My VueScan Photo Scanning Workflow

It has been a while since I have talked about scanning photos to create a digital archive of those photos. As I mentioned in previous posts, I recently purchased a new desktop computer, and have been busy setting it up. I have also installed both the scanner and VueScan on my new desktop, and have enjoyed the increase in performance when archiving my photos.

One thing I have begun to finalize is my workflow for scanning and archiving the photos. After doing some reading online on using VueScan, I have come up with my own workflow. While you can follow my workflow, and change it as you see fit, it is important to remember that a workflow must work for you. The one I outline below works for me.

My VueScan Workflow


I have created a workflow that performs the tasks that I need to create digital archives of my photos. The steps below outline the workflow that I have come up with for printed photos, but can be adjusted to work for both slides and negatives as well.

If you wish to try out my VueScan scanning workflow, you can use the following steps:

  1. Turn on the scanner and then launch VueScan. If all goes well, VueScan should detect your scanner.
  2. If the “Advanced” options aren’t displayed (you see a “Next” button at the bottom), click the “Advanced” button.
  3. We will need to display all the options, so if there is a “More” button shown at the bottom of the window, click that button. If you see a “Less” button, you are good to go.
  4. We will start with the “Input” tab. Click that tab if it isn’t currently selected.
  5. For the “Input” tab, ensure the following options are set:
    • Media: Image
    • Bits per pixel: 48 bit RBG

      If the 48 bit option isn’t available, then your scanner may not support that option. Select the 24 bit option instead. I use this setting for both black and white, and colour photos.

    • Scan resolution: 600 dpi or higher (see below)

      While 300 dpi is all you need, I like to scan just a bit higher to allow for a little enlargement. I always downsize to 300 dpi when printing. I scan at 2400 DPI for photos, and use the TIFF size reduction option in the “Output” tab.

    • Auto save: None

      While you can scan directly to a file, I prefer to scan to memory, make some colour adjustments, and then save the result to a file.

  6. With the “Input” options set, next click on the “Output” tab and set those options as follows:
    • Default folder: Any folder you want to save the images
    • Auto file name: Checked

      This will allow VueScan to auto-name your images. This is a personal preference, but you may want to do this.

    • TIFF file: Checked

      You should choose TIFF over JPEG since the files will be much higher quality, will have no loss of data and you will have 48 bit files. The files, however, are much larger, so ensure you have plenty of disk space. This is the recommended format for archiving photos.

    • TIFF size reduction:

      Keep at 1 if you scan at 600 DPI. I scan at 2400 DPI, so I set this to 4, which results in a 600 DPI image. See the VueScan documentation on why this may be a good option for you.

    • TIFF file type: 48 bit RBG

      We are scanning at 48 bits, so saving the image at 48 bits results in the maximum amount of colour data for future editing.

    • JPEG file: Unchecked

      We will be generating TIFF files, and not JPEG files.

  7. After specifying the above options, place the photo in the scanner, and click the “Preview” button.
  8. Once the preview of the photo is displayed, adjust the crop box (the dashed box in the preview window), so it surrounds the photo. You may need to “crop” the photo by a few pixels on some sides, but as long as the photo is within the crop box, you should be okay.
  9. Once the crop box is positioned, click the “Scan” button to scan the image. This may take a few seconds to a few minutes – it depends on the scan resolution and the size of the photo being scanned. Once completed, the scan will be stored in memory – not on your hard drive.
  10. Now comes the more complex part. Once the photo has been scanned, click the “Color” tab to adjust the colours of the scan.
  11. Select “Image->Graph Image” to view the histogram of the scanned photo. Use this graph to adjust the colors of the scan. I like to set both the Black and White point % to 0 to avoid any clipping, and then increase each one slightly. I then adjust the remaining sliders to adjust the colour.
  12. Once you are happy, or reasonably happy, with the scan, click “File->Save image” or press “CTRL+S” to save the image to the hard drive.
  13. Replace the photo in your scanner with another photo, and start with step 7 above.

The above steps outline the workflow that I use for scanning and archiving photos. If you are or will be doing the same, it is important that you develop a workflow that works for you.

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