Batch-scanning a truck load of scene photographs- any advice?
August 15, 2010 12:22 PM   Subscribe

(batchscanningfilter) So I have recently agreed to scan in a friend's photo archive of our local music scene (He pretty much 'ran' the scene for the past 25 years)... we're talking thousands of photos here.... I have a few questions......

He just dropped off the first crate of photos. They have been stored in cardboard boxes, which in turn were stored in plastic tote bins. They are lined up vertically in rows within the cardboard boxes, and were kept in a dark closet over the years. The plan is to scan them, save them on DVD, as well as put them all in a cloud.

Stuff I know: 1)Stay away from rubber bands. 2)Do not store the pictures flat. 3)I know this is going to take a lot of time; that's fine, I am having a major surgery soon and will have a few months of being invalid and very bored and have no problem with the time issue (however, any tips on being as productive as possible are appreciated).

My set up: an ancient huge flatbed scanner that I found at a thrift store, not sure on the exact size, but I can scan six 5x7" pictures at once, and the built-in firmware crops each picture into it's own file (which is SWEET) but it only works on my ancient XP machine. I also have another large HP flatbed scanner that will hold several pics and works with my Vista machine, but there is no firm/software with it, it will scan all of the pics, but I have to manually crop and save each picture individually out of the main scan. I plan on rocking both simultaneously.


1) The prints have been stored quite well, considering, but I am noticing that some of them are starting to get a little sticky, which I attribute to moisture getting into the boxes. As I scan the sets in, I plan to put each set/collection into a zip-lock bag before returning them to their respective boxes. Is there anything more I can do to help the preservation process?

2) Does anyone know of any freeware that will auto-crop and save each scan of multiple-photos as individual files ala my first-mentioned ancient monster scanner does? (So that I can use my second scanner and not have to manually crop and save each photo?)

3) Recommendations for what online service to use for batch uploading, sorting, and sharing? (I am familiar with Flickr, Photobucket and Imgur, but have never used any of them for a project of this magnitude).

4) Any other recommendations for anything that will help me be more productive? Tips for size/resolution/etc to make this as painless as possible yet still end up with decent quality photos? These don't need to be "perfectly" archived, so to speak, more-or-less just duplications of the originals. That is, I'm not worried about touching them up, fixing red-eye, editing them, etc, I just want to scan them all in and have them appear just as they look on (photo)paper......

5) Any/all input that anyone has regarding 'batch' scanning will be greatly appreciated, you'll be helping me digitally archive the city of Flint, MI's underground music scene from the past 25 years- I am doing this for love, not money!

As always, thanks in advance, Mefi!
posted by peewinkle to Technology (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
3) Smug mug is our go to photo sharing site.
posted by NoDef at 12:45 PM on August 15, 2010

1) Perhaps there is some kind of photo storage dessicant you could put in the zip lock bags? I'd call a local photo shop and ask a few questions.

2) GIMP has some possibilities for batch processing images, you might look into that. If you've got any programming experience or a friend that might, it would be relatively trivial to script something like this wrapped around ImageMagick.

3) I've heard lots of good things about pro Flickr accounts.

4) With hard drive space being so cheap these days, I would scan at as high of a resolution as possible. Don't forget backups.

5) You might see if you can get a few minutes advice from a librarian that specializes in archiving. It's a really awesome idea, I find the different histories of underground music scenes fascinating, particularly those outside of the "giants" (NYC, DC, LA, etc.).
posted by hominid211 at 12:56 PM on August 15, 2010

This isn't much help, I know, but it sounds to me like you should try harder to get the scanner you like working with the computer you like.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:13 PM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love Flickr like I love my family, but you'd have to get a Pro account to store more than 200.

well that's not technically true, you can keep uploading as many as you want with a free account, you just can't really access any more than the most recent 200, but you get the point.
posted by komara at 2:56 PM on August 15, 2010

I've never actually used it, but VueScan is supposed to be one of the best scanning programs. However, it is $40. I checked their website and it seems like you can do what you want... Good luck!
posted by majikstreet at 3:38 PM on August 15, 2010

Scanning is only part of the job. Without metadata you'll have a hard time finding anything specific. Do the photos have any identifying information on them? See what you can do to capture that with the files.
posted by roue at 9:07 PM on August 15, 2010

Best answer: I'm planning on doing a bunch of scanning of family photos in the coming weeks and, although I already have a flatbed scanner, I’ve been thinking of just getting a Doxie.

Although the Doxie looks hideous—like a black Visoneer Paperport with manga-Japanese-school-girl pink hearts on it—I like the idea of just being able to mindlessly feed photos through it
(rather than having to mess about with the opening/closing of the lid, placing and removing photos on my old flatbed scanner—a task which is which is fine for a few photos, but a chore for more than that).

I haven't bought a Doxie yet (they don't sell through Amazon yet), but scanning with one seems like it might be more something I could do while I was watching a movie or something.

Also, it has an automatic "upload to the cloud" feature (Flickr or Picasa), and since I have a Flickr Pro account, that would be convenient. (Although I don't know if the scanning interface will allow you to add the Flickr tags at the time of the scan, or if you have to do it via Flickr once they're uploaded)
posted by blueberry at 10:07 PM on August 15, 2010

Best answer: This might be more complicated than you're bothered about, but it might be worth thinking about calibration of your scanner and/or monitor. It would be a shame to scan in so many images for the purposes of archiving and discover all the images are quite green or washed-out or something. I know you don't intend to do a proper full-scale "archival" job on them, but given how many photos there are and how long it's going to take, I bet it's something that's only going to happen once.

I don't know much about calibration and scanning but it would be worth reading a bit about it online or in a book, to at least be aware of the issues. I recently borrowed a calibration unit (a Spyder3) from a friend and calibrated my monitor - I'd been using it for years and it looked fine to me, but I now realise it had a very distinct pink cast, which would have affected how I treated images.
posted by fabius at 2:25 AM on August 16, 2010

In regard to my last message, a reply from the Doxie people:
"...Doxie's interface currently doesn't have a way to add tags to images as they are being sent to Flickr (will log this as a feature request, though). You'd need to add tags within Flickr once they're uploaded."

posted by blueberry at 9:52 PM on August 16, 2010

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