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Choosing a Photo Scanner

Updated on August 19, 2014
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I've spent half of my life living in urban areas and the other half in small rural communities. Mulberry, Indiana, was a special place.

Learn How to Choose the Right Photo Scanner

A photo scanner is a great way to take old photos, film and negatives and convert them into digital images. Digital images can then be shared online, via e-mail, manipulated to improve them, printed, or stored for safe keeping. What a great device!

This page will offer you some basic information on how to choose the right photo scanner based upon the type of work you want to do.

What Do You Want to Scan?

The type of scanner you buy will be based on the type of work you want to do with it.

The most popular photo scanners are flatbed scanners. These scanners allow users to work with prints, paper documents, and even three dimensional objects. There are some that even have a transparency hood or adapter to scan slides and negatives. If most of the work will involve scanning transparencies, film, and negatives a dedicated film scanner is the better option. The resolution on these scanners is more appropriate for film and negatives. If the majority of scanning done will be from books then flatbed scanners with a sheet feed would be a poor choice. Sheet feed type scanners are good for large volume scanning of single documents and images but are more likely to jam.Another popular option is a multi-function scanner which can scan, print, and copy.

Is It the Right Size?

Flatbed scanners are the most common type of photo scanner. If a flatbed scanner is chosen, then the bed size has to accomodate the items to be scanned. If the user will scan 12"x 17" documents, then the bedsize should be at least this large. Some scanners will produce enlargements of your photos. The bedsize on the scanner may be smaller than the enlargements you produce as the bedsize only needs to accommodate the size of your originals. It must however, be able to accomodate the paper size needed for the enlargment.

Image Quality

The quality of the images a photo scanner can produce is determined primarily by color depth/bit depth and resolution. In general, 36 to 48 bit depth is more than enough for most purposes.

A minimum resolution of 300dpi or 300spi is sufficient for text documents but 1200 dpi/spi is needed for photo reproduction. Film/negatives require at minmum of at least 2400dpi.

Looking for a "dynamic range" of at least 3.2 is also advised for the best quality.


If you have only an occasional need to scan and scan in small volumes, speed isn't so critical with the photo scanner you choose. However, if you have much to do speed becomes quite important.

A good generally rule is that a photo scanner with an average speed of 10-20 seconds to scan an 8 x10" image is sufficient for most uses.

Other Functions

Photo scanners like other home electronics are cabable of multi-tasking.

Can the scanner scan to print, scan to file, fax, or e-mail? Does it come with software to allow it to scan, edit and even take text to a word processing file or convert to a PDF file. Some scanners come with software that allows quite a lot of restoration and editing. Some also allow you to enlarge images and others have built in restoration features.

Flatbed scanners are also available that can scan film or slides if shoppers check for such features.


Obviously any photo scanner should have compatible connections to existing devices; particularly your computer and be compatible with the OS as well. USB 2.0 or Firewire connectivity are recommended for faster transfer.

Canon CanoScan 9000F

Canon CanoScan 9000F Color Image Scanner
Canon CanoScan 9000F Color Image Scanner
This Canon photo scanner provides great resolution, high speed, and automated functions to assure the best looking results. It can automatically remove dust and scratches, correct backlight, grain, and fading, and in the Auto Scan mode, can detect what you are scanning and make the appropriate adjustments. It can even eliminate the dark "gutter" that occurs when scanning pages from a book. It offers 9600 dpi resolution and 48-bit color depth and can scan, copy or create e-mail attachments and PDFs. Users can scan and copy photos, documents, and 35mm film/slides They can scan and transfer images to computer quickly via USB 2.0. It's an energy conscious device thanks to the white LED and it helps get the job done quickly with zero warm-up time.

Photo Credits:

Introduction: lokate366.

Photo Scanner: Did You Find the Scanner You Want? Let Us Know!

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great information - there are definitely no shortage of scanning options. However, if you are looking for a cheaper method, there are many great scanning apps available. Alternatively, if you are looking for a more professional service, I would suggest outsourcing your scanning needs!

    • kimbesa2 profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      I'm getting more detailed about my scanner research, and your lens is helping me make sure I cover all bases. Thanks!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I am looking for a high speed slide and negative photo scanner; which one you recommend?

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      With a slide and negative scanner, you will be able to turn all the negatives you have currently lying around the house into high-quality digital pictures on your computer. You will be able to choose from a number of formats to convert these into once they are scanned in, making it a truly convenient and efficient device to have in your home. It is important for you to select a negative scanner that can produce only the best, clearest and brightest pictures for your computer. With all of the people who are making the switch the digital for their pictures, you will want to be in on all of the different kinds of devices that are coming out, including these.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      An outstanding and helpful lens which has given me some great ideas.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thanks for the info - very useful. When my HP packs in I'll know what to do!

    • Spook LM profile image

      Spook LM 

      9 years ago

      As is always the case with you. Absolutely first class.

    • Missmerfaery444 profile image


      9 years ago

      Great guide - I always get confused by things like dpi! Blessed.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      not yet, but i'm filled with ideas! thank you for such a great lens! cheers

    • piedromolinero profile image


      9 years ago

      I have an Epson scanner, I am quite happy with its results. Just in times of digital cameras I am not using it that much anymore.

    • mariaamoroso profile image


      9 years ago from Sweden

      Fantastic stuff on this lens! I have an old printer/scanner/copier now. One day I will have to get a new. Thank you for all the tips!

    • scangirl profile image


      9 years ago

      Great info. I love my Canon 8800.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Those are some great tips for document scanning. It can be such a pain sometimes. It's silly to maintain 2 sets of documents, but we should do what we must.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      i'm a photo restoration expert and have been in the business for several years so have a lot of experience with scanners. when it comes to getting a high quality digital scan of an old photograph you really don't have to break the bank. i was using an epson all in one printer for a few years that only cost me about £60 and i was very pleased with the results and never had any complaints. you can see some of the results an inexpensive scanner can produce on my website - Photo Restoration - Iridis Imaging

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      My printer is on its last leg(cartrige) and I've always wanted a scanner. I'll be getting one before school starts in the fall.

      Thanks for the info.


    • Kiwisoutback profile image


      10 years ago from Massachusetts

      I need a scanner, I have thousands of photos from the pre-digital era awaiting to be turned into lenses. Great work!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Excellent information. I'm still working my way through a couple of decades worth of analogue photographs, so that I have them backed-up (I've got about 3,000 Gigabytes of photos so far)

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Thanks for this lens! I'm looking to get an all-in one, and was leaning toward HP. I'm bookmarking this so my hubby can take a look ( I have no idea about this stuff :)

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      i have a h p deskjet f380 all in one need shortcut to learn how to put photos ,allready developed on my website


    • profile image


      12 years ago

      This is a wonderful lens:)

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Great lens! I love my scanner.


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