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Scanning old photos - why don't they look good?

Posted by Cal_jen (My Page) on
Wed, Sep 14, 11 at 1:27

I'm wondering if anyone knows what is considered a good file size for a high-quality scanned photo. I just paid a decent amount of money to have old photos from the 30s and 40s digitized. They are only about 400KB each and don't look as good as the originals, plus I don't think they're going to print well.

Should I buy a scanner and do it myself, or is this the best that can be done with old black & whites?


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RE: Scanning old photos - why don't they look good?

No judgement can be made because we don't know the size of the photo that was scanned, nor can we see the original and a print of the digitized one to compare. The file size will be porprotional to the area of the scanned object plus some overhead.

I've had good success scanning B/W photos at 300 dpi (dots per inch) and using 256 gray scale. A finer gray scale can be used but there won't be much difference in the final tonal scale. Scanning to a jpg format reduces file size and you can control how much reduction to make; jpg files are 'lossy'; defintion loss increases with increased file reduction.

B/W photos can be scanned in color which will pick up any yellowing or color tinges at the expense of a much larger file. I have found that 256 gray scale is quite acceptable. I will switch to a color scan if I wish to preserve color tinges. (My scanner always scans in color. It then writes the digital file depending on user selection. It converts the color image to gray scale for writing the file. Therefore, once the image hs been scanned, I can flip back and forth between color and gray scale.)

After a photo has been scanned, it should 'played back' in a photo editor to check the result and to correct the color or gray scale balance. If the technician did not take time to check and make adjustments, the result may be disappointing.

This brings us back to your monitor. If you display the digitized file on your monitor, the result can be puzzling. For example, the picture when printed on your printer may not match what you see on the screen. That's because your monitor was not color corrected and needs to be adjusted to a standard. Some older CRT monitors may not have adjsutment range. In some cases, best result is achieved by adjusting the video display card. This is done by software supplied with the card, if it is adjustable.

The quality of the copied photo depends greatly on the skill of the operator both in making the copy file and printing thereof. If you have only 10 pics or thereabouts, it may not pay to buy a scanner. If you have 50 or more photos to digitize, then a scanner purchase is recommended. Once you have a scanner and become familar with its operation, you will find uses for it.


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RE: Scanning old photos - why don't they look good?

I am now in the midst of digitizing my wifes old family photos from 1898 through 1919.

I have scanned them all using a Kodak 7250 All-In-One scanner/printer.

As I scanned each photo I first selected the "Prescan" feature to make sure it was framing the images correctly.

During the prescan a box drops down and asks if the image is a color photo, Grayscale image, B&W Image or B&W document.

The correct option for scanning B&W photos is Grayscale image.

If you scan them as a color image you will get a B&W image but the white background will be a muddy brownish yellow color.

If you scan as a B&W document it will only have solid blacks or pure whites, no gray tones.

These photos were originally about 2-1/2 x 3-1/2 inches and they scanned in at 598x799pixels (157.7kb files).

A couple of them I had to do a very simple contrast adjustment using "Photoscape", but for the most part, these are as they came from the scanner.

I also used Photoscape to add the persons name and dates if known.

So far I have done about 25 photos out of the 300 or more that she has found in old family albums.

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I then printed them on 4x6 Kodak Glossy paper and they came out better than the originals.

I bought this printer at Staples for $99, and Kodak claims they have the cheapest ink in the industry, and they are not kidding.

I just purchased a two pack of the black ink cartridges on Ebay for $9.95 for the pair with free S&H and two packs of the color cartridges were $12.99 for the two pack with free S&H. (Jan was really mad when she saw that price. I paid $22 for two color & two B&W cartridges while one color cartridge for her Lexmark is $49.)

The only caveat is that for best results you have to use genuine Kodak paper because the Kodak paper has a bar code on the back that signals the printers processor how to automatically set the proper ink levels for the type of paper used, but then a box of 100 sheets of Kodak 4x6 gloss paper is only $8.99 at Walmart.


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