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Slides to Digital Tips for Film to
Tips for converting & scanning 35MM slides and negative film to digital photos, jpg, tif...and storing slides to CD or DVD. These tips and techniques were learned while running my 35MM slide scanning business.
Slide Scanning Tips Introduction:
My intent in publishing this page is to share the logic and techniques I've learned about scanning 35MM slides to digital photos. Not only will the processes of organizing, preparing and scanning slides be covered, but my post scan enhancement procedures will also be explained in detail. 35MM slides, converted to digital, often need post scan enhancements to look their best.
I don't claim to be an digital imaging expert. I also don't claim that my methods are the best way to digitize slides. What I do claim is that I have lots of experience, and lots of happy customers.
If you are involved with a slides-to-digital project, or you run a slide scanning service, hopefully, these slide scanning tips will save you time and help you get better digital images from slide film scans. If your project involves scanning 35MM negatives, some of the information here may be helpful to you as well.
I've published a blog, related to my scanning business.
Soon you'll find tips here for scanning slides for profit and tips for converting Slides to PowerPoint.
My interest in photography started in 1979 when I bought my first SLR camera, a Canon AT-1. Shortly thereafter, I shot my first roll of 35MM slide film, probably Kodachrome 64. I was impressed by the "projected" slide viewing experience, as compared to viewing small prints. As a result, I shot 35MM slide film for about 15 years and amassed over 1300 slides of my own.
During the late 1990's I began publishing photos on the Web by scanning 4 x 6" prints on a flat-bed scanner. With a large lot of 35MM slides and no means to digitize them, I purchased a dedicated film scanner to bring my own slides into the digital world. Only as an after-thought, some time in 2001, I posted a page on the Web advertising slide scanning services. To my surprise, the page started doing very well for searches related to slide scanning, first on Yahoo!, then other search engines. The result has been a very successful slides-to-digital service, which I operate out of my home office. Most of the orders I received come through the mail but drop-off and pick-up order are common too. The recent trend of people finding my service on a mobile browser might have had an impact the local versus distant customer ratio. It seems mobile devices point searchers to local businesses than a non mobile search.
After having personally scanned and enhanced many thousands slides, I've gained lots of experience in both the film scanning process and in post-scan enhancements.
If you have no prior experience with scanning, image formats or scan resolution, I suggest you browse Wayne Fulton's Scantips.com. You'll find page after page of easy-to-understand information related scanning both photos ( prints ) and scanning film. Various digital image formats are also discussed in detail.
Choosing and Buying a 35MM Slide Scanner / 35MM Film Scanner
If scanning 35MM negatives and slides represents the bulk of your project, I recommend buying a dedicated film scanner. Many of the newer flatbed scanners have the capability to scan film, but it's likely you'll get better results, not to mention saving lots of time, by using a dedicated 35MM film scanner.
I recommend the Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 . Unfortunately this model is no longer produced. I've found that demand for used Nikon 5000 scanners has driven the price way up. Getting the NikonScan drivers to work on newer operating systems is a challenge but it's not impossible.
The Nikon 5000 scans film fast and will also accept the optional auto slide loader, the SF-210. ( More about the SF-210 later - also discontinued.)
I'm sure there are many other film scanners that do a fine job, but my experience is with the Nikons and I've had very good luck them. Never have I had to send one of the Nikons out for repair. This is why I recommend them.
BEWARE OF LOW COST "FILM SCANNERS" WHICH ARE LOW END DIGITAL CAMERA SENSORS & MAKE POOR QUALITY COPIES OF YOUR 35mm SLIDES.
Because the Nikon 5000 can accept the SF-210 batch slide feeder, it may be one of the most widely used scanners for large slide scanning projects or scanning slides for profit.
I recommend only one company for film scanner purchases, B&H Photo & Video
You might find scanners advertised at lower prices elsewhere, but often when you chase lowest price for a product ( or service ) you don't find out the "catch" until it's too late.
Preparing 35MM Slides for Scanning Tips
( Some but not all of this info is specifically for scanning using the Nikon Super CoolScan 5000 ED and the Nikon SF-210 auto feeder.)
If you have lots of 35MM slides to scan, some planning and preparing of the slides in advance will make the project go more quickly and can result in higher quality scans.
Cleaning 35MM Slide tips before Scanning
35MM slides often have fine dust and debris stuck to the film surface. These tiny specks, stains and spots can be microscopic, but when magnified by high resolution film scanning, they can be troublesome.
Fortunately, most dedicated film scanners provide some type of dust elimination process. A common one is call Digital Ice. The dust and scratch removal feature of Digital Ice involves emitting infrared light through the film during the scan. The infra-red light passes through the film but not through the specks and spots. The scanning software then has a picture of only the specks. The software then "grows" the image in on those spots, eliminating the smallest ones.
Because of this infra-red cleaning process, its not always necessary to spend lots of time removing fine dust from film. Larger spots on film are not eliminated by the "Ice" process, especially when your scanning Kodachrome film or with a Kodachrome slide film setting. For this reason you might consider light brushing of your Kodachrome film prior to using compressed air.
It should be noted the older model, Nikon 4000 scanner can only use Digital Ice 3, which often leaves undesirable artifacts on Kodachrome slide scans. The newest Nikon 5000 scanners use Ice4, which minimizes artifacts when used on Kodachrome...as long as the film type is set to Kodachrome.
If your slides are extra dusty and dirty, it is best to remove as much of the loose debris as possible prior to scanning. You don't want dust and lint building up on the optics of your film scanner.
I have found that brushing excessively dusty slides with a soft, clean brush can help loosen material. I use new artist brushes with soft fine bristles. The diameter of the brush you choose, at the end of the bristles, should cover most of the film surface in one pass. The brushes I use were purchased at a local crafts store. It important to keep a few brushes on hand and wash and dry them after use. You don't want contaminants from the brushes spreading from one batch of slides to the next.
Often I receive 35MM slides from customers, in older plastic sleeves. Some types of plastic slide storage sleeves can emit an oily residue over time, which condenses on the film surface. When I see this oily film I do no brushing, as it only smears the oil. Fortunately, this oily residue in mostly transparent .
It should be noted that brushing slides is usually not needed unless they are excessively dusty.
Tips for Cleaning 35MM Slides with Compressed Air
I prepare 35MM transparencies on a clean, stainless steel tray, with a spotlight overhead on an articulating arm. The overhead light reflecting up off the stainless steel provides a diffused light source from underneath. This diffused light source is needed for seeing through the slides, so they can be oriented properly while stacking. I make the stack just short of the amount that will fit into the plastic slide storage boxes.
Unless slides are very dusty, the only cleaning I do prior to scanning is using compressed air. I don't blow them off 1 at a time. I put about 30-40 transparencies in plastic slide storage boxes. (pictured at the top of this page)
I leave 1/4 to 1/8 of the box empty, allowing the slides to move a bit. I keep a finger over the top of the box to prevent the slides from flying out while blowing compressed back and forth across the mount edges. Make sure compressed air is not at too high or low a pressure. I recommend more than 40 PSI but less than less than 60 psi. Too high an air pressure could damage slide mounts or loosen film within the mounts. After blowing off the slides and the inside of the box cover, I close the box right away. This keeps transparencies free of dust on their way to the scanner.
Always check the compressed air nozzle output to make sure it's not contaminated (or wet) prior to using on transparencies or negatives.
It's important to remove loose debris from film for two reasons. First, you don't want specks showing up and the scans and second, you don't want debris falling off the slides and into the scanner or SF-210 slide feeder.
Compressed air should be filtered to remove any moisture. Hearing protection and eye protection is a must while using compressed air.
Kodachrome Fungus - Mold
Kodachrome slides, stored in less than perfect conditions, can sometimes develop the growth of a fungus on the film surface. This fungus can visible as spider shaped spots on film scans, with a thick nucleus and hair-like extensions emanating out from the center. There may be liquid solutions available for removing fungus from film, but I have not tried any fungus removal at all. It seems Kodachrome slide film may be more prone to mold growth than other film types.
The boxes I use for sorting, organizing, and shipping mounted 35MM slides are available from the JRON company in lots of 250 boxes, enough for almost 12,500 slides!
Using these plastic slide storage boxes makes scanning and organizing large lots of 35MM slides much easier. They hold 40-50 slides, depending on mount thickness, roughly the same amount of slides that will fit in the Nikon SF-210 slide feeder, aka auto-loader. While your slides are stored in these boxes they are kept free of dust. Numbering the boxes helps keep track of the scan order, in the event you had to go back and rescan a slide.
Tips for Sorting 35MM Slides Prior to Scanning
Unless you need to scan slides so that they are grouped by date or by some other factor, it helps when you can sort the slides by film type, mount type and by orientation ( group by portrait or landscape orientation. )
Sorting by slide film type:
Kodachrome Slide Film Scanning Tips: If you use the dust and scratch removal option of Digital Ice 4, within the NikonScan software, it's important that you set the film type to Kodachrome, when scanning Kodachrome slides. If you don't do this, the dust and scratch removal process will leave undesirable artifacts on the scans. The artifacts can include elimination of fine detail and a halo effect around areas areas of differing color.
Sorting slides by orientation: Another consideration for sorting of 35MM slides, prior to conversion to digital, is by the photo orientation. With the 35MM Nikon film scanner all slides must go through the scanner with the long side down. The NikonScan software provides a setting to flip image orientation prior to scanning.
If you group all of your horizontal and vertical shots and scan them separate from each other, you can cut down on the need for post-scan rotation of the digital images.
Sorting Slides by mount type or thickness:
If you're batch scanning using Nikon's SF-210 slide feeder / batch loader, sorting the slides by mount thickness can be helpful. The SF-210 feeder has an adjustable gate which should be set based on the thickness of your slides. If you don't put all similar thickness mounts together, you might find that your constantly stopping the cycle to adjust the gate. Most slide mounts are similar in thickness but some, often those in glass covered mounts, are up to 3 times as thick as the thin ones.
Scanning Slides "In Sequence" Tips
There are times when scanning slides in a specific order is required. Where slides are being converted to digital for use with PowerPoint, is a good example. Lots of my customers teach, by projecting slides with a carousel slide projector. Their slides are displayed from their Kodak projector in a specific order. After converting their film to digital, they want the digital images to display in the same sequence as the they did from the Kodak slide projector. When this is the case, I ask them to number the slide mounts in the order they want them scanned.
Scanning slides is a specific sequence often results in different film and mount types intermixed in the sequence. As mentioned above, when using NikonScan software, Kodachrome slide film requires that the film type be set to Kodachrome to avoid problems with Ice dust and scratch removal. To get the work done with any efficiency, you cant stop the scanning to change the film type every time the film type changes. The solution is to scan all the slides with the film type set Kodachrome. This provides benefits of dust and scratch removal ( although diminished ) but does not bring about the "Iced" Kodachrome artifacts.
Be aware the Digital Ice dust and scratch removal is not compatible with black and white film or slides made with line art, ( ink on clear film ) . You'll recognize the results when you see B&W images with lots of detail missing.
Help with NikonScan 4 Software Setting Tips
After installing NikonScan software you'll be required to choose a color space. I use Adobe sRGB.
Another choice you'll need to make is the image format. I scan to uncompressed tif (tagged image file format) exclusively. Tif files are large as compared to jpeg (joint photographic experts group) but there are many advantages to tif format. First, it is widely accepted. Virtually all image editing programs can open tif files. Many professional printing services prefer tif files over jpg for the best print quality. Read more about digital image file formats at Wayne Fulton's Scan Tips.com
If you plan to edit your scans to improve them after scanning is complete, TIF is the best format to use. JPG files might be small in size but jpg is compressed. From my experience opening a 15MB TIf file can actually take less time then opening or saving a 5 MB JPG file.
I keep most of the settings on NikonScan set at their default settings. After making changes to the film type, resolution, Digital Ice option etc, it's important to save these settings by clicking on the settings tab in the prevview pane, then select "set user settings". This prevents your changes from being lost.
I don't adjust analog gain and I don't use the features in "Scan Image Enhancer".
Tips for Improving 35MM Slide Scans in Adobe Photoshop CS2 or CS3
Here's how my workflow goes with most of my slide scan orders. After scanning to uncompressed tif files is complete, (uncompressed photos open faster) I open up to 100 files, all at once in Adobe Photoshop. Adequate RAM is needed for these types of actions. I have 12GB RAM and use RAID 0 drives. RAID 0 hard drive systems dramatically speed up read/write times. That increased speed comes with an increased risk of drive failure because two are acting as one.
Once the selected files are open, I analyze each one. Here is what I look for, to correct:
The fastest way to make corrections in Photoshop is to leave the mouse alone. Keyboard shortcuts and customized keyboard shortcuts speed things along nicely in Adobe Photoshop. I've created a few Photoshop actions for enhancing scans too.
Copying Slide Scans to CD-R or DVD-R
It doesn't make sense to spend a lot of time and effort converting film to digital, only to store the scans on bargain brand optical media. I've had good luck with TDK and Memorex brand CD-R and DVD-R. I don't currently use DVD+R disks.
CD or DVD should never be relied upon as your only copy of important files.
In addition to using name brand optical disks, I always handle DVD's and CD's with extreme care. I Always keep the disks covered in their tubes and in a dark cabinet. Before inserting DVD's or CDs that will be burned, (written to) it is best to examine the write surface for defects or debris. Discard disks which have blemishes.
NEVER touch the R/W surface of optical disks. Fingerprints are bad.
When I create DVD's of my customers 35MM slides, I return them in a plastic case with one side black, to block the light. The mini jewel cases get bagged to keep dust out. CD cases are not dust proof.
I send an info sheet to all my customers advising them of how fragile and volatile optical disk storage it. I recommend that they copy their scans to hard drives, first thing.
Coming Soon - Long Term 35MM Slide Storage Tips...
Other Tips Pages by Jim
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