Art and Photography

Recommended service for scanning and fixing an old photo

  • Last Updated:
  • Jan 18th, 2018 1:48 am
[OP]
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Sep 30, 2001
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Recommended service for scanning and fixing an old photo

I have a family photo from the '60s. Not sure what the format is (126, 110, Polaroid..) but it's roughly 5x4" with a white border.

The photo has sentimental value so I would like to have it scanned, corrected for any defects, then printed to maybe 8x11" 8x10". The photo itself is in decent shape, so perhaps some colour correcting and removing any minor defects from the photo is required.

Is there a service that will do this and how much would it roughly cost?
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May 5, 2010
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You can call your local printers and ask if they do high end scanning. If you want to do 8X10 (I'm not sure 8x11 exists without cutting), ask them to scan it at 600 DPI or higher so there won't be extra scaling done in post. Keep in mind that scanning a 4x5 and print it into a 8x10 won't give you more details.
Sometimes, the printers will also have a graphic designer that works there that could do some minor retouching. If it's just removing some dust and adjust some color, it's fine even done by a junior retoucher.
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Aug 16, 2007
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Happy to do it for you for free if its a single photo, we don't do any printing but I can give you a scan on an Epson 10000XL & do a basic restore. 208 Browns Line, PhotoScanning.ca
[OP]
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matdwyer wrote:
Jan 17th, 2018 1:44 am
Happy to do it for you for free if its a single photo, we don't do any printing but I can give you a scan on an Epson 10000XL & do a basic restore. 208 Browns Line, PhotoScanning.ca
thanks! I may take you up on that offer in a few weeks (family is over for the holidays so I'm a bit pressed for free time at the moment).

just for my own curiosity, what would be the largest practical size I can enlarge a photo like this?
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In a simlpistic way, high quality printing is done at 300DPI - thats printing like you'd see in National Geographic - 300 dots (or in this case, pixels) per square inch.

If you take a 300 DPI scan of a 5 x 5 image, and blow it up to be 10 x 10, the printing resolution would be 150 DPI (you're stretching the image to be twice as large, so you're taking the information and spreading it out over more square inches). Lets say you took that same photo and instead scanned it at 600 DPI - when you stretch it for printing at double the size, you then would be going from 600 DPI cut in half, so 300 DPI would be your printing resolution at 10 x 10 (450 would be your printing resolution at 7.5 x 7.5, etc).

Now that being said, here's the caveat - you're limited by the medium that it is on - when it was originally printed, only so many "dots" are transferred onto the paper - versus say a negative or film that contain significantly more information. If you took that 5x5 photo and scanned it at 1200 DPI, you're not getting more "information" from the scan, because it's not actually there to get (you could get deeper into the fibres of the paper, perhaps!) - you just get a larger file, not something that is more sharp or contains visual photographic information. It is very rare to scan at above 600 DPI for photographic prints - diminishing returns (it's not like CSI where you can keep zooming in & enhancing).

So to answer your question - it would be rare to scan at more than 600 DPI, which, if you were maintaining a high print resolution when enlarging, would let you print at 8x10 - now notice I said while maintaining a high print resolution - if you "degrade" the printing resolution, you'll be able to go even larger - lets say you are OK with printing at 150 DPI - you could then take that original 5x5 image and go to 20 x 20 with a 600 DPI scan (600 divided by 4, 5x5 * 4)

To visually see the difference in printing resolutions, go check out an image printed in the toronto star versus an image printed in a high quality magazine - newspapers are often printed around 85 LPI, which is going to equal 170 DPI - 170 dots per square in, versus 300 dots per inch, it will be visually evident if you look at things like circles and see the smoothness of the lines, or text, etc. It's not "bad" to print at 150 or 200 or 250 DPI, it's just the standard to print at 300 DPI - for the average person, if you printed at 150 DPI, you'll still get an image that looks good - especially starting from an older photograph that may not be tack sharp.

If you're doing something like printing on canvas, the printing resolution is even lower (due to the substrate being more difficult to take percise drops of ink) - canvas prints are often printed at 100 DPI, so even if your file was 600 DPI at the size you're printing, its only going to put 100 dots in that square inch.

That's a really long technical explination and hopefully it makes sense (I try to explain this to people with no digital experience at all and see very confused looks often haha), but the simple answer to your question is:

In the highest quality (gilcee prints) you'll want to stick under 16 x 20 before the image looks bad from the enlargement
In a regular print (say costco enlargements) 16 x 20 will look OK
In a canvas print or other non-standard substrate, going larger should be OK

To get really technical, there are programs now that let you control interpolation - effectively letting a computer algoritm "guess" what should be in the surrounding pixels to "create" information, and fake higher resolutions - in general we want to avoid ANY upscaling or interpolation when digitizing (i have competitors that try to sell that as a feature, when it absolutely isn't), but if you scan with true optical resolution of the scanner then control the interpolation process specifically fory our end use you can get decent results - https://www.alienskin.com/blowup/ is the go to

[feel free to send in via Canada Post if you'd like to save the trip, just throw a self addressed envelope or I can hold for pickup - or if you're in the area the scan will only take 5 minutes, but then you can jet & I email the file after editing a half hour or so later depending on complexity]

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