Cleaning Your Work Area
Keep your work area clean. No food or drink in the work area while scanning old photographs and documents. You don't really need a reason do you? Many old documents and photographs tend to be dirty and will leave dirt in the work area and on scanning equipment. Clean often.
Clean your scanner glass before the start of every scanning project. If it is a large project you may need to scan in increments and clean the scanner glass before the start of each.
Before you turn the scanner on clean with a commercial lens cleaner. Spray the cleaner on a microfiber cloth, not directly on the scanner glass. Dry the scanner glass with a microfiber cloth. (I have two cloths. One for the lens cleaner and one to dry.)
Wash your hands. At this point I wash my hands after I have finished the scanning housework.
Turn on your scanner to warm up the scanner lamp.
Make sure all auto correct functions in the scanning software are off.
Put on your white gloves, baby. Yes, our hands have oils that can damage our precious photographs. Wear clean white cotton gloves at all times when handling photographs.
Select the photograph(s) to be scanned. I have an archival box I keep on the desk when scanning. It is divided into To Be Scanned and Scanned. This is how I keep on track with my scanning projects.
Remove photographs from their sleeves. The visual appearance is changed and the polyester film can cause interference patterns. That said, some originals may be too fragile to be handled directly and will have to be scanned in their sleeve.
Clean the original photograph. Careful – you don’t want to damage the print with vigorous rubbing – but if the print is dusty or dirty gently brush the dust off with a soft brush (I use a sable artists brush).
Capture Once – Use Many Times
Try to get the best scan possible. Photographic restoration is a lot of work. Don’t be scan lazy thinking you can always fix something in your image-editing program.
Place the photograph on the scanner glass.
Straighten the photograph. This will save you a great deal of time and effort in the long run. I have made a square that I place on my scanner glass to square the image I’m about to scan.
It worked for me.
Always scan in color mode. All scanners scan in RGB, the equivalent of color photo. If you want a black and white photograph you can convert an RGB file into a black and white image later.
Ah, resolution. I scan my collection of women wearing glasses at 1200 dpi, always. I am cataloging them so I want an archival master with the most information possible, but resolution is dependent on the purpose for which you intend to use the scan.
Cataloging: 1200 dpi
Restoration: Janine Smith wrote a great article about scanning, listed below. Janine starts at 1200 dpi for restoration and never goes below 300 dpi. She tells you in the article how she makes her decision.
Note: If you’ve scanned once at 1200 dpi you should never have to scan again and a 1200 dpi scan should be sufficient for all your needs.
Preview and select the area to be scanned. Leave just a bit of an edge around your photograph. With some cards the type of corner can date the photograph, so make sure you haven't cropped important information from your scan.
Scan both the front and the back of all photographs. Precious information may be contained on the back of the photograph. I scan the backs of the photographs at 300 dpi unless there is a collectible imprint or another photograph on the back. Collectible imprints and photographs I scan at 1200 dpi. If the back is blank I scan it at 72 dpi for reference purposes. I will never have to wonder if I forgot to scan the back of the photograph, or if it was blank.
Attach all metadata to the photograph itself using the imaging software. This will be discussed in an article I’m writing about creating metadata templates. You can also read this earlier article regarding metadata.
Save The Scanned Image
I now save the scan as an uncompressed TIFF file. Every image created should have an extremely high-quality archival master created and saved in an uncompressed TIFF format. It should be saved unedited as a preservation master from which all derivative files are created. It is high quality to limit the potential need for rescanning later.
This scan is never corrected or restored. Absolutely nothing is done to it. You must create a copy of this file to work on in your image-editing program.
All original items are returned to their archival sleeves and storage boxes. After all processing has been completed; the original photographs are kept in closed storage for their protection and preservation.
Back-up, Back-up, Back-up
TIFF files are very large image files. I have external hard drives where I place my files for long term storage. I also create a Mitsui Gold CD (phthalocyanine) of my photographs. Mitsui Gold CD (phthalocyanine) and the Taiyo Yuden (cyanine) discs are consistently rated the best. They are also expensive.
There are many storage variables. This is how I store. I have spent a significant amount of money over the last twenty years amassing my collection of women wearing glasses. When it comes to sleeves and back-up nothing is too good for them.
I hope this information has been of some assistance. You might also like to read:
Scanning Photos For Restoration, Janinealogy.
Scanning Information, the supplemental website for the book Photoshop Restoration and Retouching 1st, 2nd, and 3rd editions by Katrin Eismann.
Proposed Digital Imaging Standards and Best Practices Indiana Memory and LSTA Digitization Projects. This is a PDF file.
NARA - Technical Guidelines for Digitizing Archival Materials for Electronic Access: Creation of Production Master Files – Raster Images.
Scanning Best Practices, The Claremont Colleges Digital Library. This is a PDF file.
My image-editing program is Photoshop CS4.
My scanner is the Epson Perfection 2450 Photo.