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Scanning a Photo: How to Digitise a Photograph

Updated: Feb 16

Scanning a photo with the best possible quality requires attention to detail, proper equipment, and careful settings. Whether you're digitizing a cherished family photo or preserving a historical image, the following guide will help you achieve the highest quality scan:

Photos for Scanning
Get 'em scanned!

1. Choose the Right Scanner:

  • Select a scanner with a minimum optical resolution of 300 dpi (dots per inch) for standard photos. For professional or archival purposes, consider a scanner with a higher resolution.

  • If you have access to a flatbed scanner with a transparency adapter, it's ideal for scanning prints, slides, and negatives.

2. Clean the Photo:

  • Ensure the photo is clean and free of dust or debris. Use a soft, lint-free cloth or compressed air to gently remove any particles.

  • Handle the photo with clean, dry hands to avoid leaving fingerprints.

3. Prepare the Scanner Bed:

  • Clean the scanner bed to avoid artifacts on the scanned image. Wipe it down with a microfiber cloth.

  • If scanning multiple photos, leave enough space between them on the scanner bed to avoid interference.

4. Set the Scanner Resolution:

  • Choose a resolution that suits your needs. For archival purposes or larger prints, a higher resolution (600 to 1200 dpi) is recommended.

  • Avoid using software interpolation to increase resolution; always use the scanner's optical resolution.

5. Select Colour Mode:

  • For colour photos, choose the RGB colour mode. For black-and-white photos, select grayscale.

  • Adjust scanner settings to match the colour depth of your photo (24-bit for colour, 8-bit for grayscale).

6. Adjust Colour and Exposure Settings:

  • Use the scanner's settings to adjust colour balance, contrast, and brightness. Some scanners may have automatic colour correction features, don't use these.

  • Do not use any features like descreen, dust removal etc if you have a good quality image editor like Photoshop. These functions are better carried out after scanning by dedicated software.

  • If possible, preview the scan and make adjustments before finalizing.

7. File Format and Compression:

  • Save the scanned photo in a lossless format like TIFF for the highest quality. If storage space is a concern, consider using a high-quality JPEG with minimal compression.

  • Avoid using low-quality compression settings that may result in loss of detail.

8. Check Focus and Alignment:

  • Ensure the photo is placed flat and evenly on the scanner bed.

  • Check that the scanner is in focus and that the photo is aligned properly.

9. Post-Processing:

  • After scanning, use image editing software (e.g., Adobe Photoshop) for any additional adjustments, such as cropping, rotating, or retouching.

  • Save the original scan as a master copy and work on a duplicate to preserve the original quality.

10. Organise and Store:

  • Create a systematic naming and organizing convention for scanned photos to make it easy to locate them later.

  • Back up your scanned photos regularly to prevent loss in case of hardware failure.

By following these steps, you can ensure that you scan your photos with the utmost care and attention to detail, preserving the quality and integrity of the original images for future generations.

If you're unhappy with the results then why not book a professional to do it for you, YPR offers a scanning service HERE. You can also have your scanned files restored if they have damage or add colour to black and white images with our photo colourisation service!

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