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2219Scanning a negative

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  • Historic Photo Archive
    Aug 6, 2004
      Hello, Bonnie Schroader has brought up the subject of using a digital camera
      (rather than a scanner) to copy negatives. I do a lot of both, and here is
      my experience.

      If you have a large number of negatives and want to see what is on them, the
      digital camera and light table is very effective to get access copies for
      evaluation. I can shoot about 90 of these an hour. You will get reasonable
      quality copies, and can digitize a complete collection very quickly at
      practically no cost.

      The top problem you may encounter is the reflection of your digital camera
      lens on the negative you are copying. I agree with using a mask around the
      negative to block stray light. I also use black paper in front of the
      camera, with a hole cut out for the lens. this eliminates 90% of the

      If you have photoshop, you can use a batch action to process all your
      images. You can invert them from negative to positive and adjust contrast
      on one picture, and then apply this to all the photos in a file on your
      computer. You can process hundreds of photos in just a few minutes

      The result is suitable for making CDs to send to relatives, or web hosting,
      or making small prints on a desktop printer.

      If you want to make quality copies, you will need to scan them. Scanning is
      very time consuming. The digital camera idea is great for sorting through
      all your images and deciding which ones to put the time into.

      One more thought is that you can set the digital camera to number the images
      and start at 0001. If you can get an old Bates automatic numbering machine,
      widely available at thrift stores, garage sales, or ebay, you can buy new
      negative envelopes and use the numbering machine to number your new
      envelopes (this is basically a big rubber stamp designed for making serial
      numbers, every time you stamp an envelope it changes the number up one) And
      this will make it very easy to come up with a complete catalog of your

      I do this service professionally and do thousands of negatives every week,
      it is the best, fastest, and lowest cost way to get intellectual control and
      access copies of entire collections.

      Once you do all this, you can use a computer to enter information about each
      image. You will create a searchable database that serves as an index to the
      collection. You can then use your computer printer to print the caption on
      each new envelope. Your collection will be in good shape to pass on down
      the family. HOw often do you run into people who get old family photos and
      have no idea who anybody in the pictures is or what they are doing. (that is
      what happened to me) This system is the best way I know to lock the caption
      information with the image permanently.

      Hope this helps and good luck.

      Tom robinson
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