Many places across the world have no idea that the negative rolls that were flooded by the market pre-millennium times can be digitized and be made available in such a way that any color printer can print them into a photo like the one below.
Yes, the above photo was scanned directly into a jpeg, that is ready to print. This could be a surprise to many, but it is certainly possible with the available scanners. The quality of output may vary, depending on the scanner.
It was really fun to capture photos from an analog camera. When the camera button was clicked, the cameras used to make a noise and the place where the negative rolls were inserted used to turn to the next film. The new negative film was ready to capture the next still.
If you go into detail, it is the negative film rolls that essentially have the necessary elements to capture the still. This in turn used to get developed under a red light, without which the negative roll gets exposed when kept under direct sunlight or any other bright light.
There are several types of these films coming in different sizes and slightly different material. Let us try to understand them before getting into the process of scanning.
35mm Negative Films
One standard filmstrip of a 35mm film contains a frame of 4 36mm x 24mm frames. Each frame is numbered with the number printed on the top or bottom of the frame. These frames date back to 1934 which was when they were introduced and became the most popular among the transparencies.
120 & 220 Negative Films
Though these are not as popular as its 35mm counterpart, this was introduced even before that, in 1901. They are around 60.7mm and 61.7mm wide. The spool that holds the negatives were originally made up of wood, later metal and is now available in plastic. They mostly come in the form of rolls that are of the size starting 30 inches and going till 33 inches.
While 120 films are shorter in length, to increase the number of exposures, in 1965 220 films were introduced, which are double the length of 120 films.
Large Format Negative Sheet Film
4″ x 5″ large format sheet film are also called by the name photographic film. They are sourced ion individual sheets of acetate or polyester film base. You would think this format would be 4×5 inches in size, but it’s not. The sheet size is usually about 100mm x 125mm and the frame size is roughly about 95mm x 120mm. These types of sheets also do not come in rolls. They just come as individual sheets.
Now that we know the types of films that are available, what we should know along with that is we can scan all the three kinds of negatives in scanners that we are going to discuss about in the coming sections.
Before going to the process, let us also learn the way they are captured in negatives, in terms of colors. To understand this, the best way is to start with the following exercise:
General Exercise of Scanning Negatives
- Keep it in the best flatbed scanner that you know
- Scan them in at least 1200 dpi resolution
- Don’t forget to turn on the backlit correction
- Note the path where it is getting saved
- Open the saved negative film from the path it is saved in
- Use image editors like Photoshop or Gimp (an open-source alternative to Photoshop)
- Go to the “Colors” menu in the top that is shown along with the file
- Roll down the cursor to one of the options called “Invert”
- Click on the “Invert” option
- You will see the negative image turn to an image that will be ready to print
This is the easiest way to scan a negative and convert them in the format that will be ready to print. But, if you observe closely it will not be of the best quality. There might be the following compromises in the quality:
- Small scratches that are inevitably visible when scratched
- Color not yet true colors depending on the year of capture
- Dim in brightness
- Smudges here and there
- Reddish and yellowish tinges
This is the quality we can expect when we directly scan using flatbeds. It’s not that we cannot correct these errors using software like Photoshop or Gimp, but what we should understand is, it takes a really long time to correct them. Instead, if we purchase a negative scanner specifically meant for such kind of work, especially the one that we use at ScanJunction, Epson V800, it will certainly save a lot of time.
Inexpensive Negative/Slide Scanners if you want to use them
There are other types of fast scanners that can be done using one of the negative or slide scanners available out in the market like:
- KODAK SCANZA Digital Film & Slide Scanner
- Magnasonic All-in-One High Resolution 22MP Film Scanner
- Wolverine F2D Saturn Digital Film & Slide Scanner
- Film Negative Scanner 22 MP 110 135 126KPK Super 8 Negative Photo Scanner
- DIGITNOW 22MP All-in-1 Film & Slide Scanner
These are pretty quick in scanning for a good resolution. But these are uncomparable to the output that you get using a professional flatbed negative scanner where we use some accessories like frames. People who have no idea how a professional photo scanners scan try to scan them using these scanners.
If you don’t believe us, you can have a look at one of the negatives scanned using both small scanners and a professional scanner. It will leave a color tinge that will be frustrating only after you look at the same image scanned in the professional scanner.
To sum up, if you want the best quality (scratchless and true colored) scans, the only way is to get one of the pro scanners and the best one among them based on our experience is Epson V800 or Epson V850.
So, now that we have found out the best scanner, let us follow the step by step guide to scanning a negative film or a slide.
How to Scan Negative/Slides using an Epson V800 Scanner
The process is a step by step guide for scanning using Epson V800, however, the reasons behind selecting some of these will be very similar in other scanners as well.
There will be one major advantage using Epson V800, the fact that it has a special feature called Digital ICE Technology, which will automatically remove small scratches that are a part of any negative. These scratches will be visible only when scanned at high resolutions.
You can see the difference between the one done with Digital ICE technology turned on and the one with Digital ICE Technology turned off.
Before scanning you need to make sure that you have all these accessories that you have received from Epson. They are:
- 35 mm film holder that can hold 12 negatives
- 120 negative film holder that is of the size of 120 negative film
- The large-format negative film holder
- Slide film holder that can hold 35 mm slides
- Remove the white background that is stuck to the lid of the V800 scanner from inside. This is used only to scan the photos.
Once these are ready, you need to select the accessory based on your requirement, insert the transparencies, and start scanning using the below-mentioned settings step by step.
Step by step guide for scanning negatives/slides using Epson V800 Scanner
- The first step is to open the application either from Desktop Shortcut or from Program.
- Once the application opens, you can select the mode in which you want to scan them. There are three modes:
- For this article let us consider the professional mode as that covers most of the options from the application.
- For Negatives/Slides, select “Film with film Holder”. This changes the mode and it will be ready to scan the films. This is where the scanner recognizes the placements and scans according to the measurement of negatives.
- Along with this comes another setting for the type of film. Most of the time it is selected as B&W Negative Film.
- Image type is the type of color that make the photos. For true color, the colors used are 8 bits of the three colors, Red, Green, and Blue, that sums it up to 24 bits.
- Resolution is a key parameter as it adds more and more pixels for a given area. The more the no. of pixels, the better the image is. It translates as follows:
- At 300 dpi, scanned photos can be view in a screen as big as a tablet that is as big as a 10 inch
- At 600 dpi, scanned photos can be viewed in a screen as big as a 32 inch
- At 1200 dpi, scanned photos can be viewed in a screen as big as 60 inch
- You can keep the document size to the default unless you are sure about the cropped size of the reflective glass
- You can change the target size to double size or same size or whatever size you want them to be
- Adjustments are the quality of the image with filters, restorations, and color corrections:
- Unsharp mask is an image sharpening technique that sharpens the images in terms of pixels and clarity
- If you apply descreening, the image that is full of circles (happens when they are printed in a low-resolution printer) will be removed as shown in the image below
- Color restoration feature restores the colors that are lost in the photo over a period of time
- Backlit correction brightens the images by removing the darkness in the background
- Small dust particles can be removed from the digital ICE technology technique of the Epson Scanners by default
Once the features are handled, click on the preview button to show the photos in a low resolution.
The preview can be automatically cropped provided you select the thumbnail option after placing the photos with ample space in between and straight with respect to the rectangle glass.
If you don’t select this option, you will have to manually select the images however much you want the images to be cropped.
Once you get the thumbnail, you can select the adjustments by selecting the thumbnails. The scanner will scan those photos whose thumbnails are selected using the checkbox below.
Once the selection is made, you are good to go ahead in scanning the photos. They will be scanned in the resolution typed with the adjustments selected.
There is a folder icon beside the Scan button. This button has a few options like:
- The format in which the photos have to be saved
- The path where the files have to be saved
- The quality of the image
Once the pictures are saved in the deserved format, they have to be checked for errors. The following is the checklist to quality check the photos saved.
- Check for the uncropped photos with black edges or white borders
- Some photos might be cut in between, especially when the scanning is done using thumbnail option, rescan them
- A few photos might have extra colors when color enhancement is enabled
- Placing the photo edges parallel to the scanner edges digitizes the photos the right way without losing parts of the photos
Create a folder for each roll of negatives
If you don’t own the photos, stick a label with a number on every roll or slide collection, and create a folder with that number, scan all the negatives/slides of that album, move them into that folder.
This will map the physical roll of negatives with the digital folder, making it easier to search.
Relish the memories
The digital memories that you have just scanned are priceless. You will relish and reminiscent each of your old memories in the form of a digital copy from where ever you want to, sharing with your family and friends.
Don’t forget to share these tips with your known contacts as it may help them bigtime.