Making contact prints from sleeved 35mm negatives
October 28, 2014 6:14 PM   Subscribe

I have several hundred pages (sleeves) of 35mm color negatives. A few years ago I started a project to scan-in all the negatives. But because of my own disorganization, the project has turned into a big mess.

I've been sending out small batches of negatives to get them professionally scanned, but I have stupidly lost track of which negatives have been scanned already and which ones have not.

What would be very helpful, I think, would be to create contact prints from the negatives. I do have an old, inexpensive flatbed scanner. It works for scanning photos and documents and such, but it can't scan negatives or slides. An Epson V700 would do it, but it's crazy expensive.

Is there any sort of hack that would produce usable (if crude) contact prints from these negatives? Or does anyone have any other tips on how to sort this out?
posted by akk2014 to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I know this sounds crazy but you can use a flashlight like this page describes.
posted by Jewel98 at 6:43 PM on October 28, 2014

If you live near a college with a darkroom, offer to pay a student to spend a day or two making them for you. But even if you make them yourself, photo paper is expensive (here are 1000 sheets for $600). So depending on how many sheets you actually have, I might just buy the scanner, honestly. Especially if you have no interest in the contact prints as objects.
posted by hollyholly at 4:30 AM on October 29, 2014

OP has color negatives, not B&W

That paper you linked to is B&W paper. Your local college darkroom may have a color lab but it may not. It is no harder to make color prints/contact sheets than with B&W, you just need the materials - color paper is not cheap either.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:39 AM on October 29, 2014

Ugh, thanks, I'm a dingus who can't read. But that pushes me even further into just buy the scanner territory -- B&W photo chemistry is very forgiving and safe, and comparatively color chemistry is pretty precise and toxic.

Does it cost enough to have these negatives scanned that it's totally off the table to just have them all scanned again? I'd guess so, or you wouldn't be asking. Maybe you can get someone local to do it more cheaply (again, art students)?
posted by hollyholly at 8:50 AM on October 29, 2014

Best answer: If you don't care much about quality, I'd look at finding a cheap lightbox (or make your own with some paper and a desk lamp) and using it with your existing scanner instead. Just lay out the negatives, put the lightbox on top, and scan. You should be able to invert the colors of the resulting image and get something relatively recognizable out.
posted by Aleyn at 11:17 AM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you don't care that much about quality, get a regular lightbox (they're cheap) and photograph the negatives with a digital camera (well, presuming you have one). It takes a little know-how to turn them into positive images but the basics are to invert the image and then use the eye dropper to find your white point.

Using a lightbox with a scanner might not really work - for it to work properly I think you need to turn off the normal scanner light. You might also have a devil of a time getting the settings how you want them.
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:37 PM on October 29, 2014

I agree with b1tr0t, you can contact print color negs with B&W paper (reduced contrast), but by the time you churn through them all, you might have spent in paper, chess and time what a used flatbed scanner would cost you.

You could go the llightbox route that RustyBrooks mentions (learning to read negatives for exposure, etc is hard, but you get used to it the more you do it), but instead of buying a lightbox, do you have an iPad or other tablet? Open a white screen. I use it all the time to go through slides.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:52 PM on October 29, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the tips. Gives me ideas on things to try.
posted by akk2014 at 6:09 PM on November 2, 2014

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