Home Forums Technology Old photo slides – is it worth it to scan?

This topic contains 16 replies, has 15 voices, and was last updated by  mwsandra 2 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #158457



    My father has always been an avid photographer, even when he fought in World War II. So he has thousands of slides, including photos of when he was based in the Pacific during the war. He really is very talented and artistic.

    He was in town yesterday visiting me, and we were at a photography store. The owner was saying that sometimes it’s best to just leave slides alone, especially if one still has a projector to view them with. But if the projector breaks, then it’d be hard to view as no one makes slide projectors any more.

    Is it worth it for me to buy a scanner that can scan slides and scan in the majority for him? And have him help me label them while he still can? Then burn them to DVD (along with backing up to an external hard drive) so he, friends and family can view them on their TV?

    Thanks in advance for any advice and suggestions.

  • #164016


    Old photo slides – is it worth it to scan?

    RJ, this is something that has relevance for me, too! I hope someone has some good info on this.

  • #164017


    Old photo slides – is it worth it to scan?

    First, you don’t have to worry about slide projectors going away. Professional photo houses like Adorama.com and BHPhotoVideo.com have dozens of modern projectors available.

    Next, if you do decide to scan, do *not* get rid of the old slides and negatives. They are your original memories. Consumer digital technology is always evolving and has yet to surpass the resolution of your original slides and negatives. Think of scanning like copying CDs to oldschool audio cassettes; you lose quality in the transfer.

    Lastly, it may not be economical for you to do the scanning yourself. How much is your time worth? Cheap bargain $150 scanners take 60 to 600 seconds to scan, dust/scratch remove, and color correct each image. Is 60 seconds times 1,000 slides worth your time?

    Your best bet is to check out a scanning service such as DigMyPics.com since they have bays of professionals running high-speed Nikon scanners to do the work for you. I haven’t personally used them yet but I’m in the process of putting together a shipment of a few hundred negatives to test them out.

    You can also take a look at ScanCafe.com although their turnaround is a couple weeks because they ship overseas to India to do the scanning.

    Edit: It should also be noted that those $150 bargain scanners you see advertised in Sharper Image and other specialty shops are pretty much garbage; the quality loss is pretty staggering. They’re just fine if you want to show someone a low quality slideshow but not nearly good enough to do enlargements.

  • #164021


    Old photo slides – is it worth it to scan?

    Thank you Claycat, Pixoul, and 365LessThings for responding.

    We did consider sending them away to be scanned in, but he’s very fearful the slides will get lost or something, especially if they got sent to India.

    I never knew slides could deteriorate, so thanks for letting me know that, as it will be a consideration in the decision.

    Right now I’m not working, so it was something I am considering doing while off work. It’d also allow me to spend some quality time with my father.

  • #164024


    Old photo slides – is it worth it to scan?

    I would say yes. You can always keep the slides afterward, but then you would have images to share with friends and family, and even museums. What a wonderful thing to chronicle history so that future generations can see it all for themselves!

    You could even have the best photos make into a photobook. Places like http://www.mypublisher.com/ and http://www.blurb.com/ make good quality books.

  • #164045


    Old photo slides – is it worth it to scan?

    I bought a nice Epson Perfection 4990 Photo model flatbed scanner several years ago in order to scan my grandfather’s slides and my own. I am still chipping away at it, but am happy with the results, especially when a orange or pink faded picture returns to color balance in one click! The original price was around $600 but you might be able to find used ones on eBay nowadays since other models have come along to take their place.

  • #164051


    Old photo slides – is it worth it to scan?

    Thank you Aunt Cloud, Mrs Mack, Laetita, Another Deb, JuliaH,

    I have not seen the WWII photos, so I do not know yet if they are historical, or if they are just pictures of family. The slides go from WWII to the 1980s, so there’s quite a few. But if I choose to do this scanning project, it won’t be scanning in every slide, just the cream of the crop.

    I have been looking at Epson, as I love their products. I’m a former graphic designer and regret selling my Linotype-Hell scanner years ago. The Epson scanners have good reviews for slide scanning. I think a scanner may be a good investment, because I can also scan in my paper files too.

    I’m also checking into online backing up and TimeMachine by Apple.

  • #164204


    Old photo slides – is it worth it to scan?

    Sorry to be a bit late to the party but I’ve had some success with a much simpler and faster setup that no one has mentioned.

    My wife and father-in-law have many slides. I purchased a carousel projector on eBay, pointed it at some white posterboard, put my dslr on a tripod and went to town. The projector has a wired remote and I picked up a small remote for my camera. Once the tray was loaded and the projector focused, it was very quick to advance the slide, hit the camera shutter, then repeat. Just seconds for each one, minutes for the entire tray.

    Some post-processing was needed. I oriented all of the slides the same way, then spun the landscape ones in software. It was pretty quick to use a skew tool to fix a bit of an angle I introduced (careful setup would have avoided this). I relied on “auto fix” settings to even out colors.

    I have a backlit scanner and a slide scanner but this was so quick that I actually did it. The scanners might be able to produce higher res images that would be good to print from but for display on a TV (photo dvd) or monitor, these pics were fine. If nothing else, it’s a good preview to find favorites or collect comments.

    If your slides are in decent shape (safe to put in a projector) I suggest borrowing an uncle’s projector and taking some photos of the photos. good luck

  • #164207


    Old photo slides – is it worth it to scan?

    Ingenious. DH has quite a lot of slides from a trip to Australia (without me, the rat! Heh. It was only two months after we hooked up … ). I have never even seen them! And I suspect, neither has he! Something must be done.

  • #164215


    Old photo slides – is it worth it to scan?

    I did a couple of boxes of slides for my parents with an HP C8180 All-in-one. It has a special tray to hold 4 slides at one time or a strip of negatives. I was pleased with the outcome as were my parents. It was rather time consuming, of course, but I used the times during the actual scan to catch up on some reading. I really liked being able to load 4 in at once rather than having to do them one at a time.

  • #164216


    Old photo slides – is it worth it to scan?

    I’m doing my own scanning project. The results are online at http://www.flickr.com/jlcrook I’ve scanned almost 3000 slides with another 3500 or so to go. I wouldn’t even consider sending my slides away for scanning. I use a CanoScan 8600F which lets me do 4 slides at a time. The most important part to me is sticking them online as I go because that way I can share them with anyone. I also use a Creative Commons license for most of them (unless I happen to know that they are my brother’s slides–I stick All Rights Reserved on those). I choose a modest quality scan because I figure that if a slide is worth it, I can always rescan it later. I love having my slides online. You can see them at http://www.flickr.com/jlcrook My best tips–add accession numbers, upload and edit as you go, and stick into sets by date or category.

  • #164219


    Old photo slides – is it worth it to scan?

    @fluke, that’s an interesting idea. How was the quality? Did you do any comparisons against an actual scan of the slide? I really like this idea, gonna have to try it with the 3x25gal rubbermaid bins of my grandfather’s old slides.

  • #164220


    Old photo slides – is it worth it to scan?

    Fluke- Did you take the pictures in a dark room? I could easily do this with my Dad’s old slides (boxes and boxes) but was wondering if taking the pix in the sark (or in bright light) against the white background works better.

  • #164242


    Old photo slides – is it worth it to scan?

    Most scan-for-hire companies provide only compressed JPEG files for your investment. Compressed is great when you want to cram as many images as possible onto a single disc or drive — but a terrible idea for long term digital preservation. Uncompressed TIFF files are your safest bet. On the other hand, as long as you are keeping the original slides, you don’t need to worry so much about digital preservation.

    No point in keeping treasures if no one sees them, so by all means scan and share!

    P.S. Aunt Cloud, I like your idea about the possible historic significance of these images, and I hate to sound ungrateful…but just because a university or historical society owns the equipment it doesn’t mean they have the staff time or funds to scan your family collection for you at no charge. I work at a large public institution and we get requests like this on a weekly basis.

  • #164262

    Old photo slides – is it worth it to scan?

    I have used ScanCafe.com and they did excellent work although it is true that the results were only available as jpeg. It took forever – probably at least six weeks. The web site has a pretty detailed tracker so you can tell where your slides are and what they are doing with them; things like ‘recieved’, ‘scanning’, etc and of course you get shipping tracking.

    I also bought the cheap imagelab instant scanner. It’s incredibly quick and easy but the results aren’t very good. The colors look wonky and I had to use my editing software to fix that. But it works without attaching to a PC – you just insert an SD card so that’s totally convenient. I used it to scan a bunch of negatives from an old crappy point-n-shoot cameras where the images weren’t that good to begin with.

    I also tried that thing where you project the image onto a screen and photograph that but my results were terrible. Obviously it work OK for others – I obviously did something wrong.

    It’s great having them in digital form. I use them as my screensaver so there’s almost always a slide show of images from the old days going on when nobody’s using the computer. The whole family has enjoyed being able to see them at any time.

  • #164289

    Old photo slides – is it worth it to scan?

    OK, I am adding to this discussion because I just did 10,000 slides. I borrowed a friend’s Nikon 4000 scanner with autofeed. The autofeed isessential if you are doing any quantity atall. I did not get them professionally scanned because the cost was too much and anywhere I checked it out, the Megabytes of each picture was toosmall making the pixels too big which equals graininess.

    Here is my list of suggestions:
    Borrow the scanner, the goodones are tooexpensive and when you are finished with your slides you will never want or need one again. If no photog friends, buy one on ebay used and resell it used. It willcost about $400.00. Get the autofeedr, Icannot emphasize this too much.

    Preselect the good slides. Each scan willtake you 1-2 minutes or more. DO NOT scan junk, itis a waste of time. My family enjoyed setting up the projector and helping me put the slides into a ggood and bad category.

    Be real sure you test and know which way to put the slides in. upside down or landscape is not so bad but do not get them backwards. Regular photoedit software cannot mirror image flip them so you will have to scan them a second time.

    I actually like the idea that one guy had up above here about shooting them onto a close, fine grained board and taking photos of them. It can’t beat a good scanner but it would really be much faster and easier.

    Also, be very patient with the process. It will take you hours and hours. You have to babysit the auto feeder quite a lot too. It gets jammed and craps out a lot but faster than one by one. I set my scanner up to autodump each scan into my PC after each slide. I set up about 30 slides in each batch, and let them roll while sitting by and reading a book. I could often hear it starting to hang up and slide the feeder to free the stuck slide before it crapped out.

    I am glad I did the project. As a reward to myself, i bought a 32 inch high def’n TV to use as the monitor on an old desktop PC. I loaded the hard drive up with pictures in folders by years. Then i set the screensaver to do MyPictures randomly. Now people (family) come over just to sit in my computer room and see old slides come up. I am working now on sorting my digital photos by year and ruthlessly culling out bad pix. I hope to have my whole life in photos by the time I die. Also, i bought a backup external drive so i have the picturs in two places. Good luck.

  • #185430


    Old photo slides – is it worth it to scan?

    Hi, I am super late to this thread but wanted to share about my experience with http://www.gophoto.com. I did research first and found out that scancafe sends your photos to India! (that’s why it takes so long). I would freak out if my photos went overseas. Either way I came to the conclusion that it would just be too much for me to scan them myself (it would take forever!) and it’s true that the online companies have much nicer/more professional scanners, so usually they can get better quality. Hope this helps!

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