Scanning Resolution

Quick tips on choosing:

Resolution is based on the amount of visual detail captured in an every inch of image. It’s expressed as “dpi,” or dots per inch; a holdover from an earlier, pre-digital time. Choosing the right resolution for your scans depends on the intended purpose; viewing your images on a digital screen has different requirements from creating 11 X 14 prints, or archiving maximum detail. Generally, it is better to have higher resolution files, which allow for cropping and enlargement with more detail.
Here are our recommendations:

For general purposes, including duplicating at about the same size as the original, 300 dpi is the standard. To allow for enlarging, and to ensure that maximum detail is retained, 600 dpi is the best option. Higher than that. while it captures more image information, may also capture unwanted artifacts, like scratching or fingerprints. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, and for higher enlargement of clean prints, we offer a 1200 dpi option.

The standard for most films, including negatives and slides, is up to 3,000 dpi. For older films, or basic consumer-level film, that’s a good choice, to avoid a grainy appearance. In the case of professional quality film, as well as more modern consumer-level films, they’re generally finer grain, and increasing to 4,000 dpi is a better way to go.

Greater resolution generally means greater sharpness, but there may be times when it’s not the best choice; high resolution scans of lower quality originals may accentuate graininess and other artifacts.

  • Editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop, allows you to increase the resolution of your file through interpolation, filling in pixels through a mathematical formula, rather than what was actually scanned. Up to a point, this can be used to enhance a file for cropping and enlarging.
  • Files with greater resolution are larger, and may necessitate greater storage capacity. We recommend you see the companion guide to File Formats.
  • Any time you’re unsure of which resolution, or other option, is best, feel free to contact us for advice.

Want to know more?

The illustration at the top of this page is an enlargement of actual pixels, the unit seen by computer processors, and translated into visual images. Each pixel is comprised of 3 primary colors; red, blue, and green ( usually denoted as RGB) in quantities called bytes. So, a pixel is comprised of 3 bytes, one for each color.

To see how the works in actual use, here’s an example:
This represents a 4” X 6” picture, comprised of 1,800 X 1,200 pixels; a total of 2,160,000 pixels, or 6,480,000 bytes.1 million bytes is called a Megabyte, or MB. So, our image is considered to be  6.48 MB in size.
To relate this to scanning, this was scanned at 300 pixels per inch. In practice, it is usually referred to as 300 dpi (dots per inch). That’s a holdover from an earlier, pre-digital, time; but it has remained in use, and the terms dots per inch and pixels per inch are generally used interchangeably.


Back to Guides

Back to Products and Services