A pile of old sepia photos lying ready for digitalisation

Digitalise your Old Photos – Tips and Tricks

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Even before the era of digital photography, taking photos was popular. Nowadays, old photos of holidays, family, and other snapshots are often just lying around in drawers or stuck in yellowing photo albums. It’s worthwhile to dig out these treasured photos and go through them. You can breathe new life into these photographs by digitalising them to create a family timeline, for example.

Storing negatives, photos, and slides can be a pain: high humidity and fluctuations in temperature can leave behind damage. Even when stored carefully, with time, old photos change in colour, become fragile, scratched, tear, or become spotted with glue when they’re stuck in photo albums. It can be very frustrating when your treasured photos become damaged or even destroyed. In order to save your photos from decay and to protect them from the elements, you can scan and digitalise them so you can print them out any time you wish. There are a few things you should keep in mind when going about this task. Here we’ll give you some tips and tricks for digitalising and editing your older photos.

Digitalising your photos – what’s possible?

An example of a way to digitalise your photos and make them “Internet ready” is the smartphone app Heirloom, which automatically optimises your photos to a certain extent. You can also get your photos professionally digitalised by a photographer or similar service providers on the Internet. This method is especially recommended for people with little time to spare, but it can also be quite expensive. You also have the option of scanning the photos yourself, but in order to do this you should have a higher quality scanner available. If you want to digitalise a high quantity of photos, this could take several weeks or even months. Well-functioning equipment is very important here to save you from a lot of frustration.

A photo album with old black and white family photos

There are some special photo scanners available on the market to make this task a bit easier. Some scanners can even scan photo negatives and slides. A deciding factor of the scanner’s suitability for this task is of course its resolution, but its sensor and colour depth also play an important role. The best resolution to use depends on the original photo and what you wish to do with the scanned photo afterwards. If you wish to edit the photos later on your computer, you should use a scanner with at least 300 DPI (Dots Per Inch), but 600 DPI is recommended for the best results. Slides and photo negatives have a much smaller surface area than normal photos. To scan these properly, you should use a much higher resolution: 1,200 – 4,200 DPI.

Some scanners come with a special slot to feed the photos into, which can make your life a whole lot easier. This, of course, only works for individual photos so you won’t be able to scan whole pages of photo albums at a time. Scanners with this special slot are especially recommended if you have a large quantity of photos you wish to digitalise.

Flatbed scanners optimised for photos, unlike the scanners mentioned above, can scan larger photos and other documents. This kind of scanner might be best to purchase if you would like to use it for multiple purposes and not just to digitalise your photos. Multi-function scanners make it possible for you to scan photos, slides, and negatives using just one device. Many scanners also come with a preview function that allows you to check and correct the scan directly on the device.

How do I correctly scan and edit the photos?

Once you’ve bought the right scanner for the job, the real work begins. Always scan your photos in the highest resolution and colour depth possible. Even black and white photos should always be scanned in colour. Before scanning, carefully use a brush, soft cloth, or microfiber cleaning cloth to remove dust and finger prints. It’s also recommended to wear lint-free cotton gloves to avoid leaving new fingerprints on the photos. Some devices are even capable of recognising scratches or dust and can digitally correct them, but using such a function is a matter of personal taste. Perhaps you personally would like to leave some imperfections in the photos to have a bit of a nostalgic effect.

If you would like to edit your photos after you scan them, make sure to save them in a format that is compatible with your photo-editing software. Uncompressed formats will of course require a lot of storage space. You can use the TIFF format, for example, to compress the files without sacrificing quality. Saving the photos in JPEG format will have quite an effect on their quality and some information will be lost. But this format requires much less storage space.

Once you’ve scanned your photos, the process of editing and correcting begins. Some of your photos may have become quite damaged over the years in storage. With Photoshop or other photo-editing software, you can edit out small spots, tears, or even completely missing portions of your photos. You can also correct red-eye or other colour discrepancies. You don’t have to be a pro to make some of these smaller corrections and instructions on how to do this can be found on the Internet. Making larger corrections, however, can be a bit more difficult. For these, you can get help from a professional who specialises in editing such photos. Perhaps you treasure the authenticity of the photo, on the other hand, and would like to leave it the way it is.

A family photo with parents, grandparents, children, and dog going for a walk in autumn

After you’ve finally finished scanning your photos and have saved them from decay, it’d be a great idea to bind them together in a new photo book. Perhaps you could even combine the photos you’ve digitalised with other current photos. Combine old children’s photos with photos of your loved ones in a photo book. Get creative and make something special of all those wondful photos.