Unlocking the Secrets of Quality Scanning: Avoiding Common Pitfalls for Better Results

Scanning photos seems simple – lift the scanner lid, insert the photo, and press “scan,” right? However, with the variety of scanners available, especially the all-in-one types, it’s hard to be sure you’re getting the best results.

Discover the ins and outs of scanning as we discuss common issues and how to sidestep them when digitizing your photos. Explore visual examples of potential problems and learn how to ensure your scans are primed for top-notch restoration. Remember, the key to excellent photo restoration lies in the quality of your scanned images, whether from photographs or negatives. Dive into the world of scanning, uncover potential pitfalls, and boost your skills for superior results.

  • Tramlines
  • Broad tram lines or light banding
  • Out of focus upper or lower area of the photo
  • Out-of-focus areas
  • Details all smeary or blocky
  • Interpolation issues
  • Sparkly edges

Tram lines.



Tramlines on a scan caused by the scanner

Tramlines on a scan caused by the scanner (simulated)


Vertical Tram lines happen when the scanner’s scanning head or CCD has dead or malfunctioning cells. This error is then carried down the image but the carriage that carries the scanning head as it sweeps across your image. It can also be dust blocking them or on the mirrors within the scanning mechanism. The problem can also be a calibration strip issue. Each scanner has a white strip it uses to calibrate the sensor, if it is dirty then the calibration will cause some cells to respond incorrectly and cause the lines down the page. Lastly, it could be a defection sensor.

It is of course possible that the image may have tram lines on it. These are normally caused by the processing of the negative. When the negative rolls are cleaned of washing fluid with a squeegee, grit can cause long scratch marks down the full length of the film. Similarly, it can happen when washing and cleaning prints.

Other instances of tram lines can occur when you scan an image that has been printed on a home printer. The lines are sometimes left by the paper guides in the wet ink as the paper comes out of the printer.

Sending a scan with minor tram lines for restoration isn’t a major concern since they can be removed easily. However, dealing with severe tram lines poses a more significant challenge. Ideally, providing a clean image without tram lines is the optimal scenario. It’s crucial to get the scan right from the start because the time spent on removing damage incurs a cost. Therefore, ensuring an accurate and high-quality scan is essential to minimize restoration efforts and costs.

Light Banding



scanning problems, light banding on a scanned photo

scanning problems, light banding on a scanned photo (simulated)


Horizontal light banding is caused by the scanning light flickering, due to faulty power delivery, loose scanning carriage or worn cogs on the carriage mechanism. You could try contacting your technical support to see what they suggest for correcting this. It is more than likely it would be cheaper in the long run to buy a new scanner. If you have many images to scan.

Out of focus upper or lower area or patchy focus.

Scanning Problem: Upper half of scanned photo out of focus

Scanning Problem: Upper half of scanned photo out of focus (simulated)


In this image, the upper half of the photo is out of focus. For comparison, the left image is in focus. This is normally caused by the image not being flat on the scanner bed. Ensure your image is flat and not jogged when the scanning is in motion. If needed add a book to weigh the lid down to ensure the photo is flat. Similarly, sections of the image may appear out of focus due to a bowed or wrinkled image. Adding a book will help here too.

Details all smeary or blocky

Scanned and saved image, Blocky, low compression JPEG or PDF

Scanned and saved image, Blocky, low compression JPEG or PDF


When your image is saved after scanning it can sometimes look like this. Details are smeared and blocky. To some, that’s normal for their scanner and they cannot see what the problem is. PDF or low-compression save options are often the cause. See this post on file compression and saving which should help.

Interpolation issue

Interpolation issues when scanning

Interpolation issues when scanning can present themselves as overly soft jagged and stepped lines.


Interpolated images. Those not scanned at the native optical scanning resolutions the scanner has to offer can end up like the above. Overly wide stepped edges where the scanner has added data to get a higher resolution scan. That is all it does. It is not more detailed at all, just a higher resolution. Better to scan at 600 optical or true resolution than 1200 interpolated.

Sparkly Edges.

Scanning problems, sparkly edges

Scanning problems, sparkly edges


Sparkly edges are caused by over-sharpening by cheap all-in-one printer scanner copiers. This is most likely a combined result of a cheap scanning head and over-sharpening of the edges within the image. This is to compensate for the lack of clarity produced by the scanner.

To conclude, there are many subtle problems you could see on your saved scan result. The above addresses some of the most common. Please check your scans carefully before considering a photo restoration. After all, if your scanner had introduced these issues and it made the restoration harder and more expensive, neither of us want that! As always, I’m looking out for you, to help me, get you the best possible result. If you wish to read more on scanning see my scanning guide


Photo scanning and problems to look out for
Article Name
Photo scanning and problems to look out for
Scanning problems can ruin a good scan, you can avoid them by learning what they are how to to fix them. Lets take a look a the issues.
Neil Rhodes