If You Shot Film You Need a Scanner to Revive Old Negatives and Slides


Bumper cars at Playland at the Beach, San Francisco

If you began photography by shooting film over many decades you probably have boxes of negatives and slides in a drawer or closet somewhere.

That is a record of personal history and artistic endeavor that has become more valuable over time—grandparents and other long gone relatives captured in the joy of youth and family celebrations, favorite locations and places that have long since been destroyed. Who could forget the bumper cars at Playland at the Beach. This personal and local history that is captured on film is worth bringing back to life.

Many Negatives Never Get Printed

It is likely that prints from all these negatives are not around or were never printed. Any darkroom enthusiast knows that most of the time only a few negatives on any roll ever get printed. The incredibly prolific street photographer Vivian Maier left tens of thousands of unprinted negatives that have only recently come to light.

If there are stores of negatives that have never been printed or the prints are lost, it is a good idea to dig them out and see what you have. But negatives, either color or black and white, make it hard to see the subject. What to do with them since darkroom printing has nearly gone extinct.

A Film Scanner Revives Old Negatives

That’s were film scanning comes in. You can send the negatives to a scanning service but that can be expensive. If your negative frames and slides number in the thousands, the cost and trouble of doing that can be prohibitive. But a reasonably priced scanner can do the job. The Epson V600 will scan twelve negative frames at once. It will quickly turn your film from negative to a positive preview display. From there you can select the frames you want to scan in high resolution and save.

Scan Those Slides

A scanner is equally valuable for slides. You can see the positive image, but when was the last time you broke out the projector and screen to really get a look at those slides? Do you even have a projector and does it still work? Scanning lets you display the slide image on the computer screen. This is infinitely more convenient than a projector or hand held viewer.

Scanning Gives Film All The Advantages of a Digital Camera

Once scanned, a film image is the same as a digital camera image. It can be corrected and improved in Photoshop as described in a previous blog. It can be emailed or posted to Facebook. Anything that can be done with a digital camera image can be done with a film scan.

So break out that ancient film, put it through a scanner and see what you have. You may be surprised at what you discover.

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