MaritimeQuest scanning tips

It has been my experience that the scanner is the least understood piece of hardware on the computer,
however to MaritimeQuest, it is the most important. One of the main goals of this website is to provide high quality photos so that people can see these wonderful ships, not as tiny little pictures one can hardly see, but in a format that is clear and easy for your computer to download. This page is intended to help you better understand what the different file types are for, how to achieve the best quality scan, what to look for in a scanned image and how MaritimeQuest uses these images.

In order to accomplish this, I must start with a high resolution image, reformat it without completely
destroying it and add it to the site. I have received many thousands of photos and have spent untold hours trying to explain to people all over the world how to better scan these wonderful images for use on the site.

Because my time is becoming more limited and the amount of photos being offered is greater I can no longer
spend too much time teaching the finer points of scanning on an individual basis, so I have created this page
in the hope of providing some useful information to anyone wanting to learn how to use a scanner.

By following the tips below any image you scan will be forever preserved in digital format and should
anything happen to the original photo, you will be able to make a perfect reproduction of the original image. This is very important not just for the type of images that are of interest to this site, but for your family photos as well. Your family photos can never be replaced, they are not held in some archive somewhere so if they are destroyed or lost, they are gone forever. If you scan them correctly, they are forever safe.

If you have ever watched the news you have seen someone who's home has just burned down or was wiped
away by a tornado or hurricane, they always say "all our photos are gone" It is among the first regret they
have. You can get another stereo or different furniture or another TV (and now you can upgrade that to a plasma wide screen which your wife would not allow you to get before), stuff like that is a dime a dozen. But
when the photos of your children taken when they were little ones are destroyed or your photos of your parents and grandparents who have passed on are gone, it is really devastating and they can not be replaced.

I personally recommend burning two or three copies of your photos on to a CD or DVD and keeping a copy of
them at a remote location as a precaution. In any event I hope the information below will be useful, not just
to anyone submitting photos to MaritimeQuest, but to anyone wanting to learn better how to use their scanner.

Section 1 gives you an overview of the differences in photo quality and what different settings do to a digital
image, and how MaritimeQuest uses images.

Section 2 shows you how to save images.

Section 3 shows you how to scan images.

Section 1

USS Kansas Battleship #21. This is the way photos are displayed on MaritimeQuest, 744 pixels in width, the
length depends on the aspect of the photo. This format was decided upon because of the large number of
photos planned for the site and the bandwidth needed for millions of people to look at them. It is also to keep the file size small enough for people using dial-up service to load the page quickly.

Example of a photo sent to MaritimeQuest for publication, as you can see it is far too small for use on the site.
Enlarging it to fit the site will not help as it will be so distorted it will almost be unrecognizable.

The same photo enlarged to 744 pixels, the result, complete distortion of the image. This shows the clear
difference between first photo (USS Kansas) which was reduced in size from the original to fit the site and
the second photo which was enlarged to fit the site.

Another example of a photo submitted for publication, this one was almost big enough, but did not make the
cut. It can be enlarged to 744 pixels wide, but again this causes distortion of the photo.

The previous photo only a zoom view, when you zoom in on the photo you can see the photo has been totally
destroyed by compression damage.

Please download the above file (right click and Save Target As), this file is just under 17 megs. When done
look at the photo at 100% not just the normal "fit to screen" setting your computer or photo program is set to. This was scanned from a glass plate negative taken almost 100 years ago. It was scanned at 800 DPI
(Dots per inch) in Grayscale and saved as a TIFF file (Tagged Image File Format).

The TIFF format provides the best quality and perfectly preserves the image a digital format, should anything
ever happen to the original, you will be able to make a perfect reproduction. Keep in mind the higher the DPI
setting used, the better quality the image will be. The default settings on most scanners is 96 DPI, however
this provides a very low resolution image, standard settings for hi-rez (high resolution) versions is 300 DPI.
However smaller photos require a higher DPI setting to make the image larger for on screen viewing. I
recommend a setting of at least 600 dpi. (note: small negatives require a much higher DPI setting, for 35mm
or older negatives I use up to 2,400 DPI.)

This is the same photo as above only converted to a JPEG (uncompressed). There is a loss of 10 megs of data from TIFF version. A photo to a computer is just a series of numbers and letters called bytes, each byte
represents 1 character (ie: or 0 or a etc.), a JPEG removes many of these characters to make the file size
smaller and easy to email and post on websites, this is why the JPEG format was invented, just to make the
files smaller.

This file is just under 7 megs (6.904 megs to be exact) it has the same width and height as the TIFF version, it has just been converted to a JPEG file not made any smaller in viewing size. The TIFF version has
16,977,000 bytes (characters) of data, the JPEG version has 6,609,000 bytes (characters) of data which totals a loss of 10,073,000 bytes (characters) of data.

A JPEG is in a sense an abridged version of a TIFF file, it is much the same as an abridged book, you still get
the point of the story, just not all the finer details.

Even the 7 meg file is large and difficult to send by email so JPEG's offer a feature to "compress" them. This removes even more data and further damages the photo, this is called compression damage. This file, still the same viewing size, is just compressed to make the file size smaller. The data loss between the uncompressed
JPEG version and the compressed JPEG version is another 6,386,000 bytes or characters. You can see the photo has small squares which appear all over the photo, there are also squiggly ghost images around the
edges of things in the image. These can especially be seen on the rigging lines and appear to make the image
look out of focus. You see such things on images on websites all the time, this is what compression does to a
photo. Webmasters use this to limit the amount of bandwidth they must pay for or because the amount of
space provided for their website is limited.

Below is a close-up of the Uncompressed JPEG version, when you compare it to the original TIFF version you
can see that some damage has occurred, however the image overall is still quite good.

USS Kansas close-up (uncompressed JPEG).

Below is a close-up of the Compressed JPEG version which clearly shows how badly damaged the photo was
by compressing it. Notice the digital squares especially evident in the darker areas of the photo. This version
of the photo is not effectively destroyed forever, once the compression has been made to the image, it can
never be removed. (Many people convert JPEG's to TIFF files, however this will not restore the photo to it's
original quality, once the data has been removed it can not be put back and a new scan must be made.)

USS Kansas close-up (Compressed JPEG).

I can not stress enough that the original scan of a photo or negative should be made in hi-rez (high DPI setting) and saved in TIFF format, if you need a smaller version to send by email you can easily convert it into a JPEG, but be sure to save this as another file and keep the original as a TIFF.

Section 2

One question I have frequently received is How do I save an image as a TIFF file? As most people have never
done this before they believe it to be a difficult process, nothing could be further from the truth.

When scanning you are asked to give the image a file name, below that is a drop box to choose what kind of
file to create, click the drop down box and choose TIFF. Your scanner or photo program probably has a
default setting of JPEG.

Some scanners and photo programs offer different options such as Uncompressed TIFF, if this is the case
choose Uncompressed TIFF.

When working with JPEG's you should have the option of choosing a Quality or Compression setting, this is
the JPEG Optimizer on my photo program. As you can see the Quality setting is set to 50%, which means the
photo saved will be half the quality of the original. You can see above the two images in the window, the one
on the left is the original file before being compressed, above the image it shows the file size is 17,384,123 bytes. The image on the right is what the new image will look like and it shows a file size will be 707,881 bytes, this represents a significant loss of data and therefore quality.

If for some reason your scanner or computer will not allow you to create a TIFF file, always set the Quality
level to 100%, or to Best Quality which ever your computer offers. It will not be as good as a TIFF file, but it
will be the best you can do.

Section 3


Below is an image of the main Control Panel for my scanner.

When ready to scan first preview the image, this will allow your scanner to detect the differences in color and
tone between photos. Don't make the mistake of just putting the photo on the scanner bed and clicking scan,
this will result in a lower quality scan. Your scanner may also be set to "auto detect" the edges of your
photos,this feature sometimes "crops" the photo because it can not properly detect light areas resulting in a scan which does not have the whole photo. (Note the black and white outline of the image on the scanner bed, this has been set manually by clicking the mouse and dragging a box around the image. After which I am allowed to adjust the sides one at a time.

Each scanner is different so you will have to work out how to do this on your scanner, but the concept is
much the same on all scanners.

On this scanner the buttons on the right control all the settings for the scanner and I will ouch on their operation.

1. Original: This allows you to choose what type of material you are scanning ie: photo, negative, text
document, newspaper etc. Each type of material scans in a different way, for instance postcards are made of a different type of material than a photograph, so when scanned as a photograph they come out very bad. You will have to experiment with the different settings, which act like filters, to find the best one for the type of material you are scanning. The arrows indicate further settings within that type of material.

2. Scan Type: This setting allows you to choose how you want the material scanned ie: color, gray
(grayscale), black & white etc. If you have a color photograph than choose color, however if you would like to see that same photo in black & white change the setting and it will come out black & white. However it has been my experience that Gray (or Grayscale which ever your scanner offers, they are both the same) is the best choice for creating a black & white scan of a color photo. This is also helpful with old and "yellowed" photos, rather than scan a black and white photo that has turned yellow, scan it as Gray (Grayscale). Not only will this restore the photo to its original look the file size will be much smaller than if that same photo were scanned in color. Below is an example.

HMS Hood scanned in color.

HMS Hood scanned in Gray (Grayscale).

3. Purpose: With my scanner this is the setting that allows you to choose the all important DPI setting. Each
setting has a default DPI associated with it, therefore the Custom setting is the one you can adjust. Here you
just type in the DPI setting you want. Other than saving to TIFF format, this is the most important setting!!

4. Scale Output: Allows you to choose to enlarge or shrink the image being scanned. 100% should be used at
all times unless the image is very small, however this is like taking a magnifying glass to the image and some
of the original details may be distorted.

5. Adjust: Your scanner will have a default setting probably to 0 on all settings, this is a neutral setting and is
usually good enough for the beginner. However as you gain more experience you may want to play around
with this setting as it may provide you with a better quality original scan. Keep in mind that most photo
programs on the market have the ability to correct the colors on scans so if you don't feel comfortable
playing around with this it is not a problem.

Scanner preferences: On my scanner this is where the "Auto-Detect" is hidden along with several other
annoying settings which generally interfere with getting a good quality scan. I recommend that you find this
area on your scanner and turn off every automatic feature and save the preferences to that setting. If you
don't you will have to change all the settings every time you fire up the scanner.

To sum it up I would suggest making all scans at 300 DPI minimum and of course save in TIFF format. This
will be a large file, but will still probably be possible to send by email, it will also preserve the photo in a
quality that can be reproduced if necessary. If you want a really high resolution scan use 800 DPI, anything above that will produce a file that is enormous and very difficult to work with. It is also possible that your computer will not be fast enough to scan in such a high resolution causing the scanner to stop while scanning, this will cause vertical line breaks in the scan and will cause the subject to be uneven to say the least. (see example below)

HMS Illustrious now divided into several pieces.

As I have repeatedly said, all scanners are different, but this information should help you in general. You will
have to look around on your scanner to find the exact settings allowed by your scanner. It is not as hard as
you think to make a great scan, its just that nobody has ever taught you how to use the thing. It only took me
several years and several thousand scans to work it out. If this page helps you make better scans of your photos than I have achieved my goal, if it also helps MaritimeQuest obtain better quality photos than we will
all benefit and if it saves me some time, than I can concentrate on building the site to become even better for all. I hope this has been informative and easy to follow.

When sending photos to MaritimeQuest it is always better to send the original scan (or original digital photo) as I can format it to fit the site, if the file size is below 10 megs sending it by email is fine, if it is larger I will
be happy to provide you with a location that you can upload files to.

-Michael W. Pocock