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How to Scan & Restore Photos - An Easy Step by Step Guide

Updated on May 20, 2012
Close-up showing dust and scratches before restoration
Close-up showing dust and scratches before restoration | Source

Photo Restoration at Home

Here is my simple guide to “Scanning and Restoring Photos at Home” including some great easy ways to achieve instant photo enhancement.

Excellent results can be achieved from scanning and restoring photos that have been torn, scratched, water damaged, or have simply faded over time.

Thanks to the increasing simplicity of today’s technology and the more affordable prices of scanning equipment and photo editing software, more and more people want to digitize old photos at home themselves.

Restoring photos yourself can be a rewarding experience; by following this simple step-by-step guide, you can easily bring your old photos back to life.


Step 1 – Scanning Equipment

Step 2 – Photo Enhancement Software

Step 3 – Preparation for High Quality Scanning

Step 4 – Scanning the Photographs

Step 5 – Photo Enhancement Techniques

Step 6 – Enjoy Restored Photographs in Digital Format


So, let's begin!


Step 1 - Scanning Equipment

The best scanning equipment for photo restoration doesn’t have to be expensive.

There are several scanners on the market that come highly recommended and will each do an excellent job of scanning amazing detail of your original photographs.

For the absolute best photo enhancement results, I would recommend an Epson or Canon flatbed scanner.

Step 2 - Photo Enhancement Software

Depending upon your budget, I would recommend purchasing Corel or Adobe software for superb photo enhancement and editing.

 

Step 3 - Preparation for High Quality Scanning

It is worth investing in a “blower brush” to remove surface dust on your old photos before beginning the scanning process.

Handle photographs as little as possible to avoid finger marks (these really show up on digital images). It is definitely worth buying an inexpensive pair of photographers’ white gloves.

Wipe the scanner glass periodically with a soft cloth to remove smudges and fingerprints.

Step 4 - Scanning the Photographs

To begin, create and name a new folder on your computer where you will store your scanned photo images.

Scanning your old photos is probably the most important stage to get right! If you scan at a low dpi resolution, you will end up with a poor quality digital image. What is dpi? Dpi is a measure of digital resolution. The higher the dpi, the more dots per inch, which means a much better quality digital image.

  • Set your scanner to scan your photos at a minimum of 400dpi.
  • For black and white photos, select “Greyscale”.
  • Set your scanner to save the images as a TIFF image; this will produce a large un-compressed file, which is ideal for the photo enhancement stage. (Alternatively, if you find these files too large, save them as BMP image. BMP images are smaller files than a TIFF, but not as compressed as a JPEG image.) You will want to improve/enhance/restore your image before you save it as a JPEG file (this is a compressed file, the most versatile format ideal for most uses, e.g. printing).
  • Position and straighten the photo face down on the scanner glass, close the lid and begin the scan. The higher the dpi setting, the longer the scanner will take to scan the photo.
  • Scan a maximum 2 photos at a time, your scanner will recognize the number of photos and will crop them accordingly.
  • Save the images in the new folder, which you created on your computer earlier.

Step 5 - Photo Enhancement Techniques

Photo enhancement can be a time consuming process, but very worthwhile!

  • Open the new folder in your software and select the first image.
  • Depending upon your software, if your image is black and white you may need to select the “Greyscale” image mode.
  • Keep your original image and do a “save as” to create a duplicate image to work on. Keep “saving” your new image to ensure you do not lose any of your editing work.
  • Always work on your image “zoomed” in to magnify any blemishes, creases, or defects that need attention; it makes it so much easier!
  • If your photo looks good “zoomed in” then you are guaranteed a good “normal sized” image.
  • Choose dust/scratch removal - this will automatically remove the worst marks.
  • The clone tool will help fix any problem area.
  • Simply alt-click to select the area to replace the problem area and click, choose the size of your tool carefully and work a small area at a time.
  • Sharpen the image if necessary.
  • Red eye removal (with most software, this is just a click with the mouse).
  • Brightness/contrast adjustment.
  • Colour adjustment - This will improve colour in a faded photo.
  • If the colour is still poor in your photo, choose the “Greyscale” option and make your image black and white. This can help to disguise lots of blemishes/stains and very often improve the “look” of your original photo.
  • Crop your image.
  • Save the result as a JPEG file.

If all this sounds like too much hard work or not cost effective, choose a company that will transfer your photos to digital format at a very competitive cost that includes the photo restoration work.

Before Photo Restoration
Before Photo Restoration | Source
After Photo Restoration - Colour
After Photo Restoration - Colour | Source
After Photo Restoration - Black and White
After Photo Restoration - Black and White | Source
Source

Step 6 - Enjoy Restored Photographs in Digital Format

Your photos in digital format open up a whole new world of possibilities, especially for that “unusual or special gift”.

To list a few that are available on various websites on the internet:-

Personalized film on DVD, Calendars, Photo Books, Mugs, T-shirts, Mouse Mats, Coasters, Jigsaws and Kitbags.

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    • Movie Master profile image
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      Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi baygirl33, thank you for visiting today, I hope you find these instructions useful.

      Many thanks for your comments.

      Have a wonderful weekend, best wishes Lesley

    • baygirl33 profile image

      victoria 4 years ago from Hamilton On.

      Thanks for the so precise instructions.

      I can print then off and work with the page beside me.

      I don't wonder that you won the hub nugget! That was a well organized and informative hub.

    • Movie Master profile image
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      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Derdriu, yes that's me in the red dress with my mum and two sisters all sporting permed hair!

      That's my nan who just missed out being in the photo.

      Thank you for the congratulations, the hubnugget award was a wonderful surprise for my first hub.

      Many thanks for the votes and your comments, I hope all is well with you, best wishes and take care, Lesley

    • profile image

      Derdriu 5 years ago

      Lesley, Is that you in the red dress? It turns out so beautifully -- in black and white and in color -- that I'm sure the partial person on the far left really feels badly about being partially in and partially out of such a lovely family photo!

      Respectfully, and with many thanks for sharing, many congratulations on hubnuggeting, and all the votes, Derdriu

    • Movie Master profile image
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      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi sradie, it's surprising the difference 'colour restore' will make to a faded old photo!

      An excellent way to fill in time when the weather keeps us indoors!

      Many thanks for stopping by and your comments, they are much appreciated, best wishes Lesley

    • sradie profile image

      sradie 5 years ago from Palm Coast FL

      Of late, I have been scanning and restoring a lot of old family photos and Vietnam war photos for safe keeping and sharing with my friends and fellow soldiers. Using these techniques and a few more, my friends are amazed at the image quality of my photos compared to theirs taken about the same time. My Epson scanner also restores color during the scan and I have found it to be a great time saver to use that feature. This is a great way to spend a rainy day, or as in Florida, a day to hot and muggy to enjoy the outdoors. Thanks

    • Movie Master profile image
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      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Suzie, it's nice to meet you. I'm so pleased you have found the hub useful, hope you enjoy restoring your photos.

      Many thanks for your comments, votes and share, it's much appreciated.

      Just popping over to your place now!

      Best wishes Lesley

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Lesley, really enjoyed this hub full of great tips and info on scanning and restoring photos. I want to do quite a bit of this on old photos, thanks so much for making it easy to understand! Have voted up, interesting, useful and will be sharing on. Look forward to reading more of your work!:)

    • Movie Master profile image
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      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi stars, thank you so much for stopping by, hopefully you will find these tips useful when you restore your photos.

      Best wishes to you and your family, Lesley

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Thank you for this wonderful hub. I have many photos I will eventually restore. God Bless You.

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi mythicalstorm273,It's well worth investing in some software to help you restore your photos, Photoshop Elements is a much cheaper version and will still have all you need to improve your photos.

      Many thanks for reading and your comments, they are much appreciated, good luck with restoring your photos.

      Best wishes Lesley

    • Movie Master profile image
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      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Jools, I am so pleased you have found this hub useful, I hope you enjoy working on your old family tree photos.

      Many thanks for visiting again and your comments.

      Have a great weekend, best wishes Lesley

    • mythicalstorm273 profile image

      mythicalstorm273 5 years ago

      This was very detailed and well done. I love doing photo stuff, but I have just the basic software that comes with the computer and is not very helpful so I do not do it very often. You make me want to go out and buy photoshop right now! Great hub!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      MM, I read this a while ago and have clicked in it again and it will still be my go-to guide for old photos. I am finally getting around to improving some family tree photos. Thanks again for a great hub.

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Stessily, Mum seems to have eternal youth - she still looks great now!

      I hadn't realised that 'chuffed' is such an 'english' word!

      The 'plot' sounds intriguing...

      Many thanks again and see you soon, best wishes Lesley

    • profile image

      stessily 5 years ago

      Lesley, Your mum doesn't appear to have aged much between the two photos, the first with you at age 5 and later with her daughters, looking very grown up. They're both charming and love-filled photos.

      Congratulations on your hubnugget for this hub; it's definitely well deserved. That's definitely an occasion for feeling "chuffed". I love that word; I learned it from an Englishman in France who was "chuffed" that a French person, in conversation in French, had mistaken Brian for a native French speaker. "Chuffed" has been part of my vocabulary ever since.

      Twinkie and Gusty do sound like trouble. They're integral to the plot about those two charming little girls, Lesley and DeeDee!

      Kind regards, Stessily

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Stessily, the restored colour photo is me with my mum and two sisters and the restored black and white photo is me with mum, my sister and 'Twinkie' the cat!

      Many thanks for reading my first hub - I won a hubnugget award for this - I was chuffed to bits!

      I'm excited about the story 'Twinkie' and 'Gusty' - now they sound like trouble!!

      See you soon, best wishes Lesley

    • profile image

      stessily 5 years ago

      Lesley, I usually work my way from the most recent hubs backwards to the first hub. It gives an interesting, different perspective to change the time sequence on thoughts and events ~ rather like reading a book and at a certain point skipping ahead to the ending and then returning to the middle. However, I just had to read this first hub by you, and I'm glad that I did. It's a wonderful way to introduce yourself, and the hub is clear and helpful. The restored photo is lovely ~ is it a family photo? I also love seeing the full photo of 5-year-old Lesley with her mother, young sibling (?), and cat, which is almost as big as you! A top quality hub by a top-quality hubber who surely is a top-quality person.

      UP + UABI + sharing.

      Kind regards, Stessily

      P.S. May I know the name of your kitty? I might want to slip that into the story of two little, adorable, nature-loving, precocious girls growing up on opposite sides of the Pond. This way I can insert Deedee's adorable Maine coon cat, Augusta Sunshine "Gusty", into the story.

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Peg, thank you for visiting and your comments, enjoy restoring your photos and if you have any questions give me a shout!

      Have a great weekend, Lesley

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      I love these easy to follow instructions for photo restoration. Well written and informative. No wonder this won an award! This give me everything I need to get started.

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Jools99, good luck with your photobook, I hope you find these tips useful, many thanks for your comments, best wishes MM

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      Great hub, very interesting. I'm soon to start work on a photobook for a family tree project so will follow your advice here.

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Susan, it's surprising just how much you can improve an old photograph using these steps, I'm pleased you found it useful, thank you for your comments, take care MM

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Lynn, I hope these tips have helped you, always remember to work on your photos 'zoomed' in and you will be surprised when you finally 'zoom out' what a good job you've done! Many thanks for your comments, I like your new avatar! best wishes MM

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      MM I have a scanner and use it quite frequently. Learned quite a bit from your listing of photo enhancement techniques. Thanks its always so nice to learn something new.

    • profile image

      Lynn S. Murphy 6 years ago

      I'm so bookmarking this. I don't have a scanner and I've been photographing them with my digital camera and seems to work out well. My problem was working through the software.

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hello Donna, it's good to know you found the techniques easy to follow, I hope you find them useful.

      Thank you for your comments, enjoy your day, best wishes MM

    • DonnaCosmato profile image

      Donna Cosmato 6 years ago from USA

      I love how you used the before and after photo technique to demonstrate how effective restoration can be. It's really true that a picture is worth a thousand words, isn't it? Excellent job and you made it sound so easy that I believed I could do it and didn't feel intimidated.

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you kikalina!

      Best wishes MM

    • kikalina profile image

      kikalina 6 years ago from Europe

      excellent work!

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi frogyfish, I hope you find this information useful and you enjoy restoring your old photos - it's rewarding work!

      Many thanks for your comments, best wishes MM

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 6 years ago from Central United States of America

      Your detailed instructions and information make this sound like so much fun, and for such a great purpose. Thanks for sharing your expertise and recommendations!

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi mabmiles, it's nice to meet you, thank you for dropping by and commenting, best wishes MM

    • mabmiles profile image

      mabmiles 6 years ago

      Nice oldies stuffs!Great hub.

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi tirelesstraveler, thank you for visiting and your comments, I hope you enjoy restoring your old photos, take care, best wishes MM

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 6 years ago from California

      I have some very old family pictures. This hub will help keep them safe. Nice hub.

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi TLW, I love restoring old photos, there is a huge amount of satisfaction in it!

      It's Sunday morning and the sun is shining I will be going for a nice long walk!

      Thank you for visiting, your comments and votes as always, hope your day is wonderful and I will see you again soon. Take care MM

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 6 years ago from West Virginia

      The difference are amazing! Your knowledge on photos is vast and wide MM. My dad is big on photos so I will have to tell him about all your information. Well done, the entire collection. Hope all is well of course. I believe it is Saturday evening/night where you are so enjoy it. Have a good Sunday and best to you dear friend. Voted up, useful, and interesting:)

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Sheila, I'm glad you found the hub useful, if you need any help with restoring your photos, please feel free to email me.

      Many thanks for dropping by and your comments, take care.

    • SheliaKay profile image

      SheliaKay 6 years ago from Marietta, Ohio..... but born and raised in Northern Ohio on Lake Erie

      Thank you. This is wonderful advice. I have been trying to restore some of mine but not having much luck. Your pictures look great.

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hello Jaye, it was a wonderful surprise when I received an email to say I had been nominated for a Hubnuggets award and an even bigger surprise to say I'd won!

      It spurred me on to write more!

      Thank you for visiting and your kind comments, best wishes.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      No wonder you won an award for your first hub. This is great info! Thanks for sharing your expertise on HP.

      Jaye

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hello Angelique, I hope you enjoy restoring your old family photos and you find these tips useful.

      Thank you for your comments and the vote, take care.

    • Angelique Newman profile image

      Angelique Newman 6 years ago from Canada

      Great hub Movie Master; I'm planning on scanning albums of old family photos and quite a few are faded. Thanks for the helpful tips! I voted it up :)

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Justsilvie, that's wonderful that you are restoring your Grandmothers photos, I'm glad you found the hub useful.

      How nice to pass on these precious memories down through the family.

      Thank you for visiting and your comments.

    • profile image

      Justsilvie 6 years ago

      Really Helpful Hub! I am the guardian of my Grandmothers photos and I am really enjoying bringing them back to life and knowing my Great Grandchild will get to enjoy them when she grows up.

    • Movie Master profile image
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      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Jill & Richard, I hope you enjoy your visit from Canada and thank you for visiting my hub! I will look forward to hearing from you again!

    • profile image

      Jill and Richard visiting from Canada 6 years ago

      Very impressed! We always wondered how to restore our old family photos. We will be in touch with your company to find out more and hopefully place an order with you!

    • Movie Master profile image
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      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Mrs J.B. Your too kind!!! I hope your daughter enjoys it!

    • Mrs. J. B. profile image

      Mrs. J. B. 6 years ago from Southern California

      Bookmarked for sure. This is fantastic. Thanks. I also forwarded you hub to my daughter who is studying photography. She will love it too. Your hubs are perfect!

    • Movie Master profile image
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      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Hyphenbird, that's great, let me know how the photos turn out!

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Thanks for the inspiration. I have a scanner and Photoshop. I also have my mom and dad's wedding photo which has some damage. I will get to work on it.

    • Movie Master profile image
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      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi dukeny21 Thats's just great to hear you're inspired to give it a go! Let me know how you get on!

    • dukeny21 profile image

      dukeny21 6 years ago

      Great hub! You've inspired me to do something I've been wanting to do but not quite sure how to. Thanks! I look forward to reading more from you.

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Kosmo, Glad you found the hub useful, treat yourself to a scanner! you won't regret it!

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 6 years ago from California

      This hub is full of very useful information. All I can do with my old photos is photograph them with a digital camera, which produces predictable results. Later!

    • Movie Master profile image
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      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi myawn, thanks for your comments, enjoy restoring those photos!

    • myawn profile image

      myawn 6 years ago from Florida

      I enjoyed this hub I have a few photos I would like to try restoring Thanks!

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you to everyone who voted for this hub for the hubnuggets nomination, just found out I'm a winner and it's just wonderful!!

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Beth, glad you have found the hub useful and I hope you enjoy restoring your photos.

    • beth811 profile image

      beth811 6 years ago from Pearl of the Orient Seas

      This information is what I need. I have a lot of damaged old photos to restore.

      Thanks! Useful, voted up.

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi ripplemaker nice to hear you have found the hub helpful. Thank you so much for your congratultions on my Hubnuggets nomination, I'm delighted it's been nominated and to receive comments from fellow hubbers is just fantastic!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      I've always wanted to learn how to do this! Thank you for this very helpful hub! :)

      Congrats on your Hubnuggets nomination. To vote for this hub, click this link: http://hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub/Follow-the-Gol...

    • Movie Master profile image
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      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Brite-Eyes

      It's such a shame to hide those precious old photos away, digital images are just so much more accessible!

      Many thanks.

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hello TajSingh

      Old photos are so precious, I'm glad you enjoyed this. Many thanks

    • profile image

      Brite-Eyes 6 years ago

      Everyone i know has boxes of old photos that they keep stored away. This is a great opportunity to rediscover those old memories. Nice article!

    • profile image

      Richnsoph 6 years ago

      Great guide, thanks! Going to give it a try now!

    • profile image

      TajSingh 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Each picture tells a story and holds a memory. That's why it is very important to know how to restore photos. Thanks for sharing this guide.

    • Movie Master profile image
      Author

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you for your comments.

      Most people have a scanner at home these days, you can produce some great quality digital images with just a few basic steps.

      I hope you find the information helpful!

    • Cloverleaf profile image

      Cloverleaf 6 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

      Thanks for the great info. Love the restored pictures!

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 6 years ago from United States

      This is really some very helpful information. The restoration examples in the hub are outstanding. Very, very helpful!