How To Scan Old Photos and Go Digital
Old photos have a lot of charm, which is why many people keep them around even though we’re deep into the digital age.
Unfortunately, old photos have several downsides. Because they are printed on paper, they are prone to damage and can fade over time. Plus, physical photos take up plenty of space. So, the best way to save both the photos and space is to digitize them.
This article will tell you how to scan old photos and go digital.
Three Methods to Scan Photos
There are three crucial considerations when it comes to scanning photos: how much time you’ll spend on the process, acquiring quality scans, and keeping the cost of the project low.
These factors will, in most cases, impact each other. If you have a cheaper method of scanning photos, it will likely be more time-consuming. Similarly, the fastest approach will probably be more expensive. And good scan quality will require you either to devote more time or invest more money.
The following three methods illustrate this point perfectly.
You can scan old photos using your home equipment. This will include a computer, scanner, and, ideally, photo editing software.
This method will come at a moderate price and heavy time investment. The quality of the end product will depend on your skill, patience, and the tools you use.
This last point is also the most important aspect of home scanning. By familiarizing yourself with the software, you’ll be in complete control of how the photos will be digitized, edited, and organized. Here’s how to prepare for this process to get the best results:
- Ensure your computer and scanner are in working order.
- Check the scanner settings. In particular, you’ll want to set the scanning resolution or DPI (dots per inch). This setting will impact the quality of scanned photos. For a photo of decent quality, the smallest value you should choose is 300. Ideally, it could be 600, although a higher DPI will slow down the scanning process.
- Set plenty of time aside. If you have many old photos, scanning them can easily take hours. You’ll want to create an efficient atmosphere for that period to make the process less of a chore.
- Go through your photos and select those you actually want to keep. Scanning each photo will take several seconds, which doesn’t seem like too much time until you add up tens or hundreds of photos. Plus, if you’re editing each picture on your computer, that will mean additional time spent per photo. That’s why you should choose your photographic candidates for digitization carefully.
- Determine how you’ll organize the photos. You may choose to organize your collection by place, date, people appearing in them, or in another way. Whatever you decide, you should pick a system and stick to it throughout to make the process easier.
- Consider how you’ll store the scanned photos. You might want to get a fresh storage unit (an external hard drive for instance) for the photos, especially if there are many. Also, it would be best to decide on photo naming and numbering before you start scanning to make sure you can find what you’re looking for later.
- Clean the scanner and all photos. Use a non-abrasive, dry, and clean cloth to wipe off any dust specs that might show up on the scans.
- Get sufficiently familiar with your photo editing software. Some old photos will have damage or discoloration, and you can fix those issues with the right program. Of course, you’ll need to know how to use the software for that purpose.
Employ a Service for Photo Digitization
If you want to get the scanning done without giving it too much time and effort, you can hire a service to do the job for you. All you’ll need to do is send the photos to the service and wait to receive the digitized versions.
A professional photo scanning service will, unsurprisingly, come at a higher price. However, what you save in time might be worth the consideration.
There’s a notable caveat to this method, though. You might not be comfortable sending your photos to strangers or even entrusting them to a mailing system. Of course, photo scanning services guarantee discretion, but that might not be enough for some customers.
If you decide to go with the service method, you should address some important matters before sending your photos:
- Select the photos you want to be scanned. There are two reasons why you should be careful with your photo selection. Firstly, you’ll want to send only those photos you truly want digitized. The more photos you send, the greater the price will be, so it would be best to stick to the essentials. Secondly, if you have private photos that you’re not comfortable sharing with anyone, it would be best to keep those and scan them yourself.
- Choose a good photo scanning service. Not all companies will offer the same services – some might work only with photos, while others are able to scan slides or photo negatives. Furthermore, you can find a scanning company that offers an expedited process for an additional price.
- Get informed about the prices. If you find two or more services that meet your expectations, pricing will likely be the deciding factor.
Use a Photo Digitizing App
It’s possible to get some surprisingly good results by scanning photos with your phone. While it might seem like a low-tier solution, phone scanning can work great with the help of some dedicated apps.
In this manner, the process will be quite inexpensive. It will require a considerable time investment depending on the number of photos you need scanned. However, this method will still be faster than digitizing your photos with a computer and scanner.
Scanning photos with your phone will require some preparation. Unlike a desktop scanner, the phone doesn’t have an isolated section that prevents any outside light from coming through. This means you’ll need to adjust the lighting yourself.
Here’s what you’ll need to do to ensure the best quality of photos scanned this way:
- Ensure you have a smartphone with decent camera quality. If you don’t, it would be advisable to upgrade your model before scanning. Or you can borrow a phone with a better camera from a friend or relative.
- Choose the right app for the job. For scanning images, you can’t go wrong with PhotoScan by Google. The app is free to use, available for Android and iOS phones, and delivers great quality scans. Of course, there are alternatives for both platforms, although most come with a one-time or subscription fee.
- Take care of the lighting. This will be particularly important for scan quality, regardless of how advanced your phone is. You don’t want uneven light, shadows, or glare on your photos as you’re scanning them. That’s why you should do the process under neutral light and, if possible, away from windows. While natural light is usually the best choice, you don’t want to risk changes due to the time of day, clouds, or even trees or birds.
Take Your Photos Into the Modern Age
Digitizing your photos will help preserve them for much longer than if they remained only in physical form. Even better, if something does happen to the originals, you’ll have digital backups to preserve the memories.
With the methods described here, you’ll undoubtedly be able to save your precious moments. You’ll only need to set aside either the time or budget for the project, and you’ll be ready to go.
How did you scan your old photos? How many were there? Let us know in the comments below.
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