Paper Photos to Digital Photos – Photo Quilt Blocks

Many of us sit with our family stories trapped in paper photos, in photo albums, on a dusty shelf. A family photo quilt is the perfect excuse to get motivated and get those memories off the shelf and into your life! So, let’s look at how to get your paper photos to digital photos with a little help from a photo expert website!

There are two ways to get your paper photos to digital photos for your photo quilt: scan them in with your scanner/computer or take a digital photo of your paper photo.

To scan your photos in with your scanner, you need to calculate the DPI (dots per inch you need). First, you will decide on the size of the photo block you need. Divide these size dimensions by 300 ppi. This will give you the pixel size you need. Next, divide the Pixel dimensions of your photo block by the length and width of the paper photo to determine how many dots per inch you need to scan in your photos at.

To photograph your paper photos over to digital photos, you need natural lighting, a flat surface, and a way to hold your camera parallel to your photo. You can then edit your photo in a photo editing program to crop or adjust the colors and brightness of the photo.

While this seems like a lot of math, hold on, and we’ll simplify this down so your eyes aren’t crossing and your head isn’t hurting! Grab that cup of joe NOW!

Scanning Photos: Decide What Size You Would Like to Print Your Photo Block

This is important because we will use this size to figure out what DPI we need to scan our photo into our computer. DPI is the important figure in this scenario because we are using a scanner and there is a paper photo with an actual size. Unlike digital, where there are really no concrete numbers.

DPI, which is a paper dots per inch, does count when scanning. When an image is scanned, one scanning “dot” equals one digital image pixel. You are converting an object with physical dimensions to digital pixel dimensions. (quote from All About Digital Photos website, see link below)

I want to scan this 3×5 inch photo in to print an 8×10 inch photo block. I have color-coded the numbers to help you follow along. I hope it helps 🙂

Scanning Photos: Figure the Number of Pixels Your Photo Needs to Be

Since I can control with my scanner the quality of my image, I am going to choose to scan for 300 pixels per inch. To print on fabric, your pixels per inch need to be between 150-300 pixels per inch.

The digital image needs to be this size: 2400 pixels x 3000 pixels. Here is how I got those numbers: 2400 pixels (8 inches x 300 ppi) x 3000 pixels (10 inches x 300 ppi)

Scanning Photos: Calculate the Dots Per Inch to Scan to Your Computer

The scanned image needs to be this dpi: 800 x 600 dpi. How I got these numbers: 2400 pixels / 3 inches (height of paper photo) x 3000 pixels / 5 inches (length of paper photo) = 800 x 600 dpi (dots per inch)

Choose the larger of the two dimensions and scan your image at a minimum of 800 DPI.

Here it is in picture form to help our visual minds!

If you would like to understand more about pixels per inch and digital images, I encourage you to read this article that talks all about PPI and digital images!

I have gathered and summarized this information from this website: Scanning Your Photos to Digital. If you want to geek out with me and learn more, make sure to visit their website!

Photographing Paper Photos: Tools you will need

  • First, you will need a flat surface.
  • Second, you will need a platform to hold your camera or phone parallel to your photo.
  • Third, you will need natural lighting or a lamp with a natural light light bulb.

First, Set Up a Flat Surface for Photographing Your Paper Photos

Choose a flat surface that is free of clutter. If you don’t have a white or black table top, purchase a piece of white or black poster board to lay on your flat surface.

When you go to edit or crop your photo, this will give the programs a nice contrast to crop your photos.

I stay away from colors because, believe it or not, they can cast color shadows on the item you are photographing. I thought I would be so smart one time and put an ugly green fabric underneath my photo subject so I could “erase” the background easily. Everything had a green tint on the edges that I couldn’t get removed. That was a lot of wasted time!

Second, Set Up a Platform, Stand, or Tripod to Hold the Camera

You are going to LOVE my platform. Very sophisticated. Cardboard and cardboard boxes that I can’t throw away. Again, I am validated for my cardboard and box hoarding, which probably isn’t a good thing, LOL!

I cut a hole large enough for my iPhone camera to look through and laid it over my light. We’ll talk about the light in a minute.


My boxes are exactly the same and sit about 4-5 inches above the photo. If your platform isn’t level, your photo in your photo won’t be square, and that will be a problem when you go to load and crop them on the website.

Third, Get Your Lights in Place

First, you need to have a light that you can use. I have a ring light that my sister got on sale somewhere and gave to me! Yay for sisters! You can use any natural light bulb, you just need to make sure that it can be close enough to the photo and not make the photo glare. Some of the mini fluorescent light bars with a natural bulb in them would work great. You would need one for either side of your camera. That is what is great about the ring light is that it circles the photo and there are no shadows. Amazon has them in all sizes, setups, and many price points. So this won’t break the bank. Plus, it is much cheaper than having someone do this for you! After all, you are using your free boxes 😉

Fourth, Start Photographing Your Paper Photos

Here is the photo that I took with this setup. I made sure that the photo was straight on my camera screen so I didn’t have to worry about straightening my photo. Although, you can do that too on the Photo Quilt Blocks website!

One other tip. Get some double-sided tape to stick your photo down flat. You do not want the edges curling up and distorting your photo. If you use double-sided tape, stick it to the flat surface first, then take some fabric and press on the tape to make it a little less sticky. You don’t want it ripping your vintage photo!

When we look at the pixel size of this photo, we are good to go! Just make sure that your camera is close to your photo and not too far away.

When I look at the photo on the right, the one that is the proper distance away, we can see the pixels are large, and we can do anything we want with this photo! You can see the dimensions below.

You are now one easy-peasy step away from ordering your Photo Quilt Block! Here’s a little video to show you have to load these photos on the website,

Make sure to let me know if you have any questions or input. I love to hear from my friends!

Happy quilting!

May your stitches and photos continue to tell tales

of love and laughter, and keep your memories alive!


Lori McCroskey is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to quilts, projects, and gifts created with photos printed on fabric. She also has a business where you can have her print your photos on fabric for you! Inspired by her love for sewing, scrapbooking, and family, Lori has a passion for capturing memories in useable gifts, quilts, and crafts that get your photos off your phone, out of the album, freed from a frame, and into memorable keepsakes that your friends and family will treasure. Learn more about Lori here!

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