If you have a stack of favorite old prints, you may want to scan them for your digital archive. Here are some common-sense tips that will help you scan with your flatbed scanner more efficiently.
Clean the surface
When scanning, dust, hair, and smudges are the enemy. Use glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth to clear off smudges, dust, hair and other stuff off the scanner's glass flatbed before you start scanning. Repeat often. Carefully wipe the surface of each print before you place it on the scanner--whatever's on the print may be transferred to the scanner.
Invisible dust? No way! Although I cleaned my scanner's glass scanning surface, a few hairs and spots got through in this street photo that I shot in New York in the late ‘70s. Can't see the dust on your monitor at this small size? They are there…and will show up clearly on your prints! Photo © 1978 Mason Resnick
Inspect the scan
In Adobe Photoshop or the image-editing software of your choice, blow the image file up to 100 percent. Scroll through the entire image and inspect it for any imperfections.
Full size tells all: At 100 percent, you can see hair and spots in this detail section.
Use a global spot removal filter
In most cases, you can use a spot-removal plug-in to get rid of spots. You might be able to choose this feature before you scan, but any changes it applies can't be undone unless you re-scan. It's better to wait for post-processing. If you use Photoshop, copy the image to a new layer, and go to Filters>Noise>Dust and Scratches and apply this filter to the new layer. This may be enough. If it isn't...
If at first you don't succeed... At first blush, Photoshop’s dust and scratches filter is ineffective in removing blemishes and changes the grain structure.
...Play with the sliders! But once you play with the Radius and Threshold sliders you can fine-tune sharpness and get rid of most of the dust.
Use the healing tool
After you’ve applied the dust filter, inspect again for anything that might have been missed. The fastest way to get rid of what’s left is to use the healing control. Just move the cursor over the spot, and click, and it should be gone.
Cleaned up: It took about a minute following the above procedure to produce a clean imaage--and there was a lot of dust!
Use the cloning tool
The healing tool doesn't always work. Sometime it auto-replaces dust with something that doesn't look right. That's when you use the cloning tool to replace imperfection with something that makes more sense.
The right tools: The healing tool (top) and cloning tool (bottom) will whisk away your problems...if you have the time!