It’s time I wrote up the scancafe experience in one long bit, so people don’t have to wade through a year’s worth of posts about it if they want to know my experience.

I wanted to like this company. I really did. In the end I have very mixed feelings. I suppose all I can say is that you usually get what you pay for. It’s like the lens issue. I’m in love with the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G but how can I justify dropping that much on a lens? The alternatives, however, just don’t cut it. And so it goes.

I decided to have all of my analog images scanned last August for a number of reasons, the biggest, perhaps, being that I’m nostalgic. But also because I love technology (a dangerous combination perhaps).  I want to be able to type “spectacles” into a catalog and see every photo I have of funky frames.  I want to call up my grandmother’s table (in lower left of photo, 1995) in her house, as well as mine (2009).

So, I did some research. Scancafe seemed like a better option than digmypics (who seem to have redone their site since my search) scanmyphotos. I realize my standards are high, as David Pogue raved about scanmyphotos in a NYT review, but I thought the sample images he used were of extremely low quality. But David Pogue is a tech guy, not a photographer. When these scanning services rave about the pro photogs who use them, be certain that these high profile clients are receiving high profile treatment, and I can only assume are using the “pro” services. All the scanning I’d done previously was by myself at ICP, by the now defunct Flatiron Color, or by highly recommended Hong Color, in NYC. Hong Color’s scanning is high-end. It starts at $40 a scan, more than 100x scancafe, so when digitizing 6,000 images, HC is cost prohibitive. Scancafe’s price with shipping would be about $1820.00. Because scancafe allows the client to choose only half the scans, I figured I could get that down to $1000.00.

I spent the last weekend of August packing up my images and numbering the sheets and bundles. They suggest on their website that you not concern yourself with such things, and just send them on. This not to convenience you, but so that they don’t have to worry about scanning images in order and keeping them in order. And if you have no idea where an image is, how you can really be sure if it was returned? Or if you sent it to begin with? I highly recommend organizing your photos and knowing what you have and where before you send them anywhere. I put mine on the UPS truck to California on August 31st. I found a promo code online, which saved me 20%. So, on August 31, I paid for half my estimated order (I’d underestimated the count a bit):

50% of scanning service charge $ 638.00
Shipping Label $ 33.40

Total charged $ 671.40

.

This was my original payment.

On September 9th, I received this email:

We’ve received the originals for your order 9AEALF… which was placed on 2009-08-31.

This meant the box had arrived in California, where they’d be put in a container bound for India.

On September 18th, I received this email:

We’ve received the originals for your order number 9AEALF… at our imaging center.
Your order has been scheduled for scanning. We estimate that your order will complete our scanning and quality control processes on Oct 26, 2009. You can expect to hear from us then.

This meant they’d arrived in Bangalore (India). I was excited.

On September 23rd, I received an email saying:

A technician has been assigned to your order and the process of manually scanning & repairing each of your images is underway. After all your images have been completed, they also will go through our stringent quality assurance checks.

On October 19th, this arrived:

The speed of the job, finished a week early, might have tipped me off to the quality. And now I had only 14 days to look over the scans, while working and teaching. Good enough though, as I was headed to Australia in November.

Okay. Attention span kaput. Will continue this tomorrow.

scancafe: archiving the photos


Traci. Seattle, 1992.

Back in August (2009), I meticulously packed all my negatives and chromes (slides) to send to India, via California, to be scanned by scancafe. I plan to write a final review this weekend, now that I’ve seen all the images, organized them a bit, and have the negs and chromes back. This photo of Traci at the Seattle Aquarium is a result.

After packing the images, shipping them, waiting, reviewing and choosing, and finally receiving the DVDs and hard images back, I started organizing (they weren’t kept in order, as promised, which resulted in hours of reorganizing the files), and I put the negs and chromes back in the files they came from. This is when I found that yes, my Pakistan negatives were lost. The contact sheets were in their proper place, and I always keep my negs with my contact sheets. More on this later.

I’m now, finally, archiving everything in Lightroom I started learning Lightroom last fall then stopped to prep for Australia. I didn’t love it at first, but, what do I ever love at first? Now I’m smitten. I love order. I love organizing. I love photos. It’s a dream come true. I remember making excel files of my shoot lists 15+ years ago so I could do searches for keywords. Combine that with the developing (which I’ve not delved into much as I’m entering these into the archives catalog first, and so still use Photoshop until I learn LR properly) and, wow. It makes this whole digital thing everything it should be.

I will have at least 10,000 photos (about 3,000 from scancafe scans) archived when I’m done, beginning with negs scanned from December 1988. My goal of the evening is to finish 1992. I’m on December.