How To Scan Old Photos For Best Resolution

Are you looking for a detailed answer to the following question?  How to scan old photos for best resolution? You’ve come to the right place.

Have you ever thought of digitalizing your old photos with the best photo scanners? Well, now is the time to take out those dusty albums from shoeboxes, racks & frames. You can easily preserve your memories and make them more shareable, searchable, and safe. Great idea! Isn’t it? There are always memorable moments that you capture in camera and never open them again as they are put in some album which is not always easy to find!

There are a number of queries in the minds of people such as, what is the best way to digitize photos, what does a scanner do, how to scan photos into the computer? Stay with us in this article and you will know all!

Why do you need to scan photos?

Before we move onto the best resolution for scanning documents, we have to see why do we need to scan photos in the first place. Long gone are the days when people used to take photos from their cameras and then get the roll printed from shops. This was then converted into an album and stored in a safe place. This was a cumbersome process and required both time and money. You did not know whether the picture you took was actually good because you only saw once it was printed. Moreover, the albums were thrown into a cupboard and never seen for many years which made them effectively useless. Therefore, the need for scanning old photos emerged.

The development of technology introduced digital cameras that could be connected to computers and photos could be transferred easily. With the advancement in smartphone technology, the cameras have become so high quality that the use of digital cameras is almost finished today. You can take any type of picture on your mobile, edit it, save it, scan it and share it within minutes just from your mobile phone applications. But, what is the process of converting photos to digital? Let us see in this article.


The ability of the camera to capture detail (scene) is called its resolution, and it is measured in pixels. Pixel is the smallest unit in digital imaging that can be represented on a digital display device. Higher pixels allow detailed images and can be scanned easily without losing much quality. Resolution can also be identified as the width and height of the image and is represented in pixels. For example, an image that is 256 pixels wide and 256 pixels high.

screen resolution

Most common pixels are:

  • 256×256 – Low resolution picture quality usually blurred. It is usually found in low-end cameras. 256 x 256 is 65,000 total pixels.
  • 640×480 – Resolution ideal for emailing photos or adding side images on a web site. This is found in lower-end “real” cameras.
  • 1216×912 – Also known as the “megapixel” image size. It is used in printing pictures – 1216 x 912 is 1,109,000 total pixels.
  • 1600×1200 –Also known as “high resolution”. You can print a 4×5 inch photo with the same resolution from it. It has almost 2 million total pixels.
  • 2240×1680 –It is used in 4-megapixel cameras. You can print a 16×20 inch photo with the same resolution from it. This allows even larger printed photos, with good quality.
  • 4064×2704 – Digital camera nowadays runs on 11.1 megapixels. You can create 13.5×9 inch prints with no loss of quality and color.

Professional cameras nowadays can support up to 20 million pixels, or even 25 million pixels for large-format cameras.


DPI stands for dots per square inch, it is a term used when you scan images from your scanner or printer. Similarly, digital images use pixels (width x height) to measure resolution/quality. Printed images are also printed using little dots of ink.

Most commonly used DPIs are 72dpi, 300dpi, 600dpi, 900dpi.

Best DPI Resolution when scanning photos:

If you want to convert any size picture and make it 3 times, 4 times, or 5 times bigger, DPI is used. DPI is used in printing while PPI is used in the monitor screen.  The knowledge of DPI resolution and its intricacies is extremely important for a professional and high-quality scan. They’ll usually end up blurred.

Now we shall look at the best DPI for scanning photos.

3 Steps for best photo scanning needs:

  1. Use 300 DPI to get HDTV quality images, which includes 720p/1080p. Photos can be printed again and again, at the same size which is often the requirements for many people.
  2. If you wish to increase the dimensions of the pictures, the DPI of 600 or 900 is best suited for such scenarios. Most people scan all their 4×6 images at 900 DPI.
  3. If your photo is smaller than 4×6, use 900 – 1200 DPI. Most people use 1200 DPI to scan all their smaller images.

Now we’ll go in detail about the 3 steps we discussed earlier.

best screen resolution

It was believed for a long time that 72dpi was ideal for web use.

So, What DPI/PPI do you use?

How To Scan Old Photos For Best Resolution (with different sizes)

How to Scan a 4″ x 6″ photograph at 300 DPI:

Using this, 4×6 images can be converted into 4×6 digital image using 300dpi. That’s because when your images were printed, they had 300 dots per inch (dpi) to print your image. So that concludes that after using 300 DPI, you’re exactly getting a copy of your original image.

And, this 4×6 digital image will be HDTV quality using 300dpi. HDTV nowadays can vary from 720p to 1080p or even 4K, this all depends upon quality.

Scanning a picture

Scanning a picture of 4×6 inches at 600 DPI:

Let us double the DPI and see what happens!

Using this, 4×6 images can be converted into 8×12 digital image using 600dpi. That’s because when your images were printed, they had 600 dots per inch (dpi) to print your image. So that concludes that after using 600 DPI, you get double the size of your original image without losing quality. Therefore, the quality of the document remains the same but you can have a larger image if you use 600 DPI when scanning.

Is 900 DPI the same thing? Let us see…

Scanning a picture of 4×6 inches at 900 DPI:

Let us triple the DPI and see what happens!

Using this, 4×6 images can be converted into 16×24 up to 24×32 digital images using 900dpi. That’s because when your images were printed, they had 900 dots per inch (dpi) to print your image. So that concludes that after using 900 DPI, you get triple the size of your original image without losing quality. This means that you can take your 900 DPI photo scan into a print shop and re-print it at 16×24 up to 24×32, it doesn’t affect the quality.

If you are Scanning photos that are not 4″ x 6″:

Take the example of 2″ x 3″ images. See below that the impacts of using 300 DPI are that the size of the photograph remains the same which is very important for most applications where the same size of the image or document is required.

We obtain the same image when we use 300 DPI. Next, we will observe the effects of 1200 DPI on a picture.

As seen by the above figure, the image is enlarged by 8 times when it is scanned at 1200 DPI.

How to scan pictures?

With the advancement in technology, nowadays almost everything is possible from your smartphone. There are several applications available on Android and iOS which scan photos through the mobile phone camera and software. You can download the app within minutes and scan your photos on the go with options for size and colour correction as well. Following is the list of the most widely used apps:

  • CamScanner
  • PhotoScan
  • Photo Scanner Plus
  • Pic Scanner

Most of the apps are free to download however the pro versions are paid. They are very easy to use and allow the option to share the scanned photos on the spot.

How to scan photos into the computer?

If you are an old school person and want your scanned photos with high precision directly on your computer, you would need a scanning machine. To make things easier for you, we have listed below the 10 best scanning machines which you can buy and get your work done.

What does a scanner do?

A scanner is a machine that converts photographs or documents from hard from into soft form or digitized format. Scanners use light to focus on the data in the images or documents which is then sensed by an electronic circuit known as Charge Couple Device (CCD). Scanners are available in different forms and sizes. They can be seen in small sizes such as feed-in scanners that are used to scan small documents and can be available in a traditional flatbed style in which we put the document and then close the lid to start scanning. There are devices that perform multiple functions like printing, scanning, fax and photocopying, all in one.

Best Scanning Machines 2020

The scanning machines come in different forms. Most of the scanners are flat bed type but there are portable and other large scale scanners as well. Let us look at the best scanning machines of 2020:

  1. Visioneer Patriot H60

This is a heavy-duty machine that can scan high-quality documents due to its latest technology in optical character recognition (OCR). The duty cycle is very high with 10000 pages per day. However, this is an expensive device costing around $850 and has complex software that needs to be set up.

  1. Kodak Alaris s2060

This is an extremely fast scanner that produces highly precise image quality. There is an internal computer which allows user to view the details of the work on the spot through the screen on the device. However, this is also an expensive device and has a price tag of over $1000 so you need to think twice before you buy this scanner.

  1. Canon CanoScan 400

This scanner is cheap but effective in its functionality. It has a flat bed style and produces clear images with its easy to use interface. However, there is no wireless compatibility to connect it to mobile phones. Still, this is a good deal at $85 for people who want moderate usage from this machine.

  1. Epson DS 870

People mostly ask, how to scan a negative with Epson scanner? Epson is known for its good picture quality and this scanner is no exception. It is extremely quick in operation and is a heavy-duty machine. However, again there is no connectivity for mobile phones. This cost of this scanning machine is around $760 which is not cheap by any standards!

  1. HP Scan Jet Pro 3000

Costing $480, this scanner is a good deal due to its fast and accurate operation. The software support is excellent and the device can be used for a fairly extensive duty cycle. However, it can experience some lags if a large amount of work is provided at one time.

  1. Kodak i3300

Looking like a printer, you would not believe this to be a scanner. The OCR working is excellent and operation is quick. It can scan up to 600 DPI high-quality images.  You can use different paper sizes due to its large paper storage area. However, the price is high at $3700 so it is best suited for professionals only.

  1. Xerox Duplex Scanner

This is a flat bed scanner having a simple and strong design. It has a fast operation and is available at an affordable price of $330. The device has good software compatibility but it does not come with wireless connectivity. Overall, this scanning machine is a good deal for its price.

  1. Brother ADS 1700W

This is a compact, portable scanning machine that comes with an inbuilt touch screen. It has quick operation through its fast OCR recognition technology and has excellent software support. The scanner is priced at $230 but it does not include a battery. This makes this a relatively heavy device, despite its small size.

  1. Fujitsu Scan Snap ix100

This scanner is a portable machine with a sleek design. At less than $200, it can allow the users to scan their documents wherever they are. The scanning machine has an extremely fast operation and can be connected to a mobile using a wireless connection. However, only a single page can be scanned at one time due to the limited size of the device.

  1. Panasonic KV-N1028X

This scanning machine is yet another high-end device that contains a built-in touch screen. This allows users to search for the documents easily. You can easily connect your mobile phones through a wireless connection. Pages can be inserted automatically and come with a warranty of 3 years. However, it is a costly device at $1450 so it is best suited to professionals only.

Tips for a good scanned photo

Everybody wants their photos to look good when scanned. To make this happen, there are some tips and tricks that we will tell you which will produce crisp images of high quality.

  • Make sure that the picture is not crumpled up. If this is the case, try to straighten it up using iron and cloth but do not burn the photo in this procedure. If the image still remains crumpled, it is not recommended to scan it because it will not produce a good result.
  • Remove any dust or marks that are on the picture using a piece of cloth or tissue paper. This is necessary for pictures that are stored in places for a long period of time.
  • Lighting is very important when you scan a picture. Make sure that no shadow is appearing on the image while scanning otherwise, it will have uneven exposure when the result is produced. This is critical if you are using a mobile phone to scan a picture. Scan in a well-lit room and the light source should ideally be from the ceiling.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. How to scan photos into the computer?

Take the document or image you want to scan and put it onto the scanner. The face of the document must be pointing downwards. Select the options containing the size and resolution and get a digital photo on your computer. Save it on the location you want. If you use a mobile phone application to scan pictures, you can directly share it with your computer and get a scanned image on your computer within minutes.

  1. How to scan a negative with Epson scanner?
  • First, put the negative image on the scanner.
  • Select the button of Scan and the scanner will start the operation in automatic mode.
  • It will automatically pick up the negative film option once you put in the image
  • If it does not pick it automatically, you can manually select it as a negative film option.
  • Choose a 24 bit or 48-bit colour option according to the requirements.
  • Choose DPI settings according to the options.
  • Choose the right contrast and brightness settings and finally scan your image.
  1. How to put photo paper in a printer?

You can put photo paper onto your normal printer but it may not work properly if the device is old and does not support other paper types. Photo papers are usually glossy and are 150-200 grams each of which is higher than normal A4 papers that are 70-80 grams each. Photo paper can be put on the same tray as normal paper and then choose the right size from the options on the computer.

  1. What is the best way to scan a book?

The best way to scan a book is to use a mobile application such as CamScanner or Photo Scan. Just install the app, open it and start scanning, as simple as that. Make sure that the camera and lighting are good to ensure a clear result. In the end, combine all the images in a single file in any format you want and start reading your book on the smartphone or computer.

  1. Is it better to scan photos in PDF or JPEG?

The JPEG format is usually preferred to scan photos because you can set the amount of compression and resolution on them easily. In PDF files, you cannot manually set the compression to your desired level. Also, PDF files are not editable and in order to edit them, you would have to convert them into other formats. Fortunately, there are lots of websites available that you can use to convert files easily and quickly.

Final Thoughts

The trend in scanning photos has increased over the years with the development of digital technology. People continually ask, how to scan pictures and how to digitize old photos? The images and documents are kept in a safe place once they are scanned therefore, it is essential to know the right way to do it. In this article, we have looked at the best resolutions for scanning, how to scan photos onto the computer and mobile phones, the best scanning machines and tips for a good scanning photo.

The best scanning resolutions are explained and you can decide easily which one suits your purpose. In short, it is recommended to use mobile phone applications to scan photos because they are easy to do and require no extra cost and equipment. However, if someone wants to use a scanning machine to do this work, there are several ones available on the market. This is recommended for high-end professional usage. We would not recommend users to spend a lot of money on scanners because nowadays, it is easily possible with smartphones.

Please let us know about your views on this article in the comments section below. We are looking forward to your comments.

Leave a Reply