No! Never Scan negatives using a standard flatbed Scanner!

We have been scanning Photos, Negatives, Slides, Books, Documents, in various types of scanners. From our experience in scanning these, it is a strict no to scan negatives and slides using a standard scanner. Here in this article, you will find out why we say so.

When Epson came up with their specific scanner and software that is dedicated to scanning transparencies, we should understand that there is a specific reason for this. It is not a business tactic.

There are a lot of scanners out there that can scan photos. Out of them, there are some that can scan photos by truly capturing the colors from a photograph and removing small scratches that are already present. These scanners are meant to scan photos.

Similarly, there are a few scanners that come up with some accessories like film holders, slide holders, etc. These scanners with the accessories are specifically meant to scan transparencies. By transparencies, we mean slides and negatives.

Now, you might not be convinced of what we are saying here. Let us in the coming sections, discuss why we should not scan negatives using standard scanners or for that matter DSLR cameras too.

Why shouldn’t we scan using standard scanners or DSLR camera?

I have seen many people suggesting to scan using standard scanners. Let us see the procedure to scan using both a standard scanner and a camera.

Scan negatives/slides using a standard scanner

By a standard scanner, we mean a very less expensive flatbed scanner that is mostly used to scan documents and books.

  • Turn on the scanner (well pretty obvious)
  • Open a strip of negatives
  • Take a flat LED light with white light
  • Make a holder or glue the negative on to the LED light using a tape
  • Place the LED light with the negative on the flatbed scanner that we just turned on, obviously negative turning the side of the flatbed
  • With the LED light on, preview the negatives first by clicking on the preview button
  • Crop the exact area that has the negative frame
  • Now scan the negative using a high resolution, typically more than 1200 dpi
  • Open the image in software such as photoshop
  • Go to the Image menu and invert the colors of the image

This will result in an image that is a print-ready image file which can be in any format that you have selected while scanning.

Similar to the previous method there are a lot of people who guide a lot many amateurs to scan negatives using a DSLR camera. Using these methods, results are achievable, but they are tricky and time-consuming. We will see in the coming section how to scan using a DSLR camera.

Scan negatives using a DSLR Camera

Similar to the previous one this comes with the same concept, but with a camera, that has good lens.

  • Use similar LED lights
  • Place the negatives and glue them using tapes
  • Instead of placing the negatives on the flatbed scanner, place them on any flat surface, negatives facing up
  • Now, use the camera with any setting that you are familiar with and capture the negative with good focus
  • All this has to be done when the LED light above which the negative is placed on is turned on
  • Now the sharp image that the camera has captured has to be imported into photoshop
  • In photoshop, go to the menu, Image, and select invert colors
  • Similar to the previous section, we will be doing the same thing as the standard scanner

Looking at both the outputs you will be both surprised and happy. What you could not see all these days are right before your eyes with positive colors that are understandable to the human eye. Then why are we against scanning the negatives using any of these methods?

Let’s dig a little deeper and we will be easily able to figure it out. Let us first try to open the image that we just scanned using these two methods.

When you open the image, you will see a lot of scratches. You need to realize that the negatives are 35mm in size. What gets scanned from this size has to be scanned at a higher resolution. Moreover, the dust particles or even the smallest of the small scratches are blown to the high resolution that we selected while scanning.

So, the minutest of the minute particle is clearly visible to the naked eye due to the fact that it is zoomed in to a great extent now. Don’t you think that this hits the quality and is a great compromise?

Yes, but again, there are a lot of people who despite this shortcoming say that the negatives can be cleaned using air pump dust blower or any other similar devices. Well, these are very good at their job, but the negatives are so small in size that these blowers cannot blow out the small dust particles that will be sitting on the negatives. Even if they blow, there are all chances that other dust particles might come and sit on them.

For this reason we never suggest these methods.

While some of them ask us to use the dust blowers some other ask us to do away with the scratches using photoshop and their plugins. Though the plugins are promising, the amount of time they consume is extremely high.

It is not just about the time, this time is directly connected with the intervention of the person who is behind improving the photos. It is not that some AI does the job as good as when they are done manually. So, even using this software it is not of any use if you want to save some time and money.

Alright, now I understand that these two methods neither take less time nor are they less expensive.

On the contrary, there are these scanners that come with built-in software + hardware that can remove the scratches that we just spoke about. This removal is extremely seamless for the fact that they remove the scratches and dust without any manual intervention.

This is done using infrared technology and is mostly used by Epson company in their picture scanners. This technology is called Digital ICE technology.

What is Digital ICE Technology?

It is a technology wherein while scanning there are infrared rays that are pointed on the negatives that find the scratches and dust particles (mainly any discrepancy). These areas are filled with the surrounding colors that in turn fix the scratches.

In this section, we will be getting to know what is the best way to scan the negatives. You might have already guessed it right. Scanning using a scanner with Digital ICE technology built-in. So, what are the scanners that are available using this technology?

In fact, there are many of them out there on Amazon. We in ScanJunction use Epson V800 and that has worked wonders. People might say that this scanner is slow. Yes, even we say that. But the advantage of this scanner is that once you start the process, even if it takes 45 mins. to 1 hour depending on the no. of negatives and their resolutions, trust me, it is worth that.

In reality, you don’t have to intervene while the scanner is in process. The scanner does that in autopilot mode. All you have to do is to use the accessories. To start the scanning process, place the negatives or slides on to the designated accessory. After placing the negatives on the accessory, place the accessory on the flatbed.

Scanning Negatives and Slides using the best method

This is the only intervention that this process requires. Let us try to understand the software a little better.

After placing the negatives, open the Epson Software.

Go to the professional mode from the different modes, and as you proceed, you will see how easy it is to select the options from the software app and get the scans ready with absolute clarity.

Before scanning, you need to preview the images. This will show the print-ready pictures on the right window.

Select the path by clicking on the button beside Scan.

Select the images that you want to scan and follow the below steps.

Select the desired resolution, something like 1200 dpi or 2400 dpi.

You can even select the size of the photo that it can print up to. This comes along better with the combination of resolution.

Once selected you will be heading towards the options tab. You can select whichever options that are relevant to you. Don’t forget to select the Digital ICE technology as shown in the above image.

You can select the color correction based on the source image and your output taste.

You are done with the scanning of the negatives or slides that you selected in the first few steps and the output will be saved in the path that you gave.

Note: The Digital ICE Technology works mostly with color slides or negatives. You should be very careful with black and whites as they might ruin the output.

You can check and compare the images for yourself. The standard scanner output or camera image is incomparable with the photo scanner that comes with Digital ICE Technology.

The same image scanned using the Digital ICE technology looks as below:

Trust us, there is no manual intervention whatsoever while scanning the above negative.

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