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Tips on Scanning Multiple Photos

This page gives you some tips on scanning many photos by putting several on the scanner bed for every scan. It is divided into sections:

  1. What should you scan?
  2. What resolution (DPI) should you scan at ?
  3. How can you speed up the process?
  4. How should you name the images?
  5. Where should your store your CDs/DVDs?
  6. What file types should you store the scanned images in?
  7. Should you print your scanned images?

What do you want to scan? Personally I know that I want to scan all the photos in my old albums. At some time in the past I've selected the photos for personal emotional and (rarely) "artistic" reasons, and I want to respect my previous self's decisions. On the other hand the images in my shoebox collections have less appeal, and the artistic/technical quality leaves something to be desired.

But scanning takes time.

So, from my albums I am scanning every photo. From my "shoeboxes" I scan about 1 in 20 (there are still some rough jewels there!)

The next thing to decide is at what resolution or DPI to scan. In general the sharper the photos are the higher the resolution should be, and the more blurred the photos are the lower the resoultion can be. I usually scan at between 300 DPI for slightly blurred photos and at 600 DPI for better quality images.

You will not gain any quality by scanning blurry photos at 1200 DPI. In fact you may improve the quality by scanning at a lower resolution because dust and scratches may be missed at 300 DPI but come out loud and strong at 1200 DPI!

Also remember that doubling DPI will often quadruple file size.

How can you speed up the process? One way is to scan in batches of similar quality photos of the same year. That way you do not have to make a decision before every scan of what DPI to use. Do a batch of blurry photos at 300 DPI, then a batch of better quality photos at 600 DPI. Of course if they are all mixed up (blurry and sharp) but all of the same era then you might save time by scanning them all at 600 DPI.

Another way of speeding up the process is to use a program like RansenScan which separates out multiple photos of a single scan into separate images automatically:

Separate and straihten images automatically

How to name the images? For your future sanity you'd be well advised to have the year and the location of the photo in the name. Personally I use this format: Year-Month-Location-Extra-comments. And example would be:


This format means that listing the images in Windows explorer can be done in so that they are date increasing (or decreasing) and the location (Bristol) and other comments (Cabot-Tower) makes it easy to find photos using Windows search function. Note that the date in the name is not the same as the date of the scan, so you have to list the files in name order.

Also note that I use -04- and not just -4- for the month. This helps sorting in the Windows explorer because -12- would come before -4-, but -04- comes before -12. April comes before December!

Again RansenScan can help you here:

Multiple Image Naming (Scanning Saves)

You can save the separated photos with the same base name and just have to edit the extra comments part.

What file types (file formats) should you save your images in? This is amost as tricky as the "which DPI should you use?" question. TIFF and PNG save full color images without any loss of detail. JPG at high quality saves color images without any easily perceivable loss of detail.

GIF will lose lots of detail with most color images, it just does not have the color range which is required for photos. The only conceivable reason for saving in GIF is if your images are black and white, then GIF will save you space compared with most other formats.

In RansenScan, for example, if you save in JPG you should drag the slider in the settings dialog to the extreme right, to the word "High":

I usually save scanned images using high quality JPG.

Where should you store your images? Given that you've gone to all the trouble of scanning hundreds of photos you should take some care in storing them. Don't just leave them on your hard disk. Your computer will eventually fail. So when you have enough photos to fill a CD or DVD make the CD or DVD. Don't wait!

And while you are at it you may was well make two disks, one to keep in your home and one to keep somewhere physically distant, at a relation's house for example. That will ensure that even if one copy is destroyed or lost (burglars? fire? environmental conditions?) you still have another backup.

Should you reprint the photos you have scanned? Yes, you should. I am convinced that paper will still lasts longer than electronic media. History has taught us that, but also personal experience. Have you tried accessing floppy disks from the 1980s recently? A print will degrade, but slowly. A CD or DVD will degrade, but all of a sudden with no hope of easily recreating the images saved(or rather lost) on it.

So my advice would be to print at least 5% of your cherished photos that you have taken the time to scan.

If you want to try RansenScan for Windows to be sure it works with your scanner and your photo collection, then download the free demo by clicking on the button below.

Old Photograph Collection

Old Photos Image



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