Category: Scanning Photos
“Hi there. Since you have and use an Epson Perfection V600 I wanted to ask you what is the optimal scan settings for scanning film negatives?
Right now I use 12800 dpi, but I have a feeling it’s overkill and all my indoor night time pictures have a lot of grain. I certainly appreciate whatever advice you have to offer.” ~ Walter Ho.
Walter, thanks for writing me. Let me see if I can help you out with this one.
I would say your gut feeling is right on — 12800 dpi is going to be overkill for negatives. Hopefully you haven’t scanned too many of them if you want to do them over.
I love that we have scanning services out there because I think it would be ignorant of me to assume every one of us with a collection of prints, negatives or slides, who wants a digital version of them, is willing to scan their own photos by hand.
“Excuse me ma’am. Um, but could you like, um, put those cotton gloves on? Please? Yeah. Um. No. How about the thicker ones. Over there. Yeah, those.”
So with this in mind, let me say, doing this review was a big — scratch that — huge step for me. This was the first time I have ever sent any of my family’s photos to a scanning service — or even out of my sight.
But, for me, it’s always been a hard transaction to consider — this whole idea of sending my irreplaceable photographs to a company or someone I have never met and expect everyone who handles them to care for them the same way I do.
When you start scanning your photographs — if you’re lucky — you get to make this choice:
Do you want to scan your original camera negatives, or the prints made from them?
And what I mean by lucky is that many of us didn’t hold onto our negatives when we had prints made from them. We got what we wanted when took them to the Photo Bug or the Photo Hut or the drug store down the street — a stack of photos to stick in our photo albums. So, I guess a lot of us probably felt safe tossing out the film negatives.
I think we are almost to the point where I can safely say there is no such thing as a bad photograph.
Aside from the photos that are accidentally shot off or the ones where the camera is completely set wrong (for example in the more complicated manual modes), every photo — even the “bad” ones — will one day be a few clicks away from being usable.
Photo Magic is Already Here or Just Around the Corner!
In October of 2011, Jue Wang, senior research scientist at Adobe, showed off a jaw-dropping “sneak peak” of some technology that will make all of you who threw out all of your so called “bad photos” wish you had that day back to do over again!
Guest post by:
Today, I would like to share something a little different here on “Scan Your Entire Life.” Usually it’s just me going on and on about my experience dealing with my photo collection. But not this time.
A couple months ago, Peter Fuller, a fellow reader of this website wrote and shared with me his experience getting started on the project of scanning his entire photo collection.
We wrote back and forth several times discussing the details of his workflow. He had questions for me and I had some questions for him. I became immediately intrigued hearing his story shopping for a particular model of scanner he wished to purchase where he lives.
At some point, I received an email from Peter asking me this:
If I sent you a piece about my experiences/ learning’s scanning photos, would you be prepared to publish it?
I had never thought about having guest posts on my site so soon — but how could I refuse!
Q&A – “From your site and the other information I’ve found on the net, I think we should scan our photo collections in TIFF, at 600 dpi, using your naming convention / workflow. You don’t cover TIFF versus other formats in your articles, but I see you are using that format and there seems to be general acceptance that it is the best format for archiving. What do you think of the PNG format?”
Peter, that is a great question. And you’re right, up until now I have not covered what I feel is the best file format(s) to save scanned photos with. But, as you astutely noticed, I did sort of allude to my personal choice in a couple of my posts. Especially in some of my images I used in my 3-part “naming convention” series you brought up called “What Everyone Ought to Know When Naming Your Scanned Photos.”
Unless you have found a way to scan your entire photo collection in a pre-organized “beginning to end” kind of way, I’ve found you’re going to need a way to know tomorrow, or possibly months later, whether or not you have already scanned a particular photograph.
And you’re going to want to know by just looking at a print or slide in front of you – without booting up your computer to do a search. Trust me.
The problem I discovered when I started scanning my collection was unless I was immediately moving the slides or prints I had just scanned to a different storage place – a new photo album or new archival pages for example – I would sometimes forget whether or not I had scanned some of them!
Are you someone who is just itching to have your entire photo collection converted to digital images on your computer? I mean, you know you want to do it – badly. You know you should be doing it – you can see all of your aging photos over there in a few boxes in the hall closet. But there’s just something holding you back.
I wanna take a guess and say if it’s not a lack of enthusiasm, what you could be experiencing is frustration trying to imagine how you could ever get all of your original prints and negatives chronologically organized and in one place at the same time?
In part 3, we will now be discussing how to add the last part to the filename – a block of easy to create “code” that will reveal to anyone with your “key” the exact scanner settings you used to scan the photo.
Even though I think this will eventually benefit even those with the most basic of goals for their scanned photo collections, I know it might be too much to ask of someone who doesn’t have the time or patience to be this thorough. But I beg you to at least follow me through my process here and see if I can convince you of its benefits.
In many ways, the point of a good filename is double duty. First it gives you the ability to organize and search for your photos on the “folder level.” So without even seeing the image loaded (previewed) on your screen, you are able to sort and find particular files in either Windows Explorer in Microsoft Windows or Finder windows if you are using a Mac.
Additionally, a filename can permanently take the place of much of the handwritten “caption” information you may or may not already have on the back or even front (sometimes) of your photographs.
As my own scanned photo collection grows, it has really become obvious to me how thankful I am for the added attention I have been putting into the filenames I give to all of my scanned images.
When you’re scanning, it’s really easy to get into a “robotic” mindset where you are just trying to scan as many photos as possible in a sitting. So when you get to that blank field each time that asks you to type in a name for the file, it’s tempting to just quickly bang out a few descriptive words with little thought to how useful they will be to anyone later.
One of the most important decisions you face when scanning anything with your scanner is choosing what dpi (“dots per inch”) to scan with. And specifically for this post, what is the best dpi to use when scanning and archiving your 8×10″ and smaller paper photographic prints – which for most people, make up the majority of our pre-digital collection.
Making this decision was very challenging for me and certainly a huge part of my 8 year delay. The reason for this is that dpi is the critical variable in a fairly simple mathematical equation that will determine several important outcomes for your digital images.
“I’ll get to it someday.” “Maybe when I get around to buying a decent scanner.” “It’s just too much work.” “I’ll make one of my kids do it. They know that ‘tech’ stuff – I don’t.”
Those are just a few reasons why your irreplaceable paper and film photograph collections are probably in jeopardy of being no more – just a distant memory. You see, there are forces greater than your lack of will power hurting your chances of having an everlasting collection to pass on to future generations.
Here’s the first photo from my family’s collection I scanned. (Yup that’s me apparently on my very first pony ride)
I didn’t scan it for an immediate use such as to print it out for our refrigerator or to send it to my Aunt K. through email (though I am sure she would have appreciated it). I scanned this picture with quality in mind so if properly cared for, this digital master would not only outlive the paper print, but would also be more useful due to the benefits of digital replication. What I am talking about here is archiving.
Well that flash of genius was on August 8, 2001 – about 8 years before I started scanning again.
So why the long delay? Why couldn’t I get my act together?