Tips for Scanning Paper Photo Prints


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Scanning paper photo prints is rare but sometimes you will need to do just that. Scanning is a process in which paper photo prints are converted to digital photo files. There are a few things to know and a few tips to follow when scanning such paper photo prints. This article lists the important ones.

There are three types of photo prints that you can scan:

Paper photo prints: The most common, usually in sizes of 4X6 and 5X7. Photo paper prints are easy to scan. You can scan them yourself at home using a home scanner. Home scanners that can do the job are relatively cheap and usually cost less than $100. You can mail them or hand them in person to a professional service that will scan them for you. After they are scanned the service will mail you back the originals and a DVD with the digital photo files – alternatively the service can provide you with online access to the digital photos (examples are services such as,, and many more) There are advantages and disadvantages to home scanning or professional scanning services. If you have a small number of photos scanning at home is easier. If you have plenty of photos using a service can be easier but it can be more expensive. If you decide to scan at home you should pay attention to:

  • Resolution: the resolution of a scan is the number of dots per inch that the scanner can produce. Home scanners can scan at 1200 DPI or more. The scanner can be set to scan at different resolutions. The higher the resolution the slower the scan is and the bigger the digital photo file is. For most paper photo prints scanning at 300 to 600 DPI is enough. You can experiment scanning at higher resolutions.
  • Speed: Speed is not important if you only have a few photo prints to scan. If you have hundreds or more photo prints speed becomes important. For faster scanning you should scan at the lowest resolution that is satisfactory - for most paper prints 300 to 600 DPI is enough. . Different scanners scan at different speeds measured by the number of scans per minute. When buying a scanner pay attention to its speed.
  • Photo prints feeding: The type of photo feeding mechanism is not important if you are only scanning a few photo prints. It is important if you have many photo prints to scan. In such cases make sure that the scanner you buy supports fast and easy loading of photo prints. High-end scanners can load a stack of photo prints and automatically fetch and scan them. You should use such scanners if you are scanning hundreds or more photo prints.
  • Negatives: Negatives are also known as film. Negatives are developed film usually in 35mm format from which paper photo prints are printed. Scanning negatives is harder than scanning paper photo prints. In most cases it is easier and also cheaper to use a professional negative scanning service (example are services such as,, and many more). Standard home flat scanners are not good enough for negative scanning and you will need to spend money and purchase a special film/slides scanner. Negatives are small high resolution sources and thus require scanning at higher DPI than paper prints. In most cases 2400DPI or higher should be used. Negatives also need to be lit in a special way when they are scanned. Flat home paper scanners project light on the paper from the front and then scan by capturing the reflected light. Negatives on the other hand need to be lit from the back and scanning is done by capturing the light the goes through the negative.

    Slides: very similar to negatives used for projecting photos on large screens. The same considerations and tips for negatives scanning also apply to slides.

    Ziv Haparnas is a technology veteran and writes about practical technology and science issues. This article can be reprinted and used as long as the resource box including the backlink is included. You can find more information about photo album printing and photography in general on - a site dedicated to photo printing .


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