Photo scanning basics: how to scan, resize, and share photos
If you've haven't done much photo scanning or just want a better understanding of photo formats, let's explore some helpful tips for digitizing your photos and other items. These photo scanning tips apply whether you want to restore old photos, e-mail photos, enlarge and print them, or use them as the basis for photo craft projects.
Get the right equipment
To scan photos, you'll need a scanner designed specifically to handle photos. HP offers two solutions: a standalone photo scanner or a Photosmart All-In-One printer
If you want to upgrade your photo printing and home printing equipment, a Photosmart All-in-One printer is a great choice. It scans and prints high-quality photo prints as well as making copies and handling ordinary print jobs on office paper. You will save lots of space!
If you're looking for speed or plan to do a lot of slide and negative scanning, go with a standalone photo scanner. Generally, they scan faster and have more scanning features than a comparable All-in-One
Using pre-scanning effectively
When you place a photo face-down on the scanner glass and hit the Scan button, your machine does a pre-scan and provides you with a preview of what it sees. You can make several decisions at this point before the final scan, including:
Edit and enhance your scan: restore color or remove red-eye, dust, and scratches
Adjust dpi (dots per inch) for higher or lower resolution
Resize your scan
Change a color scan to grayscale or black and white
Choosing the right file format for photos
To make sure your final scan suits its intended use, you'll need to make decisions about file format. What kind of file should you use for your photos? Overall, TIFF and JPEG are the best file formats for photos:
TIFFs are ideal for archiving photos. Unlike JPEGs, TIFFs can be edited and resaved without compression loss, meaning quality stays high. If you want to restore old photos or print enlargements of the photos you scan, you'll appreciate the level of detail TIFFs provide. The downside is the size: TIFF files are extremely large and take up a lot of storage space.
JPEGs are optimal for posting and transferring photos online, since they can be saved as small files. However, the reduction in file size can mean loss of image quality. Another thing to note: JPEGs don't always stack up to formats like GIFs or PNGs when it comes to line drawings or images containing text, so be sure to select a format appropriate to the item you're scanning.
Two other formats you'll see are GIF and PNG:
PNG files typically offer greater compression and a much wider range of color depths than GIFs. They're good format for line drawings, while JPEGs are typically better for photos. PNG images are not as widely supported as GIFs or JPEGs.
GIF files offer flexibility: You can reduce the file size of an image without degradation as long as your image contains 256 colors or fewer. Thus the preference for using JPEGs or PNGs for photos, which typically contain a much wider spectrum of colors.
One easy way to make sure your image will always work for any occasion is to save the file as a large TIFF. Then you can easily save as/export to a more appropriate lower-resolution format like JPEG, GIF, or PNG.
File resolution basics: size vs. quality
Just as with file format, to choose the right resolution you need to consider what you eventually want to do with your scanned photo. The secret is to match the resolution to the photo's intended use. Image resolution is measured in dpi (dots per inch); the higher the dpi, the larger the file. You'll need to choose different resolutions for each of these scenarios:
Sharing a photo via Web or e-mail: 75 or 100 dpi. To scan a photo to post on a Web site or attach to an e-mail, you can choose a lower resolution. A standard computer monitor is only 72 to 96 dpi, so you can select a scanning resolution of 75 or 100 dpi. Lower resolution means a smaller file size, and your friends will thank you when they don't have to wait 30 minutes to download your e-mail!
Printing your photo: 300 dpi. Since printers have higher resolutions than monitors, you'll need a higher dpi when you're scanning an image that you want to print. If you want to scan an image and reprint it at the same size, 300 dpi works best. Photo labs (and many home inkjet printers) print at this resolution.
Cropping and enlarging your photo: higher than 300 dpi. If you're planning on tightly cropping and then printing your photo out at the same size as the original, you'll need the scanner to gather a bit more information about the image, so you'll need to choose a higher resolution. Likewise, if you're scanning in a small photo (or negative) and enlarging it, you'll want to choose a higher resolution. A general rule of thumb is to double the dpi with every doubling in size.
Example: To produce a crisp 4" x 6" print from a 4" x 6" scan, set your dpi to 300 dpi. To produce an 8.5" x 11" print from a 4" x 6" scan, set your dpi to twice that, or 600 dpi, and so on.
E-mailing a photo for someone else to print: 300 dpi. What if you want to e-mail a photo to someone for them to print? Your best bet is to scan the photo at 300 dpi so they can make a good print, even though it means that the image may take a while to download and they'll have to scroll around to see the entire photo.
You might be tempted to scan everything at high resolution, just in case you ever want to make enlargements. You could, but your files would be huge! Save the high-dpi TIFF files for your most treasured photos, and save space by using lower resolutions and more compact formats for other pictures.
File resolution basics: size vs. quality
Depending on the condition of your photo and what you want to use it for, you may want to use the settings on your scanner or All-in-One printer, your scanning software, or HP Photosmart Essential (free photo editing software from HP) to make further changes to your photo or restore old photos. With HP's easy-to-use controls you can:
Crop to remove flawed areas and improve composition
Use Auto Correct to restore faded color or perform dust and scratch removal
Resize your photo to standard or custom sizes
Adjust brightness and contrast
Apply Adaptive lighting to bring out highlights in dark areas
Sharing your photos is easy:
On HP scanners, pressing the HP Instant Share button scans your photo and attaches it to an e-mail -- all on one quick step.
Use your edited photo as the basis for free, one-of-a-kind photo projects at the HP Activity Center: cards, calendars, album pages, frames, iron-ons, labels, stationery, photo recipe cards, and much more!
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