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This is one area that anyone who is returning to using film after a few years away using digital, probably doesn’t have previous experience and so although this isn’t going to turn into a ‘how to guide’, it is going to be some anecdotal information that may help make a decision about whether you go this way or not and only really comes after a number of mails asking for a view on either scanning or makes of scanner to use.

If you used to take analogue pictures (and for many new film users this isn’t the case as we have had over a decade of reasonably priced digital options now), then you would either have had them developed in a lab or would have printed them in a dark room – but for most of us that is where it would have stopped.

Film always used to be about having physical copies of images for most casual (non professional) users – not digital copies.

The advent of digital cameras and the development of home computers have really come together and have changed the way we see photography.

I remember my first few small digital cameras and the concern I had about keeping those pictures over the years.

This was also a very sensible concern as I have boxes of old and generally badly taken film photos from decades ago and nothing from the first few years of digital at all in the late 90’s – apart from odd CDs of files.

They probably still live on one of the many removable hard disks I have had over the years before I realised the importance of managing my work streams. In the early days the choices and sizes of removable hard disks were ridiculous and so unless you kept upgrading your storage – you probably have recordable CD’s that no longer have usable data on them or old hard disks and no cables to make them work.

Backing up your computer still is a bit of a dark art with programs that are meant to make it easy for you actually just limiting your choices on handling your own data – but this isn’t an article about managing your data so I’ll stop here…. and go back to scanning.

You are probably either looking to scan for a couple of reasons – to save money in development costs (especially if you use a format that is out of the ordinary) or you are developing at home and so naturally will look to scan at the same time. Whatever your personal reasons are, there is one thing you will not be able to step away from and that is the fact that unless you are lucky enough to have access to a Professional Level Scanner (like the one your lab will use), that you are going to spend a vast amount of time at this very tedious process.

If you are developing – them you can normally assume that you are going to spend roughly 40 min per film you scan – depending on the quality of the scan you want and how much reframing you have to do on your negatives.

After this process you probably will need to use some decent software – like photoshop to remove the dust you had on your negatives from drying and maybe you will want to play with the levels to get the image looking right.

So having said all of the above – why on earth do I scan anything I take?

For me it is a simple choice – I love to develop film. I enjoy the chemistry and the process itself is calming in it’s repetitiveness.

I don’t have a dark room and so develop B/W using a Patterson Tank for 135, 120 and 4×5 film. I also chose to develop my own B/W as labs I have tried out tend to not do as good a job on B/W as they do on Colour film.

Before I started developing film (October 2010) I spent lots of time looking for scanner choices and asking peoples views and received the same sort of information I am writing today.

For most home users there are only a couple of reasonably priced scanners to choose from – and these come from Epson and Canon. I chose the Canoscan 9000F as in Hong Kong this is available from their main center in TST and the Epson proved harder to find. I didn’t make the choice because one was obviously better than the other and in fact the problem in finding information on the net would suggest that the two products are remarkably similar in use.

The software I use for scanning is the bundle from Canon and I don’t do any adjustment to the negative apart from the size of the file and the brightness of the scan – everything else I do is either in Photoshop or Lightroom.

With the Epson, I know people use various third party software to scan and control more of the options on how the image looks but the software for controlling the process in the Canon is fine.

Personally, I prefer to get a good scan on the computer before I think about any adjustments and will look to get it as big as possible at this point.

So, if you have read through all of the above hopping to find the answer to scanning – then here is a version of an answer;

– It is laborious and extremely time consuming.

– Chose either the Epson or Canon – I know the Canon is Mac compatible and believe the Epson is too.

– You will get more control over your images not through scanning but through developing yourself and so scanning will become a necessary evil.

– If you need a break from scanning – make friends with your local lab and ask them to scan your negatives or just get them to develop and scan for you.

As there isn’t any point in putting pictures I have scanned onto this post to show anything in particular – I am adding a couple of recent ones that are completely unrelated.

The first is a typical one for this time of year when the opportunity to get some Bokeh out of your pictures is rife with little twinkly christmas lights everywhere.

And this one is from my Daughter’s Advent Spiral at her school using a Nikkor 50/1.2

Posted by simon on December 12, 2011
2 Comments Post a comment
  1. 12/15/2011

    Thank you so much, that answer all my questions

    I’m gonna get a scanner tomorrow, and should start scanning my first few roll this weekend

    Thank you

    • 12/15/2011

      Stephane, Glad it was useful. I really don’t think you can go too far wrong. The only thing I didn’t mention was to get yourself a can of compressed air to blow the negatives as clean as possible before putting them in the scanner – it’ll save time cleaning the scans.


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