Recommendations for scanning photos #photographs

Peter Cherna

Lots of good comments above. For sure you'll get best results from a flatbed scanner.

Scanning time is another factor to keep in mind. The Canon LiDE 220 is a very good inexpensive scanner and at 600dpi produces scans very quickly. Raising the scanning resolution severely slows things down and makes for much larger files. I do most of my scanning at 600dpi, but very precious photos where the original is in good shape I might do at 1200dpi. In rare cases, e.g. a small-sized print (e.g. 2x2 inch) that I want to maximize what I get from it I might go to 2400dpi. In these cases I get results that look great at full screen on a quality monitor and would print well at or above the original size. But not what I would call museum quality.

Many of these files are 30-50MB each, if not larger. So storage and backup becomes a factor if you have a lot.

And dust cleaning takes time, whether you do with extreme care before scanning, or cleaning post facto in software.

In the event that the photos are in fact of historical significance to a museum, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum does accept photos, and those they accept are scanned by professional archivists. They keep the originals but you get the scans. 

Philip Trauring

If you want high quality scans, your only real option is a flatbed scanner. Scanner apps can be okay, and some of them conveniently scan more than one photo at once, but keep in mind when doing that you are reducing the resolution of your scans. If you're only scanning prints, then you have lots of options. If you need to scan negatives and slides, you'll either need a dedicated scanner for those, or a flatbed scanner with built-in lighting which the more expensive ones have. If only prints, I'm a fan of the Canoscan LiDE scanners, the most recent one of which is the Canonscan LiDE 400:

For scanning negatives and slides also, take a look at the line of Epson scanners:

If you notice, the Epson Perfection V39 is pretty similar to the Canoscan LiDE 400. The next more expensive scanners are all much thicker, which is to make room for the top-lighting for negatives and slides. The more expensive you go in their scanners the more resolution and dynamic range you'll get, although I think those are diminishing returns in most cases.

Also worth considering is the scanning software you use. I've used the same software with many scanners over the years and it's been great. It's called VueScan ( and it's worth paying for the professional version. In addition to having a consistent interface to many scanners, it also supports older scanners that the manufacturers don't even support anymore, so it will increase the amount of time your scanner will work.

It helps to figure out what the best settings are to use for the photos you are scanning. These setting will differ based on whether the photos are color or B&W, how big the photos are, etc. The most important setting I can emphasize is that you should scan to TIFF format and not JPEG. JPEG is by definition a lossy compressed format, and will never retain the details of a TIFF file. TIFF also has compression, but it is not lossy, so will retain details better.

Susan stone

I have used the free photo scan app on my iPhone but then I just paid for Photomayne scanning app for a month on my phone too.  It seems much faster. Not sure yet about quality.  I think photomayne might be better.
Susan Stone
Evanston. IL


When you say museum quality scans a few things come to mind.  First are these digital images to be printed for display? And if so what size (8x10” or 20x30) or will the images be used in some kind of electronic format (like powerpoint or some video
montage)?  And what is the size of the original photo?
The issue is that you want to do the initial digital capture (via a scanner or even a photo with a phone) so that you have enough data (pixels, file size) to support your output format.
A scanner rather than a phone photo has the advantage of easily capturing the image in a way that allows you to select the resolution and file size as well as the file format of the saved computer file.  This might be more or less important down the if your plan on making high quality prints for display.
i don’t mean to make things sound too complicated, but if you really are saying “museum quality” I think it’s important to think about the whole workflow from the digital image capture all
they way though the final output.  And yes, Juliet’s answer is key - is this for one or two images or many more.  That will help decide if you want to invest your own time and money in equipment and learning or turn over some parts
of this to professionals or service providers.
I’m not a professional but would be happy to try to answer other questions if you want to reach out to me directly.
Other folks on the list may have a better simpler way to answer your question.
- Jeff


I have been very successful with the PhotoScan app by Google Photos on my phone. It allows you to correct the positioning of the photo before you save it so that it appears as if you scanned it on a flatbed. I was able to do about 200 photos individually in about 3 hours. The quality is very good. The app is free for Android phones.


Hi Loren,

How many photos do you need to scan?  I am using an Epson V750-Pro - which is a high resolution flatbed scanner, There is a newer model - the V-850 Pro - which sells for $1125.00 on Amazon. The difference between the two models is not sufficient to spend $625 to $725 more when you can you can pick up an Epson V750 Pro on eBay for $400 to $500, which is what I did.  Excellent scanner - which can also scan slides & negatives. And when you are through using the scanner, you can put it back up for sale on eBay and recoup most of your money.

I am a photographer and I have a lot of use for a scanner, but you might not. I don't know if you have enough photos to make it worth getting a scanner and spending the time scanning them yourself versus having your photos professionally scanned by a lab that is using a high end drum scanner.  You would have to research how much they charge per scan. If you only have 15 or 20 pictures - it may not be worth the effort of buying a scanner.

Hope that is helpful.

Juliet Kaye
Santa Cruz, CA.

loren greenberg

Dear All,

I would appreciate your recommendations for high quality photo scanning.
Do you have a favorite smart phone app?
Do you use a physical photo scanner?
I need to produce museum quality scans of my photos.

Thank you in advance,

Loren Greenberg

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