Old vintage prints of your great-great grand parent or relatives are a dime a dozen. However, time has obviously taken a toll on the yellowed, crumbling photos which are one bad accident away from getting completely destroyed. Old portraits hold importance because of how they preserve the past, lasting through future generations.
Preserving these photos can be a challenge, especially for those with zero knowledge of old pictures. Fortunately, there are a number of solutions that you can use, depending on your budget, number of photos, available free time, and your ultimate goals. Of course, you could always send your old negatives and slides to a professional who will charge a nominal fee depending on their condition.
Do keep in mind that converting negatives is time consuming and tedious, but it makes for an incredibly rewarding experience. Plus, you won’t be putting your life story in someone else’s hands.
Without further ado, below I’ll discuss ways to digitize negatives and printed photos.
1) Buy a Slide Scanner – For Negative and Slides Digital
A negative or slide scanner should be your go-to equipment to convert negatives to digital photos. There are varying qualities of slide scanners with different features depending on the price. The more you pay the more features you get. A quick Google search reveals several scanners, and making the right choice is crucial to restoring your old photo. Consider the following features before committing the budget to a slide scanner.
Quality– The image resolution tells you the number of pixels displayed on your screen. A higher resolution will yield crisp and visually pleasing pictures. Pay close attention to the number of megapixels the scanner can yield. Acceptable numbers range from 5 to 10 megapixels. If you can, choose a bigger number to help you make larger prints from your negatives.
Do keep in mind that a higher resolution will require bigger internal memory cards to store the digital prints. Otherwise, you will have to make space by transferring the pictures to a different location.
Throughput– The digitization process can take a long time depending on the make and model of the slide scanner. Some slide scanners only process one negative at a time, taking as long as 60 seconds. When you have hundreds (or even thousands) of negatives, it can take several hours to convert the negatives to digital photos. High-end models have quicker scanning speeds and resolution outputs.
Compatibility – Check to see if the scanner is compatible with your computer, whether it is a PC or MAC. Some high-end scanners don’t require a computer to digitize photos. If you haven’t updated your computer in several years, consider making a few upgrades.
Do Your Research– The internet has made it incredibly easy for you to do your research before making a purchase. Always go to different vendors and see what they have on offer. The trick is to find a model that has good features for a lower price. It is very common for vendors to overcharge, so always do your own research. A key feature to look for is called “Digital ICE” this feature automatically removes scratches and dust on slides and negatives during the scanning process. Slides and negatives are notorious for getting dusty and covered in scratches, so this feature is a must for top quality.
Another good idea is to check for rental companies nearby that might be willing to lend a professional grade scanner at low prices to digitize photos. Some companies might even offer freebies on weekends.
2) Digitizing – For Portrait Photos
Larger photos will need dedicated scanners with large flatbeds to make digitization possible. Flatbed scanners are a good choice in this regard because they come loaded with several features and are least likely to damage your vintage photographs.
For larger projects, you will need to organize yourself and approach the pictures with due planning. The first step is to come up with a system that sorts and names individual files to make it easy to keep track of pictures. Several features of the picture itself will play an important role, such as the number of people in the picture, environment, and the time of the day.
Being Selective Helps
Prioritize and select important pictures that you actually need, instead of committing to all of your older photographs that don’t serve any purpose. Think of how many selfies you take on your phone that you ultimately end up deleting. If possible, do the same with your vintage pictures and prioritize the important ones to save time.
Use a non-abrasive cloth to wipe off dust and specks from the pictures and scanner. This is to ensure that your photographs are as visually clean as possible. If your scanner doesn’t display a preview of your scanned photographs, it is recommended to check in every 60 minutes to ensure the pictures are being scanned properly.
Optimizing the Right Settings
Choose a scanning quality of at least 300 dpi, but you should scale up to 600 dpi if you want to enlarge the photographs. As a general rule of thumb, you should scan in color, even if your end goal is black and white or sepia pictures.
Alternative: There Are Apps for That
As is true for just about everything these days, there are apps for preserving old photos! There are thousands of good options that will let you scan your old pictures in a shorter period of time. Yes, you could always take a snapshot of the picture using your camera, but you risk creating shadows, glare, and other kinds of distortions.
Dedicated photo scanning apps are designed to remove these anomalies and seamlessly guide you through the scanning process. You should be prepared for low-quality results though, because the scanning quality is only going to be as good as the camera itself. This option should be chosen as a last resort if you’re pressed for time or if you don’t want to commit to the financial requirements of a dedicated flatbed scanner.
A good option is to use Google’s own PhotoScan app, which is absolutely free of charge. The app takes several pictures of each photograph to remove shadows, glare, and distortions and improve the overall quality.
Brandon Harris is the owner of Smooth Photo Scanning Services – One of the leading photo scanningservice provider in Lodi, NJ providing Slide scanning services , Convert Negatives To Digital, ConvertCassette To CD and VHS To DVD Services etc Prior to that, Brandon owned and operated a small bakery.Other than working to grow and improve his business, he enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter,and family.