Behind the Lens: Preserve old slides by digitization
My family pulled out the slide projector and old family photographs during the holidays. Some people would consider this torture, but I think it’s fun.
The problem is I wasn’t there. I had already left for home. Maybe there are photos they don’t want me to see or they don’t want a professional photographer critiquing their work. I asked my mom, “Why didn’t you do that when I was there? I asked. “I didn’t even know we had family slides.”
I always believed my parents didn’t take photographs. I don’t recall a single camera in the house. Friends and relatives took the images I know.
“Oh, we’ve got several trays of slides,” responded my mom. I was stunned.
“Mom, I need to take those slides and scan them,” I said. “We need to save those.”
“It looks like they are fading, too,” she added. Oh, jeez. How did I not know about these slides?
I hope that, within the next couple of months, I’ll get my hands on the photos and can start digitizing them. I can probably correct some of the fading issues, and once scanned I can save them to discs and hard drives and maybe later create a book for the whole family.
The point of this story is to encourage everyone to seek out old family photos, especially the original negatives and slide transparencies, and bring them into the digital age.
The best way to get a negative or slide transparency into a digital format is to scan the original piece of film.
If you don’t have the inclination to purchase and learn how to use a film scanner the best course of action is to have a professional lab do the scans for you.
A quick Google search located one such company, ScanCafe, that can provide 7-megapixel scans for 29 cents each. That quality of scan would provide good prints to at least 8 inches by 10 inches. That’s about as cheap as you’re going to get for this tedious task.
Some places charge more but will scan in higher resolutions for larger prints. Once your images have been scanned and are moved to a hard drive or disc, you can easily start duplicating, emailing, printing or creating the modern-day version of a slide show.
If you prefer the do-it-yourself approach, consider purchasing a film scanner. Prices run from $60 to $20,000 depending on what quality and features you require. (I think the expensive ones come with 4-wheel drive.)
In a quick look at film scanners available at BHPhotoVideo.com, most models that cost less than $100 will scan your 35 mm slide or negative with a resolutions good for prints up to 5 inches by 7 inches or 8 inches by 10 inches, at most.
Models approaching the $200-$400 range start to provide faster operation, higher resolution scans and possible batch scanning.
Regardless of what machine you have, it’s not a fun task. Scanning film one frame at a time is tedious and not a creative endeavor. But it will bring old photos back to life and result in digital files that can be shared with the whole family. You might want to check with your mother and see if you missed any family slide shows this year.
Next week I’ll go over options for digitizing prints and hard-copy documents.