Scanning photos is quite simple; there are few things that will help ensure your scanning project is a success. Check out these tried and true - Top 10 Tips - that we use every day.
Scan Photos - Top 10 Tips
1 - Save in Archival Quality
What do I mean? Save files to both TIFF and JPEG.
The TIFF is "lossless". TIFF format is excellent if you ever need to touch up the photo, as subsequent modifications will not result in loss of quality with each saving. TIFF is also more suitable for printing and archiving. The JPEG is useful for displaying the photos in a slide show, or sending them to someone by email or over the web. Want to save in both TIFF and JPEG simultaneously? (Check out ScanSpeeder - photo scanning software)
2 - DPI Matters - but - More Isn't Always Better
Use a scan resolution of at least 300 DPI. Higher DPI is better, especially for smaller photos. You would be surprised how much information is contained in old photos. There is a catch here. The higher DPI you select, the slower the scan. Higher DPI also uses higher PC memory, so the computing power of your hardware comes into play here. When you are scanning multiple photos - and have hundreds or even thousands to scan - you need to think about what DPI works best for your project.
For our customers that are batch scanning (see here how to batch scan) their printed photo collection, we recommend 600 DPI. 600 DPI is usually a good balance between performance (scan speed) and quality. Using too high of a scan resolution can cause each batch scan to take too long, or your system may run out of memory, depending on your hardware.
3 - Scan Directly from your Photo Album
Many old photo albums have a slightly sticky background to help the photos adhere to the page. Over the years, the photos tend to permanently glue themselves to this surface. If you try to peel off one of these old printed photos, you may rip it. Therefore, we recommend you do not even try to remove the photos from the album. Don't risk it!
If you use ScanSpeeder, you can scan directly from the photo album. Just lay the photo album page on the scanner. If there is a plastic film on the page, gently peel it back for even better scan results. Don't worry if you can't peel back the plastic film; ScanSpeeder will scan it anyway. If you have photo albums that house the photos in pockets, don't bother to remove them. Scan directly from the album too. For this type of album, just lay it onto of the scanner and leave the photos inside their pockets. This will save you lots of time!
4 - Scanners don't scan to the Physical Edge
Leave space from the edge of the scanner since some scanners may not scan right to the physical edge. It's easy to look at the scanning bed of your scanner and think that it actually scans that whole surface. In fact, most scanners don't scan to the physical edge. Save yourself time, by not having to re-scan when your scanner cuts off a photo, by leaving a bit of space from your scanners physical edge. Nothing worse than a cut-off photo later on.
5 - You need Memory
TIFF files (.tif extension) are HUGE, because they are not compressed. You need an uncompressed file format; this is essential when saving scanned photos. The drawback - these archived photos are big memory hogs. You'll need to make sure you have lots of drive space.
6 - Capture the Context of the Photo
Some would argue that the context of the photo is just as important as the photo itself! Think about it. When you look at an old photo (that you are in or took), you recognize who is in it, where it was taken, why it was taken, etc. We may recall the who, what, where, why, and when of the printed photo when scanning it, but consider those who will view it years down the road. Will they know who all those great people are and what's happening in the photo?
The reason we want to digitize our old photos is to preserve them. When we printed the photos years ago, we typically wrote on the back of the photo to capture its context. So, when you are digitizing your photos, you should also do this. Capture the photo's context and permanently embed it in the photo with a caption. Years later anyone viewing the photo can also gain its context from your written caption. Want to add captions to your scanned photos? See this article to learn how.
7 - How will you Find Your Scanned Photos Later?
A printed photo is essentially just paper and ink. When scanning that printed photo, you will get a copy of the photo's image. If you truly want to digitize the photo however, it also needs a tag. Modern digital photos are more than just an image; they are images with information embedded in them (tags). Printed photos do not have any information (other than the image) embedded in them like the digital photos we take with our phones and digital cameras. This is why we recommend adding a tag to your scanned photos so you can easily find them later. (see this article to learn how to find scanned photos)
8 - Place Photos Relatively Straight on the Scanner
When you place the photos on your scanner, put them on relatively straight. Your scanning software, if it has this feature like ScanSpeeder, can auto-straighten it after.
9 - Leave a 1/4 inch Space Between Photos
When putting photos on the scanner, put about a 1/4 inch space between them so your scanning software can tell them apart and doesn't scan them as one big blob - if your scanning software has this feature. The best photo scanning software packages on the market, like ScanSpeeder, have auto detection algorithms so you don't end up with one big blob.
10 - Save Those Precious Memories - again, and again
Save your digital photos in multiple places, not just your hard drive. Hard drives have a finite life. Your hard drive will eventually crash, taking your photos with it.
We recommend saving your photos to "the cloud". There are many great cloud services on the market today. If you aren't familiar with the cloud, its essentially a digital storing service for your photos. This gives you a two-fold safe guard. Your photos are saved on another hard drive and your photos are saved off site.
Saving to CD, DVD or Blu-Ray is okay too. A word of caution on this one. If you are archiving to optical disk (such as CD, DVD or Blu-Ray) or some other media, know that these usually have a certain life time before they degrade and start to lose data too. Also consider storing these disks off-site. Different locations give the added safety against losing them in a fire, theft, etc.