Archiving Photos, Negatives, and Prints

I have been working on a multi-year project to archive my family photos. Its not just my own photos, but photos from various family members and I’m taking them on like water. It started around 2000 when my daughter was born. I bought a cheap Minolta Dimage Scan Dual slide/negative scanner.  It worked well and I still have it, but I had to ditch the scan driver that came with it and used the really amazingly good VueScan software.  The software allowed me to skip the entire preview process doubling my speed.  Even that was too slow when you are talking about 5000 images at 2+ minutes each.

Negative Scan from Scan Cafe

After 10 years and having only made it about half way, I gave in in and outsourced my remaining negatives.  That was such a good decision!  I used ScanCafe who is reputable and did what they said they would do.  However they were slow and it’s real outsourcing where you send your photos to California and they send it from there to India, scan them, make them available online and you agree to purchase at least 50% of what they scan.  Its also nail biting because you are sending your precious negatives on a trip around the world.

Scanned with my Minolta Dimage Scan Dual

Part II of my project has been paper prints.  I have a lot more of those.  Old old family photos from the late 1800s up until about the time that I ditched film.  I have a canon LiDe20 scanner that I have been using, but it’s also slow. Maybe 1 minute per scan when all said and done if you are good with workflow.  I also tried to turn my Nikon D90 into a scanner, but was not impressed with the results – see my article.  Outsourcing was looking good again, but I received 3 huge boxes of photos from my mother.  With my negative scanning done I at least had something to check off the life list, but the prints, thats a different story.

Last week I bought a Canon LiDE 210 scanner.  I bought it because of the reported 10 second scan times.  That and I loved the size of my LiDE 20.  But could 10 seconds be really true?  Yes – as long as you accept the defaults and let it choose everything while keep it at 300dpi or less.  300dpi for a paper photo is more than enough, you don’t get more information scanning at higher resolutions from paper prints.

Print Scan using Canon Lide 210 Flatbed Scanner

All I can say is wow!  The software is not perfect, but it has a few good modes where you simply place a photo on the scanner, hit the scan button and it basically makes a jpg file for you.  All in under 10 seconds.  Any size from 3×5 to the full scanner size 8×11.  Wow!

This is so amazingly fluid, that while the scanner is returning the head to the other end of the scanner (another 10 seconds) you are loading up another one.  I know – thats 20 seconds.  20 seconds may not sound great, but that’s 20 seconds sustained scanning speed, per image completely done start to finish.  I did about 400 photos in about 3 hours including renaming the files.  If I had outsourced that I would have had to wait 6 weeks and paid $.29 x 400 = $116 plus shipping two ways.  The scanner cost me $85 shipped.  But more importantly I can scan fast enough that its like the difference between driving vs flying.

Now all is not perfect.  The software in the automatic fast scanning mode does not do great on fade correction and dust.  But I had to give in and for the majority of the photos otherwise I will never get this off my life list.  Its a couple extra clicks and a preview if you want to correct for anything complicated so I reserve that only for the important photos.

In conclusion, I outsource my negatives and scan my prints using a fast scanner.  If you choose to do similar don’t get hung up on all the extra features of the scanner you are buying.  Buy a quality scanner based on speed for the single purpose of scanning your prints.  The speed turns it into a fluid and achievable event.  In my case the payoff include some of my time is probably around 600 scans.

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