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                 NOVEMBER, 2009

      Charles Hansen, Editor

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  Scanning pictures
  — by Charles Hansen

       About 1991 I bought my first scanner, it was a hand held scanner, worked on DOS and would scan an area about four inches by eleven inches, and it came with software to allow you to put two scans together, so if you scanned an 8x10 photo you would have two 4x10 scans and then could stitch them together for a 8x10 scan. While the software worked, matching the two scans was next to impossible, because the two scans never seemed to be the same on the matching line. The best part was scanning photos and watching as they magically appeared on the monitor. It would scan from 100 to 400 dots per inch black and white, and would save in .pcx or ,tif format. PCX format was from PC Paintbrush, which was a program which could also be used to do a lot of graphics editing or even paint a picture.

       When I started going online on Prodigy a lot I did not notice that when the modem was on it also turned on the light in the scanner, and so soon that light burnt out. I liked the first scanner I had bought so I bought another one and this time I unplugged it when I was not using it. I still have that second scanner, and I even use it occasionally. Once I had scanned a photo and I needed a way to crop it, or rotate it, so a friend suggested Graphics Workshop. It would crop, rotate, change format, and a few other features I never used.

       Today I also have an all in one scanner, fax, copier and printer with a flat bed that will scan a 8.5 by 11 inch page and save it to a .jpg file. It is also scans in color. So what is the best way to save the pictures I have scanned? The best archival format is the tif format, it does not lose or change when it is accessed. PCX, Gif, and jpg formats all compress the file and to view it it is uncompressed and when done re compressed. Each time that happens you lose some of the pixels, and eventually the picture may not look good at all. Jpg and Gif are good formats to exchange photos by E-Mail, but for storage you should use tif format [1].

       In the late 1990s I started using Seattle Film Works for developing my film, and they had a pictures on disk option, so I have pictures with pcx, gif, jpg and sfw formats. The Seattle Film Works disks did have a converter to convert the photos to jpg format, but it was rather slow and only one picture at a time. About a year ago I found a program called IrfanView and it said it had the ability to convert sfw files as well as about 25 other formats to any of the other formats, so I can convert my pcx files to sfw format, gif files to jpg format, or any of them to tif format. It also lets you change the size of the file, rotate pictures and a bunch of other features I have yet to use.

       So to summarize, for archival storage of your pictures you should save the picture in the tif format, but for E-mailing to your family jpg is probably the format of choice. Scanned pictures in tif format should not change over the years, they will not fade or lose their color. So start scanning and adding pictures to your genealogy software and preserving them for the future generations.

Webmaster's note:  [1] To learn more about Portable Network Graphics (".png") configurations and the further technical advances in graphics storage and portability, click here for the Wikipedia explanation. Also note, GHLL is now using ".png" based graphics on our International Resources pages (A, B, C and D) for the "Coat of arms" and "Emblem" graphics, as they are much, MUCH smaller than the ".gif" format.

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