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There are certain settings that should be the minimum for scanning photos when archiving your photographs digitally, or for digital photo restoration. If you're making an archival copy of your photographs to capture them in their current state of decay for future preservation, you should get the best possible image in the highest resolution you can manage. Resolution is referred to as either DPI or PPI. DPI or Dots Per Inch refers to the printer and print resolution, or how many dots of ink is printed per inch.
PPI or Pixels Per Inch refers to how many actual pixels are present per inch. This is directly related to scanning. If you scan an image as 72 PPI, the traditional standard for the web, the image will have 72 pixels in each inch of the, let's say, 4x5 image. If you scan at 600 PPI, there will be 600 pixels per inch in the same size image. Obviously, the higher resolution will be clearer, sharper, and easier to enlarge.
Although some scanners scan up to 9600 pixels per inch or PPI, that's probably overkill. Run a test scan as high as 1200 PPI to see the clarity you get. Some photos don't scan well at this higher resolution. Go down in increments of 300 PPI. In other words, run a 900 PPI scan next, then a 600 PPI. Save the archival scan as a non-compressed TIFF image. JPEGs lose a little of their information each time they're opened, resulting in a loss of quality over time.
TIFF images are lossless, meaning they will remain the quality at which they're scanned. High-resolution TIFF images will take up a lot of hard drive space. If you're archiving your family photo collection, consider storing the files on an external hard drive. The resolution doesn't need to be quite as high for photo restoration projects, but still should be at least 300 PPI, if at all possible to be able to have the most clarity when working close-up, for general image quality, and to have the potential of enlargement in the future.
Always scan your photos in color, even if the photo you're scanning is black and white. I can't stress enough how important this is. If a photo is scanned in color, it will have color channels. In this case, RGB color channels. Even if the photo is black and white, there will be information in each of these three; Red, Green, and Blue channels. Usually one channel, most likely the red, will be lighter, the green a little darker, and the blue darker still.
But most importantly, it will allow you options you won't have if the photo is scanned in black and white, which it flattens into one channel. Photoshop Elements doesn't have color channels as a separate entity, but it does have color channels and levels, and you will use them. Another option you won't be able to take advantage of if you scan in black and white, are the midtone adjustments such as midtone sliders, and eyedropper's in Levels Adjustments. Scanning your photos, weather for restoration purposes or for digital archiving, should be done with certain minimum settings in mind to ensure the best quality image for the intended purpose.
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