2021 Jan 20 Wed

How To Scan Your Old Photos

How To Scan Your Old Photos
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In the past I’ve encountered some people who thought they were doing a great service by scanning all of the old family pictures they had. This is very true. However, they were also scanning them so small that they would’ve been a ‘wallet size’ at best if printed. I’ve read arguments from ‘informed persons’ that scanning at a high resolution is a waste of time, just scan it at a low resolution and then resize the dpi to a higher one later if you want. I’m not sure where to begin on the inaccuracies of this, so I’ll just move on to my main points.

What Resolution To Use

Scanning your old photographs is honestly one of the best possible ways to preserve them. You have make dozens of copies quickly, email them to people, there are various storage methods (online, off-line, cd, flash drive, etc), and numerous ways to protect it too.

When scanning your photographs, keep in mind that you want this to be a print worthy photograph. Scanning something at 72dpi “”because its faster”” is nothing short of wasting your time. The higher the resolution, the better–to a point.

Virtually every scanner, even the old ones, are capable of scanning at a resolution of 600 dpi. Yes, I know that dpi stands for ‘dots per inch’ but this has also come to mean ‘pixels per inch’ too.

Here is a great example of a picture that was scanned at 72dpi on the right and on the left is the same picture scanned at 300dpi.

Think of this way: you can measure a board twice and cut once, but you can’t measure once and cut twice. The same philosophy can be applied to scanning pictures.

  • If you scan it at too high of a resolution, it can be scaled down, but if you scan it too low, it cannot be scaled up. That’s just simply the truth of the matter.

Of these two pictures, which one would you rather have on your computer? If this was a picture of your mother or grandmother, which one would you rather have?

Please keep in mind the next time you go to scan pictures that your target resolution is 600dpi at minimum. Anything less is a waste. So the next time someone gives their ‘informed’ opinion, show them this example about why low-res scanning is not for you.

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Editor-in-Chief for The Daily Journal

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