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The Best Way to Make Copies of Your Old Printed Photos

  • , by Declan Mcgee
The Best Way to Make Copies of Your Old Printed Photos

I am the second of four children in my family. My elder sister was only 3 years old before our paternal grandmother died. I was not even born before we lost her to a collapsed kitchen roof. I never got to meet her and it breaks my heart whenever anyone talked about how good a woman she was. I needed to see what she looked like but none of my parents had a picture of her.

I took it as a personal mission to find a photo of her; see what she looked like. I asked my grandpa, aunties, and uncles for her picture but no one had it. How could you let the memory of such a “good woman” go like that? “This is not fair”, I said to one of them. He responded by telling me how they lost all her photos – the house got burnt to the ground after her demise. They had to rebuild the house but no photo of her was recovered.

A glimmer of hope

I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that nobody on this earth had a surviving photo of my grandma. I couldn’t help but think of where else her pictures could be. I contacted extended family members but they all couldn’t get me even a single copy. Sad, I was beginning to lose hope.

However, just when I thought all hope was lost, a thought came to my mind. We had a family photographer who would write his business address at the back of all the photos he took. I paid a visit to the address and surprisingly, he still operates the business on that premises. I was elated.

That joy wasn’t to last long when he told me he wasn’t sure he could help. Knowing he’s someone who labels every photocopy with his address, I thought he might have negatives of those photos. I asked him if he could find negatives and he responded that he would try, but wouldn’t make any promises.


We found something

We searched his archive and found negatives and a few printed photos from one of our past family events. I was surprised nobody had thought about coming to meet this old man. I was very glad at this point and that what when I faced the next challenge – how do I print from old negatives?

I asked the old man how we could print those photos. He told me he no longer had the equipment (printers) the photo negatives from 1984. He called some colleagues who might be able to help but to no avail.

Only one of the photographs we found had my grandma holding my sister as a baby. What options did I have? I had to resort to the last option – to reprint the few printed copies available. I will tell you how that is done.


The best way to re-print old photos to make new ones

Whether it’s your personal photo or old precious family photos, the first step is to scan them to make a digital copy. This is a critical step that will determine the quality of the final photograph.



Whatever you do, do not scan the photo with your phone. There are many mobile apps out there that claim they can make high-quality scans. This may be true for some type of documents but for the purpose of photo re-printing, never use your phone. If you do, the quality of the photograph will eventually be poor.

If you want to scan a photo for which the negative is no longer available, then a flatbed scanner is your best solution. These printers normally have settings to 'restore' color prints that have suffered fading.



This often includes tone correction, minor retouching, color correction, and/or conversion to a monotone or duotone conversion. This largely depends on the state of the photograph. Any decent editing software will allow you to deal with cracks, tears, and scratches.

I was lucky that the photograph was still in a very good state, so they didn’t have to do much to get me a very good quality photograph.


Saving your photo:

You can easily save the new digital copy as a .jpg or .jpeg. Saving your files in these resolutions that will offer the best trade-off for quality and file size.

If you are enlarging your photograph, which is from a smaller resolution to a larger one, you should use a 600 DPI scanning resolution. You may also want to save images in the TIFF format. Photos scanned at 72 to 100 dpi is only suitable for e-mail or Internet viewing


Re-printing old photos from digital copies:

For making the same size copies as photographic prints, 300 DPI resolution often suffices. It is important to let you know that most commercial printers will resize and print at this resolution anyway.


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