Kodak film negatives
Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Like all good creations, the end result is only as good as what you put into it from the beginning. Start with the best images and scan photos carefully.

If you are starting with a digital photo, go back to your original master file. This is the file that came from your camera before any adjustments were made on it. Always save one. If you shoot in jpg format, make a copy before adjusting and keep your original pristine. If you shoot in RAW, keep a copy in either its original format or even better, in DNG – Adobe’s universal negative format. If you are using an older camera, you never know when the software for it might disappear. Ideally, you store your images on your external hard drive or on disk.

Scan photos at high resolution

If you are scanning a damaged or faded print, use the highest resolution your computer can handle and opt for 16-bit. It gives you a lot more to work with when it comes to adjustments. The normal 8-bit uses 256 tones from black to white and 16-bit uses over 65,000 tones. This is a critical difference when working with badly damaged or faded images. Even better, work from negatives whenever possible. Not only is there more information on the negative, it has not been subjected to print processing adjustments and will give you a far better result. If you do not own a dedicated film scanner, then you may want to have it scanned professionally. In Canada, this will cost you about 40 cents per individual negative and considerably less for a roll of uncut negatives. If you decide to scan photos yourself, be prepared for it to take awhile. You will be scanning negatives and slides at about 3000-4000 ppi but the results are well worth the wait. Note: The term ppi means pixels per inch – printers work with dots per inch or dpi, close but not quite the same thing.

Adjust when you scan photos or not?

Many scanners have adjustments that can be done during the scan – e.g. brightness, sharpening, contrast, colour correction. Unless you own a fairly high-end scanner, do not use any of them. Do your adjusting in Photoshop, Elements, or GIMP where you have more control. Once your scan is complete, save your file as a master on an external harddrive or on disk and work from a duplicate. You can adjust the resolution in the duplicate to make working with the file a little easier but keep your intent in mind.

Scan photos with intent. What size do you want your final image to be? Is this for print or web?

Remember, you should be working with at least twice the resolution as your final product. So if you are planning on printing, your end product needs to be 300 ppi and you should be working with at least 600 ppi. This ensures you will not see the pixels in the final print. If you are creating a work of art, you may want to consider a print resolution of 600 dpi and that means you need to scan photos at 1200 ppi. Just remember, working with intent in mind ensures the best quality.

Scan photos like a pro with Epson

There are a lot of scanners on the market but a few stand out for their exceptional quality. When it comes to home scanners for photos, Epson ranks at the top. After all, that is what the company is all about. When you choose a scanner, consider how much you will use it and what you will be scanning mostly. If you have only a few photos then you may be better off having them scanned locally. If you are doing more than a few, get the best you can afford. While Epson makes excellent scanners at every price level, there is a difference in the final product.

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