A few scanning tips

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A Simple Way to Get Better Scans

This section describes and explains a common standard technique to correct and improve the contrast of the image, which enhances colors too. It is applicable to scanning both prints and film, and to editing later too. It uses the histogram tool in your scanner's driver or photo editor program, and is called Setting the Black and White Points. This discussion may appear to be about scanning, but this same technique works for scanner images, digital camera images, any image at all. The LCD display on better digital cameras shows this same histogram to allow judging the correct camera exposure at time of shooting, so now is time to learn this technique.

This is easy to do and learn, and it can make a huge difference to your images. It is an essential technique for Color or Grayscale photo images, a real fundamental. It is simply the way images are adjusted. It is quick to do, and it should become your automatic procedure.

You can do this during the scan, or after the scan in the photo editor. The scanner software is very important to our results, it is the tool we have to work with. You really don't need much skill to operate a printer or a monitor, but scanners do require extra effort. The technique described here used with good scanning software will raise your scanning skill level very considerably.

This article is illustrated using images of the histogram tool from Microtek ScanWizard, but if your scanner allows control of the tones during the scan, and many scanners do, then it has similar tools, and they will all work the same way.

Most popular photo editor programs today have similar histogram tools, for example Adobe Photoshop or Elements (shown below - at the Levels menu or just type Control L), and Corel Photo-Paint, Ulead PhotoImpact, and Corel Paint Shop Pro. These all work the same as described here. This tool is often named "Levels", referring to adjusting the black and white end point levels. The adjustment below lowered the midpoint, to brighten the image (discussed a few pages later).

The first step is to start with a pretty good photograph, reasonably focused and exposed. Then the rest is easy. You can even make poor photos better, sometimes a lot better.

The image below is our final version. It's only a 256 color GIF file now, okay? GIF is not best for photos, but the transparent background requires it. And I like it, and it's a good example for the technique. There are a few steps involved in this Simple Way, and it's much harder to describe than to do, but I'll try to cover it all. This method works great for Color or Gray scanning modes, and if you edit images, I can't imagine you not finding it extremely useful too. This tool is fundamentally important to all imaging.

Below is the initial scan, with less contrast.

Photos do vary, one from another, and often do have different scanning requirements. Here is an easy nearly semi-automated technique that helps quite a lot (honest). And for the unusual photo, too dark, too light, etc, variations of this same method will work wonders. There are many opinions how to best do this, but this one works.

This article is illustrated using screen images from Microtek's ScanWizard, but if your scanner allows control of the tones during the scan, and it probably does, then it surely has very similar tools that work the same way. And good photo editors also have the same tool.

This will possibly be a new concept to many readers, and while it is an easy concept, I think it may require two readings, one for the overview and one for the details.


Copyright © 1997-2010 by Wayne Fulton - All rights are reserved.


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