August 1, 2008

Scanning Tips

Photo by Scott Bourne

Photo by Scott Bourne

Scanning is becoming a lost art. Scanner sales are down since the sales of digital cameras are up. But for those of you who still scan images, quality has never been more important. With inexpensive consumer-level digicams generating great looking images, poor scans are not acceptable.

Here are a few things you can do to improve your scans.

1) Make sure you have the latest drivers installed for your scanner. Scanner makers routinely improve their products’ performance via software drivers.

2) Clean your scanner glass – often.

3) Scan at the highest bit rate possible. Most scanners have the ability to scan at 48-bit rates. Some even go higher. It’s a good idea to use your scanner’s highest bit rate if you want the highest quality. This will mean larger files and longer scan times, but it’s worth it.

4) Scan for the final print size. If you know you’re going to end up printing the image as an 8×10″ print, then don’t scan at a lower resolution and size up. Nor should you scan at a higher resolution and size down. While you can do either one, it’s not a best practice.

5) Always scan an original, not a copy.

6) Don’t use your scanner’s software to make image corrections. Avoid making corrections while scanning. Pixel editors like Photoshop are for more robust than almost any scanning software you can buy. Scan the image at a neutral point and then make color, exposure and other changes in Photoshop.

Join the conversation! 24 Comments

  1. Do you have any recomendations or guides on what DPI to scan the images in at?

  2. Do you have any recomendations or guides on what DPI to scan the images in at?

  3. @Jason the rule of thumb is to scan for output resolution. If you are going to print the image at 240 DPI on an Epson photo printer, scan for that DPI. If you are going to print the photo on an Iris printer that demands 400 DPI, scan for that.

  4. Thanks, scanning is the one area I’ve always had trouble with.

  5. Thanks, scanning is the one area I’ve always had trouble with.

  6. Other than wasted pixels and space, why is it not a good idea to scan at a higher resolution and size down in a program like Photoshop?

  7. Other than wasted pixels and space, why is it not a good idea to scan at a higher resolution and size down in a program like Photoshop?

  8. @Ken those are good reasons Ken but another is quality. Over ten years of testing I have proven to myself using empirical data, that the quality is best when you scan at size. Most reputable printers suggest this as well because any sizing up or down impacts, however slightly, overall print quality. I realize it’s more hassle which is why most people ignore my advice here :)

  9. @Ken those are good reasons Ken but another is quality. Over ten years of testing I have proven to myself using empirical data, that the quality is best when you scan at size. Most reputable printers suggest this as well because any sizing up or down impacts, however slightly, overall print quality. I realize it’s more hassle which is why most people ignore my advice here :)

  10. I recently scanned about 300 images at 400 DPI to make a photo slideshow. (Yes, it was a long one :D)
    The final output was on a DVD to watch on a television. The 400 DPI looked fine for that.
    I was wondering though, what would be the optimal output resolution for web and archival purposes. Would it be safe to assume for archiving to scan at the highest DPI one can?

    Here’s a little tip that helped me scan all those images. In Photoshop, you can use the “Crop and Straighten” tool to scan more than one image at a time and then split them up after, saving a lot of time. Just make sure to have some space between the photos. I don’t believe this reduces quality, any thoughts?

  11. With the quality available from, say a 10-12 megapixel DLSR with a good macro prime lens, would there be any benefits from using a scanner?

    Are you getting better control over light quality from a scanner, or could you get the same using a copy stand.

  12. With the quality available from, say a 10-12 megapixel DLSR with a good macro prime lens, would there be any benefits from using a scanner?

    Are you getting better control over light quality from a scanner, or could you get the same using a copy stand.

  13. Does anyone have any recommendations for calibrating a scanner? I’ve done some scanning, but I’m rarely happy with the color balance.

    -Steve

  14. Does anyone have any recommendations for calibrating a scanner? I’ve done some scanning, but I’m rarely happy with the color balance.

    -Steve

  15. just nitpicking here, but it is bit depth, not bit rate.

  16. just nitpicking here, but it is bit depth, not bit rate.

  17. Thanks for the tips.

    Here is a tutorial I found awhile back if anyone is interested.

    http://oomz.net/bw_workflow/

  18. Thanks for the tips.

    Here is a tutorial I found awhile back if anyone is interested.

    http://oomz.net/bw_workflow/

  19. What is a good way to clean the scanner glass? i.e. with what type of cleaner/cloth/etc. Looking for good tips for cleaning the glass “often”

  20. LB, I would recommend the same kit you would use to clean a camera lens to clean the scanner glass (solution, cloth etc.). I used to keep one separately just for this purpose and clean before every use of the scanner and never experienced any negative results such as smearing.

    Hope this helps,

    Dave

  21. LB, I would recommend the same kit you would use to clean a camera lens to clean the scanner glass (solution, cloth etc.). I used to keep one separately just for this purpose and clean before every use of the scanner and never experienced any negative results such as smearing.

    Hope this helps,

    Dave

  22. […] has some Scanning Tips and suggestions on How To Get the Absolutely Sharpest Photo […]

  23. If you’ve the time… the best site I’ve seen that explains scanning from the ground up… http://www.scantips.com/

  24. If you’ve the time… the best site I’ve seen that explains scanning from the ground up… http://www.scantips.com/

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About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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