Photo Scanners
January 18, 2014 4:03 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any recommendations on what scanner to purchase to scan some photos and negatives? Some of the pictures that I want to scan are older than I am and I was hoping that I could scan these pictures and negatives and then use the program called Aperture to fix some of the imperfections on the pictures. The other thing is that the amount of pictures I have to scan are immense. The number of pictures and negatives will be in the thousands. While this seems like an overwhelming task, I want to be able to show my future children all of their relatives that are no longer with us. I don't want to spend a fortune, but if there are scanners that can facilitate doing this quickly I am willing to save up money to make a good investment that can get this huge project done more quickly. If anyone has any suggestions, please post.
posted by nidora to Technology (7 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered sending them to a scanning service instead?

It's definitely a leap of faith to entrusting unique and precious personal items to a remote service, but the equipment available to large companies perhaps makes it a better investment than equipment that will take time to use and require a learning curve to get optimal results. Perhaps there's a service local to you?

Otherwise, contact a local photo equipment dealer, and see if they have negative/transparency scanners available to rent.
posted by holgate at 4:19 PM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I use an older Epson but the new Epson V550 Perfection Photo Scanner seems to be the current edition of the same feature level. Works great, "sees" that 4 photos are on the glass and scans them each to a new file. Tweaks the alignment to make the photo be square in the scan. Does negatives and slides. Just remember you have to give it new photos so install it where that would flow smoothly. I find naming 4 takes about the same time as the next 4 scanning. We did 5000 over several months, just have to be ready to reload.

This assumes normal odd sizes and perhaps reverse side annotations to take stock of and maintain if important in the file name etc.
posted by Freedomboy at 4:51 PM on January 18, 2014

My mom used a scanning service for our family photos and it turned out great, and we all got copies of the discs. We used ScanMyPhotos, which is mentioned in the link above. You'd then still be able to fool around with some of the images to try to fix them up if you liked.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:07 PM on January 18, 2014

I asked a similar question a few months ago.

Since then I've purchased an Epson Perfection V600 flatbed scanner. It also has a rack for putting 35mm (and other size) negatives, which would probably make things faster and improve quality. I don't own many negatives. I've done over 1200 old pictures so far, mostly from 1960-1980. Lots of Polaroids, lots of curled up prints.

If you value your time, you might want to look into a scanning service. I priced them out and they seem reasonable. I would have used one but a) I don't like the idea of sending out my photos and b) I'm amazingly stubborn when it comes to paying for something I'm capable of doing myself.

I've been scanning them into Aperture (actually, into a folder, then into Aperture) at 600dpi.

Here's the thing:

Scanning is the easy part. You sit at your computer listening to music, and about every thirty seconds you put four more pictures onto the scanner. Usually the software will separate them into four .tif files (or .jpg, but I use .tif for better quality) though sometimes it has trouble and it scans them into a single file. That's ok, you can crop them later in Aperture.

So now you've got a few hundred photos in a folder. That might be good enough for you.

After scanning, I bring them into Aperture to straighten and crop them. I do an Auto Enhance to improve the color. I tag and rate them and identify the people in them. In some cases I write a description. All this takes a lot more time than scanning.

Another thing, even if I wipe the prints with alcohol ahead of time, and even if I try to keep the glass clean, a lot of the pictures end up with white flecks on them. This is either dust of some sort of artifact of scanning them. Certain types of photos are really bad, while others are mostly fine. It can be cleaned in Aperture or Photoshop but it takes time. I'm curious how the pro services deal with this.

So, my point is, you can drop a hundred or two on a scanner to do what you want to do. You can spend a few nights scanning photos in and you'll have preserved them. They can always be edited later, or left for future generations to do so.

Or, you can drop a few hundred bucks on a service and have them do all this for you.

I'm glad I'm doing it myself. If I get bored I stop and return to it in a couple weeks.

tl;dr: An Epson V600 (or lesser model) will do what you want and do it well and somewhat quickly. You'll spend less than $200 and then the rest is time.
posted by bondcliff at 6:29 PM on January 18, 2014

I got my (not too technologically advanced) grandfather an Epson V300 a few years back to scan all his old photos and negatives. It was easy to use, he scanned over a thousand pictures with great results.
posted by Behemoth at 7:23 PM on January 18, 2014

Are the negs of the pictures? Or are they different? How many negs compared to pictures?

I have just completed scanning hundreds of old family photos and slides. Highest resolution flatbed scanner I could find for the photos, and a Nikon slide scanner for the slides (and some colour negs). Nikon software plus Lightroom for the slides/negs, and the flatbed software for the most part for the photos, with some cleaned up/enhanced in Lightroom (the most 'important' ones).

I scanned at high resolution, as I did not want to have to go back if I wanted eg a decent print.

I would not use a flatbed to scan slides or negs, not if image quality was a priority, but ymmv. Unless the photos are say 8x10, or smaller but really sharp and well exposed, I would prefer a high quality scan of the negative.

This is eminently doable, depending on what value you place on your time, and the quality control that you can exercise. Almost certainly you will want to do some dust/scratch removal, colour correction, exposure correction etc - make sure your software can handle it, and you can handle the software.
posted by GeeEmm at 8:02 PM on January 18, 2014

I asked about scanning slides here. A cheap $100 scanner proved to be crappy. I got a $300 Plustek Optifilm 8100 instead, and I'm happy with it. Be prepared to do a lot of color correction as you go. (With a lot of slides, you get good at it pretty quickly...)
posted by zompist at 3:52 PM on January 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

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