Operation Scan All The Things

So this weekend I started a new personal project, its not programming related, but it does involve a computer. A computer and what can only be defined as a “shit ton” of negatives.

After playing with Google Photos, deciding that its the greatest thing since sliced bread and introducing it to my entire family; I’ve decided to archive my parents entire collection of film.

Why Google photos

Google Photos is an online service that provides unlimited photo and video storage (provided image are no more than 16MP and no videos no greater than 1080). Once the service has you images Google immense machine learning network will set about categorising the images and do some pretty cool things like:

  • Building albums of people around facial recognition
  • Working out where a picture is taken using a combination of
    • GPS, if available
    • Image recognition of popular destination
  • Image recognition, which allows you to search for specific things such as “car”
  • Automagically creating albums
  • Automagically creating collages
  • Creating animation from photos and videos
  • Suggests and rotates photos
  • Recommend photo “stylisations”

All of this happens in the background; even better, when Google improves the capabilities of the system your old photos are reanalyzed. That said, the single most important feature for this project is the ability to create and share albums with other people, i.e my family.

The Setup

  • Epson Perfection V550
  • Cotton Gloves
  • Hi Performance Silicon Squeeze Bulb
  • A lot (and I mean a lot) of time…

The scanning process

The scanner is capable of scanning at 6400dpi (optical), but for the purposes of archiving I chose to scan at 3200dpi which should make 35mm negatives roughly 3200px x 4800px (15.36 megapixels), which fits perfectly within the free tier offered by Google. Here’s a quick “tat a tat”.

  • Insert negatives into 35mm negatives into holder, ensure that the number on the film are back to front when you look down on the negative holder.
  • Use the “Squeeze Bulb” to blow dust off the negatives and scanner glass
  • Launch the scanning application
    • Choose professional mode
    • Click preview
    • Wait…
    • Select the negatives I want to scan
    • Set the resolution to 3200 bit
    • Choose 48bit colour (why not)
    • Adjust the levels for each photo so no clipping occurs
    • Rotate each negative if required
    • Click scan (Setting a save location and filename)

And then wait, and wait a lot. It will take ~5minutes to scan a single negative…

The adjustment process

Once the negatives are scanned I like to take them into Adobe Lightroom, adjust the levels, the tone, apply some noise reduction (old crappy film is v.noisy) and then convert the TIFFs into DNGs. DNGs are smaller than TIFFs, allow lots of custom metadata and is my format of choice when shooting using my digital SLR. Finally I’ll set a manual “creation date” so that when the photos are imported into GP they are correctly organised in chronological order.

And that’s about it really, all that remains is to export the images from Lightoom and import them into Google Photos, sharing them with friends and family. I’ll update the blog over the coming months (it’s going to take many) with my progress and possibly some of the more interesting photos!

Ben Squire

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Leicestershire, United Kingdom https://squired.co.uk