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A Novice Scanning Family Photos

I am so very new to this. I have several old photo albums from my dad 1940-1960's. Lots of them are degrading. I don't know what he used to apply them to the black scrapbook pages but the pages are crumbling and the photos are kind of disappearing. I would love to salvage those remaining. I did scan some test photos at various dpi's 300-1200. I printed out the photos to see the difference and they are all kind of distorted. The original photos are the old style 3 1/2x3 1/2 (approx) size but when I get them printed they are 4x6 and they are very enlarged and not clear. I am assuming that since the 4x6 is larger than the scanned original this is where I am running into problems.

How do I scan and print at the original size. I would appreciate ANY suggestions since I would hate to loose more of these photos. I don't know very much about scanning/printing/digital and my just learning so I will need some simplified explanations.
Many thanks...

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Scanning old photos.

In reply to: A Novice Scanning Family Photos

I have always scanned my old photos at 600ppi. My thinking is that 600 should be detailed enough for the foreseeable future.

You can't print 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 photos in a 4x6 size without either cropping or distorting the image. You can print it on 4x6 paper, but don't attempt to make it fit the paper. It won't fit.

You could also print on 8.5 x 11 paper. Simply fill up the space with several images, print, and trim to the correct size.

After scanning, I backup old photos on either CDs or DVDs.

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It's not the size...

In reply to: A Novice Scanning Family Photos

...but the aspect ratio that is important.

For instance if your original image is 3.5 x 3.5 square, when you scan it should still be square. Not a 4x6 rectangle. This is to be avoided, as you are distorting the original aspect ratio and shape. I take it this is what you mean by "kind of distorted".

As far as being enlarged, this is the result of your scanner settings. Those scanning numbers you are selecting "300 - 1200" refer to the dots per inch that are being scanned. As each dot (a single pixel) is always the same size (1pixel x 1pixel), if you fit more and more dots in per inch, you effectively enlarge the scanned image.

For example : If you have a 1" x 1" postage stamp and you scan at 75dpi. The image is 75 pixels x 75 pixels. If you print out at 75dpi on your printer it's still 1" x 1" square. However, if you scanned at 150dpi, the scanned image is now 150x150 pixels (twice as wide, twice as tall) and if you printed that out at 75dpi, you'd end up with a 2x2" postage stamp. So to restore the printed stamp to it's original size you have to print out at 150dpi. This second option also leads to both a sharper scan and new print, as more pixels and dots are used to form the image.

If you are trying to easily print out an image exactly the same size as the original you have to consider the weakest part of the chain, and that's the printer. Often printer's highest quality maximum is 300dpi (check your own) so you should scan your images at that same setting. By doing so the image scanned will be the highest quality possible that your printer can reproduce at a 1 : 1 scale.

However, should you use some half decent graphics software, you can scan at 300, 600, 1200, (or whatever, but always avoid interpolated numbers) and use the software to control the size of the printed image.

By far and away this will produce scans that contain the most details (they will of course be very large file sizes, and be thousands of pixels wide/tall) and best quality reproduced images, but it takes work and time to size, and edit those pictures (you might soon be fixing errors, brightening colours, increasing contrast levels, adjusting gamma correction) which most users aren't interested in, nor skilled enough to do.

Now onto the final point. "Not clear". Again this is a result of the enlargment process, caused by high dpi scans. With each generation you lose quality too.

1st generation = image exposed to film
2nd generation = film printed
old age degeneration
3rd generation = image scanned
4th generation = image printed

As you are enlarging the image by scanning at high dpi settings, that small sharp picture (it's not sharp at all, but being so small you can't see that) becomes oddly less sharp. This is not an issue. The tiny details in the samll original image will look less clear if you use any powerful magnification to view. This is what you are doing with your high dpi scanner. You are magnifyiing all that less than perfectly sharp tiny detail, where it's now all very obvious. You can see this easily in any TV store where small portable TV's all look super sharp and bright, and even the highest end very expensive large screens TV's look nothing like as good. They are both displaying the same signal and picture, but all the details that look sharp on the small screen are shown to be far less so when they're all enlarged on the bigger screens! Wink


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Starting to come together....

In reply to: It's not the size...

When I scan it looks just like the photos on screen. I really don't print from the scanner I sent them out online and I guess where I have come into problems is that you have to choose 4x6. I will have to print these help pieces out and experiment again.

This is a true learning process. I thought I would just scan and be done with it. I have actually taken photos of the original pages to preserve some of the funny original things my Dad wrote. I was also thinking of using the video for this.

I appreciate all these tips because it really is a shame that these photos are just disappearing before my very eyes. Amazing.


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Another strategy.

In reply to: Starting to come together....

If you have photo editing software, you can put your scans into a 4x6 size. That means adding white space to the sides of the image to get the correct aspect ratio. The white space should prevent the the printing service from distorting the photo as it tries to fit the it into a 4x6 space.

Also, take a sample photo into the store that is doing the printing. Ask them how to prevent the distortion you are seeing.

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Hop over to this...

In reply to: Starting to come together...., and download a trial of Corel Paint Shop Pro. This is one of the best image manipulation applications, without breaking the bank. Once you've got that, you have a world of help within reach.

What it now sounds like you're describing now with ''I printed out the photos to see the difference and they are all kind of distorted. is not a difference between the dpi settings you are scanning and printing at, at all. The inclusion of ''scanner sending out E-mail'' is a bit of a hint here, and changes the possible solutions too. What you're actually doing is using your ''Scan picture to E-mail'' setting aren't you? Wink And this is where the limitation of the picture shape defaulting to 6 x 4'' creeps in? If this is the case, when you print one of these ''E-mail picture'' scans to check what you've just sent is correct, it's an incorrect shape when compared to the original, as it's now pulled about and distorted to the modern aspect ratio. Am I close?? Happy

The trick here, is where Paint Shop Pro (or similar software) comes in. With a normal scan setting (not ''E-mail'') there is no problem with aspect ratios, but this means that those images are also very high res, and large files which are not E-mail friendly. You can load these large images into Paint Shop Pro (there are many free image resizing utilities only a Google search away too), resize it down to something much smaller and more E-mail friendly (it has a ''maintain aspect ratio'' too!) and then save as a new smaller file (keep the large one for image backups of those that are degrading), and attaching it to an E-mail, in the normal way.

however, if this is a different tree i'm barking up now....throw the bone away over there! Grin

Good luck,


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Mostly good info, but one nit.

In reply to: It's not the size...

You are flipping back and forth between pixels and dots. Although the usage on the internet is ambiguous, technically scanners scan at pixels per inch not at dots per inch. dpi is historically used with respect to printers, and describes the printer's resolution. Thus, I think it is better to talk about ppi rather than dpi. It really is ppi that is involved with capturing and storing images.

I'm not sure what you mean by printers having a 300dpi maximum. I haven't seen a dot matrix, where 300dpi could have been a maximum, for years. My printer can go as high as 2,800dpi although that has nothing to do with the photo's ppi. If you mean ppi, the photo software takes care of that. Perhaps you mean 300ppi is a recommended density for the best prints? A higher ppi will produce the same result, and you can go as low as 150ppi without seeing problems in the print.

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