If you don't understand photo scan resolution and DPI, you're going to end spending hours scanning low quality digital images.
Don't do what I did: back in 2004 I scanned my parent's photos at 72 DPI. At 72 DPI, the digital images looked amazing on my computer monitor. After spending a few hours scanning, I decided to test the images on my 720 HDTV. I was shocked to see how bad the scans looked.
Follow along, and I'll show you what's the best photo scan resolution is, so you don't waste time getting low quality scans.
Take a look at an actual photo. If you look close enough, you'll see a bunch of coloured dots. Every inch of your photo is filled with 300 of these dots.
Why only 300 dots per inch?
Remember when you had those photos developed? The photo lab's printers could only physically print 300 coloured dots to make up your photo's image. Of course, there were better printers that could squeeze more DPI. But most photo labs used 300 DPI to print your photo. And 300 DPI is good enough.
And that's how you get photo DPI.
Remember how the photo lab used 300 dots per inch to make up your photo?
Well, if you use 300 DPI (or PPI) to scan that photo, you will get an EXACT copy of your original. But what happens if you use 600 DPI? Or 900 DPI?
When I first scanned photos, I thought if I use more DPI, I'll get more detail. I thought my scanner is going to get down into the photo, and uncover some extra detail.
But that's not what happens.
Remember, your photo lab used only 300 DPI. That' the LIMIT. When you use 600 DPI to scan that photo, you're not adding more detail. At 300 DPI, you have all the detail possible. If you use 600 DPI, all you're doing is doubling the SIZE of your 4x6. And you're doubling the size WITHOUT losing any detail (not adding detail).
Say you scanned your photos at 300 DPI. They will look amazing on your monitor, and even when you display them on a 8' x 8' projection screen.
But say you took that 300 DPI photo scan, and wanted to make a bigger print, here's what will happen...
This is when scanning your photos at a higher DPI is useful. Like I said, more DPI doesn't mean more detail. But with more DPI, you can turn a 4" x 6" photo and make it bigger WITHOUT losing quality, and without making it look stretched.
You see, when you use, say 600 DPI, what your scanner does is it takes your photo and makes it twice as big. And it does this WITHOUT losing quality. It didn't add any more detail. It just used the extra DPI to make sure that your 4" x 6" photo looks EXACTLY the same as a 8" x 12" photo.
That depends on what you want to do with your digital images. Here's a few ideas and options for you...
Now it's time to act. And if you take action right now, you'll learn better than just sitting here and reading. This will only take 20 minutes. So fire up your scanner, take out ONE photo, and...
Why do this? I want you to notice how long a 300 DPI scan takes vs. a 900 DPI. I want you to decide is it worth the extra scan time.
Maybe you just want to view your scans on your HDTV and you'll never make prints bigger than 4x6? Then you don't need to waste your time scanning your photos higher than 300 DPI.
But maybe you want to "future-proof" your scans. Maybe in 5 years they'll come out with a 2160 HDTV, and your 300 DPI scans will look too small?
Decide if the time is worth the extra DPI by scanning one photo at different DPIs and comparing them.
Which of these scanning troubles do you want to overcome?
Hey, my name is Konrad. I've been scanning professionally since 2005. I've helped multi-billion dollar companies, pro sports teams, pro photographers, artists, museums, book publishers, etc. I've scanned over 930,000 slides, negatives, photos.
The reason I'm telling you this is because no matter what challenge or frustration you're having, I know exactly what you're going through. So, to help you RIGHT NOW, I've put together a super simple scanning guide to get you started.