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10 Tips for Scanning Old Photos

Get the Right Scanner
The flatbed scanner: A novice photo digitizer's best friend.
The flatbed scanner: A novice photo digitizer's best friend.

A scanner is essential if you want to transfer your beloved photographs from your cluttered attic to your cluttered desktop.

Scanners all work in essentially the same way -- they convert photos into a digital format. Unless you're putting together an NBC special or a museum retrospective, you don't need to buy the most expensive, top-of-the-line scanner. Your family members probably won't notice the difference between a 1200-dpi image and one that's 6400 dpi (dots per inch, a measure of image resolution).

The most common type of scanner is a flatbed. You put the picture face down on a glass surface and a scanning head moves across the photo, capturing the image, which is then sent to your computer. There are other types as well: A film scanner works with slides and negatives. A wand scanner is a small, handheld device that you move across the photo yourself.

if you're just looking to scan photos, a flatbed is probably your best bet for maximum image quality. You can get a fast, high-quality flatbed scanner for less than $100. If scanning isn't in your daily repertoire, get an all-in-one machine that also faxes, copies and prints so you can get your money's worth.