Well, if scanning prints is something you want to do, or need to do, there’s a bright side to it all. You only have one choice for equipment, and that is a flatbed document scanner.
Flatbed scanners come in a wide range of prices from a variety of manufacturers. Many come with some sort of photo editing software. Some are tailored towards folks like you, and have one-button shortcuts for scanning prints. Others offer software that will help restore old faded prints in one step.
You can get good results for around $100 or so. Prices go up from there to a top of the line Epson that will set you back around $750. Consider your objective before you set out to buy your scanner. A scanner can always do, less that its’ ultimate capability – but it can never do more.
If all you want to do is scan the family snapshots for viewing on your phone or computer, or to post on Facebook, you don’t need to spend a fortune.
If you’re looking to be able to reproduce a print that’s in focus and well exposed, you don’t need to spend a fortune, either.
Sounds pretty good so far, doesn’t it?
If your originals aren’t in focus, no scanner is going to be able to fix that.
If your original prints are underexposed (dark, muddy), a scanner might be able to help – but don’t get your hopes up. The same goes for prints that are overexposed (washed out). In either case, your best bet is to work from the original slide or negative if you have it. And, at that point, the $99 scanner is probably not your best choice.
If you’re wanting to take that 4×6 inch print, scan it, and create a great 20×30 inch print to cover that empty space on your wall – it’s not going to happen. The only way that’s going to happen in an acceptable manner is if you’ve got the original slide or negative to work from, and a scanner capable of providing output of at least 4800 dpi. Sorry if you were hoping to hear something different.
If you’re working from prints that are old, faded, torn, or wrinkled, they can probably be saved. “Saved” might be a great result, and it might not be. All it takes is decent software, a good mouse and mouse pad, and time. And patience. And time. Did I mention patience and time? I spent about 11 hours restoring and repairing a print of my Grandfather on his wedding day. I found it behind two other prints of my Grandparent’ wedding in a frame, and time wasn’t at all kind to it. I used Ulead PhotoImpact software to repair it (the software is now found in Corel’s PaintShop Pro X5 software). If you don’t believe me about having a good mouse – wait until you work on restoring your first print!
For the record, my current flatbed scanner is a HP OfficeJet 4630 all-in-one.
We’ll wrap the scanning conversation up in one final post soon.