Loading . . .

Scanning Tips

What Am I Trying to Accomplish?

Scanners & Settings

Scan Photos - No Photoediting Planned
  • Use the standard scanning recommendations as noted to the right and save to JPEG format with minimal compression settings.
Scan Photos - Photoediting Planned
  • Use the standard scanning recommendations as noted to the right, but save to a TIFF format until your editing is completed.
Scan Full Scrapbook Page - Will Not Need to Extract & Save Photos on Page
  • Use the standard scanning recommendations as noted to the right and save to a JPEG format
Scan Full Scrapbook Page - Will Need to Extract & Save Photos on Page
  • Measure the smallest size of a photo you want to crop out, then use the scanning guidelines to the right for your scanning resolution
  • Scan the scrapbook page and save to a TIFF format. This is your original file to begin extracting your photos from. The file size of your scan will likely be around 50+ megabytes
  • At this point you will need some type of photo editing software to extract or crop out each photograph
  • Save the resulting separate photo crops to a JPEG format if NO editing is needed, or to a TIFF format if you need to do some editing on them
  • Once you have completed the extraction process, save your large sized original file to a JPEG format for archiving
  • Remember that if your photo is of poor quality to begin with, increasing the pixel resolution may only worsen the scanning result. Imperfections can be edited and improved upon by using apps like Photoshop, Affinity Photo, and so on. You may find that scanned photo quality is actually better with a lower resolution.
  • Remember that as you are scanning photos to periodically check the quality of your scanned photos by opening a few of them up to view them. It's amazing how many times, folks will get through a few hours of scanning all their photos, only to find that pixel resolution was somehow set incorrectly, or that there are "scanning lines" across the photos.
    These scanning lines happen because the scanning surface of the rapid scanner is dirty, usually from a small sticky blob that has stuck to it. As the photos are scanned, that little blob of dirt can create linear streaks or lines across your photos. If you are checking periodically, you can intervene with a scanning surface cleaning, and just rescan a few photos, rather than a whole batch.
  • Newer scanners now have built in features such as color correction, fixing bright & dark photos, sharpening, and so on. It is best to avoid the use of these features. You will often find that the machine corrections do not do as great a job as using photoediting software can do.

How does "DPI" (or dots per inch) relate to scanning and images?

  • When thinking about DPI, this really only relates to PRINTERS and SCANNERS, and NOT to the digital images themselves.
  • Printers have to physically convert the dimensions and resolution of a digital image back into a physical setting that can be physically printed to paper. Most printers will print at 600 DPI. More high end printers will do 1200 DPI, or even 2400 DPI.
  • Scanners also have to convert a physical image into a digital one. The DPI is requested to give some degree of control over this conversion process.
  • If you examine the properties of a photograph, there is no mention in the property settings of "DPI". You will see the words "Resolution" and "Dimensions" noted. Image resolution will initially reflect that of the initial scanner setting, like "800X800". The dimesntions of the digital image will be basically calcuated from the physical image size and the resolution it was scanned at.
  • A 4" X 6" photo scanned at 300 DPI will produce a resulting image size of 1800 pixels in width. This is enough to almost fill the width of a full HD monitor.
    Scanning at 600 DPI will double the resulting image size.
    Scanning at 1200 DPI will quadruple the resultingimage size.

How can I tell what the quality of the digital image actually is?

  • Some people may look at the # of megabytes the digital image size is. The larger the megabyes does not necessarily mean that the image quality is better.
  • Your image may have a resolution of 72 pixels per inch, but has a dimension of 5,000 by 3,000 pixels. This image would display quite well on a standard full high definition which will only display 1,920 pixels across the entire width of the monitor. However, the image would not print well to a printer.
    The Kodak Scanza slide & negative scanner for example, scans at 72 PPI (or resolution), but the resulting image size (or dimension) is about 5728 x 3824 pixels. Again the viewable digital image will view quite well on a monitor, but printing will be a problem.
  • Increasing the resolution of a photo will increase the dimensions of the photo. Photoediting software will allow you to manipulate the resolution and dimensions separately if you want to do this.
  • The higher the resolution of an image, the more "smooth" an image will look when looked at side by side with the same image at the original size. There will be a point however, at which an increase in resolution doesn't improve the quality of the photo any longer. Check the comparison images below.
  • If you are planning on printing a photo into a book for example, the standard is generally to at least have at least a minimum RESOLUTION of 300 DPI. So, if you have images with a resolution of 300X300, you will do better to upconvert the resolution to a minimum of 300X300. This can be easily done with software apps.
  • If you were to look at an enlarged 72 pixel resolution photograph from a distance, you would not notice much pixelation. Lower resolution would be okay to print with, let's say in a larger photograph hanging on a wall, and being viewed from a distance.

Photo @ 800 Resolution


Photo @ 1600 Resolution


Photo @ 2400 Resolution


     Click on each of the photos above to expand and zoom in. You will notice pixelation of the face in the image with a resolution of 800X800 pixels. Doubling the pixel resolution basically eliminates pixelation at the same level of zoom. Tripling the pixel resolution does not really enhance the photo all that much, unless there was a smaller or tiny part of the image that you wanted to zoom into.

Flatbed Scanners

     Flatbed scanners are the most common type of scanner. The photos are placed on a glass scanning bed where they are then converted into a digital image on the computer, and then stored to the computer hard drive.



Rapid Photo Scanners

     There are non-flatbed scanners that come with what is called an ADF (automatic document feeder) that will rapidly scan a stack of photos or papers. Scanning a multipage document into a PDF (Portable Document File) is best accomplished with this type of scanner.

     Some scanners may be designed ONLY to scan photos and NOT paper documents, so be sure you are aware of scanner characteristics. These scanners can scan up to 50 images/minute and a little slower if scanning both sides.

Slide Scanners

     There are many different types of slide scanners. Some use a camera attached to a Kodak Carousel Slide Projector to scan each slide. Others may use a long slide tray. One of the newer slide scanners made by Kodak is the Scanza. It can quickly scan and produce good quality scans, although you manually (though quickly) push the slides through a small tray capturing the image. There are some flatbed scanners with lighted lids that can also scan slides.


Scanning Photos & Slides


     A standard HD (high definition) computer monitor has 1,920 pixels across and 1,084 pixels in height. (PPI = Pixels Per Inch). Standard digital TVs are now "4K" and higher are 3,840 pixels per inch across and 2,160 pixels per inch in height. An Apple iMac 5K screen has 5,120 pixels across and 2,880 pixels in height. Why is this information important? If you are going to display your photos on a television screen, you need to know at what resolution you will scan your photos at.

     For most people just preserving photos to use in a book, or to share with others, the standard "HD" resolutions of 1,920 PPI across X 1,084 PPI in height should be sufficient to give you good printing quality.

     The following recommendations are "general" recommendations only. They will at least give you a starting point to begin your scanning.

Selecting Scanning Resolution
(PPI = Pixels/inch or DPI = Dots/Inch)

Image Size

3" wide X 2" tall Photo

Calculated Size

1920 ÷ 3 (width of photo) = 640
Select a value of 600 DPI to scan at.

6" wide X 4" tall Photo

1920 ÷ 6 (width of photo) = 330
Select a value of 300 DPI to scan at.

8" wide X 10" tall Photo

1920 ÷ 8 (width of photo) = 240
Select a value of 300 DPI to scan at.

1.5" wide X 1" tall SLIDES

1920 ÷ 1.5 (width of slide) = 1200
Select a value of at least 1200, but in practice, I find it better to scan at higher values such as 3200 DPI.

Preserving Our Heritage

Our own personal heritage and that of our ancestors will be lost to subsequent generations unless we take steps to actively preserve it.

Site Maintained by:

Stephen A Meyers of Idaho Falls, Idaho