Are you someone with a large amount of photographs you would love to scan and turn into digital files? 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 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:
Transcription of Video::
Curtis asked me to take a photograph of my two-scanner setup for print scanning. On the far left you can see an Epson Perfection 2450, which I purchased in the late 90s. Next it is Java to keep me going. Next to it are 6 TB of Western Digital passport drives, which I use for storage. Then next in the middle is my iMac which is about a year and a half old. Then my Mac book Pro retina display, computer laptop.
Next to the laptop you can see about 14 TB of backup drives. Behind the red chair you see the Epson Artisan 835 and in the upper right you can see a HP LaserJet 6MP printer which I purchased in the mid-90s so it’s rapidly approaching 20 years of age. And then you can see the slots in the blinds so I know how much snow were getting at this particular time.
All of this equipment was purchased to support my home office and personal use as well as my photography business. The only exception to that is the Epson Perfection 2450 which I did in fact purchase for the purpose of scanning photographs quite a while ago; so it’s hard for me to look at the cost of this scanning project because most of the equipment is being used for other purposes as well.
Next I will show you a screen recording of the laptop scanner with Image Capture running. I just starting the overview scan as you can see and there are five pictures that will come up and as they come up then you can also see how they have been segmented fairly quickly.
And you can see how they are all very well segmented, except I like to keep the white borders around the older pictures as part of the historical recording, but you can draw those out pretty easily if you have them. Or if you don’t want to the white borders, there are sometimes updates and things like that on it, you could just leave the actual specific image in the segmented area. But I tend to collect them. And it slows you down a little bit but if you have a lot of those but it is usually not too difficult.
The other thing to notice is that the pictures aren’t particularly well-aligned but Image capture has recognize that they are rotated a little bit and corrects that, capture sequence so that they come out horizontally based on the lines that have been drawn. And after I’ve corrected all of that information from the overview image, then all I have to do is finish this first. And you can see that date on the picture; that is why I like to capture the white borders ok.
And now, yes we are going to drop the pictures into a folder called ‘scan’ which is on a network drive and labeling the pictures uniquely. You can see right above the auto select detect separate items and save them as tiffs. I don’t do any of the other things, particularly I will do that later on and then I will click ‘scan’ and we are off and running.
And you can kind of see how this is going to go through each one of the images and capture it and dump it into a file on my network drive. The scanner has finished capturing these pictures. I am going to take the pictures off the scan bed and place new ones on and now you can see it starting a new scan; capturing with the overview button and you can see it automatically segments the picture. Because it has white borders I want to retain I expand it out a little bit, and once I am done with that, then I can come over and hit the ‘scan’ button and we are off and running.
You can see it is scanning the top picture right now as it is labeled with the date and ‘16’ and we we’ll just wait here until it goes to the next picture so you can kind of see what happens.
This is all wireless from the computer. It’s finished scanning and it’s written the file out to the network server and you can see the next picture highlighted, the border around it highlighted itself and now it is scanning the next picture. So it’s kind of moving on its own and when it’s doing this, I’m working on another on the other scanner.
Okay. I’ve got my two computers; my iMac and my MacBook Pro retina display setup and the software is up and I’ll provide a screenshot of the screens. And in the screen shot you can see the different settings that I have applied on the right side of the screen; the scan mode is in flat bed, it’s color scanning, I have a resolution of 600 dpi, I can make it higher. I used a custom size because, if you look below for auto-selection, I have it detect separate items and so it I automatically identifies the individual pictures that you see on the middle panel where the little broken line borders identifies each picture. I can select what folder the pictures go to, get scanned it to. I can attach a name to it, I can save in different file formats, I save in tiff and then you can do article circle image corrections, sharpening and removal of dust and things like that. I don’t use those in this software as I typically do that within Aperture once I have imported them.
This is a screenshot of the screens and we’re going to start setting up the scanning right now and there is my one scanner, my Epson scanner right there and there is my Epson Artisan scanner over there on that back desk among lot of camera gear and other miscellaneous things that I occasionally use. And here are my box of pictures and I am going to set them up right here, I’ll just look at them real quick.
And we will just put them up on the screen right here like this. These are nice and flat and so they will work pretty well. And we will do an overview scan. Here you can see it coming up, maybe on the screen, I don’t know yet. Now you can see that it’s self selected and it looks very good, so you can see I am going to save it to this folder here and with the name of the file and the format is 600 dpi, million colors flatbed and will just hit ‘scan’ so I won’t check that every time but and you might be able to hear that one running in the background. So we will just check these real quick and that looks pretty good. I will fold this up like this, and while it is still running for me; it’s good. Just lay those out like that and we’ll get that up a little bit over here, rotate back around, hit overview. You can have the other scanner maybe gearing up you can see it sort of warming up right here.
It’s been off for a while so usually there is not that kind of delay. You can see some of those pictures are pretty badly, badly rotated here and so that one is okay, that one is okay, that one is okay, scan and we are off. This one is now done so we will just take the pictures off of here and this is one of the more finicky things; I have to use a little plastic strip to kind of lift the pictures off. Now that I’ve got those done, I’ll just toss them in the scan box, grab three more; other scanners are running.
And I don’t worry too much about orientation, because I’ll change that, I’ll fix that once I entered them into Aperture, I can just rotate them out and its less aggravation to do it digitally. So we will do an overview there. This one is still scanning as you can see and this one is getting set up and ready to go and we will see how well it gets automatically recognized and again it recognizes them very well so we will just hit scan and you can see this one is still scanning so we have to wait for it to finish. This one is a little bit slower because I write to a network storage device rather than a direct attached drive. But it’s 95, 98% as fast and there is a reason for that. While I do that it is saving that image. And that’s done. The other scanner is still running and so here I just take these off, here you go. Here the surface looks pretty clean.
Go back to my box here and here we go now we’ve got three more pictures and we are off and running. This should give you a pretty good idea of how labor-intensive it is. Certainly this is not the most ergonomic set up that one can have. I may end up having to change it. This one is ready to go. Before we go to the other computer, we’re going to make sure we get this one started. Remember we want to have a scanner running all the time.
So those are all pretty well automatically recognized so we will just hit scan for that, and we will come over here now, and zip these off and toss them into the scan bucket here, and grab three more pictures. So you can kind of see how this goes along.
So I hope this has been helpful for people that have a lot of pictures to scan. Certainly I could improve the ergonomics of the process and I think potentially a third scanner could add a little bit extra performance, but would also add a lot of expense because not only would you need a camera but you would need another computer to capture the images as you go.
So that’s the way I do it and it is neither good nor bad, it is just the way I do it and I hope it’s been helpful to all of you who want to do lots of scanning.
Thanks for listening!
It almost seems silly to admit, but I think this was the first time I have heard of someone personally scanning photos with 2 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've 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 2 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 the 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 would batch clean all of the prints before you started scanning. And then after you finished doing all of the scanning, you would then focus all of your attention to just doing any modifications you would like to do 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 on 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 at 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 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 step-son 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 index or numbers (e.g. “scan-01.tif”, “scan-02.tif”) will not be possible across 2 different scanning applications. You will have to use batch-renaming software afterwards instead once you've moved all of your scanned images are 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!