Tips and options for digitising your film and photographic prints…


The Epson Perfection V370 is one of a fairly modest range of dedicated photo scanners for home use with a holder for scanning 35mm film as well as prints. Canon also has a well-reviewed range of photo scanners.

[Excerpt from  Photo Backup pocket guide]

Until now we’ve limited our survey of image storage alternatives to digital image files, but film and photographic prints must be digitised before they can be stored and added to your 21st century picture collection.  

What priority should the job have? If the prints are in acid-free archival albums, they are arguably more secure than any files you have in digital form. On the other hand, colour prints will deteriorate over time, and having just one copy of a valuable family image means it can’t be shared, and is vulnerable to fire and flood.

A home office inkjet printer/scanner will do the job, but it’s a slow and tedious bit of work. A good consumer level dedicated scanner from Canon or Epson will cost $100 to $200 and do a better job, but almost as slowly; you will be lucky to manage 20 prints an hour. That’s just 200 prints in 10 hours! How much is your time worth? Scanners usually have accompanying software to enhance old photos and remove scratches. But this will slow you down even further.

Your old prints may have become glued together if they have been in a humid atmosphere or been water damaged. The good news is it shouldn’t be a show-stopper. Fujifilm has some simple tips on how to clean water-damaged old photos and albums:

There is another option for conventional scanning, and that’s using one of the ‘photo scanning’ apps and making digital copies via your smartphone. Among the newer, better apps is Google’s PhotoScan, but the trade off in image quality is considerable. Reviews are mixed, with a lot of users complaining of low resolution and blurry copies. If you ever want to print from these copies in the future the results are likely to be disappointing. Could be a clever way of making copies of documents, though.




The neg and slide holder in the platen lid of the Epson Perfection V370. While prints don’t need to be scanned at anything over 600dpi (the human eye can only discern resolution up to 300dpi), negs and slides should be scanned at the highest resolution possible or they may look very grainy when printed.

Look for a scanner which handles slides and film strips as well as reflective scans (prints). Most units provide holders for multiple slides or negatives to secure them in place during scanning.

Scanning a few dozen prints is feasible, but if you have a few hundred, handing them over to a professional service is a far better option. Professional scanners have sophisticated software which will automatically remove dust and scratches. Unfortunately, not every photo lab offers a bulk scanning service ““ it requires a high speed professional scanner.

As a guide to price, one Sydney-based scanning specialist charges 29 cents for 300dpi scans of 6×4 prints (39 cents for 600dpi) and will scan whole photo album pages if requested, or even remove individual prints from an album and scan them separately. For a fee, of course. Now compare that to home scanning: 200 prints x 39 cents is $78. So you will have been slavishly scanning away for under $8 per hour (at 20 prints per hour), if all goes well. I’d rather be out taking pictures!

If you have old and fragile photos to be scanned, it’s not a job for a high speed scanner with an automatic feeder. Scan them at home or ask that they be handled extra carefully and scanned on a flatbed scanner.


Vivid-Pix Restore is a simple and inexpensive software application for rejuvenating old and faded photos and slides at the time you scan them.


The sub-$400 Epson Expression XP-960 offers a lot of functionality for the price: it prints at up to A3+ size (although big prints will work out expensive), scans photos on a large platen (21.6 x 35.6cm) and also backs up as a convenience copier for the home. For occasional scanning, printing and copying, it ticks a lot of boxes!

Scanning resolution

Even modestly priced multifunction printer/scanners deliver high resolution. But scanning at 1200 or 2400dpi will be painfully slow and frankly unnecessary.  A 300dpi scan of a 6×4 print will print at the same size and fill a computer monitor screen, while a 600dpi scan is capable of enlarging up to A4 size, or being cropped if required. The higher resolution is worth the extra time if it’s a DIY operation, or extra cents if you take the commercial route.

If you do take on the job at home, scan 6x4s four at a time. Most scanning software will split them into four separate image files automatically.

However, when scanning negatives or slides, choosing maximum resolution is more important, as the original is so much smaller, and more detail will be captured from a high resolution scan.

It’s important to keep the prints and the scanner’s glass platen smudge and dust free since both are likely to show up on a scanned print. Remove any dust or dirt from your prints with a microfibre cloth. Slides and negs really need a lot of attention as every dust mark will show up.

Before you scan the photos, consider how you will be organising them. By date? By event? In a separate folder called Scanned Prints? How will the files be named? Choose a system before you scan ““ our next chapter will be helpful here…

By Keith Shipton

Excerpt from  Photo Backup pocket guide