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Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Oct 10, 2008

Digitizing Old Slides and Photos Using Flat Bed Scanners

by Justine Dorton

No written series on digitizing old photos would be complete without a thorough round-up and discussion of flat bed scanners -- you know, the ones that everyone felt so completely compelled to buy back in the late 90s, but nobody really knew why? There were good reasons back then and there are good reasons today. But my opinion is, "If you still own a scanner from the 90s, THROW IT OUT! No decent replication of any photography is going to come from something that measured pixels in dozens, I promise!" (Some of our patrons may disagree, though. Click here to read the emails we have received from our readers about their scanner experiences.)

That being said, let's talk about the current crop of scanners. Some of my previous concerns about scanners still exist. Scanners are prone to dust, which will inevitably end up as a dot on your scanned photo or document. Scanners can be slow and cumbersome to use, depending on the quality of scanner you own. Scanners that are older than, say, 2005, won't give you the image quality that photographing the image with a decent camera would (see our previous photography piece for more information). But if you have neither a new camera nor a new scanner, with a little extra effort what you have will work!

And truth be told, there are some advantages to scanning photos this way. The flat bed scanners make the problem of level planes a non-issue. It's oh-so-easy to throw a picture into your scanner and hit copy. For that convenience alone, I can heartily recommend scanners for many of your archival projects.

But, you say, how do I choose from the many hundreds of scanners out there in the marketplace? Here are some of my recommendations. I've tried to include brands that will be easily available in most markets. I'll list some key features*, pros and cons, as well as some rough price ranges so you can make an educated purchase if scanning is in your future!

As far as scanning photographs, or any reflective material, there are many scanners (even $100 scanners) that seem to perform well. Since photographs are scanned at 100% scale, even a lower 1200 dpi (resolution) scanner will do the job. I found that to do a more rigorous test of scanners was to compare slide and negative scans. Slides and negatives require the scanner to enlarge the image, by a lot usually, to make the image usable. This process is where the quality and difference in scanners shows itself.

HP makes a decent consumer grade scanner (HP G3010). It does not come with a user manual (although one is available to read or download online). You cannot (easily) adjust the color settings on the scanner itself and must rely on secondary software to tinker with the image. You can change the resolution of an image, which can help with image quality when enlarging slides or negatives, but HP already defaults to a 300% image increase when scanning slides and negatives. (You can change this functionality to a slightly more custom set, but it's buried deeply in the HP menus). Customer reviews** tend to be positive, with occasional warnings about its inability to work with Vista (check with HP to see whether they've resolved this issue), and some lack of extra functions. You can be up and running in less than ten minutes, and with the rock-bottom price coming in under $100, this scanner is a good choice.

If you are interested and willing to invest more into a scanner, or are looking for more custom set-up, the HP ScanJet G4050 (around $200) offers a lot more functionality. This HP offers something most other scanners don't -- two separate lamps for scanning. These two lamps give your colors more "screen time" and allows the scanner to capture colors and textures that others might miss. You can scan up to 16 slides or 30 negatives at a time using their add-on adapter. Image quality is generally good, although HP was (as noted above) having trouble adapting to the Windows Vista format. Customer reviews** are largely positive and many remark that this scanner is particularly adept at converting slides and negatives into digital format.

For just under $300, you can move up to a MicroTek Scan Maker i800. This scanner has a wonderful optical resolution, and can capture slides with enough sharpness and pixels to get an 8" x 10" print out of it! (The image quality of all the scanners we've talked about up to this point fall apart with prints larger than 4" x 6".) I'll refer you to some trade journals for more technical information (www.imaging-resource.com, www.cnet.com, etc.), but this scanner is better at capturing shadow subtlety, color nuance, and overall image texture. Now, that's not to say this scanner will fix poor quality or age damaged pictures, but it will give you a very good chance at taking the best of what you've got to work with. This scanner is not for the low on space, however, as it's hefty proportions will require a tall and long space to use it.

Now, for the truly committed, there is a class of scanner that can be considered the "fine chocolate" of scanning. These scanners will come with upwards of 6400 dpi (our $100 HP sports a 1200 dpi), highly programmable and custom options for color correction, high quality optical density (technical speak for capturing details in the shadows), and many other settings for the true technically advanced scanner enthusiast. These "fine chocolates" will cost anywhere from $500 into the thousands, but can deliver a home run when they step up to the plate. Some comparable scanners in this category would be the:

Epson Perfection V750-M, HP ScanJet 7800, and MicroTek Artixscan M1.


It is worth mentioning here that many people are attracted to the "All-in-one" printers, which print, fax, scan, and photocopy all from the same gadget! While these are a great bargain for multi-taskers everywhere (they can be found for as little as $80), I have yet to find a scanner on one of these printers that has any true functionality, and the dpi (resolution, remember) is typically low, at 1200 dpi. This is certainly acceptable for many of your archival projects, but be forewarned that slides and negatives will not likely scan to your approval on these multi-tasking big boys. (You'll also need a lot of desk space for these products, as they tend to be quite hefty.) HP, Kodak, Brother, Lexmark, Epson, Canon, and most other major manufacturers compete in this market, so your choices are plentiful.

Don't know what to do with all your newly scanned photos? There are several options, some of which we laid out in our previous articles, available at www.mytrees.com. For quick review, though, the first priority you have is to make some back-up copies. Storing your photos and other digital documents on an external hard drive or other dedicated drive is a worthy and commendable idea. You should be warned, however, that all hardware will eventually fail no matter how meticulously you care for it. I would highly recommend backing up your treasured photo images to CD or DVD. These discs can be tucked away in a file somewhere and kept relatively safe. Several companies also exist that offer digital on-line back up and storage, which for a price will store, at their site, all of your files and records. There are several storage companies that offer plans as low as around $50 per year.

Another suggestion for all those photos would be to publish them (or a portion of them) into a book. I highly recommend www.blurb.com for their easy to navigate editing program, their publishing prowess, their competitive price point, and their beautiful end products. Other companies that offer this kind of publishing are PicaBoo.com and ShutterFly.com . Creating a beautiful book for yourself and others to enjoy is a wonderful way to keep your family's rich history alive at your home.

We've now covered everything I can possibly think of to capture all those old photos that are sitting in a box in your basement slowly fading away. Now there is nothing left to stop you, so get to it!

*imaging-resource.com, cnet.com, consumersearch.com, popphoto.com used for reference material.
** Customer reviews as found at major manufacturing websites, cnet.com, and bizrate.com.

Copyright ©: 2011 Fficiency Software, Inc. All rights reserved. Article written by Justine Dorton

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Oct 10, 2008

Digitizing Old Slides and Photos Using Flat Bed Scanners

by Justine Dorton

No written series on digitizing old photos would be complete without a thorough round-up and discussion of flat bed scanners -- you know, the ones that everyone felt so completely compelled to buy back in the late 90s, but nobody really knew why? There were good reasons back then and there are good reasons today. But my opinion is, "If you still own a scanner from the 90s, THROW IT OUT! No decent replication of any photography is going to come from something that measured pixels in dozens, I promise!" (Some of our patrons may disagree, though. Click here to read the emails we have received from our readers about their scanner experiences.)

That being said, let's talk about the current crop of scanners. Some of my previous concerns about scanners still exist. Scanners are prone to dust, which will inevitably end up as a dot on your scanned photo or document. Scanners can be slow and cumbersome to use, depending on the quality of scanner you own. Scanners that are older than, say, 2005, won't give you the image quality that photographing the image with a decent camera would (see our previous photography piece for more information). But if you have neither a new camera nor a new scanner, with a little extra effort what you have will work!

And truth be told, there are some advantages to scanning photos this way. The flat bed scanners make the problem of level planes a non-issue. It's oh-so-easy to throw a picture into your scanner and hit copy. For that convenience alone, I can heartily recommend scanners for many of your archival projects.

But, you say, how do I choose from the many hundreds of scanners out there in the marketplace? Here are some of my recommendations. I've tried to include brands that will be easily available in most markets. I'll list some key features*, pros and cons, as well as some rough price ranges so you can make an educated purchase if scanning is in your future!

As far as scanning photographs, or any reflective material, there are many scanners (even $100 scanners) that seem to perform well. Since photographs are scanned at 100% scale, even a lower 1200 dpi (resolution) scanner will do the job. I found that to do a more rigorous test of scanners was to compare slide and negative scans. Slides and negatives require the scanner to enlarge the image, by a lot usually, to make the image usable. This process is where the quality and difference in scanners shows itself.

HP makes a decent consumer grade scanner (HP G3010). It does not come with a user manual (although one is available to read or download online). You cannot (easily) adjust the color settings on the scanner itself and must rely on secondary software to tinker with the image. You can change the resolution of an image, which can help with image quality when enlarging slides or negatives, but HP already defaults to a 300% image increase when scanning slides and negatives. (You can change this functionality to a slightly more custom set, but it's buried deeply in the HP menus). Customer reviews** tend to be positive, with occasional warnings about its inability to work with Vista (check with HP to see whether they've resolved this issue), and some lack of extra functions. You can be up and running in less than ten minutes, and with the rock-bottom price coming in under $100, this scanner is a good choice.

If you are interested and willing to invest more into a scanner, or are looking for more custom set-up, the HP ScanJet G4050 (around $200) offers a lot more functionality. This HP offers something most other scanners don't -- two separate lamps for scanning. These two lamps give your colors more "screen time" and allows the scanner to capture colors and textures that others might miss. You can scan up to 16 slides or 30 negatives at a time using their add-on adapter. Image quality is generally good, although HP was (as noted above) having trouble adapting to the Windows Vista format. Customer reviews** are largely positive and many remark that this scanner is particularly adept at converting slides and negatives into digital format.

For just under $300, you can move up to a MicroTek Scan Maker i800. This scanner has a wonderful optical resolution, and can capture slides with enough sharpness and pixels to get an 8" x 10" print out of it! (The image quality of all the scanners we've talked about up to this point fall apart with prints larger than 4" x 6".) I'll refer you to some trade journals for more technical information (www.imaging-resource.com, www.cnet.com, etc.), but this scanner is better at capturing shadow subtlety, color nuance, and overall image texture. Now, that's not to say this scanner will fix poor quality or age damaged pictures, but it will give you a very good chance at taking the best of what you've got to work with. This scanner is not for the low on space, however, as it's hefty proportions will require a tall and long space to use it.

Now, for the truly committed, there is a class of scanner that can be considered the "fine chocolate" of scanning. These scanners will come with upwards of 6400 dpi (our $100 HP sports a 1200 dpi), highly programmable and custom options for color correction, high quality optical density (technical speak for capturing details in the shadows), and many other settings for the true technically advanced scanner enthusiast. These "fine chocolates" will cost anywhere from $500 into the thousands, but can deliver a home run when they step up to the plate. Some comparable scanners in this category would be the:

Epson Perfection V750-M, HP ScanJet 7800, and MicroTek Artixscan M1.


It is worth mentioning here that many people are attracted to the "All-in-one" printers, which print, fax, scan, and photocopy all from the same gadget! While these are a great bargain for multi-taskers everywhere (they can be found for as little as $80), I have yet to find a scanner on one of these printers that has any true functionality, and the dpi (resolution, remember) is typically low, at 1200 dpi. This is certainly acceptable for many of your archival projects, but be forewarned that slides and negatives will not likely scan to your approval on these multi-tasking big boys. (You'll also need a lot of desk space for these products, as they tend to be quite hefty.) HP, Kodak, Brother, Lexmark, Epson, Canon, and most other major manufacturers compete in this market, so your choices are plentiful.

Don't know what to do with all your newly scanned photos? There are several options, some of which we laid out in our previous articles, available at www.mytrees.com. For quick review, though, the first priority you have is to make some back-up copies. Storing your photos and other digital documents on an external hard drive or other dedicated drive is a worthy and commendable idea. You should be warned, however, that all hardware will eventually fail no matter how meticulously you care for it. I would highly recommend backing up your treasured photo images to CD or DVD. These discs can be tucked away in a file somewhere and kept relatively safe. Several companies also exist that offer digital on-line back up and storage, which for a price will store, at their site, all of your files and records. There are several storage companies that offer plans as low as around $50 per year.

Another suggestion for all those photos would be to publish them (or a portion of them) into a book. I highly recommend www.blurb.com for their easy to navigate editing program, their publishing prowess, their competitive price point, and their beautiful end products. Other companies that offer this kind of publishing are PicaBoo.com and ShutterFly.com . Creating a beautiful book for yourself and others to enjoy is a wonderful way to keep your family's rich history alive at your home.

We've now covered everything I can possibly think of to capture all those old photos that are sitting in a box in your basement slowly fading away. Now there is nothing left to stop you, so get to it!

*imaging-resource.com, cnet.com, consumersearch.com, popphoto.com used for reference material.
** Customer reviews as found at major manufacturing websites, cnet.com, and bizrate.com.

Copyright ©: 2011 Fficiency Software, Inc. All rights reserved. Article written by Justine Dorton

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Oct 10, 2008

Digitizing Old Slides and Photos Using Flat Bed Scanners

by Justine Dorton

No written series on digitizing old photos would be complete without a thorough round-up and discussion of flat bed scanners -- you know, the ones that everyone felt so completely compelled to buy back in the late 90s, but nobody really knew why? There were good reasons back then and there are good reasons today. But my opinion is, "If you still own a scanner from the 90s, THROW IT OUT! No decent replication of any photography is going to come from something that measured pixels in dozens, I promise!" (Some of our patrons may disagree, though. Click here to read the emails we have received from our readers about their scanner experiences.)

That being said, let's talk about the current crop of scanners. Some of my previous concerns about scanners still exist. Scanners are prone to dust, which will inevitably end up as a dot on your scanned photo or document. Scanners can be slow and cumbersome to use, depending on the quality of scanner you own. Scanners that are older than, say, 2005, won't give you the image quality that photographing the image with a decent camera would (see our previous photography piece for more information). But if you have neither a new camera nor a new scanner, with a little extra effort what you have will work!

And truth be told, there are some advantages to scanning photos this way. The flat bed scanners make the problem of level planes a non-issue. It's oh-so-easy to throw a picture into your scanner and hit copy. For that convenience alone, I can heartily recommend scanners for many of your archival projects.

But, you say, how do I choose from the many hundreds of scanners out there in the marketplace? Here are some of my recommendations. I've tried to include brands that will be easily available in most markets. I'll list some key features*, pros and cons, as well as some rough price ranges so you can make an educated purchase if scanning is in your future!

As far as scanning photographs, or any reflective material, there are many scanners (even $100 scanners) that seem to perform well. Since photographs are scanned at 100% scale, even a lower 1200 dpi (resolution) scanner will do the job. I found that to do a more rigorous test of scanners was to compare slide and negative scans. Slides and negatives require the scanner to enlarge the image, by a lot usually, to make the image usable. This process is where the quality and difference in scanners shows itself.

HP makes a decent consumer grade scanner (HP G3010). It does not come with a user manual (although one is available to read or download online). You cannot (easily) adjust the color settings on the scanner itself and must rely on secondary software to tinker with the image. You can change the resolution of an image, which can help with image quality when enlarging slides or negatives, but HP already defaults to a 300% image increase when scanning slides and negatives. (You can change this functionality to a slightly more custom set, but it's buried deeply in the HP menus). Customer reviews** tend to be positive, with occasional warnings about its inability to work with Vista (check with HP to see whether they've resolved this issue), and some lack of extra functions. You can be up and running in less than ten minutes, and with the rock-bottom price coming in under $100, this scanner is a good choice.

If you are interested and willing to invest more into a scanner, or are looking for more custom set-up, the HP ScanJet G4050 (around $200) offers a lot more functionality. This HP offers something most other scanners don't -- two separate lamps for scanning. These two lamps give your colors more "screen time" and allows the scanner to capture colors and textures that others might miss. You can scan up to 16 slides or 30 negatives at a time using their add-on adapter. Image quality is generally good, although HP was (as noted above) having trouble adapting to the Windows Vista format. Customer reviews** are largely positive and many remark that this scanner is particularly adept at converting slides and negatives into digital format.

For just under $300, you can move up to a MicroTek Scan Maker i800. This scanner has a wonderful optical resolution, and can capture slides with enough sharpness and pixels to get an 8" x 10" print out of it! (The image quality of all the scanners we've talked about up to this point fall apart with prints larger than 4" x 6".) I'll refer you to some trade journals for more technical information (www.imaging-resource.com, www.cnet.com, etc.), but this scanner is better at capturing shadow subtlety, color nuance, and overall image texture. Now, that's not to say this scanner will fix poor quality or age damaged pictures, but it will give you a very good chance at taking the best of what you've got to work with. This scanner is not for the low on space, however, as it's hefty proportions will require a tall and long space to use it.

Now, for the truly committed, there is a class of scanner that can be considered the "fine chocolate" of scanning. These scanners will come with upwards of 6400 dpi (our $100 HP sports a 1200 dpi), highly programmable and custom options for color correction, high quality optical density (technical speak for capturing details in the shadows), and many other settings for the true technically advanced scanner enthusiast. These "fine chocolates" will cost anywhere from $500 into the thousands, but can deliver a home run when they step up to the plate. Some comparable scanners in this category would be the:

Epson Perfection V750-M, HP ScanJet 7800, and MicroTek Artixscan M1.


It is worth mentioning here that many people are attracted to the "All-in-one" printers, which print, fax, scan, and photocopy all from the same gadget! While these are a great bargain for multi-taskers everywhere (they can be found for as little as $80), I have yet to find a scanner on one of these printers that has any true functionality, and the dpi (resolution, remember) is typically low, at 1200 dpi. This is certainly acceptable for many of your archival projects, but be forewarned that slides and negatives will not likely scan to your approval on these multi-tasking big boys. (You'll also need a lot of desk space for these products, as they tend to be quite hefty.) HP, Kodak, Brother, Lexmark, Epson, Canon, and most other major manufacturers compete in this market, so your choices are plentiful.

Don't know what to do with all your newly scanned photos? There are several options, some of which we laid out in our previous articles, available at www.mytrees.com. For quick review, though, the first priority you have is to make some back-up copies. Storing your photos and other digital documents on an external hard drive or other dedicated drive is a worthy and commendable idea. You should be warned, however, that all hardware will eventually fail no matter how meticulously you care for it. I would highly recommend backing up your treasured photo images to CD or DVD. These discs can be tucked away in a file somewhere and kept relatively safe. Several companies also exist that offer digital on-line back up and storage, which for a price will store, at their site, all of your files and records. There are several storage companies that offer plans as low as around $50 per year.

Another suggestion for all those photos would be to publish them (or a portion of them) into a book. I highly recommend www.blurb.com for their easy to navigate editing program, their publishing prowess, their competitive price point, and their beautiful end products. Other companies that offer this kind of publishing are PicaBoo.com and ShutterFly.com . Creating a beautiful book for yourself and others to enjoy is a wonderful way to keep your family's rich history alive at your home.

We've now covered everything I can possibly think of to capture all those old photos that are sitting in a box in your basement slowly fading away. Now there is nothing left to stop you, so get to it!

*imaging-resource.com, cnet.com, consumersearch.com, popphoto.com used for reference material.
** Customer reviews as found at major manufacturing websites, cnet.com, and bizrate.com.

Copyright ©: 2011 Fficiency Software, Inc. All rights reserved. Article written by Justine Dorton

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

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