My scanning experience and some advice
February 17, 2010
So as you remember from my previous blog, I decided I want to scan all my negatives.
Lucky for me I am just an amateur so I found myself with only ~3000 pictures I gathered through the years that I wanted to scan (don’t worry, I won’t try to upload them all).
If I were a bit more serious I would really be in trouble.
And now the dilemma starts.
How much money are you willing to spend on pictures that were already taken?
It makes sense to invest in a new shiny DSLR because of the potential future photos you can take.
But what do you do about a scanner?
I shopped around some Photo labs back then (2008) and the price for scanning each frame was outrageous, I don’t think they offered even 3MP.
So I decided to buy a scanner.
Once again, shopped around, read many articles, wasn’t willing to spend the price of a new DSLR so I finally bought the Epson V500,
scanned a few frames and was happy.
After playing around a bit and reading many more articles and realizing every frame needs to be post-processed, I scanned all of my negatives to Tiff files at 6MP.
This took quite a few patient months because scanning a strip of 6 frames can take almost an hour using ICE, eliminating scratches and dust.
After I had all my Tiffs I could finally start processing the files.
After processing quite a few pictures I encountered my first major disappointment.
Looking at the pictures on a different monitor made me realize my pictures are not at all good.
This introduced me to a whole new world of monitors and calibrations.
To make a long story short, I bought a new IPS lcd monitor, borrowed a calibration tool and was ready to go.
I read more and more Photoshop articles and for a year I slowly slowly processed many of my pictures learning many features such as levels, curves, color balance, sharpening and selections.
All the noise introduced by the scanner was blurred away with my selection skills and blur tool.
I was a happy man.
Until I discovered something called saturation. Realized what a boost it can give to most pictures.
I had to go over all the processed files and add saturation.
I was once again happy.
Until a Mr. Ami Levin introduced me to Dreamstime.
I uploaded a bunch of photos, and no – they were not rejected.
The reason they were not rejected is because Ami suddenly mentioned something about Noise Ninja and that I have to give it a try. So I did.
That’s when I realized everything I did so far was nice and may be good for 4x6 prints or uploading to facebook but were mediocre at best.
I was lucky to delete the files from Dreamstime before they were reviewed.
And so I read more and more Photoshop articles, learned about layers, adjustment layers, masks, brushes, LAB, sharpening via ‘find edges filter’ and improved my skills.
Took my favorite Tiff pictures worked on them for many many hours and managed to get some approved.
And still, many were rejected because of “out of focus”.
Even though I was improving, two things didn’t change.
The first was that I spent hours and hours on each single picture.
The second was that some pictures, no matter how hard I tried could not get sharp enough to be accepted.
This was really frustrating.
Eventually, I came to the sad conclusion that I can’t keep spending so much time on each frame and that perhaps the scanner is just not good enough for high standard quality.
I shopped around again and found that prices are reasonable and I can scan all my negatives in a lab for the price I originally paid for the scanner.
And so I did and got the scans back in less than a week.
I don’t want to repeat here the sounds, words and phrases that came out of my mouth when I saw the results.
Let’s just say - they were much better.
I replaced all the DT approved files from the Epson with the new scanned ones. Even though the Epson scans were very good and sharp, when looking at them side by side, the professional scans were better.
The good side of the story is that I finally have all my pictures in top notch quality and my acceptance ratio is drastically improving.
Do I regret all the hard work I did? – not at all. I learned so much from the whole process and all those rejections that today it takes me a just few moments of Photoshop work to finalize a high quality digital picture.
If you have thousands of pictures on negatives or slides and you want them in top quality I think you know by now what should be done.
If prices are still high for you it may be worth waiting – even a year or two till prices drop.
Scanning on a professional scanner will save you a lot of agony.
Remember – time is money and if you have to work extra hard to clean and sharpen it may be worth paying for it.
In addition, it took the lab 4 days to scan what took me several months of my free time and you still need to post process every scanned image.
My recommendation – spend your free time on creating new images, spend some money on the old ones.