Scanning pre-digital images |

Scanning pre-digital images

The photographs from your digital camera are in a digital form ready to be transferred to your computer’s hard drive and viewed, organized, cataloged, edited, e-mailed, printed and archived.

But what about your conventional film photographs? Your old color slides? The photographs of your parents and grandparents taken many years ago that are fading? How do you get those images into the computer?

The best way is to take your photos, negatives and color slides to the Quality Photo Service shop here in Grass Valley that has the specialized equipment needed.

Or you can do it yourself.

Doing it yourself means you need to create a digital representation of the image that the computer understands. A scanner does that quite well. A scanner is the link between conventional photography and digital photography.

Everyone with a computer should have a scanner.

The typical, flat-bed scanner will scan documents and snapshots from your family album. Flatbed scanners are somewhat like copy machines: A glass plate (or platen) under a lid, a moving light source and a moving single line sensor.

Copy machines produce prints and scanners produce digital files. Your editor or viewer program on your computer can start the scanner and import the file into a folder of your choosing on your computer.

Scanning slides and negs

But what about the negatives and color slides?

A typical flatbed scanner doesn’t work very well with those, but the more advanced models feature a transparency adapter that will allow you to scan your negatives and color slides.

Canon, HP, Epson, and other companies have inexpensive flatbed scanners with transparency adapters that function quite well that cost less than $100.

My Canon flatbed scanner, Canoscan 4400F, has a transparency adapter in the lid. The adapter is a bracket holding four-color slides or six negatives and a light source. The scanner software can be configured for conventional document scans on the platen or color negative, color positive or B&W negative scans using the transparency adapter.

The driver software converts negatives to viewable photos.

All of my slides and negatives have been scanned and archived. The catalog consists of:

– 1,147 color slides

– 2,241 color negatives

– 2,134 B&W negatives

The scans are sized for viewing on a monitor – 600 pixels by 400 pixels. I have given each of my slides and negatives a file name that is the location, for example, the box the slide is in and the location within the box. The file name is written on the slide itself. If I wish to find a slide, I can quickly locate it, re-scan to a higher quality level, edit and print it.

Helpful Web sites

There’s a downside to scanning slides.

Understanding the brochures to select the scanner you want and understanding the scanner manual is a daunting task. If you do want to plunge in and learn all about the subject, I cannot say too many good things about the Web site

There, you will find a complete course covering almost all aspects of scanners and digital imaging. It’s written for beginners who enjoy delving into the details.

At you will be able to understand the difference between an image viewed on your computer monitor (where it’s all about pixels) and an image on a piece of paper (where the Pixels-Per-Inch (PPI) stuff comes into play). You will learn that scanning film, whether negatives or slides, should be done at 2400 PPI or more, and that there’s no point in scanning prints beyond 300 PPI.

To go a significant step beyond a flatbed scanner there is the Nikon Coolscan. It is five times the price of a flatbed scanner, but with it I can perform a final scan of a negative or slide at 2900 pixels per inch, and I’m provided with a bunch of tools to eliminate dust, scratches, fading and other imperfections that mar the picture.

The Coolscan is cool.

Mitch Bain is a volunteer with the Gold Country Computer Learning Center. The Web site is For information about computer classes, call 273-0497. E-mail Mitch with your questions at

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