How to Enlarge Old Pictures

Written by barbara kellam-scott
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How to Enlarge Old Pictures
With a digital scanner, you may be able to zoom in on the tiny people on the bank of this river. (old photo image by Aleksey Bakaleev from

Digital imaging and printers that are also scanners enable almost everyone to digitise, preserve and enlarge---or otherwise alter---their own family photo prints or "instant relatives" they've bought. Turn your scanned photos into any number of crafts, or just enlarge them and print them out again on modern paper.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Photo-positive prints
  • Ruler
  • Flatbed document scanner

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  1. 1

    Remove your photo from its frame or album (but not from cardboard that's only backing), taking care not to damage the image area. Measure the approximate size of the photo. You will need this information for setting the scanner.

  2. 2

    Place your photo face down on the glass plate of your scanner in the same position (usually in a corner of the glass) as if you were going to print a direct copy. Close the cover and enter commands directly to the scanner or from your computer, using photo settings.

  3. 3

    Select the smallest input (or original) size that's still bigger in both dimensions than your measurement of the image area of your photo. Click "Preview" to see a rough scan. If some of your image is missing, try the next larger setting or switch from landscape (wider than it is high) to portrait orientation and preview again.

    Making the Enlargement

  1. 1

    Adjust the cropping boundary shown on the preview image, usually a dashed line that may "shimmer," so that just the image area you want to enlarge will be scanned. You can crop off crooked or damaged edges or white borders, or zero in on just one face or other part of the image.

  2. 2

    Choose the highest output resolution (dots per inch, or dpi) and the largest output paper size your system can handle. Higher resolution means more information in the file, and the more you want to enlarge the photo, the higher the resolution you will want. With too few dpi, your enlargement may lose focus and show where it's been digitised.

  3. 3

    Click on "Scan." This process will take longer than the previews, but how long depends on the size of the file you're creating. When the scan finishes, you may be given an opportunity to print the file or save it to your hard drive or some other data storage.

  4. 4

    Print the enlargement to the size paper you set in the scanner, download it to portable memory and take it to a local photo processor or upload to an online printing service.

Tips and warnings

  • Try out special effects that your scanner may offer, as well as adjustments of exposure, brightness, contrast and sometimes even colour. You may get even better results from image-processing software on your computer.
  • You can probably also save your scanner file in different file formats, such as Portable Document Format (PDF), using your image processor's Print command, but this will reduce resolution.
  • A high-resolution scan will also show up any dust or dirt on your photo or the scanner's glass.

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