How To: Digitize Old Photos
Bring your photos into the 21st century with these five easy steps.

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Most of us have piles of old photos filling drawers and closets in our houses. Even if we don’t, maybe our mothers, grandparents, and relatives do. What do we do with all these images? While they represent precious memories of days long gone, they can easily be lost or damaged.

Technology can give new life to old photos, preserving them so we can keep sharing them with our loved ones. If you want to know what tools you need to bring your images to the 21st century, then keep on reading.

Resolution specs vary based on how you use your photos. If you just plan to display them on a computer screen, 72 DPI will be enough, but 300 or higher is recommended for printing.
Since you can edit the images to make them smaller at any time, it’s always better to scan at a high resolution and re-size later when you need it.

The same is true for your choice of file format: JPEG can be all right for common uses, but if you want to keep a fully editable, uncompressed file, TIFF will work better. However, remember that the higher the resolution, the larger the file and the required storage space.

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Flatbeds are the most common type of scanner, and with the variety of models available on the market, it’s easy to get a consumer flatbed capable of producing quality results for a very convenient price.

Flatbeds are not only useful for photos, but they will also come in handy when you need to scan other documents. And if you are in need of a new printer, there are all-in-one machines that will print, scan, and fax documents.

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Film scanners are the best option if you need to scan individual slides and strips of negative film. However, a film scanner is a very specialized piece of equipment and a good one can be expensive. Unless you have a large amount of film and slides to process, getting one is probably not going to be worth it.

There are flatbed scanners that will also scan photographic film, so if you want a multipurpose scanner, you should consider getting one of those instead.

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If you don’t have time to do the scanning yourself, you can try an online service. They will get the job done quickly and their rates are usually affordable. Here are some of the most popular ones: ScanCafe, ScanMyPhotos, DigMyPics, PhotoBin, ScanDigital. Just make sure to read their instructions carefully before submitting your photos.

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There are a few mobile apps out there that will do decent job. One of my favorites is Shoebox. Shoebox makes it a cinch to scan images and keep them neatly organized in themed folders. But Shoebox is not only a way to collect your old photos on your mobile device; the app also has nice social features. You can easily and privately share the photos with family and friends.

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Old photos are invaluable and should be taken care of. Unfortunately, time can take its toll on our photos. Keeping digital copies of these precious mementos can extend their life and make them even more enjoyable.

Images by Jean Scheijen and Loungefrog.

About the Author
Kenny Austin is an expert of print quality and accuracy, product analysis, and print production processes.
Kenny and the team order print jobs from every major printer to test quality, value, customer service, and more. See their reviews here:

1 Comment

  1. This is such a good idea! but it seems like alot of work?!