Scanning photos yourself

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Topic Author
Caduceus
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Scanning photos yourself

Post by Caduceus » Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:11 pm

So I finally took the plunge and bought a high-end Epson scanner and the results are really good. I compared my scans to the ones made by a professional lab and mine are better, which makes me realize that the main limitation on getting a good scan is basically time. Here are some reasons why you might want to scan yourself rather than outsource it:

I do my scans in almost complete darkness so there is no extraneous light, unlike photo labs who work in brightly lit offices. Flatbed scanners are not completely lightproof, so extraneous light that enters through the edges changes scanner readings.

I can position the image exactly so no further rotations are necessary. One of my peeves with photo labs is they often send back scans that are not scanned straight to begin with. I would rather not have to re-process the image by changing the angle as I suspect this will degrade image quality, even in TIFF, so I prefer to get it right from the scan.

I can remove dust from main areas. Photo labs won't do this for you. If my preview scan shows a dust speck on some important area, like a face, I remove the photo and use a cloth to remove the dust. It impossible to remove all dust from photos, so I only focus on the important areas, which also saves me re-touching time later on in Photoshop.

The $0.75 per photo cost of scanning photos are places like Scancafe is looking less and less like a value deal. If you want good scans, do them yourself!

HereToLearn
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Re: Scanning photos yourself

Post by HereToLearn » Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:31 pm

How do you achieve almost complete darkness? Just in case I ever return to using my old Epson V700.

123
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Re: Scanning photos yourself

Post by 123 » Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:31 pm

Caduceus wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:11 pm
So I finally took the plunge and bought a high-end Epson scanner and the results are really good...
What model did you buy? What made that model attractive versus others that cost more or less?

I recently went on a tour of a (Mormon) Family Research Center and saw that they had scanners available for public use. It looked like some of them had masks for scanning multiple photos/slides at once and some allowed you to have it automatically scan a stack of 20 photos.
Last edited by 123 on Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.

123
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Re: Scanning photos yourself

Post by 123 » Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:32 pm

HereToLearn wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:31 pm
How do you achieve almost complete darkness? Just in case I ever return to using my old Epson V700.
Couldn't you just turn the lights off and work at night?
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.

Topic Author
Caduceus
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Re: Scanning photos yourself

Post by Caduceus » Fri Jun 07, 2019 10:20 pm

HereToLearn wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:31 pm
How do you achieve almost complete darkness? Just in case I ever return to using my old Epson V700.
I do most of my scanning at night, with the curtains drawn, and once I hit the scan button, I use a thick cardboard to block out the light that comes from my computer screen. There is some ambient light that comes in through the curtains, and if I wanted, I could buy those 100% light-proof curtains from Amazon, but I'm quite happy with my current set up.

Topic Author
Caduceus
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Re: Scanning photos yourself

Post by Caduceus » Fri Jun 07, 2019 10:26 pm

123 wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:31 pm
Caduceus wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:11 pm
So I finally took the plunge and bought a high-end Epson scanner and the results are really good...
What model did you buy? What made that model attractive versus others that cost more or less?

I recently went on a tour of a (Mormon) Family Research Center and saw that they had scanners available for public use. It looked like some of them had masks for scanning multiple photos/slides at once and some allowed you to have it automatically scan a stack of 20 photos.
I bought the V800. I got it for $600 brand new. It was $300 cheaper than the V850. I wasn't sure I wanted extra coatings on the lenses as those can degrade over time and it was 1.5x the price, otherwise it seemed like everything was the same. I didn't want to buy an Epson V700/750 because those are no longer in production and so the units I would be getting would be old ones. Even unused scanners will degrade if left sitting there over time.

I just have to figure out how to clean the scanner glass in time to come. That seems tricky to do without scratching it.

bob60014
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Re: Scanning photos yourself

Post by bob60014 » Sat Jun 08, 2019 8:12 am

Caduceus wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 10:20 pm
HereToLearn wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:31 pm
How do you achieve almost complete darkness? Just in case I ever return to using my old Epson V700.
I do most of my scanning at night, with the curtains drawn, and once I hit the scan button, I use a thick cardboard to block out the light that comes from my computer screen. There is some ambient light that comes in through the curtains, and if I wanted, I could buy those 100% light-proof curtains from Amazon, but I'm quite happy with my current set up.
Rather than darkening the entire room for a somewhat similar project, I made a "blackout blanket" cut oversized to cover the scanner, allowing me to work with the lights on. It does make for an extra step in the process but I was able to freely do other things during the scans. Most fabric and photography stores stores have material for this.

Topic Author
Caduceus
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Re: Scanning photos yourself

Post by Caduceus » Sat Jun 08, 2019 2:20 pm

bob60014 wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 8:12 am
Caduceus wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 10:20 pm
HereToLearn wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:31 pm
How do you achieve almost complete darkness? Just in case I ever return to using my old Epson V700.
I do most of my scanning at night, with the curtains drawn, and once I hit the scan button, I use a thick cardboard to block out the light that comes from my computer screen. There is some ambient light that comes in through the curtains, and if I wanted, I could buy those 100% light-proof curtains from Amazon, but I'm quite happy with my current set up.
Rather than darkening the entire room for a somewhat similar project, I made a "blackout blanket" cut oversized to cover the scanner, allowing me to work with the lights on. It does make for an extra step in the process but I was able to freely do other things during the scans. Most fabric and photography stores stores have material for this.
Good idea and I may try that. My only concern is that the scanner glass picks up dust very easily and I predict that constantly moving a blackout blanket away and then on top of the scanner will introduce dust no matter how careful I am. I am actually a little anal about it. I wipe down the room floor and surface before I start scanning (maybe 15 minutes tops) and I run the HEPA purifier for about an hour before I start scanning. I hate cleaning scanner glass and re-touching photos, so I figure this actually saves me time because every speck of dust appears on every photo I subsequently scan.

Topic Author
Caduceus
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Re: Scanning photos yourself

Post by Caduceus » Sat Jun 08, 2019 2:25 pm

One other thing I've discovered. Lots of websites say that a scan at the scanner's true optical resolution (in my case, 4800 dpi) just makes a large file without adding detail. They suggest to scan at 600dpi max. I've found this to be only partially true through trial and experimentation.

At 4800 dpi, my color photos aren't perceptibly better, but my black and white photos (the really old, beautiful ones of ancestors) show a HUGE difference. At 4800 dpi, the light and shadows and contrast are a universe away from my 1200 dpi scans. I was having trouble understanding why but I have three theories. The first is that silver gelatin photos, unlike contemporary printed photos, actually have more subtle and gradual tonal ranges that benefit from the higher resolution. The second theory is that scanning at higher resolutions forces the scanner carriage to move very, very slowly, resulting in more intense light exposure at a given spot at any given time, so the picture ends up showing the brights and darks much more clearly -- (I think this second theory is the most likely explanation). The third theory (because I still don't understand how resolution/sampling works) is that the scanner doesn't have to "resample" to a lower resolution and just preserves all the original data.

For whatever reason, I have found scanning at the max optical resolution to make a great difference to my black-and-whites but not my color photos. If anyone knows the reason I'd be happy to know why.

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lthenderson
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Re: Scanning photos yourself

Post by lthenderson » Sat Jun 08, 2019 5:28 pm

Caduceus wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:11 pm
the main limitation on getting a good scan is basically time.
I have found this to be true as well. One tip I have is use good scanning software rather than the software that came with the scanner. Mine has a setting that allows me to randomly toss several photographs at a time on the bed and it will scan them to separate files and automatically rotate them so they are perfectly orientated. That frees up time to focus on the details like removing dust and correcting exposures. I then have another software program where I can fix blemishes in the photos with a heal function that can make those old ancestor photos look almost like new.

fru-gal
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Re: Scanning photos yourself

Post by fru-gal » Sat Jun 08, 2019 6:23 pm

I have an old Photosmart 3210. It does a beautiful job of scanning, including on those about 1 inch x 1 inch ancient photos. It is the best all in one ever.

Unfortunately no longer sold. I have one other that I am going to try to figure out how to fix some day so I can use these ad infinitum. That second one has a problem with feeding ink.

WolfgangPauli
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Re: Scanning photos yourself

Post by WolfgangPauli » Sat Jun 08, 2019 6:41 pm

Built into Google Photos is a scanning feature on your phone.. It works incredible and automatically tags the photo and files it in your google photos.. Once in google photos you would never know it was not a picture you took yourself. It is amazing.

I am like a crazy man when I go to my parents or relatives home and i find them displaying family pictures i scan them with this app on my phone and voila! I have the scan!
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climber2020
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Re: Scanning photos yourself

Post by climber2020 » Sat Jun 08, 2019 7:02 pm

WolfgangPauli wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 6:41 pm
Built into Google Photos is a scanning feature on your phone.. It works incredible and automatically tags the photo and files it in your google photos.. Once in google photos you would never know it was not a picture you took yourself. It is amazing.

I am like a crazy man when I go to my parents or relatives home and i find them displaying family pictures i scan them with this app on my phone and voila! I have the scan!
Have you done a side by side comparison with a real scanner?

I read lots of glowing reviews about the Google app in another thread here so I tried it out. It looks terrible and nowhere near the quality of a decent flatbed scanner. Blow the image up and there’s no detail. At small sizes like a 5 inch phone screen there’s no difference, but if you plan on using the scans to make medium/large prints or view on a large monitor, the difference will be noticeable.

BIGal
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Re: Scanning photos yourself

Post by BIGal » Sat Jun 08, 2019 8:29 pm

Bought an Epson V600 back in 2013....great scanner, haven't used in a while. I bought it to scan old photos AND negatives. It is a great machine but takes a while since it is a flatbed. I also have a ScanSnap iX500 that I use almost daily...but not for pictures. As long as you are okay with investing the time to learn and process, I am sure you would be very satisfied with the product...but do buy a good flatbed if that is what you intend.

TravelGeek
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Re: Scanning photos yourself

Post by TravelGeek » Sat Jun 08, 2019 8:39 pm

climber2020 wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 7:02 pm
WolfgangPauli wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 6:41 pm
Built into Google Photos is a scanning feature on your phone.. It works incredible and automatically tags the photo and files it in your google photos.. Once in google photos you would never know it was not a picture you took yourself. It is amazing.

I am like a crazy man when I go to my parents or relatives home and i find them displaying family pictures i scan them with this app on my phone and voila! I have the scan!
Have you done a side by side comparison with a real scanner?

I read lots of glowing reviews about the Google app in another thread here so I tried it out. It looks terrible and nowhere near the quality of a decent flatbed scanner. Blow the image up and there’s no detail. At small sizes like a 5 inch phone screen there’s no difference, but if you plan on using the scans to make medium/large prints or view on a large monitor, the difference will be noticeable.
I bookmarked this article for future reading when I actually find time to work through my piles of old photos.

https://www.picturesandstories.com/news ... old-photos

bob60014
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Re: Scanning photos yourself

Post by bob60014 » Sat Jun 08, 2019 9:01 pm

Caduceus wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 2:25 pm
For whatever reason, I have found scanning at the max optical resolution to make a great difference to my black-and-whites but not my color photos. If anyone knows the reason I'd be happy to know why.
Post processing color enhancement will help some with those color photos. Where the higher resolution really comes into play is when you want to enlarge a photo, reducing graininess.

Going back to the "blanket" for room darkening, its really a catch all term. The material can be rubberized or vinyl sheets. This reduces the lint issue.

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Caduceus
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Re: Scanning photos yourself

Post by Caduceus » Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:15 am

bob60014 wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 9:01 pm
Caduceus wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 2:25 pm
For whatever reason, I have found scanning at the max optical resolution to make a great difference to my black-and-whites but not my color photos. If anyone knows the reason I'd be happy to know why.
Post processing color enhancement will help some with those color photos. Where the higher resolution really comes into play is when you want to enlarge a photo, reducing graininess.

Going back to the "blanket" for room darkening, its really a catch all term. The material can be rubberized or vinyl sheets. This reduces the lint issue.
Thanks. Learning how to get a good scan is actually fairly challenging as I am still new to it. I'm not so worried about the post-processing as long as I capture the original image's data, especially its tonality/shadows/highlights. This is harder than I expected and you read all kinds of conflicting things on the web. Some experts say never to apply sharpening masks at scan as it blurs the image destructively and only to do it post-scan in apps like Photoshop; other experts say that a light sharpening mask should be applied at the point of the scan to facilitate output sharpening later.

And then Epson says you should try not to include areas outside the image inside the scan area as it can mess up the color balance and exposure; others recommend a border around the image in order to better tweak the color balance in post-processing. And then I previously learned from Spirit Rider on Bogleheads that I should make sure the image is perfectly straight during the scan as non-90 degree rotations will soften the image because Photoshop has to re-process the image and create pixels where there were none before (this makes sense to me)

It's made me realize that scanning is really part art and part science, and that something like Scancafe will probably never give high quality scans given how fast they must do them.

I am new to this, so after a lot of experimentation I got only one good scan of a 70 year old photo after 3 hours.

If anyone has tips pls share them or PM me; much appreciated. I am trying to remind myself that this should be fun!

Topic Author
Caduceus
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Re: Scanning photos yourself

Post by Caduceus » Tue Jun 11, 2019 11:32 pm

bob60014 wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 9:01 pm
Caduceus wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 2:25 pm
For whatever reason, I have found scanning at the max optical resolution to make a great difference to my black-and-whites but not my color photos. If anyone knows the reason I'd be happy to know why.
Post processing color enhancement will help some with those color photos. Where the higher resolution really comes into play is when you want to enlarge a photo, reducing graininess.
I just wanted to add after being taught how to do proper scans by a skilled scanner operator (met on Tindr within two hours, lol) that there are some things that post-processing cannot handle and that you must get right from the scan. For example, he showed me by opening some of my files in Photoshop that using the scanner's default exposure settings had ended up "clipping" the whites. This means that when the light levels of the scanner (controlled mainly by the duration of exposure of scanner light to the image) is too high, I have permanently lost some detail in the image as the less-whites all become white and indistinguishable. In other photos, I got lucky, because the default scanner settings happened to be applied beautifully to an existing photo and all of my colors were saved - none were lost in the process of the scan.

It's been a steep learning curve, but the main takeaway that I think would help others is: every photo requires a different exposure/scan setting if you want to capture all the image information (by looking at histogram information in Photoshop). It sucks that I now have to redo maybe two days worth of scanning, but I am glad I learned this early rather than later.

He helped me scan the same photo I tried a few days ago. His came out with the entire gamut of colors and shadows and was subtle and nice. Mine was a bit sharp and aggressive and had lost tonality.

Glad I never used Scancafe!

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