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  • Kim Clay

Digitize Photos at home with a Scanner

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

Why Scan Photos?

Our Analog (pre-digital) Family media collections are deteriorating with age and poor storage (in unregulated attics, basements & garages). The BEST WAY to preserve these family keepsakes is to digitized them. There are options to Do-It-Yourself (although movie film is a challenge ) or using a digitizing service.

SEE Preserve Old Family Media six part series : 1. Store & Digitize an overview for all family media; 2. Photos; 3. Paper; 4. Photo Film; 5. Movie Film; 6. Videos for specific details of each media type

The memories that our family photos hold are particularly precious and worth much more than the paper they are printed on. Creating digital copies of original physical photographs is the BEST WAY to preserve, organize, share and enjoy these priceless family treasures today; and pass on to future generations for prosperity tomorrow.

How to Scan Photos

As luck would have it..... our family photos can be easily digitized with readily available home equipment (scanner/printer/smartphone) . Once scanned, old photos can be digitally re -stored; re-sized and any number of digital/printed copies can be made and shared. They can be saved and organized with file/folder names; viewed on multiple devices; and uploaded to various internet locations (Social Media sites, cloud storage etc...)

For best results use a Scanner

DESPITE the continually improving image resolution and image-enhancing Apps of the latest smartphones, where possible a scanner (dedicated photo scanners are best) is still the BETTER way to digitize photos — resolution selection, more accurate color, less glare, multiple photo scanning, less cropping ....

Sometimes a Smartphone will do

HOWEVER, there are some instances when a scanner isn't available, or a photo isn't accessible (e.g. in a framed photo collage) and using a smartphone is the only/better option.

SEE Digitize Photos at home with a Smartphone.

Use a Scanner

Despite the relentless drive to save our trees by going paperless, a desktop printer still remains a fixture in most households. Keeping pace with their counterpart personal computers, modern (all-in-one) desktop printers have continued to provide improved features (faster printing , better color copies, connectivity to multiple devices etc... ) at lower cost. There are dedicated flat-bed photo scanners and feed photo scanners on the market but all newer (all-in-one) printers are capable of high resolution photo scanning .

This is good news for anyone who has committed to digitizing their old photos, at home. Using the printer manufacturer's scanning software on a connected computer (wireless/ USB cable) the scanned digital image files can be saved to the computer... with labels of your choosing !!!

While each printer manufacturer's scanning software is different, they are all designed with the same purpose in mind i.e. scan & save. So regardless of the printer model the recommended procedure for scanning photos is the same i.e. (1) before you start have a photo organizing plan and clean photos & scanner glass; (2) select software scanning settings; (3) scan, edit & save digital image files.

1. Before Scanning

1. Have a Photo Organization Plan

Converting photos to digital files is a great way to organize and reclaim family memories but taking an inventory of the photos you want to scan is important.

Scanned image files can be named based on any scheme: photo album ( name/page #); time-frame (decade/year/date/ etc.); family relations (his family & her family / etc.); type of photograph (vintage / snapshots / slide image / etc.); event (wedding/vacation/family gathering/ etc.)... AND further organized in labelled computer folders...The options are endless, but no matter the criteria,

it is important to choose a system before you scan.

See Guide to Organizing Family Media

Scanning lots of photographs is time-consuming, so it is a good idea to do the job in sessions. By deciding the order in which you want to scan the photos (most precious/family member/event etc...) beforehand, you can separate your photos for each session, and organize photos to be scanned according to your system.

2. Prepare Photos & Scanner

It's important to thoroughly clean both the photos and scanner, as scanners sensitive sensors pick up even specks of dust on the glass or photos.

DO remove any dust or dirt from your prints with a microfiber cloth or compressed air and clean your scanner's glass :

  1. Unplug the power cord from the scanner.

  2. Wipe off dust from the scanner glass using a soft, lint-free (e.g. microfiber) cloth.

  3. You can use a little glass cleaner on a microfiber or alcohol-based cleaning wipe to get rid of smudges or other contaminants on the glass.

  4. BUT then use a dry microfiber cloth to dry off any remaining moisture or residue.


  • paper towels or tissues; these leave debris and may even scratch the surface of your photos or even the scanner surface.

  • any glass cleaners that contain acetone, ammonia, benzene or carbon tetrachloride. These chemicals can damage the scanner glass.

3. Learn About Your Scanning Software

Each printer/scanner manufacturer's scanning software is different, but they all have an interface with options for selecting scanning settings and digital formats for scans to be save as. Most will also have some scan editing features. If not already installed, the software should be downloadable from the manufacturer's web-site and will walk you through installation. There is also likely to be a YouTube tutorial on how-to use your particular manufacturer's scanning software.

Tip: If you can't find the printer software, you can still scan with the software already installed as part of your computer's operating system. For Windows PCs Windows Fax & Scan and on the Mac Image Capture.

4. Scan Multiple Photos at a time

The standard size for a desktop printer scanner bed is 8.5 x 12 inch, so you should be able to scan multiple photos (e.g. four 4 x 6-inch photos) at once, which cuts down on scanning time. You can also scan whole photo album/scrapbook pages and clip out the individual digitized photos.

When arranging your photos on the scan bed Face-down, of course!!!

  • Do make sure that the photos don't overlap.

  • Don't worry if one photo abuts another or they are a bit skew, or in the wrong orientation - you can crop, straighten & rotate the scanned versions later. Some scanners even come with software that do this automatically for you.

  • Do close the lid!!!

2. The Scanning Process

The illustrations for the following set-by-step guidance are for HP scanning software on an HP Envy 4500 ALL-IN-ONE photo printer connected to a laptop running Windows 10. While other manufacturer's software will look a little different, the sequence will be the same.

Click on the visual illustrations below to enlarge them

1. Launch The Software

  1. Launch the printer/scanner software from a desktop icon or a windows tile. If these haven't been 'pinned', look in the printer utility folder.

  2. For HP this opens a Utility Page from which to select scanning

  3. Double-click on the scan button to open the scanning interface — other manufacturers software may skip 2 and take you directly to the scanning set-up page.

2. Select Scan Settings

The Selection Pane provides a list of scanning settings. In this HP example these are : scan area, resolution, item type, file type and destination — with a drop-down menu beside each to adjust the settings.

Scan Area

When scanning multiple photos or album pages select Entire Scan Area .

Item/Output Type

Select Color, even for black & white Photos, unless they have been damaged; then using grayscale may make it easier to edit the images. Black & White should only be used for document scanning.


For most photos the resolution you need depends on the size you plan to display: digital copies in pixels per inch (ppi) or print physical copies in dots per inch (dpi) . The higher the resolution (dpi) you choose, the larger the resulting digital files, without necessarily improving digital picture quality.

  • The default photo resolution setting is 300 dpi . This is usually sufficient for electronic display and full-quality same-size prints.... AND is the minimum resolution to use.

  • Scanning at 600 dpi is better/ necessary for viewing/printing enlargements. Most professional services scan at 600 dpi.

  • For really small photos e.g. tiny-types (do have any of these??), consider upping the resolution even further, to 1200 dpi.

File Type

There are an array of digital Image file formats : uncompressed or compressed format (lossless - larger file size or lossy - smaller file size). Your file type options will likely be:

  • Windows Bitmap (.bmp) — lossless uncompressed, huge file size, wide acceptance

  • JPEG (.jpg) — lossy compressed, moderate/small file size, very wide acceptance

  • PNG (.png) — lossless compressed, moderate file size, wide acceptance)

  • TIFF (.tif) — lossless/lossy compressed, huge/moderate file size, selective acceptance

JPEG is the most widely used/accepted digital image format because the compression algorithm significantly reduces the size of the file with little discernible —to the eye — picture quality loss. It is supported by all image viewers and editors (computer, internet, mobile device) which makes it ideal for sharing and storing.

HOWEVER JPG compression does reduce the pixel quality of the image, which can be noticeable if it's highly /repeatedly compressed. PNG or TIFF will be better for scanning very small photos or damaged photos that require advanced restoration editing — then the final version can be converted to .jpg.


Destination allows you to designate a folder to save scanned images to. It may also give you the option to provide a Base File Name. It is a good idea to create the folder that all scanned images will be saved to. By designating a Base File name (according to your photo organization scheme), saved scans will be labelled as [Base] sequential number file name ( [Dad]01, [Dad]02... etc...)

3. Scan and Save

1. Scan photos

Once the photos are on the scanner bed and all the scan settings have been selected, the next step is to hit the SCAN button. Most software will show the scanning progress and once finished open a new window showing the scan results and editing options.

In the scan result example above four photos were scanned. Where there was a gap, the software recognized the separate photos but where the photos are touching, the software output both photos as one scan item.

Batch Scan

Most software will give you the option to scan further batches of photos before saving. This involves replacing the photos that have been scanned with a new set of photographs (see the Scan Multiple Scans at a Time section, above) and clicking the ADD (+) button (rather than the SAVE button)

NOTE OF PRECAUTION: my software has crashed during batch scanning!!! — having to re-scan umpteen photographs is mega frustrating!!!— I suggest limiting scan batches (my limit is about 20 photographs), before saving.

Edit Image Files

Some photo scanners come with advanced editing software such as:

  • Digital ICE technology that removes dust, scratches, and creases from scanned images.

  • Smart Photo Fix Technology that automatically applies red-eye reduction and fade correction and other enhancements

  • Dynamic Skew Correction that auto-corrects the angle at which the photo is scanned.

Most "regular" scanner software provides more limited "manual"editing options: rotate, crop, adjust color/brightness/contrast, and maybe remove red-eye. You can edit your scans using these features before saving them BUT A BETTER ALTERNATIVE is to use more precise photo-editing tools — provided by dedicated photo-editing software (there are plenty of easy to use products) — after saving the images to your computer.

2. Save the Scans

Hitting the SAVE button will bring up a Save As window for the designated Folder and Base File name in the File Name: pane and file type in the Save as Type: pane. If you wish or if your software doesn't provide a Destination setting from here you can navigate to a different folder, label/change the base file name and choose a different file format. Hitting the SAVE button in this window will save all the scans with sequential numbers added to the File Name.

The final step is to crop and clean up the digital photo images using photo-editing software

SEE Guide to Editing Scanned Photos to see how

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To Learn More Go To:

Blog to see more posts about Why and How -To preserve, organize, plan and present family media (there are a number in the works).

Resources for external links, useful information, products, services... and more!

FAQ this may answer some of the questions you have;

Services to see the personalized guidance solutions that Digital Kreation offers.

The information presented in this Blog is an accumulation of my own experience and internet searches. I am not affiliated with any of the institutions, services or products that are mentioned.

#digitalkreation #preservefamilymemories #digitizephotos #scanoldmemories #scanphotos #editphotos #organizephotos

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