Author Topic: Photo scanning business – advice wanted  (Read 680 times)


  • Bristles
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Photo scanning business – advice wanted
« on: February 11, 2024, 01:45:03 PM »
I scanned several thousand photos for my parents and a few of their friends. I'm considering trying to start side-business offering the service. I'm only looking to do this locally where people drop off and pick up photos at my house, not shipping them. My target market is people 60+ who have thousands of print photos from before digital cameras. My questions are:

1. What is the best/ easiest/ cheapest way to design a website? I've seen a bunch of Wix ads on Youtube.  Or should I just start with a Facebook page and not bother with a website yet?
2. What is the easiest way to accept credit card payments? Given the target market of older people, I figure I'll want a way to accept credit cards that doesn't require creating an account like Venmo, Paypal, etc.
3. I figured I'd try to buy some Facebook ads and see if that gets me anywhere. I was also thinking of offering cash for referrals (maybe $10). Any other marketing ideas? 
4. Is there a good/ low cost way to make photos available online to share with various family members for numerous customers? If it's something with an annual fee, I suppose I could tell them to create a new account and give me the password to upload to. It's easy to put on a flash drive or DVD, so obviously that option is available.

This isn't going to make me rich – I'd be happy if I could consistently make a few hundred a month after expenses and stay close to $20/ hour. I'm planning to set rates at 7 cents for loose photos in a box and 14 cents for photos in sleeve type albums. Counting only scan time and not counting expenses or time spent on administrative tasks, I can get about $25/ hr at those rates. I like listening to podcasts and audiobooks and could set my own hours, so this seems like an ideal part time job. If it takes off, I could buy a $600 scanner that does loose photos way faster. Photos in albums wouldn't go much faster with the pricier scanner because of the time spent taking them out and putting back (which is why hardly anyone offers to scan albums and those that do charge much more than I'm proposing).


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Photo scanning business – advice wanted
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2024, 04:50:03 PM »
Very nice! I think this is a great idea. Ideas in random order .... worth exactly as much as you've paid for them.

- I like the idea of starting locally.

- Love the idea of just using a "business" Facebook page for now. It's free and you can easily target locals if you eventually want to start taking out ads or "boosting" posts. You could simply just use your personal Facebook page for now - especially if you have a lot of local friends.

- Do NOT start with paid ads. Unless you already put the word out and you didn't get any takers. If you (or one the families members you've done this for) has a Facebook profile with a decent following (300+ friends; bonus points if most of them are over 50), just make a couple of posts on that page (or have them post this for you). Show a picture of a box full of loose photos, show a flash drive, or better yet, a finished album (see below). Say that you'll turn the box of photos into an album of memories and as many flash drives to make sure these precious memories are never lost. Remind them that this is a great gift for an older parent that is hard to buy for. Let them know how great this would be for an anniversary present.

- If this takes off, I highly recommend SquareSpace for your website. To be fair, I don't have any experience with Wix, but I have about 6 Squarespace sites. They make it really easy because you can also reserve your domain through them too and it makes it especially easy to connect the website and the domain. But to be honest, if you have a decent population in your area you could likely get enough clients just with Facebook. Keep things as simple as possible.

- How to make the photos available for others: I'm going to assume the photography world has several ways to do this.

Marketing Ideas:
- I'm making a guess here, but remember that most people don't want scanned photos; they want their most precious memories in an lovely album that is easy to grab off the shelf and flip through. Sure, some people will just want to get the photos into a digital format for sharing & the security of having multiple copies in multiple locations. But most people would be "wowed" if that box full of photos came back to them as a lovely album or book of family memories. I'd highly recommend learning one or two of the "make an album" services where you upload a batch of photos and they print/send the book to you. You might be thinking, "why wouldn't they do that themselves and not pay extra?" The same reason I pay someone to change my oil and another person to make an amazing Cuban sandwich -- because they do it faster/better/quicker/etc.

Other products you can offer them ... basically anything that Shutterfly offers: canvas wall prints, family calendar, next year's holiday card, a coffee mug for grandma with her grandkids on it, a hat for grandpa. A knitted blanket for a widow/widower with their spouse on it. You could literally have a post for every season and holiday. Picture of a spouse on a Valentine's day pillow, family pictures on playing cards for the upcoming family reunion, etc.

- I understand that you want to make sure you set your prices at a profitable rate that is worth your time, but I would also encourage you to keep your pricing as simple as possible. Start with the per/photo pricing, but later consider going to some tiers (up to 100 photos for $XX, 100-500 for $XXX, etc.). People love to know exactly how much they are going to spend before they start.

- I'd consider giving them something free from a place like Shutterfly in exchange for being able to share a post using some of their pictures on your Facebook page/website for promotions. Let's just say it is a free coffee mug or an extra flash drive with all the photos. If you give away a promotion item, you may find that another family member comes back to you and orders 3 more + a blanket + a canvas print. If you want to make it simpler, just give them 5% off if they share a post with their family and friends.  I'd have a handout that I provide when I return the photos with examples of other items I can have created for them. Make it easy for them to say yes to something they find valuable ... and this can easily be done without being smarmy or pushy. "Let me know if you'd like any of these other items using your photos"

- I usually think many small businesses like this worry too much about liability, but I'd actually have an agreement created and have every client sign it. Protect yourself in case your dog chews up a box of pics, or fire/flood, misplaced pictures, scanner "eats" a few, etc. You'll also want to be very clear about if you are/aren't keeping a copy of their photos. Some might want you to as a backup for safety; others will want to be assured that you don't keep their photos. Be very clear about it. Id likely recommend against offering that service - it seems to add extra risk and worry.

For CC payments, there are lots of options. I'd ask a few business people who you see taking your credit card payment on a phone .... stylist/barber, the vendor at the farmer's market. Ask 4-5 people who they use and if they like it.

I know I've made a lot of assumptions and my apologies if that goes further than what you wanted. Best of luck!


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Photo scanning business – advice wanted
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2024, 06:55:50 PM »
Where are you? I have a few boxes of color slides for you.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Photo scanning business – advice wanted
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2024, 07:43:53 PM »
I spent months scanning our old family photos from my mom's collection.  I finally got so fed up trying to arrange and organize them that I sent a few hundred to a service like you describe.  I saw her ads on local neighborhood listservs and Nextdoor.  She's also on facebook, but doesn't have a website.  I wouldn't recommend a website -- not worth it.  I also see this person posting asking to buy or take for free any old equipment people have (zip drives, floppy drives, VCRs, etc) because people don't use them anymore and a lot of time she needs to get data off of these devices.  So I can tell she has fully equipped her business for free or close to it. 

With the new iphone apps that are out, I wish I hadn't spent all the money I gave her.  These apps let you take photos of entire album pages and then separate them into individual files.  Other apps help you repixelate old blurry photos. 

Honestly, the most difficult thing about digitizing everything was organizing them in a way that made sense.  Piles of unorganized snapshots, clippings, and artifacts of all different shapes and sizes. 

The end result though has been fantastic.  I created a new google account and on that drive, I stored all the photos -- tried to do it by decade.  That allowed me plenty of free storage space and the ability to share without worrying about my own stuff.  I also gifted each branch of the family with a Nixplay digital picture frame and we're all on the same "network of friends" so we share photos and upload directly from our phones to each other's frames.  It's wonderful and keeps us all in touch with the everyday things that happen in each others' lives.  We started this during Covid, and as a way to keep my mom with dementia engaged with all of us, but we all love it so much. 


  • Bristles
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Re: Photo scanning business – advice wanted
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2024, 07:23:09 AM »
I'll be researching things related to this business today, but wanted to give a quick response to some of the comments.

*I'm the creator and sole admin of a FaceBook pickleball page with over 1,000 followers (all local) and the group skews older. I could make a one time post to that group saying that I'm starting this business. I don't have any family in my area- my parents live 500 miles away in a small town. I can ask my parents friends who I scanned photos for to 'review' my Facebook page though.

*For the service to have value, finding a low cost way for (me to set up) people to privately share photos with family online is probably important. I'll be researching this and considering whether/ how to charge for this vs providing files on a flash drive.

*I'm targeting people who have years or decades worth of photos to scan. I'm not sure how I could make photo books for them. If they wanted one around a certain event like a wedding or whatever, sure. But to make an album selecting from hundreds or thousands of photos over many years would require a lot of input from the customer and I'm sure what value I add acting as a middle man between the customer and Shutterfly. However I do think a Shutterfly photo mug could be a better referral bonus rather than cash. It probably makes sense to require people to “share” the page/ a post on FB to qualify for the referral bonus (unless they aren't on FB).

*For pricing, maybe I'll do 'up to X photos - $50, up to Y photos - $75, up to Z photos - $100' and more than Z photos - the per photo pricing I originally stated. This also sets a minimum which I was planning to have anyway.

*I hadn't considered slides or negatives. There are phone apps that can do that. I don't whether the quality is high enough to be charging for the service.

*Setting pricing is fairly easy when you're talking about a large amount of photos of uniform sizes. I'll have to think about pricing for unorganized piles of varying sizes, albums that are more difficult to take photos in and out of or photos that are sticky. For really old albums like the image below, it probably makes sense to use a phone app that separates the photos rather than take out and run through a scanner.

*If people already have photos organized by year or can do so before providing to me, it is easy to save them in folders by year when scanning.

*I'm leaning towards just buying the higher-end scanner now- the Epson FastFoto. In addition to being much faster than the Plustek Z300 I have, the Epson does auto-red eye reduction, auto color restoration of faded photos and can scan front and back simultaneously (if there are notes written on the back). It was $600 the last time I checked but $500 now. If this business doesn't go anywhere, I should be able to resell the scanner and get the bulk of my money back.

*Many people may be reluctant to give up possession of their photos, even to someone local for only a matter of days. I could charge a premium to work from your house. I was thinking a $65 fee for people within 20 miles, or if it's a big job that I can't finish in a day, $65 per day.

« Last Edit: February 13, 2024, 12:42:48 PM by mcneally »


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Photo scanning business – advice wanted
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2024, 05:21:37 AM »
You're right - creating photo albums would be tricky unless there are specific conditions met. But after scanning them, you could say "pick 40 photos to be put in an album and just tell me the "filename".

I think purchasing the FastFoto sounds like a great idea. Any time you can earn back your investment in equipment within 2-4 customers (and it saves you a crazy amount of time) then that's a no brainer.

I'll plant the seed to serve a few customers, get your process dialed in, see the reaction from customers (and if everything looks good) then be ready to raise your prices. Going to there house for a day to scan photos? I'd charge at least $150 extra. There's no way you can get as much done and they may want to chat about all the stories that go with the photos you're scanning.

I think a huge part of your success is how you're able to line up the next client based on a referral from previous clients. Don't be afraid to ask for referrals. Also, I think the idea of not having a website is great - however, I would consider setting up a Google Business Profile in case someone searches for your service. It's also a huge social proof of your business especially if you can get 10+ star reviews.


Wow, a phone plan for fifteen bucks!