Larsen Digital | Professional Scanning Service

What To Know When Picking A Photo Scanner

You know you want to get your photos converted to digital, but knowing how to go about doing that can feel overwhelming. Do you use a basic photo scanner? Invest in an expensive flatbed scanner? Or opt for the high speed scanners? Or have a professional company do it? These are the questions that can make scanning your photos seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be.

What to know when picking a photo scanner:

Resolution- you want a photo scanner that gives you options for different scan resolutions. Different projects require different resolutions. Just because the scanner can scan at 6400 dpi, doesn't mean you should scan that high. For most photos, scanning at 300 or 600 dpi is sufficient. Anything higher and will increase the defects in the photo and increase your scan times.

Dust Removal-If you ever plan on scanning transparent film on you scanner, having a dust & scratch removal feature is a must. Although the naked eye can't see the dust, scratches & fingerprints on the photo, I promise they are there and they will show up in your scanned image.

Software- Beware of scanners that don't come with sophisticated software or only offer basic scanning software. You will see this when you look at less known brands – stick with well-known brand such as Epson.

Types of Photo Scanners

high speed photo scanner

High Speed Auto-feed Scanners
Not all photo scanners are created equal – there are scanners with high speed auto-feeds, but we don't necessarily recommend this. Auto feeders can snag photos and possibly damage them. High speed photo scanners lead to lower quality scans. If you are going to take the time & money to scan your photos, you might as well do it right the first time. There are some high speed photo scanners that claim that you can scan 1000 photos in an hour... which is somewhat true. The auto-feeds typically jam, or can send multiple photos through at the same time. Which means you will need to go back through your photos and find the originals and re-scan them. This is frustrating and a waste of your time. At times the photos are scanned slightly askew, which means there will be a lot of post scan cropping, which is tedious work. Because the high speed scanners have so many photos going across a small strip of glass, a lot of dust & debris begins to build up (like every 20 photos). Unless you stop after every 10-15 photos and clean the glass, you will start to see lines across your digital images. These lines are typically a pixelated green color, it isn't pretty & it takes a lot of time in Photoshop to get rid of it. In the end, you will be left with low quality scans of your photos that require a significant amount of digital correction.

flat bed photo scanner

Flatbed Scanners
We recommend a high quality flatbed scanner. It will take more time to scan them one by one, but the smaller portable scanners just don't produce the quality you should expect with a scanned photo. Flatbed scanners can usually accommodate about four 4x6 photos at a time, the software will allow you to preview & select the four photos and it will create four separate digital files. Depending on the speed of your computer & the resolution you have chosen, this may take some time, but just know it means you are getting a quality scan. If you plan on scanning your photos yourself with a flatbed scanner, be prepared to spend about 60 seconds per photo.

There are bargain priced flat beds and then there are high quality flatbed scanners. Obviously buying a higher quality product will result in higher quality scans. Here are the areas were higher end scanners beat out bargain flatbed scanners: higher optical resolution, sharpness, Dmax, color depth & connection speed.

portable scanner

Portable Scacnners
There are some portable scanners on the market, and their small size offers the convenice of being small (thus portable), they lack the high quality scan. Portable scanners are great for basic document scanning, but for high quality photo scanning, you should stick with a flatbed photo scanner.

When To Have a Professional Scanning Company Do it
Scanning photos takes time, not just to scan, but to rotate, color correct & edit. Expect to spend about 5 minutes per photo in the scanning & editing phase. If you only have a few hundred photos you need scanned, then 5 minutes isn't a big deal. However, if you have thousands of photos you want scanned, it might be time to reach out & ask a professional for help. Some scanning service companies outsource the scanning outside the USA or use the low quality high speed scanners.

Be sure to ask:

  • Where the scanning is done
  • What scanner they are using
  • What color corrections are done after the photos are scanned

If the company is unable to clearly answer those questions, or they admit they are outsourced, find a different company. Here at Larsen Digital, we do all our work ourselves, we never outsource our work to other companies our send it outside the USA. For more infrmation about our photo scanning service: Photo Scanning Conversion