Tips for Scanning your Photographs

scanning photograph
  1. Check your photos for dirt, lint, or smudges. Gently remove surface dust and dirt with a soft brush or lint-free photo wipe.
  2. Check the scanner glass for lint, hair, fingerprints, or smudges. Use a lint-free pad or wipe to thoroughly clean the glass (basically anything which is sold as safe for cleaning camera lenses will also work for your scanner). Household glass cleaner can be used to clean your scanner glass, too.
  3. Specify the type of scan. If you’re scanning photos, you have a basic choice of color photo vs. black and white. Always scan in RGB color, even if the source photo is black & white. This is so we will have more manipulation options; we can easily change a color photo to black & white (grayscale), but not the other way around.
  4. Determine the best scan resolution to assure the quality and usefulness of your digital photos. The optimal resolution depends on how the image will be printed, saved, or displayed. A good rule of thumb is to scan your photos at a minimum of 300dpi (Dots Per Inch) to assure decent quality for enhancement and restoration, but 600dpi or greater is better if you plan to enlarge smaller images.
  5. Carefully position your photo face down on the scanner glass and be sure it is as straight as possible. If your photo has a lot of white in the scene i.e.. a snow scene, use a black backing over the photo, covering the glass, then press “preview.” The scanner will take a quick pass of the image and display a rough version on your screen. Check to see that it’s straight, that no part of the photo has been cut off, and that the photo appears free of dust and lint. You can preview it again if needed.
  6. Crop the previewed image to include only the original photo without the white border. If you include the white border in the scan, your scanning software might try to compensate for this white area by making the rest of the image too dark.
  7. Scan the original image. Once you scan the photo, you can save it in a variety of formats. Scanning for restoration purposes requires a TIFF or JPEG format. We can handle most other formats, too, but TIFF is best because it is a “lossless” format where no data are lost from the original image. Now that you’ve got your photo scanned in, it’s time to save it to your hard drive.
  8. Choose your file type. The best file type for scanning and saving archival photos is TIFF, the undisputed leader when the best quality is required. The popular JPG (JPEG) file format is nice because its compression algorithm creates smaller file sizes — making it the most popular photo format for web pages and file sharing, but the compression which creates the small files also causes some quality loss. This loss of image quality is small but can become important when dealing with digital images that will be restored.
  9. Name the file. It is important that you name the files in a way that lets you, and us, know which images you have sent to us, and what you want to be done to them. Save them to a folder either on your desktop or within your “documents” folder.

More Tips

  • Practice: Get used to how your scanner works by scanning both large and small photos.
  • Crop: Always crop your pictures before you do the final scan. After the quick preview shows up on your screen, crop the image by drawing a box around the area you want to be scanned. Never scan the white background along with the photo because the scanner’s automatic brightness and contrast adjustment will think the white background is part of the picture and will adjust the image quality badly, the image will be much bigger than it has to be which makes the resulting file unwieldy, and the scan will take a lot longer.
  • Originals: Never do anything to the original scans except for naming them. Save them exactly the way they were scanned, without any changes.
  • Scanner Software: All scanning hardware comes with unique software tools to control it. Most allow similar adjustments. Please read the manual that came with your scanner and software. If you have questions, contact the scanner manufacturer.
  • Choosing The Document Type: Most scanning software allows one to choose the type of image to be scanned; photo, slide, document, etc. Correctly setting this option will ensure the best scan possible.

Common Terms

  • Resolution: In scanning, resolution refers to the number of dots per inch (DPI) that your scanner produces when “looking” at your photos. The higher the resolution, the more dots per inch your scanner uses to reproduce your picture. A low-resolution image will have less detail, and a high-resolution image will be more distinct. When scanning photos for restoration purposes, high resolutions are necessary. Set your resolution to 300 DPI or higher. If your original photo is very small and you want it enlarged, you may want to go up to 600 DPI. Never scan at the highest resolution just because it has a higher number. Nearly all scanners have a “fake” high-resolution setting that is interpolated (created by fancy guesswork). Scan at 300 or 600 dpi.
  • Pixels: Pixels are generally thought of as the smallest complete element of an image. The definition is highly context-sensitive. For example, we can speak of pixels in a visible image (e.g. a printed page) or pixels carried by one or more electronic signal(s), or represented by one or more digital value(s), or pixels on a display device. This list is not exhaustive and depending on the context there are several synonyms which are accurate in particular contexts, e.g. pel, sample, bytes, bits, dots, spots, etc.
  • We can also speak of pixels in the abstract, in particular when using pixels as a measure of resolution, e.g. 2400 pixels per inch or 640 pixels per line. Dots is often used to mean pixels, especially in relation to photographs, and imaging devices, and gives rise to the abbreviation DPI or dots per inch. Digital photographs are simplified translations made up of a fixed number of colors appearing as a fixed number of squares, dots, or pixels and measured both horizontally and vertically in a grid.
  • Digital photographs are simplified translations made up of a fixed number of colors appearing as a fixed number of squares or pixels. Pegs: Also called JPGs, and pronounced “jpegs,” are images that have been stripped of some of their detail in order to make smaller files. They’re fine for most purposes but are not as good as Tiffs for restoration work. Try to save your scanned images as Tiffs.
  • Remember… If you don’t have a scanner or know of anyone that has this ability, or would just prefer not to do it yourself, you can always take your photos to a Kinko’s Copy Center or any good local copy center and have them scan the photos for you. Make sure they scan them as a color image (whether it is B&W or Color and with no automatic corrections) at a minimum of 300dpi and save them on CD as Tiffs.
  • Of course, any photograph sent to Yesteryear Memories that is less than 10″ x 13″ will be professionally scanned at no charge. There will be a charge for those over this size.