Ready to Scan

What We'll Learn

  1. Preparation steps for getting the best scanned copies
  2. Scan formats and technical details

Scanning Equipment

In order to get the best copies of your precious prints, you need quality scanning equipment. Thankfully, most newly acquired scanners and multifunction printers (that includes scanning capability), provide excellent quality at a very affordable price. If you wish to scan film negatives, you will need specialized equipment to do so. For purposes of this tutorial, we will assume you are using a multifunction printer with scanning capability.

Setting Up Your Equipment

Every manufacturer provides scanning software that is designed to work with their equipment. In order to use your scanner, you need to first accomplish the steps:
  1. Ensure you have scanning software from your printer manufacturer installed on your computer. This will give you the most control over getting a quality scan from your device. Generally, this can be installed from the CD that came with your printer, or from the manufacture website. Here are a few common names for scanning programs:
    • Epson - Epson Scan
    • Brother - Brother Control Center
    • HP - HP Solutions Center
    • Canon - Canon Capture Perfect

  2. Initial Settings - You need to configure your scanning software with the following initial settings:
    • Document Type - most software has a setting for scanning photos that optimizes parameters for this process.
    • Save Location - set the default folder location for scanned photos to be saved into the area where you review your photos. For more details are recommended photo storage locations, read the tutorial on Setup Photo Handling.
    • File Type - We recommend storing your file as a high quality JPEG (jpg). Unless you are working on a very special project and need some sort of lossless format, jpg is the most flexible format for balancing quality and size.

Keep it Clean!

When scanning, it is crucial that the scanning surface be free of dirt and dust. Before scanning, examine the glass of your scanning surface. Here are some practices to avoid having dust and dirt affect the quality of your skins:
  1. Clean the glass with a mild solution and a lint free cloth prior to any large scanning project.
  2. Use a dust cleaning blow bulb to remove any dust between scanning photographs.
  3. Gently wipe fingerprints or blow dust off of photographs prior to scanning them

Dots Per Inch

When you are converting a physical picture into a digital picture, it's important to capture it on sufficient quality. Essentially you are converting the picture into pixels. When scanning, you can determine how many pixels will be in the resulting picture as follows
Approximate megapixels = physical width of picture (or crop area) x dots per inch x physical height of picture (or crop area) x dots per inch / 1,000,000

Using this calculation, we can choose an appropriate dots per inch (dpi) for scanning a picture based on the size of the picture:
  • 3 x 3 scanned at 1200 dpi ~ 13 megapixels
  • 4 x 6 scanned at 600 dpi ~ 8.6 megapixels
  • 5 x 7 scanned at 600 dpi ~ 12.6 megapixels
  • 8 x 10 scanned at 300 dpi ~ 7.2 megapixels
Generally, we do not want to go below five megapixels, the smaller the photo the higher the DPI. Conversely, using a high DPI on a large picture may create a digital photo that is too big and unwieldy.


If you want to save time, or do not have the equipment for scanning your photos, you can use a photo scanning service instead. There are a variety of businesses that provide photo and video preservation. For example, check out the Black's Shoebox Service. Keep in mind that you will not have control over the resolution or quality management process.