A few more tips and ‘lessons learned’ for scanning

The post adds a few more ‘lessons learned’ about scanning our family pictures and stuff.

Going through all these things has proved tedious but rewarding.  The weeks of every-spare-moment invested contained a lot of “oh, wow” moments as seeing the pictures and other stuff triggered memories. Here are a few other tidbits you might find useful:

Postcard Falls City (NE) High School circa1939The ‘descreen’ trick.

I mentioned this before but it’s worth a 2nd mention. Seeing a scan with a distinctive pin-cushion pattern in it was a sure sign that the descreen filter was needed. Normally, this is used on things like news paper photos and magazine pages which are actually printed as a pattern of fine dots. But it also turned out to be useful in some other places including:

  • A group of photos that were made on an ink-jet printer.
  • Some non-photo plastic and paper items (example: a set of shiny plastic business cards).
  • Post cards—some very old ones are a photo with the mailing template printed on them but most were printed and needed the filter.
  • Textured paper photo prints often, but not always, were helped with a descreen filter.

Often I couldn’t see the pattern until I’d scanned it but it could be pretty ugly in the scan. Usually the pattern could at least be minimized by changing the Vuescan input type to ‘magazine’ and experimenting with the descreen resolution setting. The trade-off for using it is some loss of contrast and sharpness, but they still looked a lot better than a straight scan.

Newspaper clippings

Newspaper yellows very quickly. For an all text clipping I selected black & white photo and made sure the ‘restore fading’ and ‘restore colors’ options were off. I found I could improve the readability of the text by shifting both the black and white point toward the middle—this narrows the grey scale so dark bits go black and light bits go white. If there was a picture in the article, I found that I usually needed to scan it again with ‘newspaper’ selected as the input type to get the descreen filter for the photo(s).


In the stuff I sorted through were dozens of postcards, some as far back as 1910. The very oldest were just photos with the postcard template printed on the back. More recent ones

Scan of 1930's era postcard, Falls City, NE

Postcard. 1930's. Falls City, NE. (Click to enlarge)


had printed pictures and needed the descreen filter, but the density of the dots seems to have varied from printer-to-printer and changed over time as well. Scanning these is where the variable ‘descreen’ filter was especially good and with a little fiddling I was able to get nice scans from these.

When I started, I thought the postcards wouldn’t be of interest but I changed my mind. I found the postcards sometimes filled gaps or gave context to the pictures I had. For example, I had a few people-picture shots of my parents’ wedding but none of the church or surroundings. However, I discovered several picture postcards of the church and around the town in the same time period—context for the story.

About Dick Knisely

Science-guy, engineer, father, grandfather, husband -- yeah, I'm all of those things. I author this blog to share things I care about and you might care about, too. I hope you do and that you'll join in to share things you care about.
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One Response to A few more tips and ‘lessons learned’ for scanning

  1. Pingback: Some Lessons Learned for Film Scans | What I think about that

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