for various reasons I put together a few photo essays today:
I like them.
I finished archiving 2000 in June, and took a break from heavy cataloging, but also had to add the photos I’d scanned myself over the years to 2000. It was highly tedious. It was not pleasant. Neither was what I had to return to—2001. It wasn’t a great year for me on any level, but ugh, it was worse for the city.
People have asked to see these images and I never really wanted to look at them or to present them in any way, but now that I’m chronologically moving through all the photos, it’s time. They are up on flickr.
I have now cataloged 2719 photos. 1793 of them were from the year 2000 (65% thus far). It was slow going, and I took a long break from what became the sheer monotony of the task. I started 2000 over a month ago. In the meantime I’ve been posting the 1995 Lithuania photos, though I’ve forgotten exactly why I started. I’m into 2001 now, and should go back to add non-scancafe scans of images pre-2001. What a task. WHAT A TASK.
In the midst of a transition period, I haven’t felt like writing much. I’ve been dancing a lot (ergo—it’s all good).
Okay, I’d hoped I was done. But it seems I won’t be until I go through all these scans. Scancafe claims to “clean, color correct and scan each one by hand.” Check out the thumbprint on the top left of this scan. (Photo: changing rail gauge on border of Lithuania and Poland.) This is the kind of thing you don’t notice until you see the images large, working with them one at a time.
(Continued from part two.) When it was clear I had only two weeks to review the 6000 images again, which took me over 50 hours the first time, I asked the manager if it was possible, because of the the lack of time I had to make selects before my trip due to their many problems, to process the images I had chosen at no further cost, in essence, paying 50% for about 68% of the images (which they had already scanned anyway. It would cost them all of one DVD). He said no, and offered me $100 off my final order. I didn’t appreciate this arrangement much, as my suggestion actually served us both better. They would have made more money (because I then made it a point to delete 50% of my order, ultimately paying $100 less than 50%, their required select rate) and I would have saved time and felt that the massive amount of my time wasted by their mistakes was truly acknowledged, backing up their, “We’re so sorry for the inconvenience” blather.
In the end, maybe it’s better I edited more fiercely then, as I’m not impressed by the quality of the end result, and am spending a fair amount of time archiving them. But then, maybe it’s not.
Another issue that popped during this time is that no nudes were scanned. Not even some playful images of the fully clothed. This I covered in a previous post.
Because I didn’t finish the selects until just before I left for Australia, I was concerned about my images being returned when I was away. I didn’t really want them sitting around somewhere, in NYC or in India. Regardless, I chose to keep them in India given the option as scancafe would remain responsible for them, which still seemed better than, say, my super. And so, the manager held them in India until I would return in late January. This much worked out well. The images were sent back when I returned and I received them on February 4, 2010.
I started going through the scans, not overly pleased with the results. By February 9th, I emailed the quality manager the following:
I’m sorry to trouble you with this, as you’ve been as helpful as possible given the circumstances.
I have to say, though, that the quality of the scans is not great. The technicians don’t seem to know anything about photography and perhaps have been trained to apply automatic adjustments to each image.
Some of my negatives are quite old, and I understand the low quality on these. However there are slide scans that I have in better quality from a scanner/photocopier circa 1999. This is not acceptable in 2010. All of these images need to be fixed in photoshop, which would not be a problem if scancafe did not claim to correct each image, and charge for it.
An example: The back lit silhouette is a fairly common principle in photo, especially film photography. The subject is MEANT to be a shadow, lit from the back. In many (all? I’m not near through all of them yet) of my backlit photos, the image has been ruined by blowing out the image until the background is lost and the subject is seen on the subject. I gave you an example of this last November my image #, but it was never addressed.
Some of the scans are quite good, and other batches are quite bad. Was the technician having good/bad days or moods? It’s quite odd.
The quality of these scans renders them $.10 each, perhaps $.15. Because the quality of scans is not what you advertise, I would like to be refunded the difference.
Again, I’m sorry to trouble you as you’ve been helpful, but I am not at all happy with the overall scanning experience. Thanks so much for your help in all of this.
I think the blown out silhouettes are what took me over the edge. Saved in small jpg files, these scans are totally worthless. I have them for reference, but nothing else. If I’d want to use them in an online gallery, I’d have to rescan them.
As before, I didn’t hear anything back. Until I posted my grievance on photo.net. Possibly coincidental, the next day, their chief operating officer in California contacted me with the following message:
Your issue has been escalated to my attention. It is unfortunate that we have not been able to meet your expectations.
Please bear in mind that the color balance, tonal balance etc in photographs is a subjective judgment and in your case we haven’t been able to match your expectations even after multiple interactions with our quality staff. As you desire, I will have all your orders refunded down to 10 cents per scan. I apologize for the inconvenience. In the 3 years of ScanCafe’s operations, you will be truly the first customer whose issue we have not been able to resolve.
Also, I just saw your blog today and noticed that you are concerned about how well our staff is treated and paid. For the record, we pay the highest in the city of Bangalore for the skill sets we employ. Our employee attrition rates are lowest in the industry. You, your friends or journalists are welcome to visit our facility at any time without notice. We also employ staff that have hearing and speech impairments and we conduct training for them in sign language as part of our social responsibility in enabling the differently enabled. Also, we have an annual celebration day at ScanCafe coming up pretty soon that we would like to invite you to. It will be a great opportunity for you to interact with our staff and truly assess to your satisfaction if they are happy. The management of ScanCafe has worked in companies like Cisco, eBay, Yahoo etc. I am just curious if you checked with the CEO of Intel if his staff was paid appropriately prior to purchasing your computer with an Intel processor.
Your refund will appear soon on your credit card if we can still process the last transaction electronically. If not, we will mail a check.
N. Dubey, Ph.D.
Chief Operating Officer
Whoa. A bit intense. My reply:
Thanks for your reply. I agree that the situation is unfortunate.
In 20 years of dealing with color labs in New York, I have never been told that color
balance, tonal balance, exposure, etc, are simply subjective because there are industry
standards that labs work to meet. When learning photography, students are not taught
color balance is subjective when the image is +40 magenta or a woman’s face is pale cyan.
I am delighted to hear that your staff is well treated and well compensated, and that
your company is socially responsible. You should make a page about this on your website,
as I assure you that I am not alone in wondering how your employees are treated. I’d love
to attend your annual celebration. I’m sure it would be fascinating as well as good fun.
Are you providing a plane ticket with your invitation?
Never have I enquired with a CEO about staff pay, so I’m not sure why I’d start with Intel. I did not wonder aloud about them on my blog because 1) now that mac has switched to Intel, ever major computer company in the US uses Intel processors, so there is no choice, as there is with where I have my images scanned. 2) Intel was never in possession and control of my most valued possessions. I would hope that you understand that people are trusting your company with treasured belongings, which means more consideration goes into it than say, selecting a word processor. If I sent a hard drive off to be fixed with the only copy of every word I’ve ever written, yes, I’d look into that company carefully. 3) If you were actually curious about whether or not I wonder about the treatment of workers elsewhere, yes, I do. And I spend my money accordingly.
Thanks for your attention to this matter,
And so it goes. I got the check in March, which means that in the end, I paid $370 for the scans. I was happy with this, until later in March when I unpacked the box of negatives and chromes and confirmed through my files that the Pakistan images were gone. Scancafe claims that they’ve never lost an order. But images within an order? I read on a forum that another photographer found after he got his images back that a number of them hadn’t been scanned. Sigh. After the previous exchange above, I wasn’t willing to push it further. I am upset about the Pakistan negatives—they were among the images I was most excited to see. But such is life. The scans are back, I’ve reordered them all (took a few weeks) and am now entering them into Lightroom, with keywords (tags). I’m glad I have them done, but I’m not sure I’d do it that way again.
As for scancafe, if you are the kind of person who took her photos to the 1-hr photo place down the block during the analog years, and that was fine, then sending scancafe your not-too-large order will also be fine. I wouldn’t send them anything over 500 photos. And I’m not sure how happy anyone will be who wasn’t happy with the 1-hr photo place. I definitely think they are a legitimate company, and they want to be a great company. They just aren’t there. They did send the check for $315, which means I paid $370 for the service, which would have been $785. But given the quality of the scans, the lost photos, and the lost time in the review process, I’m not sure that’s a deal. The pro-photo services scancafe charges are about as much as getting them done locally, so, why not do that? That’s my plan, next time around.