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Thread: Digitizing old Prints, Slides, and Negatives in 2022

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  1. #1
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Digitizing old Prints, Slides, and Negatives in 2022

    This topic has come up somewhat regularly, but rather than building on one of those old threads, I am starting a new one and will link to some of the older threads.

    This is a bit of a work in progress. My back story is that I inherited a series of albums and loose photos from my father's side of the family back around 2013. At the time, I started this thread and followed some of the advice and bought a copy stand. The set up I used back then were two off camera flashes with the copy stand with the print under a piece of glass to keep the print smooth. You do have to play with the angle of the lights to avoid glare, but if you can do so, this works very well with glossy prints. But as soon there is any texture to the print, I was finding peaks/shadows to the light.

    I am working on an update to this method where I bought a light box so I can pass light through slides and negatives. Slides will stay flat in the slide, but you do need something for negatives. I have seen some people use scanner trays, but this where film carriers from Negative Supply Company come in. They have basic, MK1 for 35 mm negatives as well as a variety of other holders for other formats as wells as a complete kit (copy stand, light box, etc). Prices are a bit high, but reviews I've read are that these are fast and when looking at 1000s of negatives, I am willing to make the investment (especially since I am using inheritance to fund this). But, if you think there may be DYI options out there, I think the same thing. But my time needs to be invested in digitizing. I haven't yet really started on the negatives, as I just received some of this equipment a week ago. But I will update this thread as to how I think this works.

    So, option 1: Copy stand, digital camera taking a picture of a picture, off camera light for prints and light box for slides/negatives.

    Option 2: Scanning. As I was very slow in my prints project I picked up an Epson FF-680W. Then, for a variety of reasons, last summer I added an Epson V850 flatbed scanner.

    Honestly, to finish off my Father's side print project, I used all three extensively. Each had their place and each was the most efficient tool for certain scenarios. So, this was an investment, but not one I am regretting.

    The Epson FF-680W allows you to load up a stack of prints and then it just scans the whole stack. It scans front and back which is amazing considering my Grandmother wrote on the back side of many of the prints. It also gives you the front of the print as scanned but also auto-enhanced (and it does a nice job). The software is good, but not intuitive for the way I think, but I was able to get it to do what I wanted. I ended up scanning at 600 ppi to jpgs and the IQ is good. I could have scanned to TIFFs (maybe I should have?). The primary issue I had with it was the prints needs to be flexible as it does bend them (many old prints I have are on cardboard backing) and it has moving parts so it can scratch a print. So, before each batch, I did my best to clean the scanner as well as the prints and after I added some basic cleaning steps did not have an issue.

    The V-850 is a flatbed scanner so it can scan any print (cardboard backing not an issue) up to a large size, has greater resolution, and has infared scans/angled scans that help detect and digitally remove dust (called iSRD, Digital ICE, etc). Overall, it just does more. It isn't as slow as I was worried about, but it definitely gives me time to watch videos/process images/something while it scans. One reason I went with the V-850 was speek. It has trays for many formats. I am scanning slides at usually 2400 ppi to 3200 ppi. Most of my sldies are 1x1"s so that shoudl put me easily in the 8x10 range if I wanted a good print. I believe the V850 will natively go to 4800 ppi (after that it is digital interpolation), but the slides I am dealing with just do not have that type of detail.

    Its funny, but I see many seem somewhat down on flatbed scanning preferring a version of a copy stand method as the next step up, higher end scanners, and ultimately drum scanners using wet methods.

    But, the reality I am coming too is that for the material I am working with, these digitizing methods are more than enough. I do not think the V850 is even necessary as I've seen many people working with the V600, etc.

    I can post some examples if people want to see what each method will do. But, suffice to say, they are more about memories that photo quality.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    BTW, I am very open to tips and techniques that others may have. Please feel free to comment and share.

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    Senior Member Jonathan Huyer's Avatar
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    Interesting -- I also have the FF-680W and the V-850. Only difference is that I haven't invested the time yet to properly use them! The FF-680W has been super handy for scanning documents to pdf, and I use it all the time for that. When I've scanned photos, the quality hasn't been all that great. Maybe I need to try some other settings on it. The V-850 is definitely very good for slides. The ones that I have done so far have come out very good. So I'm going to stick with it as I (slowly) make my way through the large bin of old family slides.

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    Thought to share the approaches that have worked for me for scanning slides and prints.

    I switched from film to digital in 2003. Before that, special occasions like a trip to Yellowstone were shot on Ektachrome slide film, which I developed myself. Most pictures were shot on ordinary color film printed at places like Fotomat or Target.

    About 2008 I scanned those slides with a (now obsolete) Microtek flatbed scanner that shone light from a device on top of the slide into the scanner bed below. I scanned those at 2400 dpi, originally as TIFF files. I never pushed the limit to see the lowest resolution that would work. For a few favorites I still have those large TIFF files, but most were converted to jpegs with file size 6-8 MB.

    For either sort of file a zoom to “200%” in Lightroom, shows no problem with pixelation, but the film grain becomes very coarse. Here is a sample you could see larger on Flickr.

    Jackson Lake clouds by dfwatsoneuro, on Flickr


    Just two weeks ago I started to scan some 3x5 and 4x6 prints from the 1980s. I am using a rather old Canon Pixma MG6300 multifunction device. So far I am scanning to TIFF files with resolution 600 dpi.

    These files seem fine for post processing, though I have only worked on a few so far. No pixelation problems on a 4K 27-inch screen, even if image size is taken to 16x24 at 240 dpi in Photoshop. I have not actually printed any of these yet. Most future viewing will be on an iPad or Surface tablet, not a large print. Another sample.

    Xmas 1988 by dfwatsoneuro, on Flickr (OOPS, this was actually 1987!)


    I could see that using a camera and stand could produce images that permit even greater enlargement/ cropping. I felt that getting the perfectly even lighting without any reflection from the glossy prints would be too hard to make that setup attractive to me.

    The scanning process is not fast, but the actual time scanning is only a little more than the time taking photos out of the album and then replacing them.
    Last edited by Minerve101; 01-20-2022 at 01:57 AM.

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