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Photography and the web
Scanning photographs - quick tips

To get your prints on your PC, you'll need a scanner, and these have fallen so much in price recently that you're positively spoilt for choice.

It's worth paying a little extra for a USB scanner as you'll soon appreciate the speed difference, but almost any old scanner will be good enough for web work.

Always scan your images in at the highest resolution available and reduce down to 72dpi for web use later - you'll retain better quality by reducing the image rather than blowing it up.

It's not unusual for scanned images or digital photographs to appear too dark or washed out onscreen, so you'll have to tweak them in a graphics editor (most scanners bundle capable programs like Photoshop LE, Paint Shop Pro, Photo Paint etc.).

Be sure to work on a copy of the scan in case you get a bit carried away in the filter department.


Usually, the quickest and most effective way to liven up an image which is clearly too dark and lacking detail is to fiddle about with its 'Histogram'.

Most graphics packages include this feature, and for Photoshop, select Image -> Adjust -> Levels and you'll be presented with what looks like a graphic of a precarious mountain range (the 'Histogram').

This is a representation of the amount of shadows, midtones and highlights in an image. Moving the sliders around will increase and decrease these values (moving the sliders closer together increases balance).

In most cases, a simple bash on the 'auto button' is enough, but if the original picture is an underexposed snapshot of a bunch of black-clad coal miners with dirty faces in a dark tunnel, don't expect miracles.

It might also be tempting to crank up the contrast but this can often be at the expense of detail - so try and use some restraint!


Scanning tips:

Guide to scanning your images and formatting them for use on the Internet:

To ensure colour consistency you should consider calibrating your monitor. Photoshop v5+ comes with software for the job, otherwise check out the guide at

Article © Mike Slocombe 2001

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