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Digitizing photos

I love working with digital photos.  I think that a big part of this has to do with the fact that I’m extremely allergic to photographic chemistry.  I think that it’s specifically the fixer (formaldehyde).  When I wrote my master’s thesis in the early 1980’s–before PhotoShop® and before having a personal computer–I had such a bad allergic reaction I had to have someone print the contact sheets for me.

color and exposure correction

amy-1967.jpgfamily at Disneyland 1967The main reason I love working with digital photos is that I can work with them and correct the color and exposure and crop out what shouldn’t be there.  At Amy’s memorial I had a photo that was a poor quallity family picture taken in 1967 at Disneyland .  I cropped it so much that it turned into a good picture of five year old Amy.  Yes, it sometimes takes hours to really get something from what originally is nothing, but as I mentioned in my blog about Amy, I was able to take an extremely underexposed slide that needed a lot of color correction and turn it into the hit of the slide show.

A set of pictures for everyone

In the mid 1980’s my parents made copies of many of the family pictures and gave a set to each Goodwin girl.  Every Chanukah over five years we were given the photos they had copied.  It was a great gift and I appreciated them.  I put mine into Parker photo albums to make sure they were archival.

copy-of-a-polaroid-print.jpgpoor-copy-quality.jpgThe down side of the project was the immense cost.  Even though my parents owned a camera store (Photo Imports) and got 40-60% off retail, it was a tremendously expensive endeavor.  The cost was a big part of why they did the project over a four or five year period.  They used a custom lab for the larger format negatives (2 ¼  and 4×5), but the regular film and prints they sent to the local production photo lab and often had copy prints or prints from slides made.  Prints from slides have a tendency to come out with too much contrast.  High production copy prints are often slightly distorted.  Even worse is that many of the pictures were made with bad chemistry and changed color quickly.

The two photos shown are examples of the poor quallity.  The picture on the left is green from poor chemicals and has too much contrast.  The example on the right was a copy from a Polaroid print.

As I’ve been digitizing my family photos I am able to correct the contrast and color.  I’m able to filter and improve to increase sharpness of the copy prints or from 110 prints.  I actually prefer working from the slides themselves over the prints.

Time consuming

Yes, it takes a great deal of time to scan and work with the images.  That’s why I’m not near finishing scanning my images.  There are options for scanning.  My friend HQ took his slides to Long’s Drug photo department and had them copy the slides onto a disc.  Camera shops offer this service as well. 

To do it yourself get a high quality scanner.  Most of these have 35mm slide and negative adapters (special light boxes).  This works great for 35mm slides, but with larger formats–120 and 4×5 or 5×7– you need to get a scanner with an open bed that is designed for this.  I have an Epson® 1640SU I purchased in 2001 that was designed for this purpose.

After scanning I “process” them using Adobe Photoshop Elements®.  The versions are updated regularly and are very easy to use for color and contrast correction and cropping.  You can also create slide shows with them.

I’ll write about storage in another post.


  1. Paul P. Clark

    My son was a Macromedia employee for some six years and then joined an elete firm in Portland, OR, Second Story, for three and then was asked back to Macromedia at the time of the merger with Adobe–Adobe called him the godfather of Flash and Flash being what Adobe wanted off of MM. He has been with Adobe now for three years. Yes, San Francisco–he/they live in ole’San Rafael.

    Always into photography, earlier years I worked with a Minolta SLR and shot Ektachrome–almost limited to my Yosemite-Sierra experiences. We have a Cannon9950F scanner–but I haven’t gotten around to scanning my slides yet! –Paul