I have several dozen to a hundred or so color prints I would like to scan. They are snapshots taken in the last 20 years and are mostly 4x6".

I would like help choosing a flatbed scanner to do this task. My hope is to find one which is:

  • inexpensive (say, less than $200, if it’s possible to meet my other criteria — I am willing to pay more if that is what’s needed)
  • fast
  • has a reasonable automatic mode (i.e., requires a minimum of fooling around to get decent results)
  • gives files which I can import into Lightroom and tweak further
  • comes with software for my Mac which is not horrible

Nice bonuses would be:

  • the ability to scan negatives at decent quality
  • the possibility of attaching an automatic document feeder for scanning double-sided letter-size documents

But, those are secondary concerns.

It seems there are a variety of questions here about scanners, but not one explaining the criteria one should use in selecting a flatbed scanner for prints, which is what I’m interested in, since I’m pretty ignorant about scanners.

  • \$\begingroup\$ When I was working part time in the library during my university days, I used to help people scan their pictures / negatives. The computers which had those scanners used to be top of the line and had photoshop installed in them. May be their is a university / library close to you where you can scan your pictures for free. \$\endgroup\$
    – Viv
    Jun 18, 2012 at 18:13

4 Answers 4


looking around, I've found the Canon 9000F which looks pretty good for what you're looking for.

it's got a resolution of 4800*4800 for docs and 9600*9600 when scanning films. It's MAC compatible and it's got also some auto correction functions:

Auto Document Fix: Auto Document Fix delivers beautiful and easy-to-view scan results by advanced image analysis and area-by-area data correction, automatically. Text characters stand out and are sharp, and clear; while pictures maintain their color tone and contrast.

that should help you speed up common processes. all of this for less than $200.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! I wonder if you could say in more detail what criteria led you to this scanner? That would future-proof this answer a little more. (In other words, what exactly did you do while "looking around"?) \$\endgroup\$
    – Reid
    Jun 16, 2012 at 21:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ And by the way, welcome to photo.sx! \$\endgroup\$
    – Reid
    Jun 16, 2012 at 21:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ browsing the web... good scanner brands for photo stuff are Epson, Canon (for the 2big ones) and in Canon and within budget req. the 9000F has great resolution, possibility to scan films, and auto functions to speed up scanning process. I don't own it, but if I were looking for a scanner, I would strongly consider this one. \$\endgroup\$
    – fduff
    Jun 16, 2012 at 21:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Canon 9000F is good, both for scanning & traditional film scanning. It can even scan 3D objects. (Cons: it does not look a modern device, the design is so old fashion) \$\endgroup\$
    – Raptor
    Jun 18, 2012 at 4:23

It seems to me that you have 2 conflicting needs. Or better said, you have a current small scanning snapshot job and in the future an ongoing document scanning job.

Both tasks require a scanner suited for what it is doing, photos or documents. Sure, any scanner can do both but you want both jobs to be done well.

I'd suggest not buying a scanner suited for snapshots, you only have a hundred or so. You can take this to a commercial lab and have them scan them. Then you'll never need to use this again.

I'd be more concerned about the document part of your needs. I really try to have a paperless home office. A document scanner is faced with various paper sizes, colors, thicknesses etc... And you are usually faced with a small pile of papers that need to be scanned (bills, invoices, etc...). I've been very happy with my Fuji SnapScan. It has a document feeder that almost never jams (but it does occasionally) but more importantly it came with OCR software that actually works. You see, when it scans it OCRs the document saving the text and the image. This is extremely useful. It lets you search your documents based on the text yet when you find the document it you see the image, it looks just like the original. (I happen to store my scans in a DevonThink database, but that's probably way outside the scope of this question.)

Now the ScanSnap is several years old, I can only hope that the current generation is just as good as mine.


With fewer than 100 photos to scan, my first recommendation would be to go to a scanning service; a local camera store/printer may even be able to do this.

If you'd like to do this yourself, I recommend looking carefully at the specs of the scanner -- you're interested in optical resolution, not interpolated. (This figure is not as mis-represented as it once was, but still something to be aware of.) Pick a manufacturer you like and find a model at a price-point you're willing to pay. Next, I would use Hamrick VueScan as the scanning software (be sure to pick a scanner that this supports). More expensive models are better, for sure, but the biggest difference will come from the effort you put into getting a good scan and the right software will make that an easier process.

When scanning photos, automatic and high-quality don't go together. VueScan will give you excellent control over what the scanner is capable of, allowing you to eek every bit of detail out of a print. Taking the time to get the scan right from the beginning will give you a much better result than just getting an automatic scan then correcting it with Lightroom later -- just as shooting the photo with the proper exposure will give you a better result than a poor exposure fixed in Lightroom. Scan at the highest resolution, maximize the dynamic range of the scan by setting white and black points, and adjust the white balance as necessary -- then start the scan.


Another alternative to taking your prints to a commercial lab would be to send them off to a service like ScanCafe. You will get great results done on a great scanner. It sounds like you probably will never need to be scanning all the time, so this is probably your best bet.


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