Digitize all your photos in 10 steps

Photos or slides are fragile. The photos from your album in the cupboard, but certainly also all those photos in the folders that you had the photographer develop, can wrinkle or get wet. You can also find photos much easier and always show them if you have them digitally. So get started!

Tip 01: Organize in advance

Start by collecting and organizing all the materials you want to scan. You will soon be scanning in a lot of them one after the other and by arranging the snapshots in a logical order, it will be easier to find and categorize them later in a digital library. A very handy way of organizing is by year. Especially if you already have some of your photos in albums, this is probably the most obvious method. Also read: You can edit all your photos for free with these 20 photo programs.

When arranging it is wise to also make a rough selection of the photos that you absolutely want to have digitally. Don't be too critical here: if a photo seems 'failed', digital photos can often be polished up with some editing. Photos with a piece of finger in front of the lens, for example, can be saved very well with some carving.

Not being too critical does not mean that you should blindly take everything with you. If you have ten photos from a birthday, choose two or three and leave the rest in the album. Especially if you want to transfer an entire family archive to your computer, it can be a hell of a job if you want to digitize everything.

Tip 02: Other documents

While you're still figuring it out, it can be nice to immediately add relevant extra documents to scan: postcards, maps, entrance tickets, airline tickets ... You may eventually want to have a physical photo album printed with all these scans. , and then it's really nice to add these kinds of extras to it. These types of documents also help organize your digital albums, as they give context to your vacation photos. Be creative and think about how you can forge your photos into a story later on. Do you have stamps in your passport? Boarding passes? A sugar bag from that terrace in the south of France? All these kinds of small (flat) objects are fun to scan in for possible later use. If you've already saved them, they probably already mean something to you, and then it might be worth digitizing.

Tip 03: Slide scanner

It is not possible to digitize slides with an ordinary flatbed scanner. You need a special device for that. There are flatbed scanners for sale that do have the ability to scan a number of slides, but the most common is the real slide scanner. Basically this is a converted digital camera where you put slides in and then digitize them one by one. If you want to buy one, you have to count on a purchase of fifty to one hundred euros. It's a good idea to check with your friends to see if anyone already has such a scanner at home, since you probably won't be using it very often.

If you own a good digital SLR camera, you can also attach a slide duplicator to it. This is an adapter into which you insert slides and which you then click onto the lens of the camera. Then you print and you have digitized the slide. The advantage of this extension is that you can also digitize negatives with it. The downside is that a slide duplicator is inconvenient for scanning large numbers of slides, as you have to change them one at a time. With a slide scanner you can load trays of five or ten slides at a time.

For regular photos, a flatbed scanner is the best option. These are the traditional scanners with a glass plate on which you place your photos one by one. Some scanners have a side loader, in which you put a stack of photos that are then automatically scanned, just like with a copier. The disadvantage of this is that photos can get stuck, and it is also more difficult to scan non-standard sizes. Most scanners are capable of scanning at 300 dpi (dots per inch), which is the recommended minimum resolution for capturing photos. Lower is not a good idea, because details will be lost.

Do not try to digitize your entire photo collection by photographing your photos with a digital camera or smartphone. This does not give a nice result and is much more work. If you still want to try it, we have a handy step-by-step plan here.

Tip 04: Cleaning the scanner

It is a shame if you find out after scanning during post-processing that there were dust or other disturbing particles on your scanner or your photos. Although you can still do something about it with image editing software, prevention is always better here.

Follow the instructions in your scanner's manual to properly clean the glass plate from dust and stains. Also check regularly during scanning that no dust or hairs get on the plate. Especially if you take old albums out of the closet, this is something to watch out for. The same also applies to the photos you scan. Wipe it with a dry soft cloth, for example a microfibre cloth. A can of compressed air can also help. Do not press, it is about taking small hairs and dust with you without damaging the photo. Do not use water or detergent as this will damage the protective layer of the photos.

What is dpi?

Dpi stands for dots per inch. This indicates how many pixels are in a row per 2.54 cm (1 inch). This is especially important if you want to print the photo again. A low dpi means there is less pixel information. So if you print a low dpi poster size photo, you will see a grainy image. When printing normal photos up to approximately A4 size, 300 dpi is more than sufficient. A higher dpi gives you more freedom in editing because there is more information to work with. For example, you can also cut a smaller part of a photo and still print it at a reasonable size without loss of quality.

Tip 05: Test scans

Before you process the entire collection, it is wise to do a number of test scans to find the optimal settings of the scanning software. In most cases, the software with your scanner has a number of pre-programmed settings that are fine. Try out these presets and see what seems to give the best result.

This phase is about digitizing the photos (or slides) with as much detail as possible so that you can optimize them later with a photo editor.

Make sure you scan at a minimum of 300 dpi (see also the box). A higher dpi takes up more storage space and can give a better result in some cases. Experiment with this in your test scans as well. To see the difference, it is wise to zoom in on your scanned photos. Only then do you really see how much detail might be lost with a lower dpi. Experience shows that for most photos a dpi of 300 to 600 gives an excellent result.

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