Old photos have a charm, which is why many of us keep them even as we move deeper into the digital age.
Unfortunately, old photos have several disadvantages. Because they are printed on paper, they are easily damaged and will fade over time. Plus, physical photos can take up a lot of space. Therefore, the best way to preserve your photos and spaces is to digitize them.
This article will show you how to scan and digitize old photos.
Three Ways to Scan Photos
There are three key factors to consider when scanning photos: how much time you will spend in the process, getting high-quality scans, and keeping project costs low.
In most cases, these factors interact with each other. It may be more time consuming if you have cheaper photo scanning methods. Also, the fastest method may be more expensive. Good scan quality requires you to invest more time or money.
The following three methods illustrate this perfectly.
You can scan old photos with a home device. This will include a computer, scanner and, ideally, photo editing software.
This approach will come at a modest price and a substantial investment of time. The quality of the final 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 becoming familiar with the software, you will have complete control over how your photos are digitized, edited and organized. Here’s how to prepare for the process for best results:
- Make sure your computer and scanner are working properly.
- Check the scanner settings. In particular, you need to set the scan resolution or DPI (dots per inch). This setting will affect the quality of scanned photos. For decent quality photos, the minimum value you should choose is 300. Ideally it would be 600, although higher DPI will slow down the scanning process.
- Allow enough time. If you have a lot of old photos, it can easily take hours to scan them. You’ll want to create a productive atmosphere for that period to make the process less cumbersome.
- Browse through your photos and choose the ones you really want to keep. It takes a few seconds to scan each photo, which might not seem like much time until you’ve added dozens or hundreds of photos. Plus, if you edit each photo on your computer, it will mean more time spent per photo. That’s why you should choose your photography candidates for digitization carefully.
- Decide how you will organize your photos. You can choose to organize your collection by place, date, who appears in it, or other ways. Whatever your decision, you should choose a system and stick with it throughout to make the process easier.
- Consider how to store scanned photos. You might want to get a new storage unit (such as an external hard drive) for your photos, especially if you have a lot of them. Also, it’s a good idea 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, clean cloth to wipe off any dust specs that may appear on the scan.
- Fully familiarize yourself with your photo editing software. Some old photos get damaged or discolored, and you can fix these issues with a suitable program. Of course, you need to know how to use the software for this purpose.
Use photo digitization services
If you want to get the scan done without spending too much time and effort, you can hire a service to do the job for you. All you need to do is send your photo to the service and wait to receive the digitized version.
Unsurprisingly, professional photo scanning services are more expensive. However, the time you save might be worth considering.
There is one notable caveat to this approach, though. You may be reluctant to send photos to strangers, or even entrust them to the mailing system. Of course, photo scanning services guarantee discretion, but that may not be enough for some customers.
If you decide to go the service route, there are some important questions you should address before sending your photos:
- Select the photos to scan. There are two reasons why you should choose your photos carefully. First, you will only want to send those photos that you really want to digitize. The more photos you send, the higher the price, so it’s best to stick to the essentials. Second, if you have private photos that you don’t want to share with anyone, it’s best to keep those and scan them yourself.
- Choose a good photo scanning service. Not all companies will provide the same service – some may only process photos, while others will scan slides or photo negatives. Also, you can find a scanning company that offers an expedited process for an additional fee.
- Learn about prices. If you find that two or more services meet your expectations, pricing may be the deciding factor.
Use a photo digitizing application
Scanning photos with your phone may yield some surprisingly good results. While it might seem like a low-level solution, phone scanning can work pretty well with the help of a few dedicated apps.
In this way, the process will be quite cheap. This will require a significant time investment, depending on how many photos you need to scan. However, this method is still faster than digitizing photos using a computer and scanner.
Scanning photos with your phone requires some preparation. Unlike desktop scanners, this one has no insulation to block any outside light from passing through. This means you’ll need to adjust the lighting yourself.
Here’s what you need to do to ensure the best quality photos you scan this way:
- Make sure your smartphone has a good camera quality. If you don’t, it is recommended to upgrade your model before scanning. Or, you can borrow a phone from a friend or relative with a better camera.
- Choose the right app for the job. When it comes to scanning images, you can’t go wrong with Google’s PhotoScan. The app is free to use, works with Android and iOS phones, and provides high-quality scans. Of course, there are alternatives to both platforms, although most require a one-time or subscription fee.
- Pay attention to lighting. This is especially important for scan quality, no matter how advanced your phone is. When scanning photos, you don’t want uneven lighting, shadows or glare on your photos. That’s why you should do this process in neutral light, away from windows if possible. While natural light is usually the best choice, you don’t want to risk changes due to time of day, clouds, or even trees or birds.
Bring your photos into modern times
Digitizing your photos will help preserve them for a longer period of time than just keeping them in physical form. Even better, if something does happen to the original, you’ll have a digital backup to preserve the memory.
Using the methods presented here, you can undoubtedly save valuable time. You just need to set aside time or a budget for the project, and you’re ready to go.
How do you scan your old photos? how many people? Let us know in the comments below.