Printer/Scanner for Scanning Photos

I was asked which printer/scanner do I recommend for scanning photos.

Any current, new printer with a scanner will suffice. However, if you are interested in getting the best definition out of what you scan, the specs on the scanner should allow for 1200 dpi (dots per inch). Otherwise, 300 dpi is more than adequate. And if you are not interested in printing what you scan, and you don’t intend to display your photos on a large 4D or 5D display with UHD (Ultra High Definition), then scanning at 72 dpi will do. Be aware, though, that less than 300 dpi will degrade skin tones and sky colors. And for displaying on a large UHD monitor, only 300 dpi and above will do your photos justice.

You also have to choose between scanning to a JPG format or to a TIFF or PNG format. JPG is a lossy format. The more you edit it, the worse it gets. TIFF and PNG are lossless formats. You can edit as often as you like and it will not degrade the image quality. TIFF and PNG are also quite a bit larger than JPG, and the higher dpi you choose the longer it takes to scan. The higher dpi that you use, the larger the image file size will be. The more colors that are in the photo, the larger the image file size will be.

The image that follows shows the different file sizes for the same 3.5” x 5” color photo taken at different dpi, with one set for JPG and another for TIFF.

Photo Scan Test.png

On my 55” 4K UHD monitor, I see no noticeable difference between the 300 dpi and the 600 dpi images whether they be JPG or TIFF. However, the 75 dpi images blown up to fill the screen look decidedly horrible.

One note of caution about scanning. Clean the scanner platen carefully each time you open it, and wipe the face of the photo as well. Despite these precautions, specks will show up in the photos and that’s where the dust and scratches feature of the photo editor comes in handy.

So, as to what printer/scanner to get? It doesn’t matter as long as it will serve the purpose for the quality you want. What might matter are the features available for the printer/scanner that you choose, and you won’t know that until you plug it and try it. For example, my HP OfficeJet Pro series 8700 will (optionally) automatically put bounding boxes around a set of photos that I place on the scanner, and I can make adjustments to each one individually if I need to (but doesn’t correct if the photo is placed at an angle). Multiple scanned photos are all placed in the one folder I choose. Alternatively, I could scan the whole bunch as one big image at 300 dpi and then cut them apart with an editor after (actually takes way more time that way).

I use the Mac app Image Capture for all my scanning needs. It is probably not necessary to use any of the software that comes with the printer’s CD, especially if it is an Epson, a Cannon, or an HP. HP is my current favorite. If the printer/scanner claims to be perfect for photos, it is probably worth considering.

John R Carter Sr