How to get good flatbed scans from colour slides?


TPF Noob!
Aug 20, 2006
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Dublin, Ireland
Hi folks,
I've about 750 mounted slides, mostly Velvia, that I want to scan with my Epson Perfection 4490 flatbed scanner (Epson Perfection 4490 Photo Scanner, Overview - Product Information - Epson America, Inc.). The scanner has a 'holder' into which you drop the mounted slides.
I've scanned the first dozen or so, and the results are really poor. Very dark images, saturation is very weak. In short, the scans are nothing like the beautiful, sharp, detailed image as can be seen directly from the slide, even with a cheap, €20 slide viewer. The vibrant colours are all gone.
I'm wondering if there's any point continuing.
The accompanying software, EPSON Scan does allow tweaking of curves and saturation, but that seems like a lot of work to manually adjust every slide. And the results of the adjustments fall far short of the original slides.
What have people done before? Should I just scan the slides without adjusting in the scanner software, and hope to batch process all the slides with Photoshop afterwards? Is that even a realistic aspiration, since not every image will require the same adjustments? Is manual adjustment of individual images with Photoshop the only way I'll get decent results, and are such results only ever going to be a poor replica of the bright and vivid slides?
Thanks for the advice.
P.S. I'm scanning at 4800 dpi and 48-bit colour (16-bit per channel). TIFF format, uncompressed.
I almost hate to ask, but have you turned on the transparency illuminator's light source?

Are you scanning as "Color Transparency" in EPSON Scan?
Hi Derrel,
;) Yes, light source on, and setting to 'Positive'. (They're not quite that bad, but still nothing like the slides themselves.)
Talk to you later,
Yeah, winky-wink back...I had to ask that...sorry!!! But,still, hey, you know, stranger things have time I was FRANTIC....I told my buddy Steve, "You gotta help me find my G-D eyeglasses...I need 'em tonight and I can't find them!!!" and he says,

"Uh, dude, you're WEARING YOUR GLASSES!" and I felt my face and went, "Oh, yeah...mumble...mumble," so you know...

Huh. Have you used the selection tool to select just the slide area? Is there an area outside of the slide surface itself that is within the selection area, which might be causing the scanner's exposure checking system to give a wildly false reading? Meaning, is the selected area to be scanned covering **only** image area? The marquee, or selected area should not include slide holder areas, etc, just the picture area.

Second--what mode are you in? EXPERT or AUTO? Are you selecting the desired area of the scan, then doing a pre-scan, so that the software can pre-scan the slide and figure out what the "real" exposure needs to be when you hit the SCAN check box for real and make the actual scan?

Are the scans say, low-contast but encompassing the entire dynamic range of the original scan material, so that the scanner can handle a wide dynamic range, make a low-contrast scan which can then easily be re-curved in post work, and the contrast spiffed up??? That is one way to handle wide tonal ranges--scan quite "flat", almost ugly-flat, and then allow the user to set the black point, and then use Curves to sort of custom-tune the flat exposure into a beautiful, finished scan. (That is how, in fact, I like to scan color slide film...wide DR....low contrast out of the scanner, then customize the finalized processing routine to suit the scene, or batch of scans.)

Obviously, we're thousands of miles away....hope there's a solution found soon... Best to you over there in Ireland!
The 4490 is a good scanner. I own a 4990, which is almost the same from a technological point of view. Main difference is mine will scan 4x5 large format.

Derrel has asked some good questions. My Epson Scan software doesn't have a "Expert" mode, though -- it's either "Full Auto", "Home" or "Professional." I've always used Professional because it gives me the most flexibility. I also manually select the scanning areas, dragging with my mouse. Setting the scan software to auto exposure usually works just fine.

Once I discovered I was getting very dark scans and couldn't figure out why. I was scanning negative film strips. As it turns out, they were too long for my film holder and were hanging off the top of it, covering that rectangular slot up at the top of the holder. Come to find out that, if that slot gets covered up, exposure goes dark.

So this sounds to me like you're having the same problem. Make sure nothing is covering up that rectangular slot at the top of the film holder -- and also make sure you're not placing it on the scanner glass upside down.

Oh, and I just gotta ask, you DID remove the white backing piece that covers up the top scanner glass, right?
I'm not sure you can get a high-quality transparency scan from this kind of scanner (flatbed).
It depends on your definition of "high quality." However, KJM was complaining about excessively dark images, which sounds like an exposure problem.

I have a lot of experience with Epson scanners -- I've scanned thousands of slides and negatives, and it is indeed possible to get good quality images from one -- certainly adequate enough for an 8x10 enlargement.
The accompanying software, EPSON Scan does allow tweaking of curves and saturation, ...

It does when set to the "professional" mode as others have noted.

It will also fail to do a good job of automatically making decent initial setting if the marqueed scan area includes any significant amount of the black carrier around the image. If you check the "thumbnails" box, EPSON Scan will automatically marquee select each image and will generally do a good job though it does crop slightly.

When "thumbnails" is unchecked, you have to manually marquee select each image. You can avoid the cropping, but the small amount of included black border can influence the software's initial automatic settings forcing you to make some manual tweaks.

Personally, I never use any mode other than "professional" when using EPSON Scan with my v700.

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