Batch Scanning Tips

Ed Hamrick

This page contains tips to help you do batch scanning – i.e. scanning multiple images, prints, negatives, or slides. It gives tips for saving time and optimizing quality.

There are tips for organizing your work, for using a step by step procedure, for turning off the preview, for making things faster, for choosing file types, for choosing file names, for scanning photographs, and for scanning with a transparency adapter.

Organizing Your Work

Here are a few tips for organizing, scanning and archiving your photos and slides:

  1. The first and most important step in scanning a collection of photos or slides is to make the hard decisions about what you want to scan. A good rule of thumb is that you should only scan one out of five pictures from a roll of film. Most people can go through a set of 36 photos or slides and quickly see the 7 or 8 that they would like to scan.

    Of course, if these are the only existing photos of your parent's wedding, then you probably want to scan them all. Otherwise, be discriminating - nobody needs to scan out of focus pictures of a cousin's friend's back garden from 10 years ago.

  2. The other important decision that affects how long a scanning job will take is the resolution that you use for scanning. A good rule of thumb is that most photos don't need more than 200 dpi (dots per inch) resolution, and most slides don't need more than 2000 dpi.

    For instance, scanning photos at 300 dpi will take twice as long and use twice as much disk space as 200 dpi, but few people will see much difference visually.

  3. Scan all photos and slides to JPEG files, using your scanner software's default settings. Few people will see much difference between JPEG files and file types such as TIFF and BMP, but the JPEG files will take up only 10% of the disk space of these other file types.

    With VueScan, set "Output | JPEG file" to do this.

  4. Use the automatic file naming capability of scanner software. For instance, most scanner programs will let you scan images one after another and write them to files with a fixed name but in increasing numerical order (i.e. xmas1987-001.jpg, xmas1987-002, etc.). This can save a lot of time agonizing over what to name each scan. Try to put the year into the file name - and maybe the place or event.

    With VueScan, set "Output | JPEG file name" to "nameNNNN-001+.jpg".

  5. Scan images in batches, usually from one stack of prints or a box of slides. Use a common file name pattern for each batch (like xmas1987-nnnn.jpg). After each batch, use an image viewer to make sure the images look good, then move the images to a different folder on your hard drive.

    Be very, very careful not to waste hours making scans, and then finding out at the end that something was wrong and you need to re-do all that work. You'd be surprised how often this happens, so be careful!

  6. After every day's work, burn every image you've scanned to a CD, label the CD, and then make sure you can read the images from the CD. Burn two sets of CD's, keep one set for yourself, and store a master copy separately. Only use the master copy if your main copy has problems, otherwise don't touch it again. If friends or relatives want a copy, make them a copy from your main copy.

    CD's can fail, wear out, get scratched, get lost, get eaten by the dog - keep two copies!

  7. Print out small thumbnail images for each CD and store it with each CD so you can find an image later. It easy to find images in a normal photo archive, but a stack of silver CD's isn't especially useful when you look for something later. There are lots of programs for making thumbnail image prints from a collection of JPEG files - one is "Thumbs Plus" at

In summary, the key to successfully scanning photos and CD's is to do a bit of planning and organizing before you start. If you do this, and if you don't scan every photo and slide, it'll be far less difficult than you think. After all, how many out-of-focus images of your friends do you need after all?

Step by step procedure

To scan multiple photos with a flatbed scanner:

  1. Turn on scanner
  2. Run VueScan
  3. Choose "File | Default options" from menu
  4. Press "Advanced" button
  5. Click on "Input" tab
  6. Set "Options" to "Advanced"
  7. Set "Scan resolution" to "300 dpi"
  8. Click on "Prefs" tab
  9. Un-check "External viewer" box
  10. Put first snapshot in upper right corner of scanner
  11. Press Preview button
  12. If snapshot not at top, move to opposite corner and press Preview again
  13. Draw crop box around snapshot
  14. Press Scan button
  15. Put next snapshot on scanner (in same position) and press Scan button
  16. Repeat last step for each snapshot

You will get files named crop0001.jpg, crop0002.jpg, etc. for each snapshot. Move these files into a folder with a name that reflects what you've scanned.

Turning off the preview

VueScan does a preview scan before each scan for two reasons: to compute the CCD exposure time (if the hardware supports it), and to compute the cropping.

You can save a lot of time when batch scanning by eliminating the need for VueScan to do a preview scan before the final scan.

To do this, lock the CCD exposure (if the scanner supports this) by setting the "Input | Lock exposure" option. Set the "Input | RGB exposure" and "Input | Infrared exposure" options (if necessary) to 1.0.

You also need to set the cropping to be the same for all scans. To set the cropping, press the Preview button and adjust the cropping with the left mouse button.

Making things faster

One simple thing you can do to make things faster is to make the VueScan window smaller. This makes screen refreshes faster. You can also turn off the "Prefs | Display raw scans" option to speed up scans on some slower computers.

Choosing file types

You can save time when batch scanning by choosing the types of files that you want to write out. VueScan normally scans images and writes either JPEG or TIFF files, but you can save time by only writing out Raw scan files (if you have the Professional Edition of VueScan).

Raw scan files contain unprocessed data straight from the CCD of the scanner. They can be processed by VueScan later, and you can produce TIFF and JPEG files with varying resolutions at a later time.

Raw files are written to the hard drive at the same time as the actual scan, so there isn't any additional time required at the end of the scan. This can save a lot of time, since if you write JPEG or TIFF files, they don't start getting written until the scan completes.

You can write raw scan files by setting the "Output | Raw file" option. If you're using a scanning with an infrared channel, make sure you also set "Input | Bits per pixel" to "64 bit RGBI", and set "Input | Scan resolution" to the maximum value that you'll need for JPEG and TIFF files in the future.

You can save further time by not displaying the image at the end of every scan, by turning off the "Prefs | Refresh each scan" option.

Choosing file names

VueScan can save you a lot of time by automatically naming the files that get written. For instance, if a file name in the Output tab is something like "crop0001+.jpg", then VueScan will try to create the next file in the sequence crop0001.jpg, crop0002.jpg, etc.

If you're scanning large numbers of images, put something meaningful in the first part of the file name (like the date taken, or the venue of the images) and put "0001+" at the end of the file name.

Scanning photographs

You can save a lot of time scanning photographs that are all the same size by positioning them in the upper right corner of the scanner. Turn off the preview (see above), and then repeatedly place each photograph in the upper right corner and press the Scan button.

Scanning with a transparency adapter

Many flatbed scanners have transparency adapters that can hold multiple slides or negatives. One way to scan all the slides or negatives is to set the "Crop | Multi crop" option. Then use the "Input | Batch scan" option to scan all the images.

However, it's sometimes faster to do a raw scan of the entire area of all the slides or negatives, and later process these large raw scan files.