Introduction to photo scanning
Understanding file formats, resolution, and other scanning basics
Support & Drivers
When you scan your photo prints, you'll have so many possibilities. Not only will you save yourself a digital copy "just in case," but you can also improve the image, share it via e-mail or online, or make new (bigger!) prints. Learn the basics of resolution and file formats so you can successfully scan your photos.
Plan before you scan: resolution & file format
For best results, decide what you will do with your photos before you scan them.
Most scanners use ppi (pixels per inch) to refer to image quality.
Once you've decided what you'll do with your scanned photo, you'll be able to determine the best scanner resolution and file format. Let's review these common scanning terms:
Scanner resolution is measured in pixels per inch (ppi) or dpi (dots per inch)–the more pixels or dots, the sharper the image. Where dpi is used to describe print quality, ppi refers to the digital image itself.
The difference between dpi and ppi While there is a difference between dpi and ppi, many people (and even manufacturers) use the terms interchangeably. Scanners usually measure resolution in terms of ppi, while many HP printers and All-in-ones use dpi to refer to print quality.
File format refers to the way that scans are saved to the computer. Examples include JPEGs and TIFFs. You can identify a file's format by the extension after the dot at the end of the filename (such as .jpg, .jpeg, .gif or .tif).
Choose the resolution
When you look at a digital photo up close, you can see the pixels, or dots.
Resolution and image quality go hand in hand. Here's what you need to know before you scan:
- The more dots/pixels per inch in your photo, the more detail you'll be able to see when you look closely.
- However, that doesn't mean you should always scan at a high resolution. As resolution increases, image file size increases, too.
- You can store more lower-resolution files on your computer.
- Smaller files are also easier to send via e-mail.
- As a general rule, a resolution of 75-100ppi is appropriate for e-mailing, while 300ppi is sufficient for printing.
Decide on a file format
Remember, you can save your file more than once. If you can’t decide, save one TIFF
and one JPEG.
How you save your file format will also depend on how you plan to use the image. Here are a few guidelines:
- The two main formats are JPEG and TIFF. TIFF files are much larger than JPEG files, so they take up more space on your computer's hard drive. However, TIFF files also have greater detail.
- If you'd like to have more options for your scanned images, save your scan as a TIFF first, and then as a JPEG.
Scan photos for e-mail and Web
Photos viewed only on a computer screen will look fine when scanned at lower resolutions.
Your pictures are meant to be shared. And scanning let's you share any photo easily. To ensure that your photo is easy to view in e-mail (and doesn't take forever to download), follow these guidelines:
- Choose a lower ppi (scanning resolution of 75 or 100 ppi) for images that you'll send via e-mail or post online.
- JPEGs are just fine for images you'll share via e-mail or online.
Learn how to best scan photos for emailing and posting to the Web and invite your friends and family to enjoy your pictures, too.
Scan photos for printing
Once you scan your photos, you can print copies for friends, family, and displaying in your home.
As a general rule, you'll want a higher ppi/dpi when scanning an image for printing.
- For photos you'd like to print without enlarging, 300 ppi is a good guideline.
- The format you choose depends on the size of the photo. JPEGs are sufficient for pictures that you'll print at 4" x 6" size.
If you'd like to display your pictures or give prints as gifts, find out how to get the best results when you scan photos for printing.
Scan photos for enlarging
TIFF files are ideal if you want to print large, high-quality photos.
Sometimes, bigger is better:
- TIFF files are better if you want to print large, high-quality photos.
- If you're considering enlarging your scanned image from its original size, then a general rule of thumb is to double the ppi with every doubling in size. For example, to produce an 8.5" x 11" print from a 4" x 6" scan, set your dpi to 2 x 300 ppi, or 600 ppi.
Learn more about how to scan photos for enlargements.
Scan photos for archiving
Scanning your photo at a high resolution will give you the flexibility to use the archived image in different ways later.
Protect your precious pictures. Make sure you have backup copies of your photos by scanning them for archival purposes.
- Scanning your photos at 300dpi will create a high-resolution master and give you the flexibility to use the image in different ways later.
- The TIFF photo file format is ideal for archiving high-quality copies of your photos and for re-printing your photos at sizes larger than 4" x 6". TIFF files don’t degrade as a result of saving and re-saving.
Get tips on how to scan photos for archiving.
Scan 35mm slides and negatives
Photos don't have to be printed for you to scan them. You can use a scanner like the HP Scanjet G4050 Photo Scanner, which features a TMA.
To scan slides and negatives, you need a photo scanner that is equipped with a transparent materials adapter (TMA), which enables it to import transparent materials like slides and negatives.
If you don't have a scanner with a TMA—or you’re not sure whether your HP scanner can do this—visit our HP photo scanner buying guide to compare features.
Get step-by-step instructions for scanning 35mm slides and negatives.
Find your scanned images
Check your PC’s desktop for a “My Scans” folder, which may have been added when you first installed your scanner or All-in-One’s software.
Most scanner software will have a default location set up for your saved scans unless you choose otherwise.
In Windows Live Photo Gallery, you can choose the “Arrange by” option at the top of the screen and sort your photos by numerous filters, including “Type” (which indicates file type) or “Date.”
When you scan a photo (or a 35mm slide or negative), your scanning software will give you a choice of where to send the digital image on your computer, making it easy to keep track of your scans.
However, if you want to find an image that you’ve previously scanned, you may not recall where it was sent to on your computer. Use these tips to find scanned images on your PC:
- Look for a “My Scans” folder: You may have a “My Scans” folder on your PC’s desktop or listed under “My Documents”. Additionally, try looking for a “My Pictures” or “Pictures” folder, which could also be on your PC’s desktop or listed under “My Documents”.
- Check the default “Save to” location: Most scanner software will have a default location set up for your saved scans—such as the “My Scans” or “My Pictures” folders mentioned above. With some software, you can verify this location in the scan settings. Other software may require that you do a test scan before you can see what default location appears in the “Save to” or “Save in” field.
- Search by file name: If you remember what you saved your scanned image as (for example, winter_trip_08), but can’t recall where you saved it, you can always search for that specific file name via your computer’s search field (for most Windows operating systems, this can be found by clicking the “Start” button).
Also, you may have saved your scan, but not changed the file name. In that case, search your computer for files including the word “scan”.
- Search by file format: If you don’t remember where your scan was saved to or what it was named, try searching for the type of file format it was saved as, for example, JPEG, TIFF, etc.
There are different ways to search (or “sort by”) file format, depending on where you are searching. Generally, try to look for “Sort by” or “Arrange by” options located in program or photo library menus, and then select the “Type” or “Kind” filter. This will organize your files by format type, making it easier for you to find your specific image file.
- Search by date: In addition to arranging your files by “Type” or “Kind”, you can also sort by “Date” to help you narrow down the search for your specific
Scanning quick tips
It's easy to manage scanner shortcuts with your HP Solution Center software.
To make scanning easier, HP scanners give you the option to create scanning shortcuts. A scanning shortcut will pre-determine the settings for a certain type of scan. Then, you just press a button and let your scanner do the rest.
Improve your images
Once you've scanned your images, you can enhance them. With HP Scanners, such as the HP Scanjet G4050 Photo Scanner, you can use the included HP Solution Center software to adjust brightness, remove dust and scratches, and more..
Get more scanning quick tips and learn how to improve your original photo prints through scanning, including removing scratches and dust.