View Full Version : Converting prints to digital

05-02-2009, 06:17 AM
Long ago I figured my retirement years would be when I'd move my photo collection from boxes into albums. *Didn't work out that way. *EVERYTHING is going digital! *Instead of albums it's now electronic photo frames with hundreds of pics stored on postage stamp sized memory chips.

I've used a number of scanners capable of converting prints, slides, and negatives to digital computer files. *All have been slow to use. *Some VERY slow. *Quality of scans varied with the type of machine and the care taken to adjust the scans made via software controls.

99+% of the pictures I want to preserve for the future are valued for memories and not wall display. *For memories high quality high resolution scans are not necessary.

The most useful function of my point and shoot camera has been to document stuff I want to trash like boxes an item comes in and instruction sheet which I tend to misplace anyway. *Example ... I take DVD's out of the plastic case and put the disc in a compact binder then photograph the front and back covers that come with the disc. *My movie list is picture files on my computer.

So ... why not snap photos of my old photos instead of scanning? *Here's some examples of my first thoughtful try at it. *I get good soft, low contrast, light coming from the sky out in front of my deck cover. *It works well for most of the document type shooting I've done. For my copy chore I put my camera on a tripod so I could aim it straight down at the table. *To help speed up alignment of the prints under the lens I used a paper trimming board because it has some heft to keep it in place and some grooves and lines to help with consist ant alignment. *I started by sorting prints by size planning to work from large 8x10's to smaller 5x7 etc.

Here's a 8x10 that looks pretty good right out of the camera. *Skinny young me sailing on Folsom with my best dog Bif. *The overall color of the pic is on the cool or blue side, but it fits the scene. *

Color balance is an adjustment that should be set in the camera so that whites and neutral colors come out without off color tints. *Most cameras have a mode to allow for MANUAL white balance adjustment. *Look in your manual. *If not use the setting of sun, shade, cloudy, or bulb for indoor lights. *Experiment with a few test shots to see which works best. *For me on the deck it's "shade."

Color balance can be tweaked in edit software. *Here's a "ring around" sample that shows how various color shifts look.

The windsurf shot was on matte paper which reduces glare from reflections. *It also cuts a little image sharpness. *Me with a trout connected to my fly rod is on glossy paper and shows what turned out to be a BIG problem doing this project out on my deck. *The reflections are of the corrugated ripple of my dirty Fiberglas deck cover. *I attempted to change the position of the print and camera to get rid of it, but turned out to be impossible with glossy prints that had a lot of black in them.

I've done a lot of print copying in the past where I used to work and had a special camera stand for it with photo lights attached at 45 degree angles to minimize reflections and give even light across the surface. *I have a couple clamp-on reflector lamps I'll try to setup inside for my next try.

Here's a 5x7 matte print as before and after edit example. *Not all memories will need the extra time taken for image enhancement, but you can see benefits.


This is Mom and me and my kids at Disneyland after I spent some time in Photoshop trying to improve it. *Didn't help much as it doesn't look much different than what came from the camera.

Due to chemical reactions most all color prints will deteriorate in time even stored away from light and air pollution in boxes or albums. *B&W has the potential to last much longer especially if washed properly after processing and archive preservation in special acid free containers.

Once digitized an image won't fade .... BUT making sure it lasts still requires protection. *Backing-up your photo files to CD, DVD, or Blu-ray discs as they seems to be the most practical media of the moment. *Problem I anticipate is technology and how quickly it changes ... few years ago my stuff was on 3 1/2" floppies and Zip discs before those special cassette tape and 5 1/4" floppies. *Who knows what it'll be a few years from now. *

Photo restoration and enhancement takes some practice and time to learn and for me FOREVER to master. *I look for inspiration in the DPreview retouching forum where some real experts show their magic.

Here's a before after of a restore I worked on for many hours quite a few years ago. *It's from a copy of a wrinkled print made by one of the guys I worked with in Vietnam. *The main edit tool used is called the clone tool and how it works is a "brush" is used to pick-up a similar tone or texture then it's pasted over the defect. *A tiny fine brush tip is used for detail that you zoom in on and a larger brush with a feathered edge covers larger areas. *Most photo edit software has a clone tool or something similar. *It's the go to tool to get rid of dust spots on copy prints or scans.

Please share any comments or ideas you have on scanning or methods you use to get digital files from your prints or slides.

Captain Compassion
05-02-2009, 06:45 AM
This is good stuff Yak. You got to stickey it up to the tops in a general photo help thread.


05-02-2009, 07:32 AM
This thread has been added to the FAQ's. The mods can decide how they want to format them and what subheadings will be required. I will back them up incase there is an Ooops moment. ;D More FAQ's and less stickies will be less cluttered and allow for more posts on the main page.

05-02-2009, 04:37 PM
Good Stuff Yak, you are definatley working on the high end.

When I moved back to Tahoe 5 years ago I gathered up all the family photos (billions and Billions) and scanned and editied them for the next year or so. So now I have all those precious memories protected for future generations and when I'm feeling nostalgic.

I used a few basic editing programs and for the most part they all came out fine.

The kids on one of their first camping trips. I think this was Lake Thomas Edison in the big orange canoe.


Worms do catch fish. Back then we ate everything and only fished on camping trips which we took lots of.



05-02-2009, 04:50 PM
This is another that I scanned.

I can't wait until my new gradson grows up and I take him fishing on camping and house boat trips. He will get a kick out of his dad's reaction


One of the best things about digital is that you can have nice family slide shows and DVD's. I also have my computer hooked to my TV thru a box and an S video cable and it is great to run slide shows thru.

It's also great for kicking back and reading good fishing literature on the big screen.

Z :)