Scanning Photographs

Unless you are a teenager who probably has never seen a film camera, you will probably have quite a few old photos that only exist as hard copies of images captured on film. These could be pictures from your school and college days or old black and white or even sepia prints of your parents and grandparents. Like all pictures, they will deteriorate with age and the old way for you to preserve them in to digitize them by scanning them into you computer or onto CDs or DVDs. Here are a few things you can do to ensure your scans are of the best quality and that you have saved the pictures in a way that matches what you plan to do with them.

•    The first thing to note is the higher the scan resolution, the better the image quality. Resolution is measured in dots per inch (dpi) and the higher the number of dots, the sharper the photo. Most scanners have the option of selecting the dpi of the scan with 72 usually being the lowest and 600 the highest on a normal scanner (professional grade photo scanners can go up to 2400 dpi or more). Very high resolution scanning can often show up defects in the original that are not normally visible, but these can be fixed using photo editing software.
•    Having said this, high resolution scanning is not always the best one for a particular objective. High resolution scans take up a lot of memory and if you want to send a picture by email, a 300 plus dpi scan will take a long time. A rule of the thumb is to use 72 dpi for scanning photographs for emailing or for loading to a website; 150 dpi for normal storage; 300 dpi for archiving or creating master copies and the highest resolution when scanning slides or negatives.
•    There are 2 file formats commonly used for saving images. JPEG compresses the data and is best for on screen viewing or emailing. Some quality is lost in a JPEG image, but it is usually not noticeable. If you want to maintain flexibility and be able to use the image for onscreen viewing or printing, the TIFF format is best. You can convert a TIFF image to JPEG for online transmission etc. but a JPEG shouldn’t be converted back to TIFF because of the quality being lost in previous step.
•    If you have a choice of pictures to scan, use the best ones available. While you can improve the quality of the image using photo editing software, the better the original image is, the better will be the final result.
•    If your scanner gives you the option of black & white or color scans, use the color option even for monochrome photographs. This will give you more flexibility in choosing the grayscale while using the photo editing software.
•    It sounds funny but a lot of people forget to clean the photographs of dust, grime and fingerprints before scanning and then wonder why the mage has so many defects. Always clean the pictures and the scanner glass before doing any scanning.

October 31, 2008

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