Tips and Hints for the Occasionally Klutzy Erstwhile Photographer
May 12, 2009 5:48 AM   Subscribe

A few days ago, I unknowingly spilled water on a pile of old photo prints that I am planning on scanning. They dried, and now, as a result, the bottom twenty are stuck together. How can I separate the prints without tearing or otherwise ruining them? If that is impossible, I still have the negatives somewhere; how can I best scan negatives into a regular flatbed scanner?
posted by not_on_display to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: [Moderator: if this is an example of asking two questions in one, and that breaks etiquette, please delete the last sentence. Thanks :) and good morning!]
posted by not_on_display at 5:50 AM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

It depends on your scanner, but my Epson handles negatives just fine and in theory you can get better results that way. My scanner has a film holder for transparencies including negative, a light source in the top of the scanner (covered by a removable pad when not scanning transparent media), and a setting in the software to let it know you are scanning a negative whereupon it will reverse the colors. I have a Canon scanner at work that works the same way. What brand/model of scanner are you using?
posted by TedW at 5:59 AM on May 12, 2009

I had this same thing happen

and when I separated the photos part of the image (actually some of the colours stuck to the white backs of the neighbouring photo. I was actually able to do a reasonable (only reasonable- not great) job of reconstructing the photos in photoshop combining the scanned photo and the scanned back of the neighbouring photo which had the missing parts of the image
posted by compound eye at 6:06 AM on May 12, 2009

Response by poster: I believe it's an Epson (guessing because it's in my office; I'm at home). The negative-holding attachments may be hard to find; it's second-hand, scavenged, and a few years old (purchased in '03 or '04 for around $200.).
posted by not_on_display at 6:07 AM on May 12, 2009

I would try putting them in the freezer
posted by poppo at 6:10 AM on May 12, 2009

Steam. Carefully.
posted by rokusan at 6:12 AM on May 12, 2009

Best answer: It depends on the photo process used to print them, but you might be able to just submerge the entire stack in water, wait until they unstick, and then carefully set them out to dry. You might end up with some warping of the photo paper, depending on the photo stock and their age, though.
posted by mikeh at 6:28 AM on May 12, 2009

I would rewet them, like mikeh suggested.
posted by bink at 6:43 AM on May 12, 2009

If they're truly prints, they can almost certainly be wetted and separated. Drying them flat may be a problem, however, a heavy book will hold it flat enough against the scanner bed.
posted by eriko at 7:37 AM on May 12, 2009

Soak, separate, and dry flat. If there's an old-fashioned wet darkroom where you live, you might see whether they'd be willling to do this for you -- their print dryers will do a better job of making the finished product flat.
posted by gum at 7:49 AM on May 12, 2009

Can you take the negatives to a film store and have them make you a CD? I know that when I've taken regular film in to be developed, they always ask if I want a CD. This is at Ritz Camera, and granted it's been 2-3 years since I had a non-digital camera, but I assume they can still do it.
posted by JenMarie at 8:30 AM on May 12, 2009

Best answer: My Epson scanner is the same vintage as yours so yours may well do negatives. The film holders are basically black pieces of plastic that hold the film flat and I would guess holders from any scanner would work or you could rig something out of cardboard if you decide to go that route.
posted by TedW at 9:19 AM on May 12, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, all, for the advice; I'm probably going to do the re-wetting route, and then scan the negatives if that fails. I'll eventually post a follow-up when/if an example of this accident makes it onto my flickr page.
posted by not_on_display at 10:02 AM on May 12, 2009

Best answer: If you can get your hands on some Wetting agent, added to the water that will prevent any white spots appearing when they dry.
posted by Lanark at 11:07 AM on May 12, 2009

Best answer: I have a wet darkroom, unfortunately I'm a few thousand miles from you as far as I can see.

The question I'd first ask is it it fibre based paper or resin coated? I'd think it would be resin coated unless you asked for them to be printed on fibre. Fibre based paper is fine in water for as long as you like, resin based however seems to delaminate at the corners if it's immersed for too long.


Put in room temperature water for 10 minutes (if resin coated) or an hour (if fibre).

Remove and gently separate.

Squeegee them dry of any standing water with a print squeegee (if you own one). It should be almost clinically clean.

If resin coated dry them in an upright position (in a rack or hanging) or just dry them face up on a tea towel, paper kitchen towel or other absorbent material, however you may get water marks as it dries so a quick wipe with a clean sheet of tissue may be best.

If fibre based dry between sheets of archival blotting paper lightly weighted on top. Change paper for new paper after about 4 hours. Repeat until dry. Note that fibre based paper NEVER goes flat unless it's mounted.

memail me if you want any more info
posted by hardcode at 12:08 PM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

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