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Photography

How to Digitise Archival Photographs

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This post is part of a series called How to Retouch, Recover, and Restore Old Photographs.
How to Handle Archival Photos and Documents Properly
How to Add Metadata to Archival Images
 

This tutorial covers digitising your archive images. You could send off your photographs to an external company, who will digitise and retouch for you. This can cost quite a lot, and there’s always the danger of them losing the originals.

You could also take a digital photograph of your image, but it comes with its own set of problems such as dealing with reflections, capturing at the wrong angle and blur.

The best option is often to scan the images yourself.

scanner
You’ll need a scanner. Many printers now come with scanners attached

How to Scan Your Own Images

If you want to digitise your images, then you’ll need a high quality flatbed scanner; these aren’t too expensive these days and often come combined with a printer.

Before you scan, make sure that the photo is as clean as it can be, so remove any dust or fluff that might have stuck. You can use a dry cloth, and a hand blower helps too. You’ll also want to clean the glass plate on the scanner, but be careful not to scratch it.

Select the Resolution

Next, make sure that your scanner is set for the highest resolution it can scan. Mine is 600 dpi, but 300 dpi is also fine, although obviously this will partly depend on the size of your original image. If you need to work out the resolution yourself, because some scanners ask for that, then divide the print size that you’re aiming for by the size of the original, and then multiply that by 300.

ripped images
Place ripped parts on the scanner without the pieces touching

Ripped Images

If you’re scanning ripped or torn images, place them on the scanner bed without them touching or overlapping. Once scanned, save the image as a TIFF or JPEG at the highest quality you can with no compression.

Now you have your image scanned in and ready to be worked on. In the next tutorial, we’ll work on adding meaningful metadata to your digital files.

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