Ladies & Gentlemen, Start Your Scanners

Recently, my Dad asked me for some advice on scanning photos. He wanted to help a former employee with their office reunion event, which included a slideshow down memory lane.

So he bought a scanner. And then he emailed me to ask what he was doing wrong.

Goodness, where to begin, Dad… where to begin…

Seriously, what I realized is that there are a lot of people who don’t understand how to get the most from their scanners.  With the holidays slowly starting to creep up (I swear I saw Christmas decorations the other day in Target), it’s never too early to think about those memorable gifts you can start putting together for your family and friends to enjoy.

A photo movie, slideshow, or custom scrapbook is a great gift!  And it’s something you can easily do yourself – IF you know how to use your scanner.

Here are some brief tips to get you started:

1. Just the Image Please

I’ve had many clients need to get to me an image at the last minute for their personal documentary so they scanned it themselves. They placed the photo on the flatbed (screen you lay the image on) and hit SCAN. I got the photo, and the rest of the empty flatbed. The photo was tiny in comparison to the entire image.

Don’t do that.

Use the selection tool or crop tool on your scanner and make a box around the photo you want to scan – and only that photo. It will be easiest to work with your images this way.

2. It’s All About the DPI

DPI stands for “dots per inch,” but all you need to know is that the larger this number, the higher the resolution (or quality) of your image. So if you scan something at say 50 dpi and try to print it out, it will look very grainy and hard to see.

You must make sure you have the proper dpi set for the type of project you are working on.  Some standards to consider:

72dpi – for images primarily used on the web

150dpi – minimum dpi for images used with video

300dpi – minimum dpi for images used to print

Remember that the smaller your actual photo, the higher your dpi should be, regardless of your project, but particularly if you plan to enlarge that image.

Remember too that the higher your dpi, the bigger your file size. Don’t automatically assume that all files should have a high dpi. It will make something like a video edit unwieldy with all of those big files.

Experiment to see what works best.

3. Be Brave and Experiment With the Customized Settings

By going out of the pre-set settings and into custom settings, you have a lot more power over your photos. Depending on your scanner, you may be able to color correct, lighten or darken a photo, or even optimize a newspaper print article.  Again, experiment with your scanner’s capabilities.

4. Make Sure You Have the Right File Type

Before you hit scan, you should have the option to tell the scanner what type of output you want for your image. The type of project you are ultimately creating will help determine this type. I mostly work with video and tend to scan all of my images as jpegs. If I were doing mostly print work, I likely would opt for tiff files. And if I were mostly working with web images, I might opt for png files. Take the time to learn what file type will work best for your project.

So there you have it – a few of my top tips for scanning. Now you have no excuses for starting that family photo project.

So what are you waiting for?  Get scanning!