Variable Custom Scan: Project wide guides: How to scan and archive your old printed photos

Most households will find they own a pile of photo albums stored somewhere probably out of sight.  Here at the project we're going to be scanning photos to make the database so that they can be referred to again and again. Many will have inherited boxes of old photographs from older relatives, which becomes referred to as the "family archive".  Whether you want to reduce clutter, share and research old family images, or just share fond memories, we have a look at the best ways of digitising your print photo collection. The same rules apply for the project subsection who are scanning documents in the Leeds hub.

Useful link for members on document imaging >

So if you want to create a back-up of the images, share them or even make them a feature on a digital frame slideshow, where do you start? Depending on how many photos you have and how DIY-eager you are, your choices will vary.

1. The high quality option: use a scanner

Firstly before you even begin to scan the photos, you may want to think about the way in which you are going to file and organise them.  By date? By event? How will the files be named?

The options are endless and there is no right or wrong answer, but think about how you may want to use the files in the future and make them easily searchable.  Whatever you decide, choose a system before you scan, and then you can organise your printed photos into relevant piles.

Now set up your scanner, ideally in a dust free area and remove any dust or dirt from your prints with a microfiber cloth. You should also clean the glass scanner platten to avoid specks on the final digital images.

Once your are ready you can begin scanning your photos using the instructions for your own scanner, which will obviously vary depending on the make and model.  However, as some general guidance the following tips should be useful.

To save on actual scanning time, scan multiple photos at once: On an average-sized scanner bed, you should be able to scan four 4x6" prints at once, and then crop them later. You may even find that your scanner is equipped with in-built software that can do this automatically.

Make sure you scan at a resolution of at least 300dpi and up to 600dpi if you think you may want to order enlargements in the future.

Check the editing options on your scanner. Some will allow you to remove red-eye, crop or even adjust brightness and colour in the scanning process.  This can be especially useful with older photographs the colours in which may have become unstable and altered or faded.

 Aiim scanning and document capture resources here >>

2. The quick option: use your smartphone

Although you wont be able to replicate the quality of the originals, this method is great if you want to scan quickly or you don't own a scanner and if you want to share online quickly and easily.

Firstly download a free app to your smartphone with a high-quality camera. Shoebox from is a great free App for iPhone and Android platforms.

Before you start, heres a few tips to making the process as trouble-free as possible. Think of it as a production line!

Find a well-lit area with lots of natural light and minimum shadows.

Scanning documents in LeedsScanning Negatives Clean your prints and the phone's camera lens with a microfiber cloth. Now you're ready to " can" your photos with your phone so launch Shoebox and with the photo lying down, position the phone parallel with the photo.  Now using the green camera button, tap to focus and press the shutter button.

Once you have captured the image you can crop it by dragging the crop corners and add extra information, such as when the photo was taken, who's in it, and if you want a brief description. Finally, you can upload the photo to your account.

Then just repeat the process for the rest of your photos. All the photos you have scanned will be saved to the camera roll on the phone and will also be available online via your media gallery on

You can leave them there, share them on social media or store them in your preferred photo storage site, like Flickr or Dropbox.

Of course if all of this sounds beyond your technical know-how you could consider outsourcing your photo scanning to a professional, paid service of which there are many.  Prices start at about £0.10 per image to scan, crop, edit and archive your photos, depending on the scan quality you choose. Some services offer to send you a box that you fill up and they scan for a flat rate of about £75.  These boxes can typically hold upwards of 1500 photos so if you have a lot of photos, this is a cheaper alternative. We use PDM Document management - for scanning this volume of images. They come back data tagged and ready to import into the database.

When alls said and done, whatever method you chose, transferring your photos to a digital format will give them longevity and allow you and future generations to go on enjoying them.


Digital document scanning: the high-tech solution to that paperwork mountain

The management of office paperwork finally has entered the digital age thanks to the invention of digital document scanning and document processing. An increasingly popular option for businesses and industries across the globe, scanning and then digitising paper documents brings a wide range of benefits, not least the ability to share documents quickly and efficiently from business to business and within internal departments.

So what exactly is digital document scanning? Andy at (link above) will help hub members for more info on this. If you think of a digital scanner, the chances are that one of those flat, A4 paper-sized devices that can be plugged into a PC will spring to mind. The document scanning technology used by digital document management companies is unrecognisable in comparison to a standard office scanner and offers the capability to scan and manage incredible amounts of data. Some state-of-the-art digital scanners, for example, can process up to half a billion images in just one year.

Digital scanning can process paperwork and material of any size, age and quality. Once the document has been scanned, it can be converted into digital versions of the original paperwork or microfilm, microfiche or drawings. It is even possible to create digitised images of delicate and fragile items such as historical artefacts or documents.

Document images can usually be provided in a number of different file formats including PDF and JPEG and the document scanning company you choose to work with should be happy to offer advice on the best format to suit your requirements.

A range of different online document management services are widely available and are designed to allow you to manage and retrieve your documents at any time, no matter where you are in the world. Online file management systems give the user complete control over their scanned, stored documents and these systems are usually simple to use and require little or no training. Depending on which system you opt for, the majority come with multi-user functions and are designed to be used across organisations and by as many staff as required.

Read more about the security aspects of document scanning >>