Patience is a virtue--especially for quality photo scans
That is the truth of the matter.
Another truism is, "You get what you pay for."
That is especially true if you want quality photo scans for reproduction, retouching, and repair.
I have worked in a publishing house, where I did photo scanning for publications as well as for retouching, repair, and restoration. I learned from that experience and working in retail sales and as a machinery fabricator and installer that customers expect professional results from a business professing specialized work in a specific area.
The cardinal rule in any business is, "Exceed the customer's expectations."
A good policy to adopt is to do every job as though you were the paying customer, and give your customer the quality product that you would expect for your money.
In the type of business that I understand you want to set up. The scanner and other photo reproduction tools, photo editing software, computer, and printer will be the tools of your trade. High quality equipment should be your top priority, not an afterthought.
You might not be able to see the difference in quality by looking at it on the computer screen, because the computer screen is only between 90 and 120 ppi resolution, while a print quality image is a minimum of 300-325 ppi (pixels per inch). If the image is being enlarged a great deal, such as from a wallet size to an 11x14-inch portrait, the scanning resolution can be 1200 ppi or higher in order to keep the image from pixelating during the enlargement process. When the image is printed is when you will see the difference that resolution makes in the quality of the finished product.
To deliver professional results, you are going to have to resolve yourself to using a good quality flatbed scanner designed for high-resolution scanning of photos, negatives, and transparencies (slides, if you will).
The higher end, commercial machines are designed to scan photos at high-resolution much more quickly than lower end scanners made for home use. The size of the scanning area should also be a consideration. A scanner with a 12x17-inch bed (11x16-inch scannable area) will allow you to scan multiple images (4 borderless 4x6 and 5x7 prints) at once, whereas an 8.5x11-inch scanning area will allow you to only scan two 4x6 or 5x7 photos at once. It will also yield truer color rendition and clearer, higher resolution scans than lower priced home models. As familiarity with the software and the scanner becomes instinctive and automatic, you will be able to scan more images per hour and get excellent results every time.
In a professional environment, it is not unusual for the business to have one person dedicated to just scanning images. Someone who knows the scanner and who has a professional quality machine can scan a wallet size photo and turn it into a clean, clear, color balanced 11x14-inch portrait and visa versa. Someone who knows the scanner and its software can scan a lot of photos in an eight-hour work shift.
On several occasions, I have been in the position of spending two or three days just scanning, then turning around and spending at least as many hours cropping, resizing, and cleaning up (retouching) the same photos, depending on the condition of the original photo and what the customer wants done.
Expect to pay between $1,500 and $5,000 for a professional quality 12x17-inch flatbed scanner, and accept the fact that quality work does not happen instantly, and it doesn't happen at all if you try to rush through a job by cutting corners.
In this instant coffee and microwave oven era, where people want everything now and want something for nothing (high quality output with minimal or no input), there are still some things that just plain take time.
The long and short of it is that there is no compromising quality for quantity if you want repeat business and expect to attract new customers and grow as a business. A pleased customer will come back and bring new customers with him or her. A dissatisfied customer can ruin a business. There's an old saying, "Good news travels fast, but bad news flies." Believe it.
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