You would have this question when you have a stack of photos from before the digital era, the period of time when the digital camera was still a dream. This is when people used to click pictures carefully using an analog camera that had different sizes of negative rolls, which were developed using a red light and printed on paper.
Now, with the advent of the digital cameras, the fun and excitement part of the camera is lost (only the owners of the analog cameras will know this).
We will dig into the process of converting the photos that we would have developed with the help of a developer to digital photos till early 2000s.
What is photo scanning?
Photos Scanning is the art of optically capturing a physical or analog copy of a photo and converting that into a digital copy. A device converts the real-world photos into pixels and stores them digitally into any available digital storage device. like Pendrive, or cloud storage.
Why scan photos?
Consider you are from the 1960s to 1990s. You have all your analog photos lying in a box which will be bothering you in the following ways:
- Occupies a lot of space
- A nightmare to search for a particular photo
- Facing difficulties to protect the photos
- Being hard to share them to people in different locations
- Love memories and want to frequently view them
In order to overcome the above-mentioned problems, the only solution at this point in time is to scan the photos and store them in whichever format or device you like to, like:
- Cloud Storage
- Pen drive/flash drive
- Hard disk
- Digital Photo Frame
How to Scan analog Photos to Digital?
The device that converts the analog photos to a digital one is called a scanner. As we have already mentioned in the previous sections that this conversion process is called scanning.
Before learning the process of scanning, let us learn the different types of scanners that we can use to achieve this.
Types of Scanners
There are various types of scanners based on the purpose of scanning and the type of photos to be scanned. While we have many types of scanners, the technology behind them is very similar.
The most conventional and the best of the lot is a flatbed scanner. As the name indicates, these are the scanners that have a flat glass bed covering an optical vertical light-emitting material that scans the photos that are kept above the glass.
This will in turn be stored in the computer connected to the scanner in the form of a raster image. The process will be covered in detail in the coming sections.
ADF stands for Automated Document Feeder. In this type of scanner, the photos are fed from an input area. The scanner sucks the photos, scans using the same kind of optical material used in the flatbed scanner, and pushes the photos out from the output area.
This is the fastest way of scanning photos. Be careful while opting for this type of scanner as the photos may get stuck while it sucks and might get torn.
The photos are scanned using a small-sized portable scanner that is held by a single hand, hence the name handheld scanner. This scanner is then rolled over the photo to help the scanner scan the photo just like every other scanner using an optical material.
This will be useful to scan large size photos and photos in frames.
These are scanners that use digital cameras. There will be one ore more cameras stuck to a stand that will be at about 12 to 40 inches above the photos. Every click will capture the photos and stores them directly into the computer or in a memory card inside the camera.
This works well only with a camera that has a good lense and enough image sensing capacity (which is measured in Megapixels).
Now that we have an idea of the scanners that are readily available to scan photos, let us figure out the process of scanning photos keeping in mind the purpose and reason of scanning them.
What is the Scanning Process?
The scanning process starts by setting up the computer (desktop/laptop). For any of the above scanners to work, the computer the scanner is connected to plays a crucial role.
Many people don’t know about this fact that the hardware plays a crucial role, especially when we have a large no. of photos to scan. The faster the computer, both in terms of processor speed and higher ram, will greatly contribute to the speed of scanning. The better the hardware, the better the speed.
For eg., consider a computer with an i5 processor and 4GB RAM takes about 4 mins. to scan 4 photos at 1200 dpi resolution (we will explain this in the subsequent sections), the same no. of photos at the same resolution, either an increase in RAM or processor will certainly reduce the scanning speed to 3 mins. or 2 mins. This might save a few hours when you are scanning around 1000 photos.
After working on the hardware and the speed that you want to scan the photos in, the next thing is the software. The driver and software will mostly come with the scanner in the form of a CD or you can even download through their respective websites.
The driver is a piece of code that is used by the computer to communicate with the scanner. Any external hardware needs this piece of code that the manufacturers share along with the hardware.
After installing this, we will go to installing or setting up the software.
Software is an application with features that help us scan photos with different options. This varies depending on the scanners that we have or that we are using, each one coming with tons of features.
In the next section, we will see how to use these features considering one of the brands that we have been using for around a decade, “Epson”.
This is the brand that we recommend, especially when it comes to scanning photos, as they have the best photo scanners.
There are two types of software:
Software Specific to Scanners
These are the software that comes along with the scanner, which can only be used with the scanner that the software comes along with. It does not work if we try to use the software with other scanners.
If we have an Epson scanner, the software app that comes along with the scanner can be used only with Epson scanners and not Canon or HP.
Software Generic to Scanners
These are generic software that can be used with any scanner provided we have the right drivers for the scanner. Running the application using the right drivers make the scanners work without any hassle.
One of the most famous such software application is VueScan.
Step by Step Scanning Process
Let us find out the process of scanning photos from specific software applications, in our article, Epson Software.
- The first step is to open the application either from Desktop Shortcut or from Program.
- Once the application opens, you can select the mode in which you want to scan them. There are three modes:
- For this article let us consider the professional mode as that covers most of the options from the application.
- For document, select reflective. This changes depending on the scanner. If the scanner has an automated document feeder option, based on your scanning input change this, but for scanning photos on the flatbed, select reflective.
- Document source is the option that you have to change if you have other formats than photos, like negative or slides or any other transparencies.
- Image type is the type of color that make the photos. For true color, the colors used are 8 bits of the three colors, Red, Green, and Blue, that sums it up to 24 bits.
- Resolution is a key parameter as it adds more and more pixels for a given area. The more the no. of pixels, the better the image is. It translates as follows:
- At 300 dpi, scanned photos can be view in a screen as big as a tablet that is as big as a 10 inch
- At 600 dpi, scanned photos can be viewed in a screen as big as a 32 inch
- At 1200 dpi, scanned photos can be viewed in a screen as big as 60 inch
- You can keep the document size to the default unless you are sure about the cropped size of the reflective glass
- You can change the target size to double size or same size or whatever size you want them to be
- Adjustments are the quality of the image with filters, restorations and color corrections:
- Unsharp mask is an image sharpening technique that sharpens the images in terms of pixels and clarity
- If you apply descreening, the image that is full of circles (happens when they are printed in a low-resolution printer) will be removed as shown in the image below
- Color restoration feature restores the colors that are lost in the photo over a period of time
- Backlit correction brightens the images by removing the darkness in the background
- Small dust particles can be removed from the dust removal technique of the Epson Scanners by default
Once the features are handled, click on the preview button to show the photos in a low resolution.
The preview can be automatically cropped provided you select the thumbnail option after placing the photos with ample space in between and straight with respect to the rectangle glass.
If you don’t select this option, you will have to manually select the images however much you want the images to be cropped.
Once you get the thumbnail, you can select the adjustments by selecting the thumbnails. The scanner will scan those photos whose thumbnails are selected using the checkbox below.
Once the selection is made, you are good to go ahead in scanning the photos. They will be scanned in the resolution typed with the adjustments selected.
There is a folder icon beside the Scan button. This button has a few options like:
- The format in which the photos have to be saved
- The path where the files have to be saved
- The quality of the image
Once the pictures are saved in the deserved format, they have to be checked for errors. The following is the checklist to quality check the photos saved.
- Check for the uncropped photos with black edges or white borders
- Some photos might be cut in between, especially when the scanning is done using thumbnail option, rescan them
- A few photos might have extra colors when color enhancement is enabled
- Placing the photo edges parallel to the scanner edges digitizes the photos the right way without losing parts of the photos
Create a folder for each album or stack of photos
Don’t forget to create a folder for each of your album with the same name so that it will be easier for your to refer to a particular photo.
If you don’t own the photos, stick a label with a number on every album and create a folder with that number, scan all the photos of that album, move them into that folder.
This will map the physical album of the photo with the digital folder, making it easier to search.
Relish the memories
The digital memories that you have just scanned are priceless. You will relish and reminiscent each of your old memories in the form of a digital copy from where ever you want to, sharing with your family and friends.
Don’t forget to share these tips with your known contacts as it may help them bigtime.