Best Format To Scan Photos – How-To Guide

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If you’re organizing hundreds of old family photos, they can become challenging to sort, store, and backup

The good news is, digitizing your photo albums is easier than you think! However, those new to digital photos may not know the best file format to use.

In this guide, you’ll learn the best file formats for scanning your photos, how to upload them at home, and additional tips to keep in mind.

Options For Scanning Your Photographs

When photo scanning, you have two options. First, you can your images professionally scanned. Second, you can scan your pictures yourself. Each has its pros and cons – take a look below.

Scan Your Photos At Home

If you have a scanner, you can save money by scanning the images yourself. Plus, you have total control over the final results – from the scanning resolution to image sizes. 

However, scanning old photos yourself is time-consuming and tedious, depending on how many images you want to digitize. Scanning old photos can also require additional editing skills, such as color correction, cropping, and other adjustments. 

Finally, you will need a reliable scanner to produce high-quality images. If you don’t have the time or equipment, you might want to consider getting your photos scanned professionally instead.

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Hire A Professional To Scan Your Images

Companies such as CVS or Walmart can scan your photos for you, saving you the time it takes to do it yourself. Industry level scanners produce high quality scans and are usually pretty affordable!

What Is The File Formats For Photo Scans?

The most common file formats for scanning old photos are JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and GIF. However, each come with their ups and downsides. Below, you’ll discover what file format best suits your scanning requirements.

JPEG File Format

Designed in 1992 by the Joint Photographic Experts Group, the reliable JPEG format is excellent for compressing a digital image to a smaller file size without losing quality.

Pros Of Scanning In JPEG Format

  • These digital images are easy to share between devices and ideal for uploading images to the Internet.
  • You can store JPEG files on limited disk space because of their lossless format compression.
  • They can support a wide range of colors. 

Cons Of Scanning In JPEG Format

  • The lossy compression on JPEG files comes with some data loss, which results in mediocre text displays. 
  • Editing JPEG files often results in low image quality due to their small file size.

PNG File Format

Short for Portable Network Graphic, PNG files were first uploaded in 1996. Creators specifically invented this file type for easy transfer on the Internet. 

Pros Of Scanning In PNG Format

  • PNGs compress into a small file size better than JPEG files – there is minimal loss of image quality. 
  • They are the most widely accepted format among Internet users. 
  • They can scan in a full-color spectrum. 

Cons Of Scanning In PNG Format

  • They are not suitable for high-resolution prints. 
  • They require more space than other file formats. 
  • Some web browsers do not universally support them.

TIFF File Format

The Tagged Image File Format by Adobe aims to provide compatibility across all platforms. Like its counterparts, a TIFF file allows for lossless compression, albeit with the ability to keep your images in the best quality possible. 

Pros Of Scanning In TIFF Format

  • You can scan images in RGB and CMYK colors.
  • TIFF files maintain layers, masks, and transparencies.
  • TIFF files provide the best resolution and are ideal for photo scanning & printing. 
  • Compression doesn’t result in image data loss. 

Cons Of Scanning In TIFF Format

  • TIFF files are not compatible across many browsers and operating systems. 
  • They come with the largest file size, which can be challenging to upload.

What File Format Should You Use?

Ultimately, what format you use to scan each image file will depend on your preferences. If you’re after shareability, you might prefer to use a JPEG or PNG format. On the other hand, the TIFF format can work to your advantage if you want to use an image editor such as Adobe Photoshop for printing.

What Is DPI & Why Does It Matter When Scanning Photos?

The DPI or dots-per-inch on your digital files refers to how many pixels there are in a single image. The higher the DPI on your file type, the more you can enlarge your file size without losing quality. However, images with higher DPIs contain more image data also take up more space on your device.

The pixel dimensions you select will depend on exactly what you want to do with your digital images. For instance, the sweet spot for archiving images is 300 DPI, while a DPI of 200 will suffice for image-sharing online. 

300 DPI is also ideal for electronic display. You’ll want to increase the dots-per-inch on your images if you intend to enlarge file size or print them. 

The best way to determine the dots-per-inch on your pictures is to work backward. First, crop the original photo to fit the aspect ratio you want, then compute the resolution you need.

How To Scan Your Images At Home

Use The Right Equipment

To scan your images at home, you’ll need a flatbed scanner along with the appropriate software. A clean microfiber cloth will also come in handy for cleaning the scanner surface before you scan your images. If you don’t have a flatbed scanner, you can download a free application on your mobile phone or even use digital cameras. 

If you want to manipulate your photos before you upload or print them, use a photo editing program like Adobe Photoshop, Snapseed, or Paintshop Pro.

photo scan dpi

Take Inventory Of The Photos You Want To Scan

Narrowing down the number of photos you want to scan can help you save time and streamline the scanning process. Pare down your photo albums by separating the pictures into groups.

photo albums

Clean Your Photographs & Your Scanner

Then, wipe off the scanner bed with your microfiber cloth to ensure a clean scan. Dust off & clean your photos to prevent scanning any visible particles. Always use dry paper towels and avoid using cleaning fluids on your photographs.

lay them to dry on paper towel

Scan Your Images

Finally, it’s time to scan your pictures. You can save time by scanning multiple images at once. You can crop the entire image later on to create individual files. 

The best way to achieve more detail and continuous tone in your images is to scan them in color.

flatbed picture scanner

Tips For Scanning Your Images

Have Damaged Photos Restored

There is nothing more disheartening than losing precious old family photo albums to things like sun or water damage and tearing. Fortunately, you can receive high-quality image scans of your photographs by sending them to us for restoration. 
We can correct all sorts of damage and restore image detail, sending the final product back in the correct DPI.

before after of a damaged photo

Know What You Want To Do With Your Scanned Images

Don’t scan your photo albums without a purpose in mind. Whether you want to share your photos online or via print, for instance, will dictate whether they benefit from a JPEG compression at a lower resolution or other file types like TIFF.

Edit Your Photos

Finally, edit your images using a tool like Adobe Photoshop after scanning them. If you want to enhance your photos while keeping them at the exact same image size, you can use both PNG and TIFF file types.

using adobe photoshop to edit jpeg, png and tiff files

The Ideal Format For Scanning Images Is Up To You!

Ultimately, digitizing your old photo albums is the best way to keep your memories safe. What format you use will depend on whether you want to upload your scans online or print them for display. 

If you want your images professionally scanned, contact our experts at Image Restoration Center today!

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