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Photo Restoration Tips – Scanning

Photo Restoration Tips – Scanning

old photo faded, blurry images and colour information lost and hardly recognisable faces


graphic vintage item

The first step in digital photo restoration is digitising your photos.

 There are a lot of reasons why you should scan all of your old photographs and transparencies, but the main one is that it’s the only method to restore them in a high quality format that will look great when exhibited or printed. 

You have control over the exposure and appearance of the image when you scan it yourself. You can alter the resolution, crop off unwanted sections (or leave them in), change the colours and brightness, and make any other adjustments that make sense for the particular image.

It is important to understand the difference between resolution and pixel dimensions. Resolution refers to the number of pixels in an image, whereas pixel dimensions refers to the physical size of those pixels. For example, a 300dpi image scanned at 8×10 inches will have more pixels than a 100dpi image scanned at 4×5 inches. The higher the resolution, the more detail can be captured from your old prints or slides.

The higher resolution you are able to scan with when restoring your photo negatives and transparencies, the better results you will get when editing them digitally (in Photoshop or another image editor). however there is a limit on how much information a printed photo, slide or negative can provide.

The digital tools available today allow us to make incredible changes in our images without having much concern about loss of detail due to low resolution scanning. However if you want exceptional quality results then invest in high resolution scans, at Yesterdays Photo we can help!


graphic vintage item

Scanning a photo is something plenty of people are familiar with these days, and truth is for general photo restoration purposes most of the flatbed scanners you can find commercially can do an acceptable job. 

Indeed technology can make a difference when scanning a photo or a negative, but as long as you use best practices and some common sense, your home scanner can become a powerful tool to convert your photos to a digital format without spending thousands of dollars. 

We have indetified and listed a few tips that will help you getting the most out of this process and the best value out of your home scanner.




This has plenty of common sense, but you will be surprised how often something this simple is overlooked, 

It is important to understand that when scanning a photo in high resolution, we will magnifying artifacts, fingerprints and particles laying on your scanner glass, therefore maintaining your scanner clean, can make a difference and contribute positively on the final quality of your digital capture and can minimise future dust and scratches on originals.

Preparation is a critical step to achieve a good outcome, so it is always good practice to clean these areas with the manufacturer ‘s recommended tools, chemicals and methods before digitally-capturing any image. (alcohol-based products are not recommended)

The objective of this is to minimise the amount foreign elements to facilitate the photo editing, remember that best results come from a good preparation, common practices are:

  • Remove dust and dirt from your scanner. To do this, use a compressed air duster or soft brush to remove dust from the scanner bed, remember that some particles can be hard and scratch the photo or the glass further.

  • Avoid touching the glass plate of your scanner with fingers, as it may leave oil marks on the glass surface.

Magnifier over fingerprint on scanner glass


Ensure that your original is as clean and dust-free as possible before beginning any preparation process of an original. 

Cleaning a photo is risky and can impact negatively, so being meticulous and exceedingly cautious with a family heirloom or historical photograph is not only crucial but logical.

If you want to do it well first process an initial scan this will be kind of you insurance, then use a soft brush or cotton swab dipped in distilled water, but be aware that overusing this method could damage your picture. so Instead of targeting vital areas, test the preparation on a non-vital location such as a corner, and measure the result before continuing

Have in mind Some old photos are likely to be colourised manually and water and friction will remove the pigments or contaminate nearby areas, so the work here is surgical.

We strongly advocate hiring a professional to complete this task; nevertheless, if you insist on doing it yourself, be aware that you do it at your own risk.

hand with gloves holding a swap to prepare photo for scanning


The more information we obtain from the original photo the better for the restoration or photo enhancement process;  even if you do not see it directly there is plenty of information in a faded or decouloured photo that can help you, so set up your scanner for the highest-resolution possible regardless if the file size appears to be too large.  

It is important to understand the purpose of the photo and the final destination where is going to be used,  based on this you can decide before engaging works the level of restoration required. 

Print and web drastically differ in resolution requirements, being web specially much more easy to handle, at Yesterdays we can provide you with guidance and professional scanning services with a resolution up to 12800 dpi, large format and negative film scanning.

Resolution comparison of an edited portrait


Even when digitalising a photo that its originally in black and white, set your scanner to capture the image in colour, this is particulary useful when editing photos that have been stained or have some colour casting due to the pass of time, UV rays or deterioration of the paper or stock they where printed on.

Photoshop is extremely powerful and can give you control of the different colour channels within a photo, this means that even the slightest colour variations or casts can be manipulated and rectified, by obtaining colour information from the source you will have much more control and fidelity, and can save you or our specialists a ton of time. 


Scan your photos in colour even If they are in grayscale, a can full of coloured pencils suggests this


The closer you scan your image to a 90-degree angle the better, this will help technically and will ease the restoration workflow for you or our restoration specialists, 

Although straightening images is an easy process in photoshop, there are further benefits by scanning your photos in a 90-degree angle and it is the control of the reflection of light within the texture of the paper or stock the photo has been developed on.  

Make sure the original is flat. If you’re scanning a book, make sure it’s lying flat. If you’re scanning a letter or photograph, hold it up to a light and look for any problems with warped edges.

Don’t let your originals wrinkle or get torn during processing; if possible, avoid running them through an automatic document feeder (ADF) so that there is no risk of physical damage. 


Scan your old photos as straight as possible


Your scanner, the software you use, and the resolution all have an impact on how well your scanned image turns out. The original is the most crucial component. Don’t expect an image that has been scanned to look nice if it is too dark, fuzzy, missing features, or scratched up. The scanner and software can only do so much to correct for such substandard photographs.

Automatic adjustments may produce aberrations and anomalies that aren’t visible when viewing the original. This specifically occurs when scanning colour images captured with budget or film cameras lacking automated exposure control tools.

For a professional scanning service do not hesitate to contact us, we are alway happy to help!

magnifier focusing on yellow surface


There are some things you can do to enhance the quality of your scans, despite the fact that scanning negatives and transparencies might be more challenging:

As was previously mentioned, planning is essential. Prepare the areas in a dust-free environment by using a sensitive microfiber towel or air duster to gently clean both sides of the scanner glass.

Make sure your slides or negatives don’t have any moisture on them.

Before putting them on the scanner area, wipe off any remaining moisture with a fresh, clean cloth. Some scanners will provide you transparency guides to place these and keep them stable.

Bunch of 35mm photo slides


High-End Drum scanning is an expensive and time-consuming process that we only advise when the value of the photograph is sufficient, (not necessarily commercial value). A drum scanner is an exceptionally high resolution device that has a rotating drum in its interior and functions to obtain detailed and sharp reproduction of transparencies and photographs.

So if you are serious about digitising your photograph or transparencies this is one of the preferred options of many photographers and conservationists around the world.

High end drum scannner


A professional tip is to scan your photo 4 times, by rotating the photography to 90, 180, 270, and 360 degreee and scanning it using the same scanner setup, you will achieve an extra set of detail, this is particulary helpful to remove or minimise the textures inherited from the original paper or stock as it reduces considerably the glare caused by the reflection of the scanner light when bouncing on the paper texture.

Once scanned you can use photoshop to align the layers and get the most of the photo using different blending modes to add up or subtract pixels and color information.

Note: be aware that when dealing with some type of textures a different technique of post-processing named FFT (Fast-fourier transform) can help you achieving amazing results in record time.


Old photo with a repetitive texture pattern, usually called honeycomb due to its hexagonal-shaped appearance, comparison with a restored photo where this texture has been suppressed

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