OK Jay, I used to have a Photosmart, and have shots here scanned using it.
Lesson number one is that the HP
software is, frankly, rubbish - ok, it can capture a scan but that's about it. HP
designed this scanner to include in their PCs so people could email snapshots to each other - the software was designed for ease of use, not scanning accuracy. HP
created a very good bit of hardware, then crippled it with crap software. That's the bad news. The good news is that the "hidden" strengths of the HP
can be accessed with 3rd party software - this is why the famous Vuescan software was created.
I haven't checked the site recently (www.hammrick.com) but I believe this will cost you $40 - also make sure the Photosmart is still being supported.
Lesson 2. The object of a scan is not to produce a finished image, but to extract as much data (as wide a dynamic range and colour data) as possible from the source. It doesn't matter if the colour is not exactly right at this stage, or if it looks a bit dark - all that matters is that you have got the true black and white points captured.
Making the image look right is lesson 3, and for this you need Photoshop, Photoelements, GIMP (free) or similar. No scanning software in the world (including the hideously expensive SilverFast) can match Photoshop for adjusting images provided
you give it good source data to start with (see Lesson 2).
To use Photoshop well you need to learn and understand only 3 controls. Levels, curves and USM
If this is all familiar stuff to you, I apologise - I'm just not sure what you're doing now. If some of this is new to you, be prepared to spend a bit of time learning how to process images - the HP
software does not let you do this - its a toy which prevents you make a complete hash of the scan, but also stops you from realising the scanners full potential. There are no short cuts to quality, you will have to learn the proper tools.
Colin K. Work, Pixstel