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  • Photo Repair Pro

Using a scanner

Updated: May 13, 2020

To embark on your digital photo project journey, converting your old photos to digital is the first hurdle. It is an important step to factor into the final product of whatever project your are attempting to achieve. The better the initial file you have to work with, the better the outcome of the project. If you are planning to invest in your own scanner, here are some things you will want to think about.

Photo Scanning Tips

Every scanner will have different settings and it is worth taking the time to learn the ins and outs of your specific scanner’s software and capabilities. In our office, we use the Epson v600 Professional series. We will use this scanner and our default settings as a baseline example to give you an idea of some things you may want to look for and adjust when using the scanner of your choice.

Scanner Settings

1. "Resolution" (Dots Per Inch (DPI) vs Pixels Per Inch PPI) -- The web uses 72 ppi, prints use 300 dpi, larger formats like canvases use 150 dpi. This helps to format your photo to appropriate pixels/dots. Images are made up of a bunch of pixels, so the higher the pixel count, this means the better/more clear because there is more information there. We suggest saving a default setting of 300 dpi, you can always go lower for a smaller file size, but your image may end up fuzzy if you start low and try to increase the file size after scanning!

2. Scale -- Make your file (image) bigger using target size. This will help you get a good size photo that is not low resolution ("low res"). Always target to about an 8x10. If your original photo is smaller you will need to scale up (higher than 100%). That means if you have a photo that is the size of a passport photo or a locket photo, this is the step that will increase your photo size- to at least an 8x10! If your scanner has the option, always preview the scan first and use your mouse to select around only the image instead of the whole scanner bed. You do not need the big white border the size of your scanner around the smaller image you are scanning. This will help you get a true file size without having to crop out a bunch of "empty" inches. Those empty inches waste your resolution space in the end.

3. Reflective vs. Film -- Will the light under the scanner glass need to pass through what you are scanning? This setting will change depending on if you are scanning a regular photo or a slide/film. If you’re scanning film, the light passes through to find the images, otherwise keep the setting on reflective for paper documents and photo prints.

4. Document Types -- "Document" settings help for reading text and small details. There are built-in photo enhancements when scanning as a "photo". Play with this setting as it can yield different results for each photo. We have seen the document setting help with B&W and Sepia photos.

5. Other Settings/Extras -- Things like setting levels, auto color enhancements, dust removal, de-screening are all going to enhance different photos in different ways. For example, auto color enhancements may want to lighten or brighten different colors, maybe make a more vibrant photo or a more muted photo to balance things out. These settings also adjust to the space that is selected during your scan "preview". If you are looking for an exact scan of what you place on your scanner bed, we suggest to only check dust removal.

6. Auto-saving files -- Auto-saving files to a designated folder is always a safe option, especially if you’re scanning a large number of photos. We recommend if you do a lot of scanning to create a shortcut folder on your desktop named "Photo scans" or something similar so you will always know where your recently scanned images are.

7. Photo Compression -- Image files can be quite large and take up a lot of space. Compression can help to make file sizes smaller if you are low on storage space, but the more you compress and shrink the file size, the more the image quality can be affected. This can cause pixelation or dithering, so if you’re planning on preserving the photos with all details intact, we recommend lower compression.

Scanning larger images

So you are trying to digitize a large image -- like a poster -- and it just can't all fit at once in the at-home scanner you have? Not to worry! There are solutions!

1. Take a photo of the image. Cameras can easily capture large areas. Make sure you take into account lighting, shadows, and angles. You want to avoid casting a shadow on what you are taking an image of, and avoid any glare or flash. Taking a photo at an angle can also cause the image to look warped or skewed. Many of these issues can be fixed after the photo is taken, but it is best if you can get a good image up-front.

2. Scan different parts of the image individually and put them back together again using a computer. Photoshop, for one example, has an automatic photo merge process that can stitch the pieces together, and there are several other websites and apps to merge photos as well. Examples include:

Of course, we can help you stitch your photo scans together as well!

3. Use a large format scanner. There are scanners with larger beds capable of scanning bigger pictures and documents, and if you are not looking to buy, you can look around your area for businesses that provide large format scanning services. Large format scanners can support documents up to 42" and some flatbed scanners can even go up to 48" x 70" .

Scanning Film/Slides

Here are some things to remember if you’d like to scan things like film negatives or slides.

  1. You may need to use a template insert that will communicate to the scanner what type of film you are scanning.

  2. To pass the light through properly, you may need to remove the cover attachment under the lid of your scanner.

  3. Your settings must be adjusted to the film type of document or the scan may be incomplete or incorrect.

  4. After your template and film is placed properly, the lid attachment removed and the settings adjusted, you will scan just like any other scan. Preview the image, select around only the image you are trying to scan, then scale up the image to give it enough inches and a good file size.

What happens if I try to scan my slides/film without these adjustments? A regular scan, or a scanner without a film/slide option can still scan film/slides, but you may need to get creative to get your desired result!

Here is one way to add backlighting to film/slides. You will need silver card stock, some time, and crafting skills:

For an even quicker backlight option, use a white screen on your smartphone:

If you have a light table, you can use the 'FilmLab' app to help you scan your negatives using your phone.

What if I don't have a scanner at home? If you have a lot of digital projects for which you would like to use your photos, and especially if you are a DIY type of person, it would be a good idea to invest in a scanner. After all, photos are not the only thing that you can scan!

If technology is really daunting for you, there are several places that do all-inclusive services, and several scanning services that will come to you!

We hope this list of features helped you to understand what setting adjustments are useful when scanning an image. Need some help repairing an old photo scan? Click here!

For professional assistance with any photo restoration, retouching, or recreation, please visit us at

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