Scanning photos - questions

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by InfiniteLoopy, Jul 10, 2012.

  1. InfiniteLoopy macrumors 6502

    Dec 14, 2010
    I have some family photos that I wish to scan, in order to backup a digital copy.
    I'm looking for some advice on quality, settings and so on.

    I've scanned photos in the past, using TIFF and a high quality DPI setting. The scanned photos were actually bigger than the original, how is that possible?

    Is TIFF necessary or just overkill? Should I therefore scan as JPEG?
    What DPI should I scan at? 300? more?

    Essentially, I want to scan these photos in an archival quality, and maintain the quality of the original. I *may* one day want to print from the scan.

    I'm using Epson Scan but am open to any other software suggestions, if necessary.

    Thanks, :)
  2. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    Ahh, scanning. What a royal pain in the a*s. It's the reason I shoot very little film these days.

    Some tips:

    1. Scan as 16-bit TIFF; you're going to want all the bit depth you can get, in order to help retain shadow detail.

    2. Are you scanning negatives, slides, or prints? Remember that if you're going to be making prints from these scans, you want 300dpi in your print. So if you're scanning a 135 negative, where the long edge is 36mm wide, and you scan at 300dpi, that only allows you to make a 36mm wide print @ 300dpi (obviously). If you scan at 600dpi, you can make a 72mm wide print @ 300dpi, and so on. Figure out what is the largest print you're likely to make from these scans, and use that as your resolution setting. If you're not intending to make prints, then scan at the largest resolution you'd like to use for the web; again, if you're scanning a 135 neg @ 300dpi, you're getting a file with a long edge of 420 pixels (36mm = ~1.4 inches; 1.4 x 300 = 420); at 600dpi, you'll get 840 pixels on the long edge, and so on. If you don't know what you want to do with the scans, then scan at the highest available resolution.

    3. If you want the best quality scans (well, best that can be achieved with a flatbed), then skip Epson Scan and buy Vuescan. The software makes a HUGE difference in the end product.

    4. Don't apply sharpening at the capture stage; edit later in Photoshop.

    Hope this helps!
  3. InfiniteLoopy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 14, 2010

    Thanks for your reply. I'll look into Vuescan. Do I need the pro version?

    I'm scanning prints, some black and white.

    So you advise 16-bit TIFF and highest resolution?

    I plan on scanning and then correcting in Aperture. Are there any "must do" edits that you advise?

    I'm also curious how my previous scans were actually bigger than the original image. How is that possible?
  4. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    The photos get "bigger" because of the resolution; if you scan at 3200 dpi that's gonna get displayed with those dots as pixels, and they're bigger on your screen, in essence. DPI is a ratio that can vary from the input device (eg digital camera) to the screen (even a retina display is less dpi, in essence).

    You should do TIFF; it doesn't loose any of the info you scan. JPEG uses software to remove detail to achieve a smaller file size. You can always convert a TIFF to JPEG if you need a smaller file size, losing information in the process, but you can't regain the info if you go the other direction. Better to use less dpi in scanning to TIFF than to use higher resolution in JPEG in my opinion.
    TIFF is standard for archiving.

    The resolution you use for archival stuff depends on the quality of the originals. The temptation is to scan at max resolution for slides and film, and even aside from being time consuming and creating huge files it may be counterproductive. The resolution of modern digital stuff can bore down to an extremely small level, and you just don't need that, cuz you'd never view it at that resolution or you'd be looking at specs of film chemical. And it also depends on what you'd eventually use to view the photos. If I had some old B&W film I wouldn't expect to ever print over 8.5x11, so why scan at a resolution to show more detail than that?

    You also have to pay attention to colors, and to scratches, etc. in order to get good scans. What you pay for in some of the higher-end scanners is automatic features to correct for this. Nikon's stuff, for example.

    And of course if you're scanning prints you drop the resolution way down. But it's worth experimenting. With some old prints I found I wanted an effect that was more like a photo of the printed document, complete with margins, scratches, etc, than a replication of the original photo. Just depends. Probably 300 to 600 dpi is gonna work with these.

    Experiment some to get the quality you want. You're not running a museum, so get something that looks good to you.
  5. InfiniteLoopy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 14, 2010
    Thanks for your reply.
    I suspected that it had to do with resolution, DPI and all that. :cool:

    So TIFF seems the way to go, but you'd recommend not using the full resolution for scanning prints?

    If I were to print the scans, I'd just want a 1:1 print size. The maximum size of the photos I have to scan is about an A4 page.
  6. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    My understanding is that if you are scanning a print, and you will only ever print the scanned version at same size as the original, then in theory you only need to scan at the same dpi as your printer. Usually about 300 dpi or so. In practice I bump this up a little bit so that I have some wriggle room to slightly increase the print size, do some editing, etc. But definitely scanning an 8x10 at 1200 dpi (if you are planning on re-printing it as an 8x10 is more resolution than you can use.
  7. InfiniteLoopy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 14, 2010
    Thanks, I'll try to scan using different settings.
    Is Epson Scan really not sufficient?
  8. MisterMe macrumors G4


    Jul 17, 2002
    Epson Scan is a front-end to Apple's venerable Image Capture utility. It is more than sufficient to the job of scanning your photographs.

    As for your scanning resolution, I recommend that you scan at the maximum resolution that you scanner is capable of. The only reason for scanning at a lower resolution is to accommodate limited storage capacity. Make no mistake, there is always the possibility or even the probability that you will never use the photographs that you scan. However, if you need them, then you don't want to be placed in the position of wishing that your photographs had higher resolution., Be me--if you scan your photographs this time, then you will not want scan them again.
  9. InfiniteLoopy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 14, 2010
    Thanks, so you'd advise TIFF 16bit, max resolution then?
    I didn't know Epson Scan was using Image Capture.
    Are there other apps that do that, perhaps with a more user-friendly interface?
  10. dimme macrumors 65816

    Feb 14, 2007
    SF, CA
    I am currently using a epson v600 to scan my fathers 10,000+ slides and negatives. For the majority of the work (especially negatives). I am more that happy with the results I am getting from the Epson software. For the 1% of the images that I want to have something at a higher quality I use a Canon FS270 on a older XP SCSI system. Viewscan is ok but to get through all these images in my lifetime the Epson software is working out great. My workflow is to scan in 16 bit tiff files with the color and density reasonably close with ICE on, Then open in adobe camera raw to fine tune the color and density, and remove any spots ice missed. I them save the files as JPGS @ 12 quality. Then they are uploaded to flicker for my family to enjoy.
  11. MisterMe macrumors G4


    Jul 17, 2002
    Yes. You have several manufacturer-supported options:
    1. Image Capture using manufacturer-supplied driver.
    2. TWAIN or ISIS UI and driver in third-party TWAIN-compatible software like Photoshop.
    3. Manufacturer-developed scanning utility that uses Image Capture as its back-end.
    Of these three options, the one that like least is No. 2. TWAIN UIs tend to be poorly designed, unstable, and look like crap.
  12. InfiniteLoopy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 14, 2010
    After much testing, I've settled on scanning in TIFF with Epson Scan at 16-bit (or 48-bit as Epson calls it) and 600dpi. This provides great quality and from what I understand, will allow me to print at twice the original size, if required. The file size is around 30MB per photo.

    I'm right that 1200dpi would be unnecessary, aren't I?
  13. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    You are correct - cameras from back in the day didn't have the resolution beyond 300 DPI anyway :) (for the most part).
  14. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

    Mar 25, 2009
    Folding space
    Scanners have two max resolution settings, optical and interpolated (or something like that). Optical is the best that the scanner can manage without additional software help and interpolated is that signal run through a software amplifier. Optical is better.

    I did a bunch of scanning during for my design programs in school. I used 300dpi for photos and 600 to 1200 for line drawings, saving each as tiff files at 16 bit. Be sure to keep both the glass and your print surfaces nice and clean. Don't want sharp scans of dust, do we?

    Keebler: I must be really old. "Back in the Day" was ISO 64 4x5 film. Film resolution is something like the equivalent of 4000dpi...

  15. dimme macrumors 65816

    Feb 14, 2007
    SF, CA
    Camera resoulation has nothing to do with it. With film cameras the limiting factor is the lens quality and type film. I have had many frames of 35mm(koadachrome) & 2.25 film scaned at high resoulations. For 35mm I would scan at 4000dpi and could get very good images. Making 40x60 photo prints on a Lightjet 5000.
    Now if you are speaking about scanning darkroom prints from "cameras back in the day" you are correct.
  16. InfiniteLoopy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 14, 2010
    Thanks for the replies.
    I'm pleased I can scan them easily.
  17. prostovich macrumors newbie

    Jul 30, 2012
    slide scanner software

    I have an 8 year old Minolta Scan Dual IV that won't work with the outdated software with Mac OS 10.7. I found VueScan from It works great. Their software works with over 1800 scanners.

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