Tips on Scanning and Editing Photos

If you have been following me, you know that it’s time for an update on that Genealogical Gold Mine that I was given one month ago.

While I am still cataloging the photos that I have scanned, I did want to share an interesting find with you and what I’ve learned from it.  Maybe it will help you, too…

Before I explain my lesson, here is my initial scanning process:

When I scan photos, I scan at the highest resolution that I possibly can because storage (hard drives, flash drives, etc.) is cheap these days.  I’d much rather have a larger file and get the best scan/detail that I can out of my picture.  Definitely no less than 300 dpi.  I also keep the original scan and make sure that it is in .tif format.  I use .tif format to scan because it is lossless.  What the heck does that mean?  Well, it means that it won’t lose any of the details each time I save the file.  A .jpg will.  It’s like copying something on a copy machine multiple times – each time you do that, you lose a little bit of detail from the original.

Next, I use my photo editing software to do a quick modification of the photo.  This usually brings an already good photo back to life and it may not need anything more done to it.

After scanning, open your editing software and view the histogram:

Notice the arrows.  There is a lot of space between the content itself and the ends of the graph.  This is the key to your quick ‘fix’.

Using the drop down arrows, choose each Channel – Red, Green, and Blue – (one at a time) and move the arrows from each end of the grid to the end of the actual graph as shown below on the right.

After updating the histogram, make sure that you’ve saved the modified photo as a new file.  My quick results, below:

This was a simple edit to the photo and it only took a couple of minutes!  You don’t have to be an expert to do this – you just need to know where/how to find the histogram in your editing software.

Now for the lesson:

The photo above was taken during the same photo shoot as a photo that I already have. However, the photo on the left was given to me with the photography studio cropped out.

At first I dismissed this as the same photo.  I then went to my photos to double-check.  I am glad that I did!  My great-grandmother is on the far right in this photo, but in the first/new photo, she is in the middle.

The lesson about scanning your photos:

If you are going to crop the photo to get rid of the photo studio, keep the original scan that has it.  Why?  It’s a very important part to your family’s history.

Now that I have the photo with the photo studio, I can speculate that the picture was more than likely taken in Chicago.  If I want to go with that speculation, I have some work to do – it tells me that my Great-Great-Grandmother came to the United States to visit!

Please note:  they could have had the photo reprinted in Chicago, so I cannot rule that possibility out just yet, even though that seems unlikely to me.

I had no idea that she came to the US, hence this is only a speculation until I can prove it.

Off to search Ancestry and FamilySearch for Ship Records!

About Our Lineage

I invite you to join me as I share my journey of successes, surprises, and of course, disappointments. All belong to my passion called Genealogy.
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10 Responses to Tips on Scanning and Editing Photos

  1. Laura Hedgecock says:

    Great information.
    I linked to your article as a reference for more information in a blog post I had published on May 1, 2013. Permalink is

    Laura Hedgecock

  2. Su Leslie says:

    Thanks for that; it’s great advice. I’m hoping to collect some of my own family photos on a trip to the UK soon, so I need all the help I can get to do justice to digitising them.

    • Our Lineage says:

      Glad to help! I hope you get a ton of photos on your trip!!

      • Su Leslie says:

        So do I. My cousin cleaned out his dd’s house after my uncle died – and as he’d been the family historian, I’m hoping for photos, papers, maybe some missing leaves on my tree. Am sooo excited.

  3. anolas says:

    Wendy, thank you for another helpful blog.

  4. chmjr2 says:

    Thanks for the tips. I have a lot to scan myself so your hints will be put to good use.

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