Flatbed Scanner Tips

By Matthew Bamberg / Mar 8, 2012
Scanned image before tweaks.
Scanned image after tweaks.

It’s scanning time! Now that Photoshop CS 5 is here and Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) is too, I’ve pulled out my positives and negatives and started scanning. It’s become an obsession. I have seen some of my images in 10 years. Pictures from Cambodia, Vietnam, and, yes, those signs.

I’ve been doing this for two weeks now and have a pile of flatbed scanner tips. Before I start, I must warn you that I wanted to outsource my scanning to a place that has a drum scanner, so I could get the best possible scans. When I found out a scan is $30 a pop, I said out loud, “Forget that!”

Here are the scanning tips for negatives:

1. Study the negative or positive under light to determine its value as a large image, and be picky.
2. Look at your image while you use the tweaks on the scanner; attempt to keep as much detail as possible when using them.
3. Keep negative on side that hits the glass so that it is flat as possible on it.
I have an Epson 4490 that is several years old. It’s one of the best for a moderately priced flatbed scanner.
4. Scan at high resolution; I scan at about 6×9 inches at 600 dpi resolution.
5. Review your image after the scan; if there is unsalvageable clipping or blur, dump it.
6. After doing quite a bit of researching scanners. I found the to be the scanner giving the image a sharper result than most other scanners at this price or below. The best part is when you put the image into ACR to tweak. You have options that weren’t available a few years ago. Play with them. If your background is dull and unappealing, trade if for another. (That’s why I keep a stock of cloud images) and you can go from what you see in the first image to what you see in the second image.

About the author

Matthew Bamberg

Matthew Bamberg has provided photographs and written articles for various Southern California newspapers and magazines, including The Desert Sun and The Press-Enterprise. More recently, Matt has been teaching at UC Riverside while also authoring several books like the Quick and Easy Secrets book series (Cengage), Killer Photos with Your iPhone (with Kris Krug and Greg Ketchum, Cengage), the 50 Greatest Photo Opportunities in San Francisco (Cengage) and Digital Art Photography For Dummies (Wiley).