Scanning old pictures for the best quality

namessuck

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Hello all... I have not been to the forum in a few months.

I recentely uncovered 5 photo albums containing maybe 400 pictures. They were misplaced in my move 6 years ago and I thought they got chucked out by accident. Turns out they were in a friends basement!

These photos range from the 1930s to early 2000s. I want to scan them all so I have them on my computer as a backup. You never know... they could get lost again or destroyed in a fire - hoping that never happens.

My Aunt has a scanner I can use. Not sure the model but it's maybe 3 years old. I assume it's good enough to get good quality. I don't want to have to scan these again.

Any specific settings I need to know?

DPI...? Default, 300, 600, 1000?

Should I do one photo at a time?

How should I position it on the scanner?

Should I save it as a non compressed format like PNG?

Thanks
 

Gavjenks

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A scanner sounds painful. 400 is not obscenely many photos, though. You might retain your sanity.

Personally, I would just pack them all into a box and bring it to your local photography shop that does this sort of thing. Most photo shops should have much nicer scanners than you, and better software, etc. and will take a random box of stuff and scan them to a CD for you for like $50-100 for that many photos maybe. Some places will even shop out cracks or flaws for you if you want.

If you insist on scanning, though, then I'd do as high of a DPI as you can, so that you could enlarge them later to larger prints if you want. The print is a photographic one if it's old, and thus probably holds more than 300 or 600 DPI of information in it (depending on the deterioration of the paper).

PNG is compressed, FYI. It's just non-lossy compression. But anyway, sure, use it. At 1000 DPI you'd probably be at around 5 megabytes a photo for 5x7s. Which is fairly reasonable. Only a few gigabytes for the whole collection.
 

bratkinson

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I recently scanned a couple family albums for a friend of mine whose mother had passed and she wanted to make sure each of her siblings got copies of the pictures. There were pictures mostly from the '50s and '60s, but a couple from the '20s and 30's were in there too. I simply used my flatbed scanner at 300 DPI and was generally satisfied with the results. I then used Photoshop Elements to clean up the dust and scratches, sharpen, and increase saturation and/or contrast to bring some 'life' back into the pictures. I even used 'auto fix' on some of them. Including scan time, I spent about 60 seconds per picture. There were a bit more than 300 to deal with, so I spread it out over a couple of days to keep my sanity.

Depending on the age of the pictures, I was generally dealing with a whole lot of drugstore-developed(sent out) Kodak Instamatic type pictures generally about 3"x4". There were even some 8x10 professional studio B&W shots from the 40s with subtle hand coloring added. Remember those 'photo booth' pictures of 4 for $1.50 or whatever it was in the '50s and '60s? There were a few of those, too. The big issue is overall lack of clarity/focus. By todays high-res digital terms, most of them were quite blurry. As such, it's impossible to do much sharpening from 'fuzzy' beginnings. I experimented with scanning at higher resolution like 600dpi, but found that actually brought out the graininess in the photos as well as any texture of the paper as well, so I stayed at 300DPI. In retrospect, 200DPI would likely have been sufficient...it would have saved me one extra mouse-click per scan, too.

Some folks recommend scanning multiple pictures at once and then taking them apart after. I toyed with that, but lacking any automated way to take them apart, I decided on one-at-a-time.

I'm still toying with doing my own photo scans. I have several thousand slides that I took in the '70s-'80s and would like to preserve them... I just don't have the time these days for much of anything, unfortunately.
 

sm4him

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I take it that all you have are the photos--you don't have negatives? If I had the negatives, I'd scan them at a pretty high resolution so that I could have some flexibility in what I might choose to do with them later.

Photos--I don't know, I've always just scanned them at 300 dpi.

Back a few years ago, I scanned probably 1,000 or more old family photos, negatives and slides. They had been in someone else's possession and not well taken care of, so I wanted to get them preserved as quickly as possible, and also wanted to be able to share them digitally with the rest of the family. I'd say it probably took me about a month, maybe two, just working when I had time, and JUST scanning them in and saving them--I didn't do any touch up work at the time.
I've also scanned in about 500 photos for my niece, a bunch for my sister and am now about to embark on all of my grandfather's old slides.

I use an Epson V500 scanner. There are probably MUCH better scanners out there for a reasonable price today, but this thing was great when I got it! I have a document feeder lid, so if I have a bunch of same-size photos that are in good condition (not curled or ripped), I can put them all in the feeder and let it scan away. There does tend to be more touch-up needed to the photos scanned that way, though.

The V500 also allows you to place multiple photos on the glass and as long as there's a little room between each photo, it will detect the sides and scan them as separate files. I used that feature a LOT.

The quick and easy way is definitely to pay to have someone else scan them. But honestly, I found it no real trouble to do it myself. I worked on them in the evenings when I just sitting around watching football on TV anyway.
 

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300dpi is fine if you don't want to make any enlargements to the photo. If you want to enlarge it at all scan at a higher dpi.
 

webestang64

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I use a Epson V700 (8.5x11) at home and scan all my photos to 50-60MB Tiff size. Depending on size print that means the DPI or RES will change per photo.

At work (Epson 10000XL 11x17 scanner) we charge $10 each for that scan.

Most labs (like the one I work at) charge 24 cents a scan and $4.95 for the cd. Minimum is 50 photos or $12. You will get a J-Peg file 300dpi at the size of the photo.

If your scanner is good enough, I would just scan everything you have at 600dpi. Then you could print a nice 8x12 from a 4x6 scan if needed.
 
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namessuck

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Hello all thanks for the replies.

I would rather do them all myself, even if it is time consuming. Mainly because I don't have the money right now, even at $50 bucks although I bet it would be more. As the long as the quality is good from the scanner that's fine.

I want the best quality because who knows what I will do with them in the future. I don't want to scan them again.

@ Gavjenks that's what I meant, sorry. I know JPEG can compress good compared to the old days, but I also know if you save edits or even do rotations it will degrade quality. The more editing, the worse it will look. What do you suggest? PNG, Tiff? I don't think there any other options.

Also I don't have the negatives, not that I know of anyway. What exactly do you mean by scanning negatives? How does that work anyway?

From what I read last night you should scan between 600-1200 dpi.

@ bratkinson - most are drugstore developed photos. Some were school pictures that were done by a photographer. The really old pictures I have no idea how they were printed.

My photo sizes range from 3¼ × 4½, 3½ x 5, 4x6, 8x10, and some of the very old photos are in odd sizes.

When I know the model of the scanner I will let you guys know so you can tell me if it's any good. If it's not I may be able to borrow another scanner.
 

sm4him

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300dpi is fine if you don't want to make any enlargements to the photo. If you want to enlarge it at all scan at a higher dpi.

Question--for Light Guru or anyone else who knows: I'd always heard that when scanning a paper photo that is 8x10 or smaller, there is not usually any point in scanning at a higher resolution than 300 dpi, because the chances are the photo was printed at a resolution that would give you any greater detail with a higher-quality scan. Is that not correct?
 

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300dpi is fine if you don't want to make any enlargements to the photo. If you want to enlarge it at all scan at a higher dpi.

Question--for Light Guru or anyone else who knows: I'd always heard that when scanning a paper photo that is 8x10 or smaller, there is not usually any point in scanning at a higher resolution than 300 dpi, because the chances are the photo was printed at a resolution that would give you any greater detail with a higher-quality scan. Is that not correct?

If you are only going to print the scan at the same size as the original you scanned that is true as the standard printing resolution is 300dpi.
300dpi in 300dpi out.

The reason I detest scanning at a higher resolution is for small images is because you may need to print it larger. For example if you scan a small photo or 35mm negative at 300dpi it is then optimized to only print at the same size as the original. If you scan that small image at say 600dpi or 1200dpi then you can print the image larger with out having to upscale to image on the computer.

I work at a history library and currently we scan all printed photos at 600dpi. However we will soon be changing our standard to that the dpi we scan a photo at is directly related to the size of the original image.
 

djacobox372

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Scanning is for negatives for prints you're usually better off just photographing them. Just make sure you take the time to ensure the lighting is ideal.
 
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namessuck

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Scanning is for negatives for prints you're usually better off just photographing them. Just make sure you take the time to ensure the lighting is ideal.
I'm sorry but now I am confused. I was just curious about what you guys meant.

Scanning a negative? Like putting the little strip of film on a scanner. How exactly is that useful? How can you get the photos off of that?

For prints I am better taking a photo of a photo?

Very confused now.

Can someone please answer my questions in #7 ?

I will probably be scanning the pictures today and letting you guys know what the maker of the scanner is beforehand.
 

limr

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There are scaners that are designed to take the image in a film negative and convert it into a positive image. They are specialized scanners, not your average scanner/printer/fax types of machines. They come with holders for strips of negatives so you can scan usually up to 12 frames at a time.

If you don't have any negatives, don't worry about these scanners.

As for taking pictures of pictures...haven't done it myself, but you'd need a good quality digital camera and I think a macro lens. Everything I've seen mentions only DSLRs. It's also more involved than just taking a picture of the picture. It has to be set up so there is no glare from the light source and no distortion from prints that aren't perfectly flat.

When you are scanning your prints, you need to realize that you have to be very very careful about dust. No matter how many times you wipe the glass and photo, there's probably going to still be specks of dust on your scans. Make sure you use dust-free microfiber cloth. I suggest a bulb blower as well.

Here's a site I found about digitizing prints using a DSLR: Camera Scanning | dpBestflow
 

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Scanning is for negatives for prints you're usually better off just photographing them. Just make sure you take the time to ensure the lighting is ideal.
I'm sorry but now I am confused. I was just curious about what you guys meant.

Scanning a negative? Like putting the little strip of film on a scanner. How exactly is that useful? How can you get the photos off of that?

For prints I am better taking a photo of a photo?

Very confused now.

They are saying that you can photograph your negatives.
 

limr

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Scanning is for negatives for prints you're usually better off just photographing them. Just make sure you take the time to ensure the lighting is ideal.
I'm sorry but now I am confused. I was just curious about what you guys meant.

Scanning a negative? Like putting the little strip of film on a scanner. How exactly is that useful? How can you get the photos off of that?

For prints I am better taking a photo of a photo?

Very confused now.

They are saying that you can photograph your negatives.

No, I'm pretty sure djacobox372 meant negatives are scanned, prints are photographed. It might be possible to photo the negatives but the original quote didn't seem to refer to that. Also, the whole point is moot since the OP says he doesn't have negatives.
 
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namessuck

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I definitely do not have the negatives for the old photos because they were before my time. Even for the most recent ones, I doubt they are still around. I usually keep all photo related stuff together.

I do not have DLSR or good quality camera. The one decent point and shoot I had got stolen a few years back. I have that old Mamiya film camera somewhere in storage though. I just have my LG and iPhone for photos right now.

Also thank you for the info on cleaning dust - I would never thought of doing that.

Now, do I want to save my photos in TIFF or is there a better format?

On DPI... Since I don't have negatives what should I use?

This afternoon I am going to post the scanner model.
 
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