How to Scan Your Entire Photo Collection in Half the Time
Are you someone with a large amount of photographs you would love to scan and turn into digital files? The problem is, you just haven’t because you’re afraid it’s going to take way too long!!
If this sounds like you, I would like to introduce you to Steven Seelig, who has been scanning his photos in a way that could potentially save you a lot of time!
After reading my post “How Quickly You Could Scan Your Entire Photo Collection — What I Discovered From My First Week of Scanning,” Steven left a comment detailing his own scanning experience.
I was immediately hooked when I read not only had he already scanned almost 12,000 slides himself and hired someone to convert 150 50-foot reels of 8mm and Super 8mm “home movies” to high-definition videos, but he also had just recently started what he considered to be his most challenging project yet — scanning his old photographic prints.
What’s interesting about Steven’s current project is that he says his system of scanning allows him to scan 143 paper photos in 68 minutes.
Now, did that just compute with you? Let me pause in case it didn’t. He didn’t say in a week or even a day; he told us he had just scanned over 140 photos in just a little over an hour!
And he’s not talking about using an inferior and cheaply made “sheet feeding” motorized scanner. This is a workflow for quality flatbed scanners and using adequately high DPI settings.
How to Scan 2 Photos Every Minute
Steven and I traded a couple of comments back and forth before I decided his method was something that a lot of people might be interested in knowing more about. I wanted to make a short post out of it so I emailed him to see how he felt about that idea and if he would be willing to share a couple photographs of his scanner setup so everyone could see what his workspace looked like.
Before I knew it, he had already shot, narrated, edited, and uploaded a 10-minute video showing off every detail of the process!
What I love about his video is that he doesn’t just tell you that he does “x” and “y” and then wishes you good luck with your own project. No, not at all. Right in his own home office, Steven walks us through step-by-step what he does and why he decided to do it this way, from the beginning to the end of the scanning process.
If you think you’re too technologically challenged, too young, too old, or your computer workspace is too small, or your scanner isn’t the highest rated one, or even that you’re just too busy to ever scan all of your photos hibernating in the back of your closet … then you’re going to love his video!
Alright, so check this out:
(Problems playing video? Click here)
It almost seems silly to admit, but I think this was the first time I have heard of someone personally scanning photos with two scanners at the same time. Sure, I know this is common with large photo scanning services, but I’m talking about someone doing this in their own home to achieve more efficiency with their time.
I’m not sure if I hadn’t come to this as a viable option because of an assumption that cost is always an issue for people — where it’s unlikely someone could afford to buy more than one setup. Or maybe it’s just a matter of limited desk space and assuming that, like clothes washers and dryers, no one would really consider the space and expense of having more than one set in their home. Whatever the reason, I must say I was a bit startled but impressed when I first read about what he was accomplishing.
If one of the main reasons you aren’t scanning your photo collection is because of how long it might take you to do it, why not consider using two scanners at once? You could scan twice the amount of photos in almost the same amount of time.
Is This Workflow For You?
This setup certainly isn’t for everyone. Whether this is a good fit for you really comes down to your finances and how you want to break up the time in your workflow.
Personally, when I’m scanning photographs, in the 2-5 minutes or so while the scanner is in the process of scanning, I usually decide to clean off the next set of prints or slides and make a few changes to the filenames of the last set of images that just finished scanning.
But, you might feel more comfortable only focusing on one type of task at a time. For example, during the period of time you are scanning, maybe you will progress better if all you are doing is scanning and nothing else.
If you want to wipe off your prints, you will batch-clean all of the prints before you start scanning. After you finish scanning, you would then focus all of your attention on making any modifications to the filenames coming out of your scanner software.
So if you prefer working in a focused single-tasked mode like this, and you are desperately trying to figure out the fastest way to scan all of your photos, then maybe you might want to consider this 2-scanner workflow Steven is using. This way, you could be maximizing your time and not just daydreaming and staring out the window while you are waiting for your scanner to do its thing.
Steven’s Workstation Setup
After watching Steven’s video, I hope you would agree there is a calming ease with which he describes his scanning process. Aside from an unusually large amount of external storage drives he has hooked up, he isn’t using any fancy professional equipment, software, or even settings that a normal person couldn’t easily reproduce in their own home. He’s showing us without really saying it, that anyone can do this, you don’t need years of experience.
I am not an expert in scanning methodology. I am just an average guy with some hardware and a personal project in search of a solution. Not the 100% highest resolution, quality etc. Just trying to find an acceptable solution.
I think Steven does an excellent job of proving that all it really takes is for you to be determined you want to make this “photo scanning” thing happen!
Now, if you weren’t able to catch some of the specifics while watching, let me fill you in with some of the important details.
Steven is scanning his paper prints using two flatbed scanners. His primary scanner is an Epson Perfection 2450 Photo Scanner that’s attached to his Apple iMac desktop computer.
From the best that I can tell, Epson released this scanner around 2001 (It has since been discontinued). But, if you were looking for a comparable unit, I would look at one of their current middle models — either the Perfection V550 Photo or the Perfection V600 Photo (Amazon affiliate links – worldwide).
While his 2450 is scanning a batch, he’s loading up another batch of photos in his Epson Artesian 835 Wireless All-In-One Printer, Copier, Scanner and Fax.
At least here in the United States, electronics and office supply stores no longer seem to stock photo scanners like the “Perfection” line. You will be hard-pressed to find one outside of a professional photography supply store and major online stores like Amazon. Instead, what you will find are All-In-One printer/scanner units like this “Artesian” series.
Scanner Software and Settings
Most people who haven’t stepped up to a third-party professional scanning application like VueScan elect to use the scanning software that comes bundled with the scanner. For technical reasons, Steven isn’t using EpsonScan but instead is working with Apple’s Image Capture.
I have Epson Scan 3.7.7 and it does not recognize the Epson Perfection 2450. I am using OS 10.8.5, but it has not be recognized for a very long time. So Image Capture was my fall back software.
Image Capture uses a two-pass system. The first pass is an overview where it tries to recognize the individual pictures. If the picture segmentation is good, I just click scan, and it automatically scans each picture and dumps it into a folder that I have selected.
Occasionally, I have to manually adjust the automatic picture recognition. Generally, rotated pictures are captured properly, removing the image rotation.
Image Capture is not only able to import photos from a digital camera, it’s also a lightweight scanning application that comes free with all Macs. Mac users will find it pre-installed in your “Applications” folder. It’s probably similar to what Windows Fax and Scan is to Windows Users.
Within Image Capture, Steven scans his paper prints at 600 DPI and saves them as (uncompressed) TIFF files.
I put as many pictures on the scanner as will fit. Typically it is 2-3, but sometime it is one or 6.
While one scanner is scanning, I am loading and starting the second scanner. That translates to a significant reduction in time waiting for the scanner to finish.
I am not sure whether I would benefit significantly with a 3rd scanner unless I had another person manning it.
Steven’s Slide Scanning Workflow
Because the Artesian 835 is unable to scan slides or negatives, he couldn’t use the 2-scanner setup to scan his 11,800 slide collection. However, he could have used just his Epson 2450 with the built-in transparency unit.
Instead, he was fortunate enough to have a stepson who wanted to lend him a dedicated slide scanner that was faster than any flatbed would be.
If you’re curious to know more details about his workflow with slides, check out the really nice blog post all about it on his portrait and wedding photography business website, E2Photography. It’s a short read but still long enough to detail the whole process from scanning, his choice of image managers to organize his collection in, and what type of archival containers he bought to put his slides in for long-term storage.
While doing anything that seems tedious, in only half the time, sounds like a no-brainer, there are reasons you may not want to pursue such a setup. Here are a few of the pros and cons I came up with if you are considering doing this yourself.
- Possibly doubles the amount of scans you can do in almost the same amount of time.
- Makes productive use of multiple scanners and computers you may already own or could borrow from a friend or family member.
- The faster you start seeing results, the more likely many of us will see the entire project through to the end.
- Additional cost if you don’t already own a second scanner and possibly a second computer.
- Image quality may be inconsistent across your entire collection if scanner models, software, and settings aren’t identical or very similar. As a test, you could scan one photo on both setups and compare the quality of each side-by-side in a photo viewing application.
- Depending on your skills, this could possibly complicate an already complicated task.
- Using automated filenames with the help of indexes or numbers (e.g., “scan-01.tif” and “scan-02.tif”) will not be possible across two different scanning applications. You will have to use batch-renaming software afterward instead once you’ve moved all of your scanned images together in one folder.
So, what do you think — is your time precious enough that you would consider trying out this workflow? Or do you think it would cause more problems for you than it would benefit you?
Steven and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. And Steven has agreed to stop by and answer any questions you might have for him. So ask away — don’t be shy!