Photo Scanners: How to Choose the Picture Perfect Machine For Your Needs

Photo Scanners: How to Choose the Picture Perfect Machine For Your Needs

Choosing the right scanner will help you preserve your treasured memories and make your photos more accessible in the digital age.

Photo scanners can be used for professional or personal reasons, in offices or home workspaces, or even as part of a hobby or crafty pastime. Some people use photo scanners specifically to archive family memories so they can last in digital form for many years to come. But finding the best scanners for photos and documents takes careful selection and some consideration about your specific needs. This article will help you sort through the most important features to find the best photo scanner for you.

Need help picking the right scanner for your needs? Check out our guide, How to Choose the Right Scanner for Your Computer

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What are photo scanners?

Photo scanners are machines that create digital versions of printed photographs. Although photography was originally a very tactile and physical practice, the artform has evolved since the early 1800s to become increasingly technological. Luckily, scanning technology has advanced over the years to allow for the easy conversion of physical photographs into digital images. Photo scanners can help professionals and individuals digitize important collections including magazines, newspapers, historical documents, printed photos, baseball cards, artwork and book covers.

What are the benefits of a photo scanner?

Printed photographs aren’t designed to pass the test of time. Whether the photo was created manually using chemicals in a dark room or professionally printed using high-tech equipment, physical copies of images are subject to all sorts of damage. Improper storage and handling can lead to image quality decay over time, and family treasures can get lost or tarnished in attics, basements, or garages. Using a photo scanner to digitize those images helps preserve them for the long haul, as either JPG or PDF files that can be saved forever, backed up using cloud storage, and revisited anytime.

How to find the best photo scanner for you

There are several types of photo scanners. To reprint at a larger or poster size, you will need a very high-resolution device, 4800 or 9600 dots per inch (DPI). To reprint at the same size, 1200 to 2400 DPI would work best. Note, these high-resolution scanners are typically in flatbed form as any jitter can cause printing issues. Also note, high-resolution images require a large amount of storage, sometimes gigabytes per image. For the most common type of photo scanning, such as sharing, personal viewing, general archiving, or web page building, a much lower dpi can be used; 150 to 600 DPI is standard.

What to look for in the photo scanning software?

No matter what kind of photo scanning you’ll be doing, image quality is sure to be a top priority. Check for software image enhancement tools included with the scanner that can make your photographs look better when scanned, including automatic face detection, color enhancement, red-eye removal, and fade correction.

Once you’ve covered image quality, there are all kinds of models to choose from, so doing your research will help you find the best scanner for photos that meets your needs. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to start narrowing it down:

What amount of photo scanning will you be doing?

Take a moment to consider how many photos you expect to process at once. If you’re working through stacks of photos from a personal or professional collection, for example, you’ll want to select a scanner that can process photos in batches with an automatic document feeder (ADF). Otherwise, you’ll need to process each photo one at a time single sheet feeder or a flatbed — which may be more appropriate for lighter scanning needs. If you’re working with very old or highly delicate printed photographs, you might prefer a scanner that will keep them flat instead of passing them through a document feeder.

Did You Know? The ScanSnap family of scanners specializes in versatility and ease-of-use at an affordable price. Click here to learn more.

What other tools will you use with your scanner?

It’s important to make sure the tech and digital tools you already use will work in conjunction with your photo scanner. First of all, you’ll want a scanner that is compatible with your computer’s operating system, whether you use a MacOS laptop or a desktop PC. Some devices can even scan photos directly to your mobile phone or email application. You should also take stock of the digital tools you use to organize and store, and share your files; certain scanners can connect directly to Evernote, Dropbox, SugarSync, or even Google Drive. If you’re using a photo scanner for business purposes, it helps to have a device that integrates directly to your business software environments.

Where will you use your photo scanner?

Think about where you’re going to keep your photo scanner. Will it sit in one place on your desk? Is there a shelf in your home office where it will sit side by side with a printer and computer? Or will you need to carry it around with you, perhaps up to an attic, down to a basement, or through a hallway to a closet where you store shoe boxes full of family photos? Anticipating where you’ll be using your photo scanner will help you pick the perfect one. Some scanners have larger footprints than others, some have lids that lift up and others have feeding trays, some need to be connected directly to power while others can connect via USB. Make sure the photo scanner you select will fit in the area where you want to use it and also meet your portability needs.

Did You Know? PCMagazine called the ScanSnap iX1600 as "easy to use, fast, accurate, well built, and quiet." Click here to read the full review.

Our recommendation: ScanSnap iX1600

We know that you have no shortage of options when it comes to choosing a photo scanner. We pride ourselves on having spent the last 50+ years designing and developing some of the most beloved electronics in the world, including our line of award-winning, easy to use, one touch ScanSnap scanners. Now, what is the best scanner for photos?

The ScanSnap iX1600 is one of the most advanced ADF photo scanners on the market. Focused on efficiency and productivity, it’s easy to use the ScanSnap iX1600 to scan photos at home, in the office, or virtually anywhere. With an intuitive and customizable touch screen, Wi-Fi connectivity, and multiple user profiles, it’s an ideal scanner for teams, families, or even roommates. The 50-sheet automatic document feeder enables a higher capacity, and supports high-speed scanning at 40 pages per minute. Automatic image correction capabilities adjust each hi-resolution photo scan to maximize quality. We believe the ScanSnap iX1600 is the perfect choice for anyone searching for a photo scanner that is reliable, fast, and efficient. Click here to learn more and shop the full line of ScanSnap scanners.