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How to scan lots of old photos quickly

If you have a large collection of aging photos that are years and maybe decades old you need to preserve them. I've been saving my photos in albums since the 1970s...

Saving old photos in old photo albums

Unless you put the photos in a humdity free fridge (that apparently is the best way of conserving the chemicals which make up the colors in your photos) your photos are slowly decaying. In really bad cases there are scratches and tears as well as fading colors. The only way to make sure that your "personal historical" photographs survive is to scan and digitally restore them. And sometimes to print them again on archival paper. I'll talk about that later.

Old Photo Scanning Example,

Don't try to clean or improve your prints physically! You can easily ruin the pictures. Use a dry cloth to wipe away any dust on the prints, and if something is stuck on the surface it could well be best to leave it there. For example a photocorner occupies a triangular area at the coner of the photo. If you tear it away you may tear away much more than that tiny triangular area!

Never ever ever use any kind of liquid to clean a photograph. Don't try to fix torn photos with tape, and especially not on the print side. The glue on the tape contains chemicals which can damage your old photos even further.

Before you start to scan clean the platen (the glass scanning bed of your scanner). Use a small amount of cleaning liquid on a cloth and wipe the glass. Don't apply liquid directly to the platen, it could leak into the mechanism. And of course make sure the glass is completely dry before you put a photo on it.

What scanner settings should you use? If you want to upload a photo to your Facebook page or Web site you could use a lower setting of 150 DPI. If your goal will is to archive them for future generations then use between 300 and 600 DPI.

After the scan is complete you need to choose which file format to use. Lossless file formats are TIFF and PNG, and they keep all the detial of the scan in the file. JPG, even at the highest quality, will lose some details, but JPG files do occupy less space.

Although some people think that digital storage is perfect - it aint! Photos do fade and get torn and get dirty, but a CD or DVD or USB goes bad will lose you whole collection! Would you prefer a faded photo or nothing? So I'd reccommend reprinting the photos you have scanned and putting them in another album and putting that album in the cupboard of a relation who lives far away!

The program I'd recommend for the scanning job is RansenScan:

How to enhance the contrast of old photos

RansenScan often recognises several photos from a single scan automatically...

How to scan old photos


... and when it doesn't you can easily rotate and size the selection. Then you can select and save individual photos from the platen to your file. You can even select areas of interest to save as individual files:

Selection of old photograph areas of interest

This is useful if your old album contains photos you cannot physically remove, or contains group photos where your interest is in only a few of the people present. Both those cases apply to the screenshot show above.

Click here for DPI advice.

Click here to download the Windows demo

Old Photo Scanning

Old PhotographScanning

Old PhotographScanning



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