How to Scan a Photo for Restoration

A 3-step guide to scanning for photo restoration

Following this scanning guide will give you the skills to send me the best scan for the most accurate quote. The quality of the initial scan is key to achieving the best final result. Following the simple steps below will also save you money, as I will not need to spend time during the restoration process to correct problems caused by a poor scan.

Scanning with a dedicated flat-bed scanner will give the best results. This type of device will typically include better optics, a more precise scanning mechanism, and better software.

If you only have access to a combined printer/scanner (commonly referred to as an “all-in-one”), the tips provided below should still enable you to achieve acceptable results.

Dedicated flatbed scanner

“All-in-one” printer/scanner

Don’t have a good scanner? Read my scanner buying guide for expert advice and purchasing suggestions.

Tempted to use your mobile phone or tablet instead of a scanner? My advice: Don’t do it. There are many apps that claim to turn your mobile device into a scanner. However, a phone or tablet simply cannot compete with a scanner in terms of quality. Read my article on the difference a scan makes to understand why using a mobile phone or tablet to capture a printed photo for restoration is a poor choice.

Don’t want to buy a new scanner? At Image Restore, we have many years experience digitizing photos of all shapes, sizes and in various states of repair. If you are not able or willing to scan your photo yourself, you can send me your original photo(s) to scan using professional-grade equipment. I am also equipped for bulk scanning tasks. If you have a large number of photos to digitize, learn more about my professional scanning services and see how I can help.

Step 1: Prepare

  • If your photo is in a frame, carefully remove it from its frame before proceeding.
  • Gently remove any dust or lint from the photo with a soft cloth or brush. Do this away from the scanner to prevent any dust from settling on the glass.
  • Clean the scanner glass with a soft lint-free cloth or soft clean brush or air duster.
  • Take the time to familiarize yourself with your scanning software (read the manual or search the Web for your model of scanner for help understanding your scanner’s specific configuration settings, if needed).
  • Position your original correctly on the glass, according to your scanner’s instructions. Make sure the image is flat on the glass. If necessary, add a book to the lid to keep it flat.
  • Make sure that your original fits within the scanning guides of your scanner to ensure that the full area of the photo is captured. If the photo you are attempting to scan is too large to fit your scanner, see my blog post about scanning large images for some tips and suggestions or consider taking my in-depth course on scanning oversized photos. Alternatively, you can send me your photo to scan or visit your local print/copy shop who may be equipped to help.

Step 2: Scan

  • Use the software that came with your scanner to configure your equipment for the best results. Avoid just pressing the “Scan” button on the front of your scanner as this will typically cause the scanner to revert to its basic default settings, resulting in a low-resolution image that is not good for photo restoration.
  • Use the recommended scanning for photo restoration settings shown below for optimum quality, then launch the scan directly from your scanning software.
  • You may find you are asked to choose the “file type” at this point. If so choose TIFF for top quality images or a “low compression JPEG” if there is no TIFF option.

Colour/Greyscale

Scan in colour.

Even for black and white images, scanning in colour will capture more information, making the restoration process easier.

Automatic enhancements

Turn off all auto settings as these can produce unreliable results.

    Resolution

    Originals up to 4″ (7.5cm) wide:
    scan at 1200 dpi

    Originals 4“-8” (7.5-20cm) wide:
    scan at 600 dpi

    Originals over 8″ (20cm) wide:
    scan at 400 dp
    i

     Step 3: Crop and Save

     

    • Check that you have scanned just the image and not the whole scanner bed. Try to use your scanning software to crop or trim the image to remove extra blank space beyond the borders of your image, if needed.
    • Before saving, check that you have selected the TIFF (or TIF) file format. While the TIFF format typically produces very large files, this is a good thing for restoration work since the data in the file is not compressed, resulting in the best possible quality. 
    • If you can’t find the TIFF option, save as an uncompressed JPG.

    Congratulations!

    Now you’re ready to send me your scanned image.

    If your scanned image file is too large to email, you can use the free wetransfer.com file transfer service to send me your file(s).

    Scanning Troubleshooting Tips

    Even if you follow the 7 steps to better scanning or the steps in my scanning guide, you may find that you see some strange features on your scans. You may see lines that run across your scan that do not appear on your actual photo. You may find you have overly jagged edges or even sparkly edges in areas of high contrast. Sometimes you might see diffused bands running across your images. To read all about these scanning problems and what they might be and how to solve them, read the blog post on scanning problems.

    More scanning tips from the Image Restore Blog 

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