Prior to scanning photos, a few steps are important to ensure less work in the restoration process in Photoshop. Check that the scanner glass doesn’t have lint, fingerprints, or smudges. If it does, purchase a lint-free cloth to clean the scanner glass and computer monitor. This helps in removing dust that can be picked up and transferred to your digital image when scanning prints, negatives and slides.
It’s good practice to wear nylon gloves to handle photos, negatives, or slides. Nylon gloves are better than cotton ones, which accumulate dust and lint. They also protect photos, negatives and slides from skin oils. Always wash the gloves after handling photos.
Another good practice is to purchase a can of compressed air to spray slides before scanning to further minimize dust on the scanner. Never spray the glass of the scanner; compressed air can scratch the glass or damage the scanner.
Always scan your photos in RGB mode. Typically for most scanners, 24-bit color is the default. Set it to 24-bit color if the scanner isn’t already set to that. Disable all auto-correction controls like color correction, sharpening, etc. By doing this, you have the liberty of changing settings to desired taste.
Once scanning the original image is completed (if it’s for restoration purposes) it should be saved in TIFF or JPEG format. Other formats can be accommodated as well but in TIFF format, information is not lost from the original image. TIFF format does require a good deal of computer memory if you’re working with several images. If saving your photo in JPEG format, be sure to save it with no compression and at 100 percent quality.
Using the Right Printer Resolution (dpi)
Choose 300 dpi (dots per inch) for a commercial printer or 720 dpi for the highest quality restoration and retouching work (4″ x 6″ photos). For 5″ x 7″ and 8″ x 10″ photos, use at least 600 dpi.
Digitizing photos, whether old or modern, is very important. This ensures photos are safe and can be restored digitally. The process of restoration can take a considerable amount of time and patience. Research is also important for old photos that have damage, especially to historically and accurately restore a photo. For example, the photo shown below was missing the name of the ship on the man’s cap.
If a photo is dated, it makes research easier, since knowing the year gives one a starting point for research. In this case, we needed to research any ship sailing circa 1920, eventually finding it was the USS Wisconsin. This part of the process is critical for historical accuracy. Knowing the ship made it easier to replicate the font to match the last couple of letters showing on the cap, as well as the cap itself. Where you are doing your research for a restoration is crucial as well. Google (only use reputable search results!) and Ancestry.com both provide easy access to this type of research. On a more personal level, relatives – older family members in particular – often enjoy sharing about their parents, growing up, etc.
Another way to gather information is to contact museums’ archivists or visit in person to look at antiques, equipment, military uniforms, etc. Old advertisements can add insight if you can find them. You might even be surprised at the wealth of information your local library has to offer!