Working With Digital Images Of Old Family Photos
[Part 2 of 2]

by Bob Brooke

So you managed to successfully scan your old family photographs. Now what? After scanning each photo, you need to save it. It's best to first save these images as a TIFF file-identified by the .tif extension-which is a file type that uses "lossless" compression technology. That is, when you open the image, it's identical to the original image. You'll most likely have to do some manipulation to old photos and since JPEG files–those used to save digital photographs–are considerably smaller than TIFF files, they're not good for any image that's to be opened, modified and re-saved, something that you're likely to do when restoring damaged or faded photographs.

Using programs such as Adobe Photoshop Elements or Ulead PhotoImpact Photo Suite, you'll be able to make those old photos look like new by choosing a Quick Fix or Auto Adjust setting. You can also paint over spots and clean up dust marks and minor scratches using these programs. Repairing cra cks in your photo will take some additional time using the Cloning Tool. Above all, NEVER work on your original file. Always make a copy of it to edit. So in case you make a mistake or don't like the results, you can start over. Make sure you save your original to a different folder than your edited file.

After you restore your image, then click Save As in the File Menu of your photo editing program and save it as a JPEG (extension .jpg) image to the Edited Photos folder. Because JPEG files are compressed, they're smaller and easier to transmit by E-mail or post to a Web site. However, if you're planning to print your restored photograph, then you'll have to make sure to save your file at a higher resolution of at least 600 dots per inch (dpi).

While you most likely have some control over the color, contrast, etc. while scanning, avoid doing anything until after you scan your image. After scanning, your image is transferred automatically to the photo manipulation program where you can do the same but with more control.

Photographic images on a computer monitor can look better than the originals, but remember you're viewing them at low resolution, usually at 72 dpi. Photographs in most magazines are reproduced at 600 dpi and many color printers print at 1200 dpi or more. It's best to save your newly restored photograph as both a high resolution image (600 dpi) and a low resolution image (72 dpi). Then you'll be covered for whatever you choose to do. You'll also need to chose the size of your resulting print, should you chose to print your photo.

Although computer hard disk space is now a fraction of the cost that it was a few years ago, it's not a good idea to store your family images on your hard disk. Hard disks can crash. The absolute safest place to store your images is on a CD, which can store up to 700-800 megabytes of data. The cost of a CD-R, or recordable CD drive, has also fallen to about $50-80. And blank CDs can cost as little as five cents each in 100-CD spindles. You may be able to fit your entire family photo collection on one CD. The inability to re-record or overwrite a CD-R disk is actually a plus as you can never erase your data in error.

It's all very well to scan and share your pictures electronically but let's face it, most of the time you'll want a traditional print. A new generation of color printers capable of producing photographic-quality images on special paper have now appeared. Or you can take your CD to a "quick printer" at your local chain drug store to have your photos printed. Another option is to use a new service offered by Yahoo. After publishing your photos to a Web site you create for free on Yahoo, you can take advantage of their printing service. This is one of several online photo print services available. The quality of the resulting 4"x 6" prints is excellent.

Finally, don't be afraid to experiment with different resolutions and color settings. Each scanner-printer combination is different, so you should test yours to see what scanner settings work best for you. The more you know, the better you can take advantage of imaging on your computer to share and store your old family photographs.

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