BEYOND THE BASICS:
Scanning and Editing Photos
Just because shoeboxes and albums full of photos are stuffed away in your closet doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits of the digital photography revolution.
With a scanner and computer, you can turn prized photographs into digital images ready for both sharing and permanent storage. And with photo-editing software, it’s often possible to elaborate and improve original photos.
At the consumer level, there are basically two types of scanners from which to choose: flat-bed scanners and film scanners. Deciding which type to buy is easy. If you will be scanning printed photos or other artwork, buy a flat-bed scanner. If you will be scanning in 35-millimeter film negatives or slides, buy a film scanner. Or if you want the best of both worlds, you might consider getting a flat-bed scanner with a film-scanning adapter.
Flat-bed scanners are easy to use and work very much like a photocopier.
Dots per inch
A scanner’s dpi (dots per inch) specification is a chief consideration. (Note: The term “dots per inch” is used somewhat interchangeably with the term “pixels per inch” or “ppi.” Generally, “ppi” is only used when talking about onscreen images. For the purposes of this article we’ll use the more commonly used term “dpi.”) If you are scanning photos solely for online use, inexpensive scanners for less than $100 with 1200-by-600 dpi work fine. But for more versatility and print-quality photos, a 1200-by-2400 dpi or 2400-by-4800 dpi scanner (about $100 to $200) is a better bet. Also, as a rule of thumb, you’ll want to scan images that are for online use at 72 dpi and images that you want to print out at 300 dpi.
If you are planning on scanning and enlarging a photo to a bigger size than the original, you’ll want to scan at a proportionally higher dpi. For example, if you are planning on enlarging your image to 200% of the original size for online use, you’ll want to scan at 144 dpi (72 dpi x 2). That way when you enlarge it, the final size of the image will be 72 dpi. Here’s another example: if you want to enlarge a photo to 150% for printing out, you’ll want to scan it at 450 dpi (300 dpi x 1.5).
Scanners have a glass surface, like a photocopier, on which to place the image. This area ranges from 8.5 x 11.7 inches to 8.5 x 14 inches. The smaller size should accommodate any photo, but you might want the larger version for nonphoto jobs, such as scanning newspapers and legal documents.
Today’s scanners come with USB or IEEE 1394 (FireWire) ports. Make sure your computer has the right ports to accommodate these types of connections.
How to scan
Here’s how to scan a photo with Adobe Photoshop photo-editing software:
- Place a printed photo on the scanner’s glass surface, making sure it’s lined up evenly so the image will appear straight on your monitor. Close the scanner’s lid.
- With your version of Photoshop, click the “File” menu, scroll down to “Import,” then select “Twain Acquire.” This activates the scanner’s built-in TWAIN software, which is a program that allows the scanner to communicate with the photo-editing software (Photoshop, in this example). A window displaying your photo and tools for adjusting the image will appear.
- Adjust the settings, such as resolution and cropping as needed and click the “Scan” button.
- The photo, which will appear in a window, is now ready for editing.
- When the photo appears as you want it, click the “File” menu and select “Save As.”
- Choose the appropriate file format and name the file. Click “OK.”
This tutorial shows you how a printed photo becomes a digital image, but it doesn’t show how it can be manipulated and improved with photo-editing software.
Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard in photo editing. This software can produce amazing results, but it’s also expensive (over $600 retail) and can be a challenge to learn. Those serious about photo-editing and creating graphics should consult one of the many books devoted to learning Photoshop. However, Adobe also offers a stripped-down version called Photoshop Elements (about $100 retail) that’s better suited for casual users.
You can also find inexpensive or free photo-editing software online. Two popular titles are Paint Shop Pro (www.jasc.com) and IrfanView (www.irfanview.com).
Photo-editing software allows you to improve photographs by adjusting settings such as shadows, highlights, midtones, contrast, brightness, and sharpness. You can also choose the appropriate color settings (RGB, CMYK, and grayscale) and adjust image size. (See the “Photo File Formats” article for more information.)
With the right tools and photo-editing knowledge, your print photos can be transformed into digital versions that will never fade with time.
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