best dpi resolution for photo scanning

Best Resolution DPI For Photo Scanning

In This Guide To Photo Scan Resolution, You’re Going To Learn…

  • How to setup your scanner software and pick your DPI
  • That 300 DPI is good enough for HDTV quality and 4″ x 6″ digital images
  • That you’ll need more DPI if you want to turn any size photograph and make it 2 times, 3 times, 10 times bigger!

If you’re not sure how resolution works, then you might waste time scanning low quality images…. or waste time scanning images way too big for your needs.

Here’s what you need to know…

1. How To Pick Your Resolution For Photo Scanning

Fire up you scanner, and look at your settings for “Resolution”.  Here’s how mine looks like…

photo scan resolution dpi setup

Simply input your DPI  (dots per inch or PPI, pixels per inch).

2.  Here’s What Happens When You Scan A 4″ x 6″ Photo At 300 DPI

So what DPI do you use?  Well, let’s have a look at 300 DPI…

4x6 photo scan at 300 dpi

At 300 DPI you turn your 4×6 photo into the same size: 4×6 digital image.  That’s because when your photos were printed in the photo lab, they use 300 dots per inch to print your photo.  So at 300 DPI, you’re getting an exact copy of your original photo.

And, a 4×6 photo scanned at 300 DPI will be HDTV quality…

4x6 photo scan at 300 dpi is hdtv quality

You can watch your 300 DPI photo scans as full resolution, HDTV quality images.


3. What Happens When We Scan A 4″ x 6″ Photo At 600 DPI Or More!

Now let’s double the DPI to 600.  Here’s what happens…

4x6 photo scan at 600 dpi

At 600 DPI you DOUBLED the size of your original photo.  Your scanner mathematically figured out how to take your 4×6 photo, and make it into a 8×12 photo WITHOUT losing quality.  This means you can take your 600 DPI photo scan into a print shop and re-print it at 8×12.

And at 900 DPI?  The same thing…

4x6 photo scan at 900 dpi

At 900 DPI you you’ll get a 16″ x 24″ digital photo.  You can even get away with 24″ x 32″.


4. What If You’re Scanning Photos That Are Not 4″ x 6″

Let’s say you have those old 2″ x 3″ photos.  Now, remember, if you use 300 DPI you’ll get the exact same size…

old photo scanned at 300 dpi

As you can see, 300 DPI will give you the SAME image.

Let’s see what happens when I use 1200 DPI?

old photo scanned at 1200 dpi

At 1200 DPI, you turned your tiny 2×3 photo into a 16×24 digital image — without losing any quality.

3 Actions Steps To Help You Decide What’s The Best Resolution For Your Photo Scanning Needs

  1. If you use 300 DPI, you’ll be safe.  You’ll get HDTV quality images.  And you can re-print them out at the original size.
  2. But if you want to double or triple the size of your original photo, use 600 – 900 DPI.  And it’s always better to have too many pixels, than too little.  I personally scan all my 4×6 photos at 900 DPI.
  3. If you have photos smaller than 4×6, use 900 DPI or more.  I personally use 1200 DPI to scan all my smaller photos.


Need Help Right Now With Your Photo Scan Project?

Are you still stuck?  My name is Konrad.  And I invite you to email me and tell me about your challenges and frustrations.  Enter your name, email, and tell me more about your scanning project:



I answer all my readers questions.




– Konrad Michniewicz Photo Scanning Services Calgary Toronto

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