Photo Scanning: Scanning Print Photos (photography)


Here we are back to the infamous parents photo scanning project writeup. Today I wanted to talk about scanning the photos themselves. This is part two of three, hopefully next time I will talk about how I scanned my negatives.

Some of these steps are already done on the last post, but I wanted all the important stuff together. The process itself has gone through iterations with me and I will try and explain why below.

Materials Needed:

  • A batch of photos you want to scan.
  • A labeled small container to hold those photos.
  • Archival tissue paper.
  • A scanner to do the scanning
  • Appropriate software to scan the photo in (I use preview, a default in Mac, yours may be different).

Scanning Process

  • Pull out your photos after they are batched and labeled. It was much easier for me to do this and replace them to the right box then to go back after the fact and organize, you may do this in a different order.
  • Make sure you have cleaned the glass of your scanner. Trust me you don’t want to realize about 200 photos in that you forgot that step!
  • Check your photos to make sure they are clean themselves. Some of my photos  had a bit of gunk on them, so I used the microfiber cloth to remove what I could. You may want to identify these photos for later photo manipulation to fix them (maybe a lesson that comes later).
  • Some people prefer to do one photo at a time. That is of course the best way to do it… if you only have one photo. I elected to do multiple photos and let my computer separate the images for me. I assume windows PCs can do this as well, but it is a default setting I will show you on the mac’s default program… Preview.
  • Place your photos face down on the scanner board. Make sure there is space between them, this will make scanning them easier (and you may not have to use a photo editing software to separate them from each other in the scan). I also try and make them level, so adjusting their position for the scan won’t be hard.

    Like an idiot I picked large photos, if you use normal size photos you can fit more on most flatbed scanners.
  • Close the scanner and boot up your Preview program.  Once  it  opens  up  it should automatically scan looking for the pictures on the bed. If it doesn’t just press overview.
    Just let it open up and it should automatically do an overview scan.

    Here is an image for all the settings possibilities

Click on the “overview” button on the lower right hand side. It will rescan the images and it should look like the above image.

  • At this point you are going to want to select certain settings, and others you can ignore depending on your desires. I will try and walk down the steps from top to bottom on the upper image. One thing to note, I have plenty of storage and overall I didn’t select settings based on storage (except one). Your needs may vary depending if you have enough storage or not.
      • Scan Mode: Flatbed. There are negative options but we will handle those when we go to negative scanning (don’t worry you can scan negatives and manipulate them later to become legible).
      • Kind: Color. It is always beneficial to scan in color, even if you have black and whites. The reason is for data and photo manipulation later. So by default just select color for everything.
      • Colors: Millions. You can select millions or billions. This will vastly impact storage size. Because these are old photos before HDR I selected millions, but billions wouldn’t be wrong, just a lot larger size.
      • Resolution: 600dpi. Many people recommend 300 dpi and it works adequately well. However, I like to have my photos larger and to appear better on high DPI screens. So I scan at 600dpi. The higher the dpi the higher the file size. Also the higher the DPI the easier it is to manipulate the photo later.
      • Use custom size. This will be automatic, just ignore this for now.
      • Size and Rotation Angle. Ignore this as well, it will be automatic based on other selections.
      • Auto Selection: Detect Separate Items. You definitely want to select detect separate items. It allows the program to determine the different photos (this is why its important to leave space between photos).  We will come back to this in a few moments.
      • Format: PNG (see image above). Format is the second most important decision at this time (right behind resolution). There are many choices, most are useless for saving a digital photograph. There are four real options and here are my reasonings why/why not to use them.
            • JPG. This is the most compatible, most recognizable and easiest to use. It is also the smallest sized file. The problem is any adjustments you make to the image will lose data and detail. This means if you make it smaller, save it and then try to enlarge it it won’t be as clear and will be missing data. If you are never going to edit a photo and you are low on space, this is the best option. If you have storage space and/or want to clean it up, do not use.
            • HEIC. Default apple photo management file. Works well for everything, except it isn’t compatible with a lot of third party software (even its on software, Final Cut X does not like using HEIC files directly from Photos). It is a smaller file size, and to my knowledge doesn’t lose any data with editing, but its not compatible enough for my use. If you just use Photos on Mac, this would work fine.
            • TIFF. The best archival option for photos to my knowledge. The least likely to have errors, the best data management so the file can be manipulated and lose no data. The big disadvantage is its not compatible with many programs, and definitely not compatible with a lot of online photo display sites. I would use this, but like HEIC its not compatible enough.
            • PNG. This is my favorite option. It is almost as bullet proof as TIFF. It is compatible with everything that I have come across and its recognizable. I originally scanned my photos as TIFF, but found the compatibility problem, so now I try and convert my tiff photos into PNG and they work perfectly. I recommend this format for storage.
      • Image Correction/Unsharp Mask/Descreening/Backlight Correction/Dust Removal/Color Restoration. At this time I recommend you leave these blank. They are handy when some of your images start to have artifacts in them, but overall they aren’t used much and isn’t worth the hassle of trying to use them. I will cover these in a  later post for the times you will need them.
  • The final thing to do is notice after you selected “Detect Separate Items” that the images on the scan detail each have an adjustable box around them (dashed lines). This allows you to adjust those dash lines to perfectly surround each image. These are the borders of the scanning. When you select scan, the scanner will only scan the portions of images within those dash boxes. It is better for you if you adjust the boxes so you get the image as cleanly as you can now, otherwise you may need to go back and do photo editing to cut out white spots, or to straighten an edge.
  • Once you have finished all of this, you can just hit scan.
This for me is the correct size of images I want to keep that I scan.

Here you can see the results. Yes that is me and the hubby long before transition (hubby is sitting on the ground). You will notice it scanned as a PNG image, the file size is 16mb. THAT IS VERY LARGE and you may not want that.

You will also notice it is a 2,376 x 3,576 image which means its bigger than my screen.

Too small for my taste!If you select 300dpi the image is only 1/4th the size in storage, but it is half the size in pixels across. I personally prefer larger images so that is why all of mine are 600dpi (don’t worry, we will be talking bigger dpi, much bigger, when we get to negative scanning).

Once your done, you save it to whatever folder/program you use and you have it. An archival upload that you can edit/manipulate/clean up at your convenience.

NOTE: There is a lot of cleanup I could do on this photo, but that isn’t what this post is about. 🙂

I really want to redo this image (originally 1999) after my transition and switch places.

I plan on coming back and cleaning up this post. I just wanted to get it up for a friend. Please give me any feedback or corrections, I am not shy about updating my info!

important note... I am not a professional photographer, but I do dabble in it a lot. Take this as the advice it is... free.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.