How do I convert my photographs into digital images on CD?
Can I scan my photos to digital images myself?
Whether you should attempt to scan your own photo collection depends on your equipment, your computer skills, and your available free time.
Many consumer level flatbed scanners are very good at scanning photos in full color. However some consumer level flatbed scanners, such as those that are built into many of the so-called all-in-one printers (printers that have a scanner built in that can act as printer, fax, copier, or scanner), are not well suited to creating a high quality full color digital image from your photo scans. If you have a fairly modern stand alone flatbed scanner you probably have the equipment you need to convert photos to digital images.
If you find installing new software or device drivers challenging then you probably do not have the necessary computer skills to comfortably scan your own collection of photos and should probably consider sending your photos out to a photo scanning company.
Scanning photos takes time. If you use a good scanner with decent settings expect to spend at least one or two minutes per photo once you calculate the time for scanning, file saving and swapping out the current photo on the flatbed scanner for the next photo to be scanned. This means that if you have 300 photos you should expect to spend 300-600 minutes or 5-10 hours to complete the scanning process.
If you have determined that your equipment is adequate, your comfort with computers is good, and you have the time to scan your photo collection to digital images then let's get started!
Flatbed Photo Scanning Steps and Tips
Whether or not you bought a brand new photo scanner or a used photo scanner, you will have to connect it to your computer via USB or Firewire cable and install the drivers for it. If you bought a brand new scanner it will have come with a driver disk that you can simply put into your computer and walk through step by step by the instructions provided by the flatbed scanner manufacturer. However, if you bought a used scanner it is likely that it did not come with a driver disk unless you bought from an organized person who maintained that disk from the time they purchased it and then passed it on to you. If you don't have the driver disk do a search on Google for "driver download, [the brand name of your flatbed scanner], [the model number of your flabed scanner]". This should give you several results of locations where you can download that driver. A safer option due to the proliferation of malicious trojan horse download sites on the internet would be to go directly to the manufacturer's website and search within their site for driver download, [model number of your photo scanner]. After you select your driver you will need to select a location to download the driver to most likely as a zip file. Selecting My Desktop will make it simple and easy to find the file once it is downloaded. Unzip the file and the driver install should procede automatically.
Before you begin you should clean the glass of the flatbed scanner and clean it periodically whether or not you think it has gotten dirty or dusty.
Resolution is important but there is such a thing as too much resolution. Because resolution is expressed in dots per inch you will need to select a higher dpi resolution if you have a smaller photo and a lower dpi resolution if you have a large photo. For a 4x6 print you will want to scan at around 600 dpi for good results. If you are scanning an 8x10 you will want to scan at around 300 dpi. If you expect to print this image larger than the original you may want to increase these estimates. If you will only be using these images on the internet for a website you may decrease the resolution considerably. If your scanner software has some sort of automatic color correction option resist the temptation to use that on every print. Most software packages will allow you to preview the color enhancement results before you scan. Some photos will benefit from the automatic color correction while others may not. Do not indiscriminately use a computer driven color enhancer. If you scanner offers Digital ICE4 scratch and dust removal you may want to enable this feature, however, it will greatly increase your scanning time and will not work well on textured photos. If you have glossy prints it may help with scratches but if you have luster or fabric weave photo prints the Digital ICE will get confused and will likely blur the entire image badly.
It is important if you are going to scan for any length of time to have a good organizational layout with a beginning pile of photos, the scanner in between and an ending pile of photos that have been scanned. If you will be sitting for hours scanning photos make sure that you can easily reach, open and use your flatbed photo scanner.
Many scanners and scanning software packages allow you to preview thumbnails of your images before they are fully scanned. Some programs such as Photoshop will allow you rotate the thumbnail prior to scanning the images and when the images are scanned they are automatically rotated to be correct. If you do not have this option you will have to manually rotate the files using Photoshop or another photo editing program after the fact.
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