Don't get alarmed. This is not about "digital"!

I've been looking through the gallery and I end up skipping a lot of great photos because of the way they are scanned and presented - they look flat, soft, or muddy! Now, I don't know if this it is really because the print is bad to begin with, but I usually assume it is because the print was badly scanned, rather than badly printed.

I want to share a few things I've learned over the years with scanning that I can hopefully pass on to help those who are interested in preserving the subtle values (as best as the scanner can) that exists on the original print.

I use a $20 flatbed scanner for my prints and people ask me, "wow, how do you get such great scans??". So here goes nothing!

The key thing to a good scan is that you should scan at the highest optical resolution your scanner can do, that way it samples more of the detail. When you finally resize the scan, those details are preserved. I use 600 dpi on my 8x10.

First, what I do is preview the image. Off the preview, I make careful adjustments so it'll reveal detail in the shadows, midtones, and highlights. Another key to a good scan is value separation. Don't let one value sink into another otherwise it'll look muddy. Just like how an actual print should have great separation. Now the thing is, what you see on the preview doesn't neccessarily mean that the final scan will come out that way. So when I do my final scan, I check the results to see if the scan matches what I had intended on the preview.. If not, I redo the preview and adjust again. Even if the highlights look blown out on the preview, the actual scan may retain it (kind of like digital "drydown" HA HA). Rescan again, do this until you get the scan that looks right to you.

In photoshop, I go into Levels to adjust all the values to match the print as closely as possible. Sometimes I intentionally burn or dodge certain areas to make up for the scanner's lack of ability to pick up those subtle details that exists on the print. Be sure to pick which the value you're dodging (Shadows, Midtone, Highlight). The thing is, you're not really cheating merely because you're using Photoshop. The only thing you're doing is matching the scan to the print for presentation purpose. Nothing more! So don't feel like a traitor!

Here's the part where a lot of people fumble. Everyone normally just downsizes the image and saves it. That is what makes for a soft scan!
Before you downsize your image, what you need to do is a SHARPEN MORE. By doing this, this will ensure that more accutance is added to the image since downsizing also softens an image - SHARPEN MORE makes up for it. Once the image has been downsized, do a SHARPEN UNMASK, and use the following settings: 100%; radius: .3 to .4; threshold: 1. (radius controls the edge sharpness, and threshold softens the grain without effecting the edge sharpness). Voila, you’re done! Or not...

I usually apply a very light sepia tone to an image to make it look richer. You can do this by going to Image, Adjust, Photo Filter..

Hope this helps. I look forward to seeing better scans!