What DPI Should I Scan My Photos At?

When starting out to scan your photos the first decision that needs to be made is what resolution to scan them at. This is referred to as Dpi or dots per inch. So here are a few things to take into consideration when deciding on what dpi to choose.

How much detail do you want in your photos?
What size images are you scanning? Larger images should be scanned at a higher dpi.
File size – what size file will the photo become?

These are decisions you will want to make before you start your project. You do not want to start out scanning several photos only to discover the setting is incorrect and you are not happy with the results. The higher the dpi the longer it will take to scan the photo. Do not let this influence your decision on what dpi to use. When you take on a project like this scanning your photos becomes an investment of your energy and time. This is something you only want to do once, so if choosing a higher dpi takes a little extra time to guarantee a high quality scan, then go with it. The other thing to consider when choosing your dpi is if you are going to print photos at a later time from your scans.

Capturing images at a certain dpi into the computer will also have an effect if you want to print your photos back out onto photo paper. The bigger the photo you want to print, the higher the dpi you will need in your scanned photo.

I have come up with this chart that is a good reference on what dpi to use when scanning your photos based on size and being able to create a nice print of your scan:

Print Dimensions
2.5 x 3.5” = 600 Dpi
3.5 x 3.5” = 600 Dpi
4 x 4.5” = 600 Dpi
3.5 x 5” = 600 Dpi
4 x 5” = 600 Dpi
4 x 6” = 600 Dpi
4 x 7” = 600 Dpi
5 x 7” = 600 Dpi
8 x 10 = 800 Dpi

If you have photos with a lot of detail you might want to try a higher dpi like 1200 or if you think you would want to have the photo enlarged bigger than 8×10. When you do decide on the dimensions it is best to have a professional photo scanning company do the scanning for you. Many can be found in your area, just try searching for something like Photo Scanning San Diego.

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