Tips on Scanning Photos
Scanning your photos is a great way to safeguard them from potential damage and to get organized. But if you just bought a photo scanner and have a huge pile of photos to scan, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
Here I have provided some basic tips to help you more efficiently scan your photos and give you some ideas on how to get the best results. Once you get comfortable with your scanner and the process you will find that scanning photos is pretty straightforward.
Photo Scanning Tips
1. Read through your scanner’s user manual
If you are new to scanning or have a new scanner it will pay to take a little time and read through the user manual. If your scanner did not come with a manual then check the manufacturer’s website as they usually have a digital manual available.
2. Organize your photos
It will be easier to organize your scanned image files if you first organize your photos prior to scanning. You can try to organize by date or by activities (family trips, Christmas) or by people if you inherited some of your photos. Depending on the amount of photographs you have and their current state of organization this could be difficult, but it will make finding certain images later much easier so the effort is worth it upfront.
3. Clean your scanner and photos
Photo scanners are quite powerful and can pick up small and unwanted details like dust. Many higher-end photo scanners have hardware or software functions that will correct for things like dust, but portable photo scanners or basic flatbeds will not.
Either way, your images will turn out better if you gently clean the glass flatbed of your scanner with a lint-free cloth prior to scanning. Gently wiping your photos with the same cloth or using some compressed air will also help your results.
4. Choose your scanning resolution
Choosing the best resolution to scan your photos with is something to think about ahead of time. Since photo prints themselves only contain 300-600 dpi of detail, you only need to scan at the same resolution to reproduce that quality. However, if you plan to enlarge any of your photos then you will want to scan at a bit higher resolution.
Be aware though that the higher of a resolution you scan at, the larger your final image size will be. For basic archiving, 600 dpi is usually more than adequate for getting a good image.
5. Do a test run
Scanning is a bit like taking good photos – it helps to do a few practice scans, especially if you are new to scanning or have a new scanner. Pick 4 photos and try a practice run and see if you are happy with the results. Depending on the level of photo scanner you own and your own technical capabilities, you may want to tweak some of the options to get an image you are happy with.
6. Scan multiple photos at once
Most photo scanners will allow you to load multiple photos onto the scanning bed at once yet provide separate image files for each photo. Hopefully your scanner will recognize the separate photos itself, otherwise you will have to designate them in preview mode. Scanning more than one photo at a time will make the whole process of digitizing go faster.
7. Choose a file and folder naming system
Trying to find a particular time period or photo amongst your image files will be difficult without some organization. In addition to organizing your photos around some theme prior to scanning, it also pays to have a naming system prepared for when the images are created. If you can label 50 image files as “Christmas-1.jpg” through “Christmas-50.jpg” and place them all in a folder designated “Christmas 2005” you will have a much easier time finding the things you want later.
8. Best file formats
Your main choices in image formats will be TIFF or JPG (JPEG). A TIFF file will retain more details from the scan but is also larger. A JPG will lose a bit in image quality but is a much smaller file size. Most people will be fine saving to a JPG but if you have a few special photos that you think you may want to enlarge, you can consider saving them as TIFFs.
9. Storage Options
The number of pictures you have to scan, the resolution you scan them at, and the file format you choose will all affect the final size of you scanned images. As long as you are reasonable in your choices your files should all fit on your computer’s hard drive. But hard drives have been known to be wiped out, so backing up all your work is a smart idea. Either copy your photo files to an external hard drive, buy some online storage, or consider burning some back up DVDs.
10. Photo Editing
After all the work of scanning is done, you can decide whether you need or want to do any photo-editing. Basic things that can be done are color enhancements and red-eye reduction. Or you can get more advanced and do some digital restoration on old or damaged photos. If you have a lot of damaged photos that you know will need some work, you may want to try editing some images after only a few scans in case you find that modifying your scan settings will help with restoration.