Before any digital restoration can be performed, the original photo (or film negative) needs to be scanned. This step is critical, since it ultimately determines the quality of your restored photo.
- The Scanner:
Needless to say, try and use the best scanning equipment and software possible! Everything else being equal, a flatbed scanner will usually provide much higher quality digital images than similar sheet-fed scanners. If you don’t have a scanner you can usually get a high quality scan put on a DVD at a local Kinkos or photo finisher.
- The Scanning Software:
Often whichever software came with your scanner will work just fine, especially since this caters to the capabilities of your particular scanner.
- The Scanner’s Settings:
Resolution: With a photo restoration service, bigger really is better. In general, you’ll want to use a dot per inch (DPI) resolution of at least 400-600 DPI for prints. For film negatives, use an even higher resolution (12000-2400 DPI).
Scanning software usually comes with software that will remove scratches and dust and improve color. These features can be great and easy but not if you’re sending your photo to be restored. When scanning for restoration specifically turn off all the bells and whistles. A decent scanner can see parts of the photo that can be retrieved that the eye can’t. We use this in restoration. Those fast filters that come with your scanner are actually very destructive to the file and make retrieving that information from the photo impossible.
- File Type:
Save your scan in the TIFF file format – to maximize the preservation of details. If your scanner and software support RAW/DNG (digital negative) files then this is even better. If you have to save your photo as a jpeg, make sure to save it with no compression (at 100%% quality).
- Color versus black and white:
Saving black and white (grayscale) photos as grayscale image files can preserve disk space, but this isn’t the only thing to take into consideration! A color scan can often make the photo restoration process easier — even for a black and white image — since color makes it easier to identify and remove stains which aren’t part of the original photo.
- Film Negatives and Slide:
These provide more flexibility — if you are fortunate enough to still have them. Try looking in the back of your closet! Negatives are often more susceptible to physical damage, however, so sometimes the original photo is still a better source. Regardless, you will need to either send the negatives off for professional drum scanning, or have a film negative capable scanner. The biggest benefit of film based originals when it comes to photo restoration is that there is not paper texture to deal with. At various points in history the trends were to process photos onto textured papers. This presents a real problem for restorers. That texture when scanned is captured as part of the image in the scan and often has to be digitally removed which can be difficult and often destructive to the image. With negatives and slides texture isn’t a factor.