To understand the best resolution for scanning photos, the most important thing to consider is what the scans will be used for. Sharing photos on social media, re-printing and photo restoration don’t all require the same resolution (and thus time and expense) to serve their purpose. In this article, we’ll aim to provide a clear and comprehensive overview of the factors you’ll need to consider to determine the best resolution for scanning photos.
For a simple list of recommendations (and to skip the technical bits) go straight to Section 4.
1. What Is Resolution?
When it comes to scanning photos, resolution refers to the level of detail and sharpness captured in the digital image. It is commonly measured in dots per inch (DPI) and determines how many pixels will be assigned to each inch of the scanned image. Higher resolution scans result in more pixels, which in turn provide finer details and sharper images, allowing you to increase the size of the image without sacrificing quality.
Of course, scanning at a higher resolution will take up more space on your computer, cloud or phone. They can also be slower to load and more expensive to scan. It’s therefore important to choose an appropriate resolution for your specific purposes that balances file size and image quality.
2. Things To Consider When Choosing A Resolution
Scanning photos at the optimal resolution for your requirements means considering a few things:
(a) Clarity and Detail
A lower resolution will do if you simply want to back up or create duplicate prints of your current photos, but if you plan on re-printing at a larger scale then opting for a higher resolution scan ensures that every intricate detail of the photo is captured faithfully. Fine textures and background elements are preserved, enhancing the overall clarity and detail of the image.
Digitized photos can be effortlessly shared online. You don’t need a super high-resolution image for it to look great when sharing your photos on social media platforms.
Printed photos can degrade or be damaged. Even if you just want to share your photos online, opting for a higher resolution may provide peace of mind, should anything happen to your precious printed photographs.
(d) Flexibility and Editing
High-resolution scans provide greater flexibility when it comes to editing and post-processing. The abundance of detail allows for precise adjustments, such as cropping, retouching, and colour correction, without compromising the image quality.
(e) Restoration and Enhancement
Scanning your photos at the right resolution also provides the opportunity to remove any unwanted scratches, creases or other damage. Restoring old images has never been so achievable or affordable, but you’ll need the photo scanned at a high resolution to make this possible.
3. Resolution and Its Units of Measurement: DPI vs PPI vs Megapixels
In researching the best resolution for scanning photos you may have come across a few different units of measurement for resolution. If it seems confusing, this is essentially all you need to know when it comes to scanning photos:
This is the most common unit of measurement and stands for ‘Dots Per Inch’. A printed image is made up of thousands of dots. DPI tells you how densely packed the dots are that form an image in print (or how many the scanner will detect when digitising). This is the measurement we use in the section below when making recommendations for specific purposes.
Just like a printed image is made of thousands of coloured dots, a digital image (computer, tv and phone screens) is made up of pixels. PPI means ‘Pixels Per Inch’ and refers to the number of pixels contained within a digital image. For the purposes of scanning photos, you can think of PPI and DPI as essentially interchangeable.
This tells you how many pixels a digital image contains in total, not per inch. A megapixel is 1,000,000 pixels. So to work out PPI (or DPI) you just have know how big the print or slide is you’re scanning. It can be done quite easily with this online converter: https://www.pixelconverter.com/megapixels-to-dpi-converter/
4. Recommended Resolutions for Different Scanning Purposes
Below is a list of the most popular scanning resolutions and why you might choose them:
300 DPI: The Industry Standard for Print-Quality Scans
Perfect if you ever want to make a duplicate set of prints at 4×6 or 8×10 inches. Any larger and you’ll start to see a loss in quality. Also great for sharing with friends and family online or with social media.
600 DPI: Enhanced Detail and Sharpness
Perfect for archiving your family photos. With enhanced detail, you can back up your photos with confidence. This provides the added benefit of being able to enlarge a photo for print if you ever want to. There’s also enough latitude to allow some editing to the digital photos should you wish.
At Make More Of Your Memories, our Photo Scan Service will scan everything in 600dpi as standard.
1200 DPI: Ultra-High-Resolution Scanning For Enthusiasts
If you’re interested in restoring damaged photos that have scratches or folds, this may be your preferred resolution. You’ll be able to zoom in and make changes with your photo editing software at a much more granular level.
5. Scanning Resolution for Different Types of Photos
When it comes to the best resolution for scanning photos there are a few other settings to consider, depending on the type of photo.
(a) Black and White Photos
Scan in Grayscale Mode: Since black and white photos lack colour information, it is best to scan them in grayscale mode. This setting helps to retain the tonal range and contrast of the original photo accurately.
(b) Colour Photos
Maintain Colour Depth: To ensure accurate colour reproduction, scan colour photos using a 24-bit or 48-bit colour depth setting. This allows for capturing a wide range of colours and tones, preserving the visual integrity of the photograph.
(c) Damaged & Deteriorated Photos
Use a High Resolution: If a photo is damaged and requires restoration, it’s best to scan at 1200 DPI so you have the highest quality image to edit and restore.
(d) Small Photos
Use a High Resolution: If a photo is small, like the size of a passport photo, you’re best to scan at least 600 DPI, should you want to enlarge it.
6. JPEG vs TIFF: Which Format Is Best?
Once you’ve decided on your resolution, you’ll need to choose your file format. JPG is a super versatile format, both high quality and low in file size. It’s suitable for uploading to social media profiles and websites, great for printing and can easily be viewed on pretty much anything (computer, Mac, phone, etc).
TIFF on the other hand is a much larger, uncompressed loss-less file. This is one for the pros who want to do some high-level photoshopping. They can’t be as easily viewed and uploaded like a JPEG.
Just in case you wondered, a JPEG is exactly the same as JPG – just a variation in the spelling.
High-resolution scanned photos have several advantages. Firstly, they reproduce the original image with exceptional accuracy, preserving detail, texture and colour. Secondly, they offer greater flexibility for post-processing, allowing for cropping, resizing, and editing without significant loss of quality. Lastly, high-resolution images ensure optimal print quality, as they contain a higher density of pixels per inch.
To ensure a superior quality scan – and avoid any headaches – we’re here to help!
We collect and deliver across the UK and are significantly cheaper than the high street. We also convert video and cinefilm to DVD and digital. If you’d like to know more, all you need to do is get in touch!
For archival purposes, it is recommended to scan photos at a resolution of 600 DPI (dots per inch). High-resolution scans provide the flexibility to print large-sized copies or zoom in on specific areas without compromising image quality.
Unfortunately, enlarging a low-resolution scanned photo does not magically increase its quality. Low-resolution images lack the necessary pixel information, which results in pixelation and loss of detail when enlarged. To maintain image quality, it is crucial to start with a high-resolution scan.
Yes, scanning old and faded photographs gives you the opportunity to enhance them. By scanning these photographs at a higher resolution, you can capture more detail and make adjustments during the post-processing stage. Various image editing software can be used to restore colour, reconstruct details and improve overall image clarity.
For sharing online and printing, JPEG is a popular and widely supported compressed file format. If you intend to embark on substantial post-processing you may want to opt for the uncompressed TIFF to retain the highest level of detail. However, they do result in significantly larger file sizes and are slow to view outside of professional editing software.
Cleaning the scanner bed before every scan is highly recommended to eliminate dust, fingerprints, or other debris that can affect the quality of the scanned images. Even minor specks of dust or particles can result in unwanted artefacts or blemishes on the scanned photos. A clean scanner bed ensures accurate reproduction of the original image, reducing the need for extensive post-processing.