Scanning old photographs question

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by tomazdrnovsek, Jun 28, 2020.

  1. I have like 20 huge photo albums with tons of photographs from my youth. I also have a very affordable All-in-1 printer and scanner (HP DeskJet Ink Advantage 4535). I want to scan all the photos and store them in Google Photos (original quality uploads). I also have pretty good knowledge in Photoshop and I intend to retouch them a bit if necessary. This is going to be a lot of work. I just want to know if scanner like that is sufficient for this job? It's obvious better scanners would produce better images but how much better really? Most photographs are 4x6 in (10x15 cm) shot on film from 1980s on not very expensive cameras. I did some test scans and images look ok but since I have nothing to compare them to I can't really know.
  2. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    You have the original Photos to which you can compare the scanned digital files.
    Additionally, assuming that your workflow and technique are good, you can the print a few of the digital files and compare those prints with the originals, then decide if the outcome is fit for purpose.

  3. Scanner resolution shouldn't be an issue. 600 ppi is probably overkill for the type of snapshots you describe, giving you 3600 x 2400 digital files or thereabouts.

    I'd be more concerned about the colour quality of the scans, since that all-in-one possibly only delivers 8 bit JPEGs, which might be a bit limiting as to the amount of colour and saturation correction you can make. Whereas 16 bit TIFF files, if available, will give you more colour leeway to work with.

    I went through this exercise of scanning minilab-quality 6x4 prints some years ago. In most cases the scan could actually be made to give better and more accurate colour than the original print. I also found that scanning at > 600 ppi was pretty much a waste of time.

    But as said above. Only you can decide if that scanner is good enough for the job.
    mikemorrell and tomazdrnovsek like this.
  4. The only output options are PDF and JPG. I assume PDF is just JPG embedded into PDF.
    I decided to go ahead and do the 600 ppi JPG since I don't have access to anything considerably better. I agree, TIFF would be much better for Photoshop work but sadly that's not an option.
  5. A scanner like an Epson V600 will color correct faded pictures. It also has a feature called ICE that eliminates most cracks and little marks on the pictures. Tiff is also available. The scanner runs about $220 new but Epson refurbishes them for around $140 including a one year warranty. Check their site to see if any are available now. I've used this scanner to scan both pictures and film. Good luck in whatever you decide.
    tomazdrnovsek likes this.
  6. Tony Parsons

    Tony Parsons Norfolk and Good

    Surely using Vuescan would give the possibility of TIFF output, if the scanner can work with it, and vice versa ?
    tomazdrnovsek likes this.
  7. Never heard of that. Thanks, I'll check it out.
  8. I tried Vuescan. Although it did provide TIFF output format there is absolutely no difference between TIFF (24bit RGB) and JPG files (from default HP Smart program) apart from file size - JPG beeing 2MB anfd TIFF being 10MB. One would think 10MB would contain more data therefore it would provide more flexibility when editing it in Photoshop but after doing the same corrections in Photoshop to JPG and TIFF (saturation, contrast, blacks, whites,... doing it right and also going to extreme values etc) there was absolutely no difference... at all. I wonder why this is - maybe it's the limitation of the scanner or the default JPG that HP program provides out of the box is already good enough and comparable to TIFF?
  9. Tony Parsons

    Tony Parsons Norfolk and Good

    I've never compared the two programs, so I would presume that you have reached the limit of either what the scanner can produce, unfortunately, or possibly the limitations of the prints which you are scanning. If you could post a few of the JPG images from each program (re-sized for PN, of course, but otherwise unedited), it may be possible to make further suggestions, please.
    tomazdrnovsek likes this.
  10. Since I can't upload TIFF format here I dropped both files (JPG and TIFF) to WeTransfer. Here's the link: HPscan.jpg and 1 more file
    JPG file is from default HP Smart program and TIFF is from VueScan.
  11. Scanning prints at resolutions higher than 300 dpi doesn't reveal more detail, but I scan them at 600 dpi to allow future 2-3x enlargements from the digital file. For example, scanning a 4x6-inch print at 600 dpi produces enough resolution to make an 8x12-inch print or even a little bigger without pixelation. Higher resolutions theoretically permit even greater enlargements, but sharpness falls off dramatically after 2x.

    Scanning to JPEG instead of TIFF is okay if you make the major adjustments in the scanner software before scanning. The scanned file should then be very close to ideal and require only minor adjustments that won't reveal the limitations of an 8-bit JPEG file. I've scanned thousands of prints this way. But the scanner software included with all-in-one (AIO) printer/scanners may not allow you to make many adjustments before scanning. Switch to "Advanced Mode" or "Manual Mode" if it has one.

    An AIO printer/scanner is probably good enough for scanning snapshot-size prints made with old cameras. I doubt you'd see much improvement with a dedicated scanner.

    Hint: old color prints are usually faded. A quick way to restore the color balance is to use the histogram-levels control in the scanner software, if it has one. Usually these controls have three "eyedroppers" under the histogram: black point, midpoint, and white point. If you can find something that should be a middle-gray tone in the picture and click on it with the midpoint eyedropper, all the colors should change to something more natural. The middle-gray tone could be concrete in an outdoor picture, an article of gray clothing, or even gray hair. It may take a few tries to find the right spot, but you can undo each wrong try. This method works better than tweaking the individual color controls unless you have unusually good color perception.
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  12. The major difference between JPEG and TIFF, is that the JPEG colour is 'palletised' into tiles of a few pixels each. These little squares can be seen if the saturation or contrast is boosted to an extreme. JPEGs also embed a degree of sharpening that can't usually be controlled, whereas the TIFF format should allow flexibility in the degree of sharpness applied.
    That very much depends on the original print quality and on the surface texture of the printing paper used. People tend to underestimate the quality got from Minilab printers, but the lenses they use are usually of very high quality and capable of rendering the film 'grain' sharply across the whole of a glossy print. It takes more than 300 ppi on a 6"x4" print (1800x1200 = only 2.1 megapixels) to show that level of detail in a digital copy.
    tomazdrnovsek likes this.
  13. Tony Parsons

    Tony Parsons Norfolk and Good

    I actually meant use both programs to scan a JPEG from the same print, to compare like with like - is that possible ?
  14. Whenever I create final jpegs from scans, I process to export to 2160 for UHD TV. I use to do the same at 1080 for my old HD TV. That's only a couple of mp per picture for 1080 and 8mp for UHD TV use. There's no reason you can't use the output for printing small as well.
    tomazdrnovsek likes this.
  15. The original post said the 4x6 prints were made in the 1980s with "not very expensive cameras." So the limitation is the camera, not the lens on the commercial printer. And 1980s prints were usually made on textured paper ("silk" etc.) that doesn't scan as sharply as glossy paper. I've scanned literally thousands of such prints. Scanning at 600 dpi (or higher) extracts no more image detail than 300 dpi but does allow for some cropping and enlargement. And the digital files are 4x larger. I've seen people scan snapshot prints at the maximum resolution of their scanner and then wonder why the huge files are so blurry.
    tomazdrnovsek likes this.
  16. Those are both big assumptions on your part.

    Silk finish paper isn't at all common, and people have very different ideas about what a 'not very good' camera is.
    This is 2020. Digital storage is measured in Terabytes, and an 8 or 9 Megapixel image file is almost nothing. A 32 Gigabyte SD card can store literally thousands of such files.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2020
    tomazdrnovsek likes this.
  17. Oh. I thought you'll look if the tiff format actually brings anything to the table in my case since I couldn't find any difference.
    I'll do it this weekend with JPGs when I'm at home. Thanks.
  18. I can't make any adjustments prior to scanning in the printer software. Also, it would take me way too much time to do that for every picture or batch of pictures. I have like 20 years' worth of pictures which differ very much in quality, colors, the paper that are printed on, etc. I'm much more familiar and proficient with Photoshop.
    Thank you for the advice!
  19. I did this exact text with extreme values but couldn't find any difference between jpg and tiff... in my specific case. I know tiff is a much better format in general and provides the benefits you described.

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