1.) When I have finished scanning a picture, the first thing I do is to save a copy of it in a loss-less format. In PaintshopPro, this is either “tif” (a standard) or “psp” (the proprietary format used by Paintshop Pro).
Tif has the advantage that you can always use another software to process the image lateron.
2.) I try to get my horizons straight when taking a photo, but sometimes it is necessary to rotate a picture a tiny bit, until everything is perfectly straight.
It is a good idea to do this before any cropping!
3.) I’d love to have a shift lens, but you can also use your software to correct any falling lines or other problems with perspective. Again, it’s best to do so before cropping or resizing your image.
4.) Cropping. Cut off all unnecessary parts of your image.
5.) Adjust gamma, contrast, Brightness. Here, even one software may offer different tools. I usually first go to the gamma correction tool.
A small adjustment can work wonders! If I’m not quite satisfied with the result, I go to the separate “contrast” and “brightness” correction options.
6.) Histogram. This shows the distribution of red, green and blue pixels in your image as well as its brightness. Paintshop Pro offers the simple options of stretching or equalizing the histogram - often a quick and effective way of correcting problems. If you want to fine tune things, you can also adjust the curves for the individual colours. Photoshop calls the same functions “curves” and gives you an “auto” correction button.
7.) Saturation. Scans from traditional films as well as digital pictures often lack saturation - the colours simply look a bit faded. Just about any photo software allows you to correct this, but be careful not to overdo it - otherwise you’ll end up with unnatural colours.
this is especially critical if the image contains skin tones (portraits etc.)
8.) If there still is a colour cast, you can correct it now. Again most software offers various options of doing so (usually under “colors”)
9.) At this point, it’s time to resize your image to its final size.
10.) You will notice that your photo is not quite as sharp as it was before - resizing takes its toll. So, now it’s time to sharpen it a bit.
If your program has an “unsharp mask” filter, it’s probably the best option.
Be careful not to oversharpen the image - this can produce ugly distortions around sharp edges in your photo.
11) Now, you can save it, usually as a jog file. Make sure that you get the “quality” right: you do not want to see visible artefacts from jpg compression, but neither do you want to use a gigantic file on your web presence.
You’re done. Of course, these are just the usual steps. Special problems require special solutions, such as red eyes, yellow teeth, objects you want to remove from the picture, or scratches and dust on your original.
Or if you want colour changes, artistic filters or downright image manipulation like combining several photos into one: everything is just a few mouse-clicks away.
Basically, today’s today’s software offers you all the options a photographer used to have in a well equipped photo lab - only faster and cheaper.
The problem is that the exact steps vary from software to software and the best you can do is to look for a good book or online tutorial once you have decided on your favourite product!