Getting the Best Scanning Results

Scanning

I want you to be thrilled with your restored photos. Providing a good scan can make all the difference on the final result of your photos. Getting the best scanning results is necessary for high quality prints, especially if you want to enlarge them. It may even save you money (eliminating dust that was on the scanner can be quite a lengthy process.)

Step 1: Remove Dust and Fingerprints

The first thing you need to do is check your photo for dust. Using either a lint-free cloth or canned air, very gently remove the dust. You may want to skip this step if your photo has been printed on canvas; even gentle wiping may damage your photo. Next, check your scanner for dust, smudges, and fingerprints. Use a lint-free cloth and/or glass cleaner. Don’t spray the scanner glass directly with the cleaner, spray the rag and then wipe down the glass. Make sure your scanner is completely dry before you place a photo on it. Check your scanner’s manual to make sure there aren’t certain cleaners you shouldn’t use.

Step 2: Change Scanner Settings

Go into your scanner’s settings. Some you can access on the scanner itself, some will be on your computer. Settings on your computer are often more in depth, so if that’s available, use those. In many cases, it’s as easy as going to the Control Panel>Devices and Printer and a dialogue box pops up with my scanners settings. Every scanner has a different way of accessing those settings, so check your manufacturer’s instructions.

Once you’ve found the scanner settings, make sure that these options are set properly:

  • Color Settings:

    Make sure the color setting is RGB. Even if it is a black and white photo, do not set it to black and white. RGB is probably your scanner’s default setting.

  • Resolution/DPI:

    When you scan an image, the photo’s information is saved as colored dots, aka pixels. The pixels per inch (ppi) or dots per inch (dpi) change how many pixels will appear in every inch of your photo scan. The more pixels per inch, the more detail will be in your photo and the higher quality it will be. To get a good scan, and therefore a good restoration, it is very important to have a high number of pixels.

    A high resolution scan is most important when you go to print your restored photo. Your photo may look great on your computer screen at a low resolution, but that is because computer screens tend to not have as high resolution capabilities as your printer does. If you enlarge a photo that doesn’t have enough pixel information in it to support that size, the computer is forced to add pixels to fill in where there isn’t enough information. This results in a pixelated or blurry print. By scanning at a very high resolution, you are ensuring that even if you enlarge your print, there will still be enough information in the photo to look good when it’s printed.

    The photo on the left is a high quality print at 600 dpi. The photo on the right only at 200 dpi. Notice how much detail is lost and how blurry it becomes.

    The photo on the left is a high quality print at 300 dpi. The photo on the right only at 72 dpi. Notice how much detail is lost and how blurry it becomes.

    Simply changing the ppi or dpi number is one of the two ways a scanner can increase the quality of your scan. For most photos, changing that number to at least 300 ppi/dpi will be good for a high quality print. However, if you ever want to print an enlarged copy of your photo, you will need to increase that number to at least 600. Keep in mind, that even that may not be enough depending on how much bigger you want your photo printed. If, for example, you have a 2×3 photo that you want enlarged all the way up to a 8×10, the original image would have to be scanned at 1200 ppi to get a high quality print.

    Many other scanners (and cameras) work is by scanning with only 72 ppi but will save the photos much larger than their original size. For example, a 4×6 photo might be 40 inches across once it is scanned. Because the scan still has a very high number of pixels, these scans are exactly the same quality as a photo that has a higher ppi number but has smaller printed dimensions.

    Although these two representations of photos have different dimensions and resolutions, their pixel dimensions are exactly the same. They are equal in quality.

    Although these two representations of photos have different dimensions and resolutions, their pixel dimensions are exactly the same. They are equal in quality.

  • File Type:

    Scan your image as a .PNG or .TIFF if you are able. A .JPEG is okay, but it needs to be saved at the highest possible quality setting for minimal compression. Basically, to get a smaller file size, an image is simplified when it is saved. Some of the data is taken away to make it easier and faster for technology to read. This is called compression. There are two types of compression: lossless and lossy. Lossless (used in .PNG and .TIFF) uses minimal compression so the quality of the image remains high. Lossy (used in .JPEG) simplifies the image more dramatically, making a smaller file but some of the detail can be lost. Lossy compression very good in many applications. This is not one of them.

Step 3: Scan Your Image

In many cases, scanning your image is all you have to do, but if your photo has creases or tears, textured paper, or is very shiny, you have one more step. Take your photo, turn it 90°, and scan it again.

When your scanner scans damaged or textured photos, it creates artifacts and bits of glare on the image. With two scans at different angles I can combine both images to neutralize the glare and texture.

Mailing

Mail in a flat, waterproof envelop that can’t be bent. Most couriers now offer free package tracking, which is very handy. Make sure you hold on to your tracking number so you’ll always know where your photo is.

Please keep in mind that I cannot be responsible for any further damage to the photograph during transit or it getting lost in the mail.

By following these instructions, you are on your way to receiving a beautifully restored photograph. This all may seem quite complicated, but getting the best scanning results is actually quite easy.