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How To Decode Scanner Resolution and Color Depth

Scanning a document for merely acceptable quality is usually simple enough. You only need to push a button on the scanner and let the scan come through. Scanning photographs, though, is a different matter. A high quality scan that shows all of the depth and clarity of a great photograph requires at least some understanding of the way scanning works, just the way it is with capturing a high quality photograph.

While you could simply use professional scanning services to get your scans done, it is a good idea to learn a few basic skills yourself. It could help you get the results you need when there isn’t enough time to seek external help.

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Finding user-friendly scanner software

While every scanner comes with its own software, such programs are often known for their intimidating interfaces. Many people are not aware of the fact that their scanners can work with software from third-party vendors. Brands like SilverFast and VueScan are known for their well-designed approach.

You may need to stray from the default settings

Any scanner software will come with default templates for different kinds of images and documents. The default settings, though, only work well for certain kinds of common scanning tasks. If you wish to scan a photograph for the best possible effect, you could to change the default settings yourself.

Setting the resolution

When people refer to the resolution of a scan or print, they refer to the number of dots that the image uses. A newspaper photograph is an example of a low resolution print – you can easily see the individual dots that make up the image. On an iPhone with a Retina screen, though, the image is made up of so many dots that they all make up what looks like a seamless image.

Even a low-cost consumer scanner is capable of extremely high resolutions these days. The problem with taking advantage of these resolutions is that they produce very large file sizes – in the order of hundreds of megabytes.

Many experts on scanning recommend that you use no greater a resolution for an image than you will view it at. For instance, if you plan to only view your scanned images on a feature phone or perhaps upload it to Facebook, all the men of high quality that your scanner produces will be visible. You would need to compress those images.

The same goes for the color bit depth option. Experts sometimes advise that it isn’t necessary to scan a photo at very high levels of color richness or depth if you don’t have the kind of monitor or print capability to view it.

What you need to consider, though, is that scanned image is something that could well serve you for decades. While high-resolution viewing devices are not cheaply available today, they could be easily available a few years now. It’s always a good idea to start off with the best bit depth and resolution that your scanner can manage. Then, you could always tone it down for less demanding purposes by contrasting it with a compression algorithm like JPEG. Scanning to a resolution of 3600 dpi and to a depth of 48 bits is a good idea.

It is usually not a good idea to take a resolution that is higher than 3600 dpi

Many scanner manufacturers offer resolutions that are even higher than 3600 dpi on their products – going all the way up to 12,800 dpi, sometimes. Scanning to such high resolutions isn’t a good idea. You are only likely to end up with a very large file that doesn’t give you added quality for all the bulk.

The reason the high-resolution levels are not advisable is that often, consumer scanners are incapable of actually scanning that closely. Instead, they simply do a bit of manipulation in the software to produce an artificial high-resolution – much the way digital zoom systems on cameras manage to produce no greater detail even when they zoom in very close.

If you plan to scan an image for nothing demanding than a webpage, you usually don’t need anything more than 72 to 300 dpi, depending on the kind of purpose your image will serve.

John Hoskins used to work in a busy metropolitan office. Now retired, he enjoys writing about what he learned over the years in an effort to help others. Visit the Scanning Services Vancouver for more efficiency ideas.

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