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Our primary goal in scanning is to faithfully reproduce high-quality images, and then in some cases attempt to improve and/or edit the characteristics of the original images. However, before we begin the capturing, editing, and improving image processes, we must address a fundamental issue and take an oath. Just like the Hippocratic Oath in medicine, our prime directive in scanning is to first do no harm. While we tend to view the scanning and image editing process as an image enhancing process, it is also indeed true that many of the tools, processes, and procedures we use during the image capture, editing, and output can actually degrade the quality of our images-- and in many cases significantly so.
Processes such as changing the dimensional and linear resolution of our images, repeatedly resaving our images in different file formats--and especially compressed formats like JPEG-- applying improper tone compression, too much sharpening, and converting our images through multiple color spaces, can dramatically reduce the quality for our images. As I have repeatedly emphasized-- probably to your extreme annoyance at this point--working in a dusty, dirty environment with unclean hands and images can cause all sorts of unspeakable image quality degradation problems.
Here is a review of some of the damage we can inflict. Our goal with reproduction of line art is to create these nice, clean, consistent high-quality edges, like this optically-scanned edge that you see here. With very little effort at all, this nice, clean, sharp high-quality edge can become this--as a highly interpolated distorted edge interpolation--as a result of resizing, resampling, or geometric distortion. In continuous tone images, this is our goal is to have nice, clean, sharp, high-contrast images, with lots of detail and total variation. And our image can quickly go from something like this to something that looks like this.
If we apply too much interpolation or apply too much compression to our image, you can get significant loss of detail in very little time. And then, of course, if you add too much sharpening--or sharpening at the wrong time--particularly if you add that to something like a JPEG compressed image, you lose even more detail, and the quality of the image degrades significantly. You start to get these white halos around the edges, and that's certainly not what we want. If you don't really pay a lot of attention to the cleanliness of your environment and handling of your images, you can end up with adding dirt and dust and all sorts of stuff to your images--which like here on this portrait, is really a bad idea.
And then if you combine all these insults and injuries at one time on one image, you can end up with some truly hideous results. In addition to knowing what tools to use and how to properly use them, we also need to pay attention to the order in which we use tools. So it's not just what we do, but when we do it. One of the more obvious examples is applying sharpening too early in the image capture and editing process. Sharpening, as you have seen, is an edge contrast enhancement tool, which actually reduces the overall tonal content of your images, thereby reducing the editability of our images.
Before we proceed any further, you must take the Tasmanian scanning pledge, raise your right-hand--or left if you prefer--and repeat after me: first, I will do no harm to my images. One of the first steps in fulfilling our pledge to do no harm to our images is to make sure you don't add any dust or scratches to your images. To accomplish this, you want to work in as dust-free an environment as possible. Always have on your lint-free gloves and handle your images as little and as cleanly as you can. Going forward, all scan project instructions will assume you've cleaned your scanner and images, and of course, you're wearing your high-quality lint gloves.
Let's go scanning!
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