Do you have old faded or torn photos that you'd like to give a facelift? Have you been meaning to take that box of old photos from Grandma and scan them onto a CD? Learning to create and edit digital photos is fairly easy and very worthwhile. Digitally restored photos can be used to create digital scrapbooks, posted to Web sites, shared through email, and printed for gift-giving or display.
You don't have to be a technology whiz or a graphic designer to become proficient at photo restoration, but you will need a computer, a scanner, and a good (not necessarily expensive) graphics program.
Scanning Tips for Digital Photos
1) Check your photos for dirt, lint, or smudges. Gently remove surface dust and dirt with a soft brush or lint-free photowipe. Canned air, available at most office supply stores, helps to blast away dust and lint from photographic slides, but is not recommended for heirloom print photos.
2) Check the scanner glass for lint, hair, fingerprints, or smudges. Use a lint-free pad or wipe to thoroughly clean the glass (basically anything which is sold as safe for cleaning camera lenses will also work for your scanner). Household glass cleaner can be used to clean your scanner glass, as long as you're careful to spray it directly on the cloth before wiping, not directly on the glass surface. When using your scanner or handling photographs, it is best to wear clean white cotton gloves (available from photo stores and hardware stores) to avoid leaving skin oils on your scanner or photos.
3) Specify the type of scan. If you're scanning photos, you have a basic choice of color photo vs. black and white. When scanning family photos, it is usually best to scan in color, even if the source photo is black & white. You'll have more manipulation options, and you can change a color photo to black & white (greyscale), but not the other way around.
4) Determine the best scan resolution to assure the quality and usefulness of your digital photos. The optimal resolution depends on how the image will be printed, saved, or displayed. A good rule of thumb is to scan your photos at a minimum of 300dpi (Dots Per Inch) to assure decent quality for enhancement and restoration techniques. 600dpi or greater is even better if you plan to eventually store these photos on CD or DVD, and have the space on your computer harddrive to handle such large images short-term.
5) Carefully position your photo on the scanner face down on the glass, just like on a photocopy machine. Then hit "prescan" or "preview." The scanner will take a quick pass of the image and display a rough version on your screen. Check to see that it's straight, that no part of the photo has been cut off, and that the photo appears free of dust and lint.
6) Crop the previewed image to include only the original photo. For archival purposes you should not crop only a portion of the photo at this point (you can do that later if you want a cropped photo for a specific purpose), but you should make sure that all you are scanning is the actual photograph. Some scanners and software will do this step for you automatically.
7) Avoid corrections while scanning. After scanning, you'll be able to edit the image in a graphics software program which offers much more control. The order should be: 1. Scan a basic image, 2. Save it, 3. Play with it.
8) Check your file size to make sure that the resolution you have chosen isn't going to create a photo that is so large that it's going to crash your computer. Some computers have enough free memory to handle 34MB photo files, and some don't. If the file size is going to be larger than you thought, then adjust the scan resolution accordingly before making the file scan.
9) Scan the original image. This shouldn't take too long, but could take a few minutes if you're scanning at a very high resolution. Take a quick bathroom break, or get your next photo ready for scanning.