14 Awesome Tips to Get Better Quality Images When Scanning Old Photos

scanning old photos - banner ok

Have you ever encountered yearbooks with very bad quality images? I’m pretty sure all of us have at one point – and no matter how beautiful the layout is, blurry or pixelated images end up dragging the whole design down.

But wait! Bad quality images should be a thing of the past because technology has enabled everyone to capture better pictures. Mobile phones are now equipped with impressive cameras. Digital cameras now allow us to take high resolution images – even the cheapest ones! So on this side, we don’t have any excuses anymore.

Scanning old photos is also accessible, but maybe a little more difficult for non-experts. Preparing your photos and documents for scanning requires knowledge and organization skills. Understanding the settings of your scanner requires time and attention. And so on.

If you’d like to use old photographs, newspaper clippings or any other dated documents in your yearbook, then this post is perfect for you. I will guide you through the main steps you should know to get it done properly:
– Preparation: collecting, cleaning and organizing all the materials you plan to scan
– Scanning old photos with a scanner: some tips on how to use your equipment properly
– Scanning old photos with a smartphone: introduction to useful applications and other tips and tricks
– Organizing and using your scanned photos in your yearbook

All good? Then, let’s get started.

Preparation: what you need to do before scanning old photos.

01. Collect your documents and make sure they are clean

The very first step is to collect all the photos and memorabilia you need to scan. Make sure that every single one is clean. To do so, use a microfiber cloth to wipe any dust or dirt away. Remember to be gentle especially when handling old photographs and items.

scanning old photos - cleaning photos

02. Prepare your scanner

Check out the glass of your scanner. Make sure there’s no dust or other particles that may damage your image. Most scanners are pretty straightforward to use and come with their own editing software. If you are using the scanner for the first time, read up on how to use it properly. Also, as always, do a few tests to be familiar with the settings and the software.

scanning old photos - cleaning scanner

03. Decide on a naming convention

A good file naming system is very important. If done correctly, you will save everyone a lot of time. It will allow your design team to find the right documents without wasting time. Can you imagine how difficult it is to find the right image when all the photos are named “image1.jpg” or “image8.jpg”?

– For baby photos, simply use the student’s name. Don’t forget to place the photos in a folder corresponding to their class.

– For events
, start by identifying the occasion and add a keyword describing the action on the photo. For example: “anzacday – student show.jpg” or “sports carnival – soccer final.jpg”. If you have multiple photos for the same event, you can simply add numbers at the end. Again, try to gather all your photos in folders for a better organization.

scanning old photos - organize your filesAs you can see, a well organized folder is ideal for the project

04. All your photos should be stored at the same place.

There are plenty of ways to do that. You can use your computer, portable devices such as an external hard drive or USB drive, or even online solutions like Picasa, Dropbox, or Google Drive. Just make sure that each option is accessible to everyone in your team.

Remember, Fusion Yearbooks allows you to store and organize your photos in folders, directly in the yearbook builder. Do not hesitate to use this feature straight away to save even more time (have a look a little further in this post to see how it all works).

julie from aspley

Special Tip from a Yearbook Coordinator

“We made use of Picasa and Dropbox to share the images, although I mainly worked with a single USB drive with folders arranged by decades and key subject areas.

I would really recommend having one or two people who are dedicated to ensuring the quality and organisation of the images, as this is what everyone really loves when it comes to a yearbook. And start early!”

Julie, Yearbook Coordinator of Aspley State School.
Read the full interview here.

Scanning old photos with a scanner: how to use your equipment properly.

Don’t be intimidated! The whole process is super simple once you follow these tips!

05. Scanning a single item

When scanning a single item, make sure you adjust the scan area to exclude the blank background. To isolate the photo from the background, use your scanner’s cropping tool. If you don’t do that, your photo will be heavier (because of it’s size) and you will have to re-crop your image afterwards.

scanning old photos - single image

06. Scanning multiple items at the same time

You can save time by scanning multiple items at the same time. Simply arrange your photos as orderly as possible on the scanner. Try to make sure that the edges are straight and not just randomly placed on the scanner bed. This will make cropping more accurate and a lot easier.

scanning old photos - multiple items

07. Use the right settings

In the settings, one thing really matters. You’ll have to decide what DPI (Dots per inch) to scan with. 

If you want your scanned image to be professionally printed on a yearbook page to the exact same size than the original, you have to follow the professional printing standard, which is 300 DPI. For your information, this standard is used by professional photographers and any time a photo is printed in a magazine or other printed supports.

What if you choose a lower DPI?
Print publications can only hold up to 200 or 300 dpi worth of image detail. Below that, your images will surely be pixelated or blurry. It’s a risk you take and unfortunately the image quality can’t be restored.

What if I want to scan a small photo but need to use it in a bigger size?
Simply choose a bigger DPI! For example, if you have a 10×5 cm photo and would like to print it to 20×10 cm, choose 600 DPI instead of 300 (simply increase the DPI according to the real size you need, knowing that 300 DPI is the standard to maintain the original size and quality of the photo).

For a more in depth guide on scanning, you can check out this article. Just remember that not all scanner are the same so some settings may vary.

Still a bit confused? Then, this video will definitely make things clearer for you!

scanning old photos - scanner settings

Scanning old photos with a smartphone

Don’t fret if you do not have access to a scanner. Sometimes your mobile phone is more than enough to do the job! You don’t believe me? Well, check out this article to see what you can do with a smartphone for you yearbook photos.

08. Prepare your “scanning” space

After you have cleaned and sorted your photos, look for an adequate “scanning” area. This is the place where you will put your photos down while you use your mobile phone to scan them. This area should be clean and well-lit.

scanning old photos - scan area

09. Download a “Scanner” app on your smartphone

Check the App store or Google Play for applications you can use to scan images.  A popular scanning app is http://shoebox.ancestry.com/. Simply make sure that your mobile phone fits the technical specifications needed.

scanning old photos - phone scanner

10. Taking photos using your phone camera

For photographs, you can actually just take a photo using your mobile phone’s camera. Just make sure that the photo is clear and that you are using the highest resolution setting. Keep in mind though that this technique might be tricky for documents and should just be used for photographs.

scanning old photos - photo with phone camera

What to do with your photos once they are scanned?

Now that you have all those digital image files, you can move on to the exciting task of designing your yearbook pages! Start with uploading everything on the Fusion yearbook builder before you start using them on your yearbook pages.

Here is a quick guide on how to do that:

11. Go to Uploads

Look at the left side panel of your project page and click on Uploads.

scanning old photos - upload in Fusion

12. Create a new folder

Create a new folder by clicking on that button. An untitled folder will appear at once after clicking. Rename this new folder with the proper filename – for example, “Year 7 baby photos”

scanning old photos - organize photos in folders

13. Upload photos

scanning old photos - upload image

Click on your new folder and notice that the upload image will be visible under. Click on that to upload directly from your computer files. You can also drag your files directly to upload.

14. Use your photos

And now you’re all set! You can now start designing your yearbook with your scanned images.

scanning old photos - drag photos

To sum everything up, here are the things you need to keep in mind:

  • Collect the items you want to scan. Make sure that each one is clean and dust free
  • Know your scanner – read up on the settings and how to use it
  • Follow a proper file naming system for your scanned images to avoid confusion
  • Choose a good storage option for the files. It can be physical – on the computer or on portable drives, or online. Just be sure that it is accessible for all members of your yearbook team
  • With the proper application or technique, smartphones can also be used for scanning
  • Making folders on the Fusion Yearbooks system is easy and the best way to organise your photos for your yearbook!

I hope this post helps and gets you motivated to scan your old photos! Remember, your yearbook and your memories are very important– don’t let poorly scanned images ruin it! It’s definitely worth the time and effort to do the scanning properly.

If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment, I’ll get back to you shortly. Have fun creating your yearbook!

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Katrina is like the Cat Woman of our design team. Being responsible for some of the most beautiful layouts and clipart available in our online yearbook builder, chances are she already helped you create beautiful things. Oh also... She loves everything cat and dreams of running a cat sanctuary in the future.

  • Great stuff!

  • Really great article. Thanks for taking the time to explain things in such great detail in a way that is easy to understand.

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