Scanning is an important tool for an Indiana Jones Digital Archaeologist. Sooner or later you'll probably have something you come across that you'd like to scan, in order to capture, preserve and share it with others. Here's an example, and some discussion and concepts about scanning. The tools and programs may change from time to time, but some of the concepts remain the same.

And for all our sakes, if you digitize something, don't forget to de-digitize - have you uploaded a bunch of pictures to a social network or "cloud"? Did you know that even the most secure online location can be hacked, and you could lose everything? That's one reason to de-digitize, that is, to not necessarily trust digital storage with your most precious family artifacts.


(original article)

I was going through several boxes as part of spring keeping, and I threw a lot into recycling, set aside some financial papers for filing away, and had a box to throw things in that I figured I'd want to hold on to.

Then there were a few items that seemed really special to me, that triggered the "show and tell" instinct, which caught some aspect of my life, and I figured I'd scan them.


    • Dell D620 PC laptop, using Windows
    • Canoscan LiDE 90 run of the mill Scanner. I think I paid $75.00 for it at Target a few years ago. You can get much fancier scanners, but it does the trick.


    • Adobe Photoshop, version 7. I feel the need to disclaim this again. I've been using Photoshop since version 2, and the latest versions can do wonderful things, but the versions going back to 7 do just fine for scanning, and just about anything else that I typically need to do. Photoshop Elements is a fine program too, but i happen to like using the "Pen" tool sometimes to make and adjust fine lines. But for most people, Photoshop Elements would work fine. And some might want to explore the free program GiMP, and the plug-in GiMP Shop (which makes it work like Photoshop).


Scanning: For scanning, you don't need a really powerful program - you just need to scan the dang things in. The nutshell is - if you want to be able to make a print out of it, scan it at the original size, call it a "high res" (high resolution) version, and scan it maybe at 300 DPI, which means dots per inch - it will be a setting in the scanning software. If you really want to get into DPI, see - but all you really need to remember is - if it needs to be printed, 300 DPI is good. Then, if you want to be able to post it on Facebook, scan it at 150 DPI, then learn how to resize images so that it ends up being 640 pixels wide.The wikipedia article is interesting enough:

Personally, what I've ended up doing is to make things simple, I just end up scanning at 150DPI. I save this version, then I use the "Save As" function to make another copy, and I resize this image to be 640 pixels wide (if it's a "wide" picture"). If it's a tall picture, I might resize it down to 400, or 300 pixels wide; whatever I feel like.

For example, this picture is 400 pixels wide:

And this picture is 200 pixels wide:

So it just depends on what you're looking for. In the book Social Networking Spaces, there's some discussion of a nice tool called, which makes it easy to resize pictures.

Emailing Pictures

Having some idea of how many pixels wide your pictures are is a good idea, because the bigger your pictures are, the bigger the file size will be. For example, what I recommend personally instead of emailing pictures is learning how to upload them to a Facebook photo album; then you can just send someone a link - and they don't have to be on Facebook to see the pictures. And if you're pretty sure people will want to print the pictures, then maybe start a Flickr account. (Facebook and Flickr are discussed in Social Networking Spaces, and you can get a free Sample Edition at

Generally speaking, the only reason you need the really high quality pictures is if you're going to print them - which is fine - but just keep in mind that these picture files will probably be too big to practically email people. So the trick, as with the scanning mentioned above, is to keep your "high resolution" version, and then learn about the Save As function on your File menu, so you can save a copy. Then you can play with this second copy, learn how to resize pictures (ex:, or software like Photoshop, or whatever came with your scanner, or the free GIMP program), and get it down to a pixel size that makes sense.

For example, let's say you have a "5 megapixel camera". It doesn't mean all the pictures are going to be 5 megapixels, it just means you can make them as big as that. So there will be settings on the camera, like high quality, medium, etc. - and personally I do recommend printing your pictures - I think it's just as important to de-digitize as it is to digitize. (See Ch1 in the free Sample Edition mentioned above). So really what you need to do is take a few pictures, preferably of the same thing, at different settings on your camera. Then upload the pictures to Walmart or Walgreens or whatever, print them out (and try to remember which settings you used) and then you'll know what works ok for printing pictures.

Then, you might wish to try the same kind of thing with pictures you scan, etc. - just make a few different versions, one for uploading, one for printing, try it out. You can't hurt anything!

And personally, I've just ended up going with the lower quality setting on the camera (640x480), and sometimes a little higher, because it's just easier.

For comparison, let's compare the relative width in pixels of a "5 megapixel image" and one that is 640 pixels wide. (A megapixel is basically a unit of measurement - 1000 pixels). So we're looking at the "relative width" of 5000 pixels, and 640 pixels, and both images have been reduced to fit this screen here - it's just for demonstration purposes.

And this is what the 640 pixel image looks like on a computer screen:


In order to scan pictures, you don't need the latest computer with the latest software (although its certainly fine). All you need is a computer capable of scanning pictures, a reasonable scanner, and preferably a computer that can run a recent Internet browser so you can get on Facebook and start sharing those pictures with friends and family.

Learn how to make a "high-quality" version of your pictures, and a "Web version". Experiment, print the pictures out, send them to your family, to your senator, give them to the postal delivery worker, do whatever you like. If you want to go simple, just scan everything at 150 DPI, and then learn how to make a copy using Save As, and resize the Web version down to a width of 640 pixels or less.