A 12x12" scrapbook page with black background. World War II is at the top, Europe down the right side. There are nine rectangular pictures in 3 rows of 3. A quote appears at the bottom of the page.

Scanning, Scrapbooks, Stitching

I recently worked with a client who has enjoyed creating scrapbooks for years. She continues to make scrapbooks in this digital age. How can digitization supplement and support such efforts? There are steps to take, before scrapbook creation and after, that will help preserve both individual images and the stories that scrapbook pages are designed to tell.

My client’s scanning needs related to her scrapbooks were twofold:

First, scan a selected number of scrapbook pages already created. She wanted to have these images for her grandchildren, since the actual scrapbook pages cannot belong to more than one individual. There were 17 scrapbook pages the client had identified as being particularly meaningful to her grandchildren. Instead of scanning entire scrapbooks, she elected to scan a limited number of carefully chosen pages.

A 12x12" scrapbook page with black background. Nine black & white photos appear. World War II is across the top, Europe down the right side. A Proverbs quote appears at the bottom.

One of 17 scrapbook pages the client elected to scan for her grandchildren.

Second, scan individual prints that will be used for future scrapbooks. Many of the client’s photographic prints are single copies. She uses the actual prints in her scrapbooking process, so she saw value in first creating a digital record of each print before permanently attaching the prints to scrapbook pages. Prints like those below were scanned individually before the client’s scrapbooking event in May 2018.  

Scanning and stitching

Scrapbook pages are large-sized; the client’s were 12×12”. Scanners that are reasonably sized (and priced) do not have a large enough platen to scan a 12×12” page in its entirety. The solution is to perform multiple scans of a single large page and then stitch the images together using stitching software. 

The multiple scans are performed by moving the page from right to left or top to bottom on the scanner’s platen to capture all four corners. The page size and design will determine whether two scans or four scans are necessary. Stitching software requires sufficient overlap for the algorithm to accurately stitch multiple images together. It is best to think of the process as scanning 2/3 of the page, twice (versus two halves); the middle 1/3 is the overlap. Overlap is beneficial when it comes to stitching!

There are multiple applications available for image stitching. Most are intended for panoramic prints, but many will also do a nice job for oversize items with dimensions different from a panorama. I used Panorama Stitcher, referenced in this article:

https://havecamerawilltravel.com/photographer/panorama-stitching-best-apps/

When reviewing stitching applications, I paid attention to the following features:

  • file formats accepted as input
  • file formats available for exporting the final image
  • ability to crop an image after stitching
  • actual stitching results

Panorama Stitcher best met my needs for this particular project.  I have subsequently elected to use it for another client project that involves oversized pages.

Stitching best practices

A few considerations when scanning for purposes of stitching:

  • Ensure sufficient overlap (aim for overlap of 1/3, see above). Be aware of how much content appears in the middle of a page; if there is too much blank space, the stitching algorithm won’t have enough data to perform the stitch.
  • If text or images appear close to a page edge or corner, it might be necessary to reposition the page on the scanner to sufficiently capture all important content. I found that pages with edge material often required four scans versus two. 
MartinV scrapbook Kinder Farm green

To ensure that the names on the right didn’t have any letters cut off and that the animal stickers at the bottom didn’t “lose” their feet, I scanned this page in four overlapping sections versus two.

  • If electing color adjustment as part of the scanning, remember to use that same setting for all scans for a particular page (the actual page color, or background, could vary among the scans and be apparent in the stitched result).  
  • Color adjustment will adjust for everything visible in a particular scan; some prints on a page may look better with adjustment, others may look worse (black and white versus color, or indoor versus outdoor).  Be sure to view the results and pick the best option overall.
  • Remove scrapbook pages from the clear protective sheets (if possible) before scanning.

 

Summary

The client and I discussed the process for scanning scrapbook pages up front. She knew the pages would be removed from their clear protectors (and replaced when the scanning was complete). I explained that the number of scans per page would not be known until each page was attempted, and I provided an estimate reflecting the maximum number of scans that could be required (we planned for 103 scans, but only 85 were necessary). I appreciated the client providing the pages and prints in a protective plastic case, as it saved me the challenge of storing odd-sized items.

 

“I was so excited to find Sharyn.  When my mom passed away we had many family photos that everyone wanted.  Thanks to Sharyn I can now share with all of the grandchildren, cousins, and all the other family members who want photos.  Having the scrapbook pages scanned was fantastic.  I  have two grandsons named after my dad, so I can  now include those pages in their scrapbooks.”

~ Violet M. in Chesterfield, Virginia (June 15, 2018)

 

All images are used with permission from the client.

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