Scanning for Reproduction

16 Apr

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; a client with a couple of 5×7 photos walks into a print shop…

It’s a rather common situation.  And one we’ve had to handle for a more than a few clients.  So, how do we get a 60″ wide x 48″h print from a lowly 8×10?  Well, we cheat.

Recently, we had a head’s up concerning a client with numerous vintage photos in the 8×10 neighborhood.  This client wanted to produce several photographic quality prints in the 48 to 60″ inch wide range.  Now that’s a challenge for the scanning equipment.  Luckily, we had a warehouse of old discontinued equipment to rummage through.

Now, why did we resort to a scavenger hunt when we have several large format scanners on our floor?  There’s a dirty little secret involved.  A lot of scanners have been dumbed down in the name of efficiency.  And because 99% of the work in this market can be done with 8-bit scanning, manufacturers have confined the on-board software to 8-bit values.  But, when scanning for enlargement you need to squeeze maximum data from your scan and that takes more than 8 bits.  In this particular case, we located an old photo scanner that scanned in 32 bit color depth.

Of course there’s a couple of catches to working this way.  A high definition, 8-bit scan at 1200 dpi would only take about 3 1/2 minutes.  A 32-bit scan of the same image can take up to 25 minutes.  In addition, 32-bit files are much larger than there 8-bit little sisters.  An 8 1/2 x 11 photo at 32-bit, 1200 dpi can be around 600 megs.  That same file at 8-bit, 1200 dpi will be around 170 megs.  Luckily for us, this client understood the investments required for image quality.  So it was, damn the file size and full-speed ahead!!

Now don’t get me wrong concerning our usual collection of scanners.  They can perform a 300 dpi scan of 90 percent of our client documents in less than a minute.  And that’s fine when you’re printing same size or just twice size.  But if you’re going for a 400%-plus enlargement, you need to squeeze every pixel until it screams.

Two days later, the rest was Photoshop and history.

Here’s a few before-&-afters involving vintage photos.






One Response to “Scanning for Reproduction”


  1. Win Win Partnership Success | BPI Inc. - May 21, 2013

    […] couple weeks ago we ran a post that talked about photo restoration.  The article talked in great depth on how we could take some older photos and turn them into […]

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