Most modern printers now are "All-in-One" devices so they scan and fax pictures and documents, They're usually cheap enough--the printer makers get ya on those pricey color cartridges. It's still a better deal to scan your old photos, copy your digital pictures to DVD's or portable thumb drives.
HP printer/scanners are the most popular. They scan higher quality than most users ever need. Hooked up to your computer or laptop, their included software is great for scanning and while the printers are mostly plastic now, they work well enough to print your documents, fax, and scan your pictures.
Shoot or scan but don't bother printing them.
Instead upload them to online printing company Snapfish Let them print your pictures and ship them to you, or have them printed at a nearby drugs store. They can do it cheaper and not one-at-a-time like you would on your PC using photo paper with your printer's limitations.
You can even edit contrast and crop them online If you don't choose mail order, take them to Kinkos or some other quik print store--even the drug store. Their per-picture prices are cheaper than printing them yourself with your own expensive ink-cartridges. From Snapfish, pick them up at Walmart or a drug store for 16 cents each, or have them mailed to you for as little as 9 cents a picture.
Scanning old photos
Choose the very best snapshots to scan. If you have multiple prints of the same rare family picture you want to scan, choose the largest version you can find...ones not fuzzy or out of focus or with bad facial expressions. One good photo is better than ten ordinary ones that pretty much look the same.
Size is everything. Don't scan tiny photos when you know there exists a larger copy. Instead, you'll get much better results scanning a large 8x10 or 5x7 sized picture than a tiny 2x3 inch billfold sized one that were so common years ago, right?
But look at those in grandma's snapshot box closely. They might be small but very rare so you'll have to scan them anyway because that's all you have! Choose the sharpest pictures available...and the largest ones. If you know MS Office's layout programs, you could actually group 2 or 4 into one larger picture. (That might take Office's Powerpoint or Publisher to lay tsmaller ones out in one 8x10 picture.)
Big pictures that you reduce in size look a lot better than small prints you scan and then inlarge because they get grainy! Generally don't bother scanning badly shot pictures unless they're the only shots that exists of an important person!
If you can't crop or add-reduce light and dark contrast in a computer program do it as you scan it. Learn your scanner software to get the hang of it.
- Crop out the edge junk in "Preview" and rescan it.
- Center the subject with your crop tool.
- Darken or lighten the image if your software allows.
Fix photos as you scan or later on your PC. You can edit pictures as you scan before you save them to disk or thumb drive, or save them and fix them later with your computer's Photo imaging sofware. Crop out the unwanted areas of your pictures.
Most people want to see FACES, not background furniture or too much sky! Or too many people in a single picture. So choose the closeups to scan and upload for best results--just don't ruin the rare finds by tinkering with them too much!
If you make an editing mistake, take time to re-scan them because they'll likely survive longer than you will. So get it RIGHT!
Preserve facial detail and shadows. Don't let your software white out or darken out detail. If it isn't good scan software, just scan it large, and repair contrast or overall size in a better photo fix program. Or let somebody else improve them.
Archive the largest high-resolution scans
To save disk space, save only the best shots-- not the junky ones unworthy of printing because they're out of focus, or facial expressions are bad. Do you really need 5 poses that are almost the same? Not really. Just save the best ONES.
Once archived--backed up on disk and also another computer, make renamed copies and convert/resize them smaller and lower resolution to email or post on social media. They don't need portrait quality images just to view on screen!
Compressing copies to email
Your PC or laptop probably have a graphic program capable of reducing their file sizes to send out. Some software will let you resize them one-at-a-time or bulk reduce them in one operation.
The software will let you choose what resolution/file size to make:
- Not compressed (the largest for enlarged photos)
- Document size (for 4x6 inch prints or screen-savers)
- Email compressed size (smallest for email/web.)
More about photo file sizes. The larger the file size, the more dots-per-inch are put into the file meaning more detail, and better enlargements. We want to compress/resize some of the big files that come out of the camera to save space and so they will load faster on your screen.
- Notice NOT COMPRESSED (circled in red), the camera creates files as big as 2 megabytes. That's huge, but they can print even POSTER size!
- If we "Document COMPRESS" them to a reasonable size, they're still fairly big and display 1024x685 (full-screen size) but are only 250-400 kilobytes.
- If we want to EMAIL them or UPLOAD them to a website like Facebook, we want them small at "Web Size" or "Email Size." They'll load and email quickly.
Batch Compression. We'll save time if we can put copies of all files we want to email compress into a separate folder and "select all" and compress them in one operation. So you may have one directory of the pictures to PRINT and another one to EMAIL. When you've emailed this batch, delete that directory and store the larger ones for safekeeping.
In Microsoft' Office's Picture Manager, we can change the view to show multiple photos, and highlight the ones at once we want to mass compress (hold down Shift while highlighting several or press CTRL-A to select "ALL" in that directory). Then choose the size you want them mass compressed to--with just one click and an OK button press.
Other software may also do mass conversions; you may want that software program available on your PC just for this purpose.
Fixing Photos Online or at the Store
Don't have photo editing software? You can bring your camera's memory chip, CD/DVD or portable thumb-drive to Walmart, CVS or Walgreens and use THEIR equipment to edit, crop, turn-sideways, re-contrast or even take out redeye. And then have them print your pictures.
Or you can upload them to Snapfish and edit that new folder online before choosing which ones to put in your shopping cart for purchase. (Again the 4x6 prints are only 9 cents each if they mail them to your or about 16 cents to print them within about an hour at the store!)
Don't have a scanner? You can get photos scanned (digitized) at your local office supply retailer or have a friend scan your most important ones. If that's not possible, here are some tips:
Want to scan a precious framed portrait? To have someone else scan or camera re-shoot an important framed portrait yourself, carefully TAKE IT OUT OF THE FRAME first. Then it won't lose quality or be out of focus, or suffer from glare/reflection caused by the frame's glass.
Beware of glare! Assure there's no glare from room lighting on the picture--or a reflection of you shooting the picture! Shoot several shots, mostly close up, but in varied lighting angles...choose the one with the least glare to save. If it's a critical family picture, shoot it again if needed or best yet, take it out of the picture frame to the store and have THEM scan it properly with good equipment. It really costs a small amount!
Finding a perfect, bigger photo on the Internet
We ran across a fabulous but small photo of a Kansas wheat farmer with the sun just right as he was standing in a field and a combine was in the background. A real keeper! We had to have it. Luckily, we'd installed Tin Eye's Reverse Search Engine as a Chrome browser extension. It was free.
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