Gaytonian Website

Scanning photographs (or getting them scanned) for the website.

Among the excellent goodies on Jeff's website, the photographs surely have to rank among the best. However, the quality is rather variable and Jeff can only use what he is given. It is disappointing to discover a picture of long lost mates, only to find that you can only just recognise them and cannot get a decent print-out. I have been sent quite a few pictures to scan for the site and the tips below may help. If you have not got your own scanner, jump to the bottom paragraph.

Before you scan anything, do realise that its amazing just how good the average modern scanner is. It can find every speck of dust on it's own glass or on the photograph, so clean both carefully before you begin.

So that people can print off pictures from the web, the resolution (DPI - dots per inch) needs to be as high as possible, while still keeping the file size below about 250 kilobytes if possible, to avoid gobbling space on Jeff's server. This can usually be obtained by scanning at 200 DPI and converting the resulting file to .jpg format. Anything less than 200 DPI will produce a 'blocky' effect in the resulting scan. If the picture is smaller than the usual 10"x8", you will want to try 300 or even 400 dpi to catch as much detail as possible.

Incidentally, most scanning programmes scan in colour by default; you have to set the programme to scan in greyscale yourself. As with the resolution, there will be a menu somewhere on the screen to let you do this. A colour file is very much bigger than a greyscale one. Of course, I'm assuming that your photograph is in 'black and white' in the first place!

When you save the scan, the Windows "Save As" popup box should have a dialogue box allowing you to select which format you want to save the file in. If it does not, see if you have any sort of graphics handling programme on your computer such as Serif or Adobe Photoshop Light (I refuse to write 'Lite'!) which will make the conversion. If you have the facility to select the degree of compression the .jpg system uses, you can reduce the file size significantly more by using about 10% compression but be very wary of anything over that. If you try going higher, check the results carefully as you may be inducing the 'blocky' effect that you get with a low resolution scan in the first place. Don't be put off trying, though. I have got away with 30%; it depends entirely on the photograph.

If your programme does not readily report the size of the scanned file, save it anyway, then use Windows Explorer to go to the file and it's size should appear alongside it's name.

If the original needs repair or touching up in some way, you will need a reasonable graphics programme. Several of the photographs I have processed have been under another piece of paper which somebody was writing on and words were 'engraved' on the photograph. In another case, of a panoramic of the cadets in the late fifties, there were three big damaged areas coming up from the bottom edge. One of them meant that an RAF lad sitting on the ground of the outer quad had to be given a new right leg and arm and half a face! Another problem may be that some photographs were printed on 'crackle-finish' paper, which creates 'snow' on the scanned image. To remedy these problems successfully is time consuming and requires a good graphics programme, which most people will not have.

My own method is to scan at 400 DPI, do any cleaning up and damage repair at that resolution and also make any improvements to brightness, contrast and focus. A really good graphics programme helps greatly at this stage. Having got the result as good as I can, I then reduce the resolution to 200 DPI (or 300 if it was a small original) and start playing with the .jpg compression to get the file size down without losing detail.

There are bound to be genuine experts out there and I'd welcome their comments. For others having a go, feel free to ring or e-mail me with questions (address, e-mail and 'phone number at the bottom of the 'Register of Former Pupils' page linked from Jeff's front page). Also, if you have a problem photograph without the graphics programme to handle it or if you just do not want to do it yourself, you can send it to me and I'll do it (I've done quite a few now and their owners, including those overseas, have all received them back again!).

Give me a couple of weeks and I'll assemble a list of the pictures for which I have the original high resolution scans, which I can send to anyone wanting to make a good print, or a print from them can be supplied through Alex Bateman.

Rod Clarke.

return HOME