Scanning photos can be a slow and tedious process. Results can vary due to the condition and quality of the original photograph, scanner used, scanner software/settings, and digital image processing. Creating high quality digital images from prints, slides and negatives is both an art and science. Knowledge of both traditional photography and digital image processing helps, as does a lot of testing and practice – not to mention having access to top-notch scanners and systems. Often, using an affordable photo scanning service can be the best option, especially if your collection is large and you don’t have the time or equipment to complete the task. Photo scanning services often use the best scanners with optimized workflows that provide high quality results at fast turnaround times.
But what if your goal is merely to convert photos to digital quickly, without the hassles of dealing with scanners or sending your photos to a photo scanning service? Clearly, there must be other ways to digitize photo prints and convert slides to digital?
Direct capture is a method often used for of creating a digital image of art work that is essentially taking a digital photo of reflective media (e.g. photographic prints). Photo prints can be digitized in this way, although it’s not technically “scanning” and the quality of the resulting digital image will often leave a lot to be desired. However, if you have just few snapshots and your primary purpose is merely to capture a digital version of a photo, perhaps for sharing on Facebook, it may be an option. The digital image file will likely not be sufficient for printing or digital archiving, but this method might serve your purpose. Shoebox by 1000memories is an iPhone app designed to enable users to digitize photos with a smartphone.
For transmissive media, namely slides, there are two alternative methods available (both involving a digital camera). One could project the slide and take a digital photo of the projection, assuming a quality projector is available. The challenge of course is exposure and precision since the combination of lens, light and sensor will conspire to turn most images dark, lacking in contrast and not very sharp. Clearly, not an ideal way to get slides to digital. A better way to digitize slides is to use a slide duplicator attachment and macro lens to shoot the slides directly with a DSLR. While this will not match the image quality attainable with a film scanner, it is superior to capturing a projected image. Unfortunately, this method lacks automated dust and scratch removal features available with film scanners equipped with infrared digital cleaning (aka Digital ICE).
Photo Credit / Creative Commons by drumminhands