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Differences between Scans and Photocopies that You Need to Know


Differences between Scans and Photocopies that You Need to Know

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Scanning and photocopying are two processes that are often used to make copies of documents or images, but they have significant differences in how they work and the results they produce. The following is a brief introduction to the difference between scanning and photocopying:

  1. Work Process:

    • Scan: When scanning, documents or images are placed on top of a scanner that will read every detail digitally. The scanner will take images of documents or images in the form of digital files, such as PDF, JPG, or TIFF. The scanning result is a digital copy that can be saved or edited on a computer.

    • Photocopying: Photocopying is a more conventional process. The original document is placed on photocopy glass, and the copier will use light and ink to create a physical copy that is similar to the original document. The photocopy result is a paper copy.

  2. Result:

    • Scan: The scanning result is a digital file which can be edited, saved, or shared via email or other digital media. You can make changes to the image or text after scanning if necessary. The scan result can be an image or text, depending on the type of document being scanned.

    • Photocopy: A photocopy is a physical copy that is similar to the original document in terms of appearance, but usually cannot be edited digitally. Photocopies are paper copies and are generally used for physical documentation.

  3. Speed:

    • Scan: The scanning process can take longer, especially if you have a lot of pages to scan or if the scanning device has a slower speed.

    • Photocopiers: Photocopiers are often faster than scanner in making physical copies. They can produce several copies in a short time.

  4. Cost:

    • Scan: Initially , the cost to purchase a scanning device may be more expensive, but there is no additional cost to make a digital copy afterwards.

    • Photocopier: A photocopier may be more affordable in terms of initial costs, but you will need to purchase paper and ink periodically, which can be an additional expense.

  5. Flexibility:

    • Scan: Scanning gives you the flexibility to edit, save, or share digital copies easily. This is useful if you want to change or share a document electronically.

    • Photocopying: Photocopying is great for making physical copies that can be used immediately, but doesn’t provide the same flexibility of digital.

In many situations, the choice between scanning and photocopying depends on your needs. If you need a digital copy that can be edited or shared, a scan is a better choice. However, if you only need a physical copy, a photocopy may be more practical.

To understand more about the differences between scans and photocopies. So you can read a more detailed explanation regarding the differences between scans and photocopies below.

What is a scan and what is a photocopy?

Okay, let’s start with the basic definitions of both terms:

  1. Scan:

    • Scan is the process of taking images or data from physical documents or other objects into digital format. This is done using an electronic device called a scanner.
    • Scanner is a hardware device used to read or capture images from documents or physical images and convert them into digital files. The result can be an image (such as JPG or PNG) or a text document (such as PDF or DOCX).
  2. Photocopy:

    • Photocopying is the process of reproducing physical documents by making identical physical copies. This is done using a photocopier, also known as a Xerox machine or photocopier.
    • A photocopier uses light and ink to making a copy of an original document on a sheet of paper, producing a physical copy that is similar to the original document.

In short, scanning is the process of making a digital copy of a document or image, while photocopying is the process of making a physical copy using a photocopier.

Work Process

Scanning and photocopying work processes differ in the way they replicate documents, especially in the way they read the original document and produce copy. The following is a further explanation of how both carry out document replication:

Scan Work Process:

  1. Document Placement: The original document or image is placed on the scanner glass (flatbed scanner) or inserted into a document scanner. There are also book scanners that are suitable for bound documents such as books.

  2. Image Capture: Scanners use a light beam or laser to measure light intensity reflected from the document. This information is converted into digital data using a scanning sensor (CCD or CIS).

  3. Conversion to Digital Format: The scanned data is converted into digital format, such as JPG, PDF, or TIFF. At this point, the images or text contained in the original document have been converted into a digital copy that can be edited or saved on a computer.

  4. Storage or Transmission: Scan results can be saved on a computer, external storage device, or sent via email or other digital media.

Photocopying Process:

  1. Document Placement: The original document is placed on the copier glass, or in some cases, in the document feeder if there are many pages that need to be photocopied.

  2. Light Reading: Copiers use special lights to illuminate original documents. The light reflected from the document will be received by the light sensor.

  3. Image Scanner: The photocopier has an image scanning unit or sensor that detects the level of darkness or brightness of the document. document. This information is used to create an image of the original document.

  4. Ink Reproduction: The resulting image of an original document is transferred to paper that moves through a machine. Ink or toner is used to reproduce this image on paper, creating a physical copy that is similar to the original document.

  5. Paper Presentation: The newly created physical copy is presented in the paper collection drawer or out through the copier’s exit port.

  6. Done: The resulting photocopied document is now ready to be used as a physical copy.

The main difference between these two processes is that scanning produces a digital copy that can be edited, while photocopying produces a physical copy. Photocopying also uses ink or toner to reproduce images, while scanning only reads and converts information into digital format.

Format and Type of Scanned and Photocopied Documents

Scanned and photocopied results produce a type of and different document formats due to differences in how they perform document replication. The following are the formats and types of documents produced by both processes:

Scan Results:

  1. Image Format (Image ): Scan results are often in image formats, such as JPEG (JPG), PNG, TIFF, or BMP. This means that the original document or image will be immortalized as a digital image that cannot be edited without additional image processing software.

  2. Document Format: Apart from image formats, scanned results can also be saved in editable document formats, such as PDF (Portable Document Format) or DOCX (Microsoft Word). This document allows you to edit text and other content after scanning.

  3. Text Format (Text): If the original document contains text, the OCR process ( Optical Character Recognition) can be used when scanning to recognize and convert text into editable formats, such as TXT or DOCX.

Photocopy Results:

  1. Physical Copies: Photocopies are physical copies of original documents which are usually printed on paper. This is a physical copy that you can hold and use as intended.

  2. Image Format: Although the photocopy is a physical copy, you can produce a digital copy of photocopy by re-scanning the physical copy using a scanner.

  3. Scanned Text: Sometimes, photocopies that have been physically made can be converted into scanned text (scanned text) using OCR software. This will convert the text on the photocopy into an editable format such as TXT or DOCX.

So, the scan results are more diverse in the resulting format, including images, documents, and text can be edited, while photocopies are physical copies which are generally not in digital format, but can be converted into digital format if necessary.

Image Quality

Image quality in scanned and photocopied results can be affected by several factors, including resolution, document type, and the quality of the device used. The following is an explanation of resolution and quality of results in the context of scanning and photocopying:


  1. Scan: Scan resolution refers to how much detail can be seen in the scanned digital image. This is measured in DPI (dots per inch) or PPI (pixels per inch). The higher the resolution, the more detail can be recorded. For plain text documents, 300 DPI is often sufficient. However, for images or documents with complex graphics, you may need a higher resolution.

  2. Photocopying: Photocopy resolution is usually related to the capabilities of the copier . Typical copiers have sufficient resolution to produce good copies of text, but may not be sufficient to produce highly detailed copies of images or graphics.

Result Quality:

  1. Scan: The quality of the scan results depends greatly on the resolution used, the quality of the scanner, and the condition of the original document. Scans with high resolution and high quality scanners tend to produce sharper and more accurate images. However, if the original document is damaged or blurry, the quality of the scanned result may be affected.

  2. Photocopying: The quality of the photocopy is also influenced by several factors, including the quality of the machine photocopy and condition of the original document. Photocopies of documents that are damaged or have stains may produce poor copies. In addition, the ink or toner used in photocopying also plays a role in the final quality.

To ensure good image quality in scans or photocopies, consider the following factors:

  • Suitable resolution: Select a resolution that suits the type of document you want to scan or photocopy. Text documents usually require lower resolution than images or photos.

  • Quality Devices: Use good quality scanning or photocopying devices. Quality devices tend to produce better images.

  • Original Document Care: Make sure the original document is in good condition and clean before scanning or photocopying.

  • Quality Settings: If possible, adjust the quality settings on your device to suit your needs.

By paying attention to these factors, you can improve the quality of images in scans and photocopies.

Color and Grayscale

The main difference between color and grayscale modes in color reproduction is how colors represented in the resulting image or document, as well as how many colors can be reproduced. Let’s discuss the differences between the two:

Color Mode:

  1. Color Representation : In color mode, images or documents are reproduced using various colors such as red, green, blue (RGB), or cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK). It enables accurate and varied color reproduction, suitable for images, photos and color graphic materials.

  2. Color Sharpness: Color mode has the ability to produce Images with vivid and clear colors. This is especially suitable for documents or images that require precise color reproduction.

  3. File Size: Color images tend to have a larger file size compared to mode grayscale or black-and-white because they contain more color information.

Grayscale Mode:

  1. Color Representation: In grayscale mode, an image or document uses only gray levels (black-and-white) to represent the image. This means no colors are used, only varying intensities of black, gray, and white. There are no colors involved in this mode.

  2. Color Sharpness: Because no colors are used, grayscale mode tends to produce images that are more monotone and just consisting of shades of black, gray, and white. This is suitable for documents or images that do not require color, such as text or images that only consist of grayscale.

  3. File Size: Grayscale image typically have smaller file sizes compared to color images because they only use one color channel (gray level), which requires less data.

When should you use color modes or grayscale depending on the type of document or image you want to produce:

  • Color Mode: Use color mode when you need to reproduce accurate and varied colors, such as in photographs, color illustrations, and color graphic materials.

  • Grayscale Mode: Use grayscale mode when color is not important and you want to produce a document or image with smaller file sizes, or if you only need grayscale, for example for black-and-white text documents.

So, the choice between color and grayscale modes depends on the needs you for the color and final appearance of the document or image.

Ownership of Original Documents

You are right, there is a fundamental difference in ownership of original documents between photocopies and scans. This difference lies in whether the original document remains intact or not after the reproduction process. Let’s discuss the differences:


  • When you make a photocopy, the original document remains intact and has not been changed or damaged. The original document is simply placed on the photocopier glass, and the machine uses light and ink or toner to print a physical copy that is similar to the original document on a new sheet of paper.
  • Once the photocopying process is complete, you will have a physical copy that you can hold, while the original document remains intact and unchanged.

Scan (Scanning):

  • When you perform scanning, the original document is read by a scanner device and converted into digital format. This means that the original document no longer exists in physical form after the scanning process is complete.
  • The scanning result is a digital copy that can be stored on a computer or other digital storage device. The original document can be reprocessed and edited if necessary in digital format.

So, if you want to keep the original document in its intact condition and do not want to change it, then photocopying is a more suitable choice. However, if you only need a digital copy for storage, sharing, or editing purposes, then scanning is a better solution. The decision between a photocopy and a scan will depend on your needs regarding the document.

Edit Capabilities

You are right, the main difference between scans and photocopies is the ability to edit the document. Let’s discuss these differences further:

Scan Results:

  • Scan results are digital copies of the original document.
  • You have the ability to edit scanned documents. This means you can change text, delete elements, add notes, or make other changes to the document by using image or text processing software, such as Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Word, or other image editing programs.
  • Scan results also allows you to change the document format, combine several documents into one file, or separate one document into several parts if necessary.


  • The photocopy is a physical copy of the original document.
  • Photocopies cannot be edited directly because they are paper copies that do not have a digital data structure. It is not possible to change the text, delete content, or make changes to the document electronically without scanning it first.
  • To edit the contents of a photocopied document, you must scan the physical copy first to produce a digital copy that is accurate. can be edited.

So, if you need to edit a document or want to work with content that can be modified, a scan is a better choice because it allows you to edit and reprocess the document in digital format . Photocopying, meanwhile, is useful when you just need a physical copy of a document without needing to edit it.

General Uses

Scanning and photocopying are two processes that have various purposes and applications in an office environment. Let’s discuss the common uses of both:

Common Uses of Scans in an Office Environment:

  1. Digital Storage and Archives

    : Scanning is used to convert physical documents such as contracts, invoices, or office notes into digital format. These documents can then be stored in a database or digital storage system for easy access and retrieval.
  2. Electronic Document Processing: Scans are used to convert text documents or images into an editable format. This is useful for changing text in a document, adding annotations, or combining information from multiple documents.

  3. Document Sharing: Scanned documents can be easily shared via email or cloud-based storage. This facilitates teamwork and allows quick and easy access by others.

  4. Visual Asset Archiving: Scanning is also used to archive images or visual designs , such as photos, graphs, or technical drawings, for use in design or documentation projects.

  5. Contract Filing and Legality: Companies often use scanning to archive contracts, agreements and other legal documents as digital copies for legal compliance purposes.

Common Uses of Photocopying in an Office Environment:

  1. Producing Physical Copies: Photocopying is the most common option for making physical copies of documents. It is used when you need a physical duplicate of an original document.

  2. Copy Distribution: Photocopying is used to distribute copies of documents to various parties, such as employees, clients, or business partner. This is especially useful in meetings or gatherings where each participant requires a copy of a document.

  3. Form Filling: Photocopying is also used to produce copies of forms, applications, or worksheets that are then filled in by individuals or teams.

  4. Official Documents: Official documents such as certificates, permits, or identification documents are often reproduced via photocopy for meets regulatory requirements.

  5. Internal Documents: Photocopying is used to print copies of internal documents such as memos, meeting notes, or work instructions that will be distributed in the office.

In conclusion, scanning and photocopying are important tools in an office environment that have different roles. Scans are suitable for producing digital copies, editing, and archiving documents, while photocopiers are suitable for printing physical copies for distribution and daily use. These two processes have a special role in carrying out efficient office operations.


The speed of the scanning and photocopying process can vary greatly depending on the device used, the resolution chosen, and the type of document being used. processed. Let’s compare the efficiency and speed of both:


  1. Scan Speed: Scan speed depends on the type of scanner you use. Desktop scanners typically have varying levels of speed, ranging from a few pages per minute (ppm) to over a hundred ppm for production scanners or machine scanners used in large print centers.

  2. Resolution: Scan speed can also be affected by the resolution you choose. The higher the resolution, the longer it takes to complete scanning. High resolution documents will produce larger files and take longer.

  3. Document Type: The type of document you scan also plays a role. Plain text documents tend to be faster to scan compared to color images or photos with a lot of detail.

  4. Processing Process: After the scanning process is complete, the scanned file may require additional processing, such as text recognition or image compression, which may affect the total time required.


  1. Photocopying Speed: Photocopiers also have various speed levels. Typical office copiers can print physical copies at speeds of a few pages per minute up to over one hundred ppm for production copiers.

  2. Copy Type: Time required for photocopying may vary depending on the type of copy you are making. Photocopying text is usually faster than photocopying color images or photographs.

  3. Sheet Handling: The speed of a copier is often related to its sheet handling capabilities. Copiers that have automatic feeds with larger capacities can print more pages without the need for human intervention.

  4. Number of Copies: Time required for photocopying will also depend on the number of copies you need. Photocopying multiple copies of the same document is usually faster than photocopying many different documents.

In many cases, regular photocopiers have higher print speeds than desktop scanners. However, for scanning processes that require high speed or scanning a large number of documents, a more expensive production scanner may be necessary.

The choice between scanning and photocopying depends on the speed you need, the type of document being processed, and the capabilities available devices. These two processes can be used for different office needs depending on the situation.

Cost and Maintenance

Costs for using and maintaining scanning and copier devices can vary depending on the type of device, volume of use, and maintenance required. Let’s discuss the cost and maintenance differences between the two:

Usage Cost:

  1. Scan:

    • Initial Costs: The initial costs of purchasing a desktop scanner or other scanning device can vary, but are often higher than conventional copiers.
    • Energy Costs: Desktop scanners are usually more energy efficient than large copiers. This can reduce long-term electricity costs.
    • Software Costs: You may need to purchase or subscribe to image or text processing software to manage scan results, depending on your needs.
  2. Photocopying:

    • Initial Costs: Photocopiers may initially cost more affordable than high-quality desktop scanners.
    • Paper and Ink/Toner Costs: Photocopiers require paper and ink or toner to print physical copies. These costs can be significant depending on the volume of use.
    • Energy Costs: Copiers typically use more energy than desktop scanners, which can result in higher electricity costs.


  1. Scan:

    • Minimum Maintenance: Desktop scanners or document scanners tend to require minimal maintenance. You may need to clean the scanner glass regularly and replace the scanner paper if necessary.
    • Software Maintenance: You should ensure the scanner software remains updated and safe from malware.
  2. Photocopying:

    • Regular Maintenance: Photocopiers require regular maintenance, including ink or toner replacement, cleaning, and repairs in case of damage.
    • Professional Maintenance: You may need to contract a technical service provider for regular copier maintenance. This can be an additional expense.

In the long term, photocopying costs can increase due to the costs of paper, ink/toner, maintenance and technical maintenance. However, its high printing speed and capabilities can make it more efficient in some cases. On the other hand, desktop scanners are more suitable for jobs that require digital document processing or jobs that require scanning documents on a small to medium scale.

The choice between scanning and photocopying depends on your business needs, usage volume, and budget which are available. You should consider both the initial costs and the long-term costs when choosing between the two.

Conclusion on the Difference Between Scans and Photocopies

In order to make a conclusion about the differences between scans and photocopies, we can conclude the following the following:


  • Converts physical documents into digital format.
  • Allows editing, saving and sharing documents in digital format.
  • Scan results can be images, documents, or text, depending on the type of document being scanned.
  • Speed and cost depend on the type of scanner used and the resolution selected .
  • Maintenance is usually minimal.


  • Make a physical copy of an original document.
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  • Does not allow direct editing and produces a copy that is similar to the original document.
  • The result of the photocopy is a paper copy.
  • Copiers vary in speed and cost depending on the model.
  • Requires regular maintenance and technical maintenance which can result in additional costs.

The choice between scanning and photocopying depends on your specific needs. Scans are suitable for digital document processing, editing, and storage, while photocopiers are suitable for printing physical copies. Cost, speed, and the type of document being processed are determining factors in choosing the appropriate method in your office or business environment.

That’s the discussion regarding the differences between scanning and photocopying. If there are any errors, especially in writing, please forgive. If you have any questions regarding the differences between scans and photocopies, you can write them in the comments column provided.

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