Scanning Negs


TPF Noob!
Feb 16, 2006
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Just passing through
I'm going to be going to college next year, and my campus is a bit remote. I'm going to be in the middle of Wisconson and won't have the luxory of a darkroom. I would just get a digital camera, but college is expensive, so I need to save my money for a computer and tuition costs. I am considering just getting a place to develp my negitivs, and than scanning them into my computer. I've tried this a few times at home, with no success. I don't exactly have the best scanner, and I am using GIMP, not photoshop, if anybody could give me a few tips that would be great.

When you take your film to the lab - request negs and a CD of high-res scans of the negs with an index card - no prints.
He is right you cant scan them at home as well.... Also a dedicated scanner is not cheap so you would wind up trying to do them on flat bed and it is just not very good. It not even good for large negatives but gets worse the smaller the negative.
You might want to try different labs, and ask the following questions...
  • Cost of scanning/CD.
  • If cost is per film or per CD, discounts per extra film etc.
  • Scanning resolution.
  • If their scanning software automatically adjusts colour balance etc.
I've heard of places that will scan several films at high resolution for a very good price, and only charge for the one CD. Unfortunately I've never actually found one of those places; the places I've tried have given me low-res scans that were nowhere near as good as the ones I get from my flatbed. It would be a different story if I went to a professional lab, but then if I could afford to use a professional lab I could afford a dedicated scanner!

The reason for asking whether they'll automatically 'clean up' and adjust the image after scanning, is that if they do that your scans will be further from the original negative and then you might as well have just asked for prints. Asking for scanning resolution is important for two reasons. The first being that you need to know the images will be good for more than just web use, the second being that if they don't know the answer then they don't know what they're doing and you should go somewhere else.
In the UK , I use Jessops. I only want digital files for the web or monitor use. If I would like a print of something - I have a print produced in the traditional way.

I'm happy with this arrangement: the permanence and enlargement capabilities of film-negatives coupled with the ease of having someone scan me 36 negs onto CD, in a couple of hours...while I go eat and drink a couple of cold beers ;-)

edit - I always ask for straight scanning... no tweaking or tinting.
Film and slide scanning is much the same as anything else - you get what you pay for. If you need comps of the shots you have taken, then getting a CD when you process your film is the cheapest and easiest option. There are a few companies out there that offer really cheap scanning services, but they generally "bulk" scan your images with little or no human interaction - a bit like your budget film processing services. If you've got a lot of negs, and a lot of time on your hands, then it would be worth investing in a film scanner. I'd personally steer clear of flatbeds for this, but a decent cost-effective option is the Epson F3200. We use it for our scanning business and it's a great compromise between cost and quality.

I agree. Every scan I do is checked in Photoshop at the very least to ensure correct cropping and orientation. This takes time which does mean it costs a little more than those who just offer bulk scanning. Also of course we can offer a number of options beyond a straight scan / crop / rotate!

Peter Short
SLX Photographic

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