Giving a Digital Facelift to Your Old Paper Prints?

scanning-photosAlthough it seems that digital cameras have been around forever – they are relatively a new product. For years we used film cameras and as a result most of us accumulated many paper prints made from such film. We can keep those paper prints albums as is or find ways to upgrade them into the new digital era.

Such inventories of paper prints include photos, negatives and slides. Most people keep those legacy prints in photo albums and keep using them in the old fashion way while using computers to view photos, share and send photos to family and friends only for the newly photos taken with digital cameras.

There are simple ways to upgrade your paper based inventory to the new digital age. Usually photos are kept in the house in one of the following formats:

Paper prints: the most common format, usually at sizes like 4X6 and 5X7. Over time paper prints tend to lose their quality. Depending on how well they are kept the paper might turn yellow and bend and the colors might fade.

Negatives: also known simply as film. This is the processed film usually 35mm from which the prints where made. Although negatives can get damaged over time they are more likely to maintain their high quality. Negatives are hardly used unless new paper prints are needed.

Slides: very similar to negatives used for projecting photos on a large screen.

There are many ways to convert old photo papers to digital formats. The different methods vary in cost and quality. Professional photographers spend a lot of time and money on this process while most amateurs and consumers use very simple methods that are both cheap and easy. Most home users and amateurs only need to scan their photo prints into digital format ignoring the negatives and slides. Professionals use high end equipment to scan the high resolution negatives into digital formats.

Photo paper prints are easy to scan. You can choose to purchase a simple scanner usually for a cost of less than $100 and scan them yourself at home. You can also choose to mail them (or hand them) to a professional scanning service that will scan them for you and mail you back the originals and a DVD with the digital scans (such services include,, and many more).

If you have a small number of photos scanning at home is easier. If you have a large number of photos using a service is easier but you can end up spending more money. In addition mailing your one and only hardcopy of your photos is a risk since they might get lost.

If you prefer scanning your paper photos yourself at home you should be aware of the following:

scanning-photos2Resolution: the resolution of a scan is measured by the number of dots per inch that the scanner can produce. Most scanners can scan at 1200 DPI or more. Usually the scanner can be set to scan at different resolutions. The higher the resolution the slower the scan and the bigger the photo file size will be. For most paper prints scanning at 300 to 600 DPI is enough but you can experiment scanning at higher resolutions if you feel it provides better results.

Speed: If you have a small number of photos speed is not an issue. If you have hundreds or more of photos scanning speed becomes important. To get fast scans you would have to scan at the lowest resolution possible that results in good enough scans – for most paper prints 300 to 600 DPI is enough.. Also if you’re going to buy a scanner check the scanning speed (usually measured in the number of scans per minute make sure that you check the speed at the DPI you’re going to use).

Photo feeding: if you only have a small number of photos this is not an issue. If you have many photos make sure that the scanner you buy allows fast and easy loading of photos. Some higher-end scanners will let you load a stack of photos and will automatically feed and scan them for you. These scanners are the right choice if you are planning on scanning hundreds or more photos.

Once converted to digital format there are many things that you can do with the photos. In addition to viewing them on your computer screen and sharing them with family and friends you can also use sophisticated photo processing software to enhance them. For example you can use photo processing software to eliminate red-eye in the photos. You can improve contrast, brightness, or create some artistic effects – turn color photos to black and white and more.

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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