Making digital copies of old photos

Photo scanning or archiving old photos to digital won't stop the original photo print degrading but it will preserve the original picture digitally for future generations to enjoy and opens the door to an exciting range of services to produce enhanced quality copies from them which make ideal gifts.
copies of old photos restored and coloured making copies of old photos better

Copying old photographs yourself?
Get help and advice below.

All of the photo scanning services detailed are provided upon receipt of your original.
Or take a look at more examples of the photo shop services provided for originals that are damaged, faded, torn, ruined or spoilt in other ways.

Advice for scanning and printing copies of old photos

Unless the original photos are on media such as a filmstrip of negatives or transparencies etc, you will most likely be making copies of old photos from prints (by scanning them). It is important to use the optimum scanning resolution when copying old photos to digital, and this is dependant upon the original print size and the size of any printed copies i.e. whether they are a same size reprint or an enlargement.

Correct scanning resolution for copying old photos

The optimum resolution or DPI (dots per inch) for scanning an old photo depends upon the print size used for any printed copies produced in relation to the original size. Increasing the scanning DPI resolution results in more details in the digital copy created, but setting the photo scan resolution too high can actually make the digital copy of the picture unusable due to processing time, especially on older computers. When making copies of old photos digitally by scanning the media, the scanning resolution setting in DPI relates to the number of pixels (the smallest dot of colour that can appear in a digital image) that will be created when making the digital copy. 300 DPI, for example, means there will be 300 pixels across and 300 pixels down for each inch of original media that is scanned. This is often used as a measure of quality for digital images. The higher the DPI resolution when scanning, the larger the digital image created from your old photo will be in pixels. The DPI setting is also stored in the digital image and used to determine the default size for any printed copy produced by setting how many pixels of the digital image are printed per inch of the media printed on. Therefore, as long as the DPI setting is not changed, any printed copies of old photos made will be reproduced at the same size as the media that was scanned.

Making high quality enlargements

Well if you're still reading there is a simple formula that suits most peoples requirements for scanning and making copies of old photographs. Generally I have found that an old photo scanned and printed at 1200 dpi looks no better than an old photo printed and scanned at 600 dpi, at least with my eyes anyway, so scanning photo prints at 600 dpi is plenty high enough resolution for reprints at the same size as the original print (some commercial printers resample down to 300 dpi when printing anyway). Remember however that if you are making copies of your old photos from negatives or from a small print that will be reproduced at a larger size, then in both cases you will be enlarging the original, so the actual printed dpi will be reduced. To compensate, the scanning resolution should be increased. If you are making a copy of an old photo to be printed at an enlarged size of four times larger area (double the length and width) of the original print, then you would need to scan at twice the resolution (1200 dpi in this case) to produce your print at the same resolution (of 600 dpi in this case). Digital copies of old photos made from slides and negatives are scanned at a much higher dpi resolution than when scanning old photo prints, as a negative also holds more photo details / information than a photo print of the same size would.

Copies of old photos from prints without negatives

If you are scanning old photo prints yourself, you may be using a flatbed photo scanner. This could be a standalone photo scanner or one built into a photo printer. There a quite a few printers with a built scanner and most of them have the capacity to scan at a maximum resolution of 600 dpi. If you are making copies of old photos using a scanner like this, often they will not make as high quality enlarged copies as a standalone photo scanner would, as enlarging above twice the width and height of the original print would drop the resolution for printing to below 300 dpi with these. Although this is fine for distance viewing (which is often how a larger print is viewed), it would not be fine art detail. 600 dpi is excellent quality for making copies of old photos for reprinting at the same size as the original print, and also allows for a small degree of enlargement without pixelisation or blockiness.

Copying old photos to digital for screen viewing only

If your old photographs are just for viewing on a standard monitor or online (if for example you are making copies of old photos for family history or genealogy websites) then a lower resolution image scanned at 200 dpi may suffice as long as the original is not too small (most monitors don't have more than 100 pixels per inch anyway so a 200 dpi scan would appear larger on screen than the size the original photo was set to print at). However for the sake of old photo preservation and retaining as much detail in these old photos from the past as you can, consider making higher resolution copies of your old photos as these may come out better in the future as technology improves.

Better quality copies of old photographs

Most old photos can do with some form of enhancement, as wear and tear and sun exposure leads to damaged areas and fading details. You may be looking to copy and print an old photograph that is poor quality, a low resolution digital image, or a very small old photo. As well as photo services that include high resolution scanning of your old photos to digital, editing services such as detail restoration and other enhancements (like making coloured copies of old black and white photos) are available than will ensure better quality copies than just scanning and copying. The service can also remove the noise and defects that appear naturally in the digital images created when making high resolution copies from old photo prints, so you can be sure of improved quality results whatever size the original media.

an old photo with the background changed an old photo restored and repaired a sunlight faded photo restored and repaired

If making copies of old photos yourself, save your digital copies as .JPG (jpeg) images with quality setting of 100%, attach one per email and send to us for a no obligation quotation. Find out more here about the digital PHOTO SHOP SERVICES provided for more ideas and suggestions for what can be done with your photographs.

Back to top