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Digitizing a Large Amount of Photos? 112

Posted by Cliff
from the albums-per-second dept.
mcj0422 asks: "With what seems like the many increasing disasters, and also the freak accidents that can happen, there are certain non valuables that people end up losing, the main one being pictures that are printed on film. I know my mom has several thousand photos in our basement, which could be wiped out by water damage in one heavy rain season. Are there any scanners designed to take loads of pictures and turn them into digital files? Is there a service that does this, if so which ones would you recommend?"
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Digitizing a Large Amount of Photos?

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  • by charlesnw (843045) <charles@knownelement.com> on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @01:50PM (#15107156) Homepage Journal
    Using a standard scanner and some scripts that used image magick to do some sorting and converting. I don't know of any bulk scanners other then network copiers. You could try using those. I presume you will be doing this in a linux enviroment.
  • by SeanTobin (138474) * <byrdhuntr AT hotmail DOT com> on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @01:52PM (#15107180)
    BritePix [britepix.com]
    Dig My Pics [digmypics.com]
    Digital Memories Online [digitalmem...online.net]
    Digital Pickle [digitalpickle.com]
    Photo Max [photomaxtivi.net]
    Slide Converter [slideconverter.com]

    I'm sure there are more services, but I'll leave the job of going to page 2 up to you.

  • ADF it (Score:4, Informative)

    by yasth (203461) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @01:54PM (#15107188) Homepage Journal
    Most ADFs can feed photos too. Hp even made a scanner (HP Scanjet 5500c) Just for this purpose. Of course image management gets tricky, but picasa could probably be a good starting place.

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @01:54PM (#15107193) Homepage
    I work for a law firm. We use several brands of bulk scanners, connected up to OCR engines. You don't need the OCR, but the scanners are nice.

    We stack the pictures in, face down, they get fed through to a flatbed scanner. But I doubt you would be willing to pay what we did to get the device.

    A GOOD digital photo store should have a similar setup.

    Whether they will charge you a reasonable price with a discount for bulk is another matter.

  • by Ucklak (755284) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:06PM (#15107294)
    If the images are 4x6 or smaller, you could scan them at least 3 or more at a time.
    Just scan them into one large TIFF and do cleanup later.

    That way you scan a pile or box at a time.

    Cleanup is a bitch but worth it.
    Just crop the images out of the TIFF, color correct and remove dust.
  • SANE and scanbuttond (Score:3, Informative)

    by drewzhrodague (606182) <drew@zhrodagu e . net> on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:12PM (#15107352) Homepage Journal
    Grab yourself a $40 USB scanner. Stick it on an old PC, and install your favorite GNU/Linux distro. Then use SANE [sane-project.org] and scanbuttond [sourceforge.net] to bulk-scan your photos. Here's how I am doing just about the same thing:

    I inherited my grandfather's QSO cards (W3FFZ) from the 50's. I figured I'd scan 'em and put 'em on the web. For the scanning process, I have scanbuttond run my script to scan a postcard size from the scanner, and toss it into a directory. So what I do now, is I go over to the scanner, put a QSO card in, close the lid, and press a button. The scanner scans the card and I can then flip it over and press the button again.

    It is difficult to bulk-scan things in general. You really need to apply meta-data to your images, whether you populate any comment fields, the way you name your files, etc. I find it best to go through and rename my images as I take them out of my camera/phone.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:15PM (#15107382)
    Photos will look dim and generally awful when scanned from prints. If you really care about the images, and it's in any way possible, consider scanning negatives. Many flatbed scanners also include negative feeders (I've seen some lower-end Epsons within the past week that have this).
  • by peacefinder (469349) * <alan DOT dewitt AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:37PM (#15107533) Journal
    I know this is over-budget for pratically everyone, but I just have to share.

    My workplace recently replaced our venerable Fujitsu 4097D scanner. We ran hundreds of thousands of sheets through that thing, and it never needed service beyond my unskilled labor and Fujitsu's ScanAid consumable kits. But when the lease ran out, we chose to replace it with a color model.

    Since the 4097D worked out so well, we looked at two of the current Fujitsu models. Both of these scan up to 600 dpi x 24 bit color (optical) and have hi-speed USB2 and SCSI interfaces. Both have flatbed capability in addition to the ADF.

    The successor to the 4097D is the fi-5750C. It's roughly $6,000 and has a duty cycle of 8,000 pages per day. (They call that a "light duty" scanner, which cracks me up.) It also has a clever rotating 200-sheet 57 PPM ADF unit that makes it easy to use for both right- and left-handers. It can scan up to 12"x18".

    The model fi-4340C is a bit more reasonable, going for about $3500. It can handle a slightly less huge variety of paper, and has a duty cycle of a mere 3,000 pages per day. It has a fixed 100-sheet 40 PPM ADF. It can scan up to 8.5"x14".

    We purchased the fi-5750C. The hardest part of the installation was getting it upstairs... it's bulky and almost 80 pounds. Once I had it running, I took a small stack of mixed-size photos and dropped them in the ADF... it handled them wonderfully. Obviously a 600dpi 24-bit scan doesn't run at 57 PPM, but it's still pretty quick and it produced very nice-looking scans. Most importantly, the ADF didn't damage the photos.

    One of these weekends I'm going to bring in a portable hard drive and a box of photos, and see how many gigabytes I can fill up in a day.

    ---

    On a more realistic level, here's a couple things to keep in mind. First, scanning a photo print is making a copy of a copy. If you have access to negatives, try to scan them instead. I have no idea what equipment does that well, but I expect it's very expensive. It's probably best to work through a service for that.

    Second, digitizing is the easy part... indexing is the hard part.
  • by temojen (678985) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:47PM (#15107606) Journal
    HP Officejet 6110. Automatic Document Feeder, decent scans, and under $800. Just don't walk away and leave it scanning or it'll do 3 pages at once and jam. We've used them for over 10000 pages where I work.

    But really... If you have the negatives, always scan those (with a filmscanner) rather than prints. Prints almost always have less information than the negatives, and deteriorate faster. A good enough filmscanner (if your slides and negatives are dust free) should only cost $250 if you need to scan only 35mm. One that can handle 35mm and medium format, with dust and scratch removal will cost ~$900.

    And get VueScan. Having to manually save each image in photoshop really really sucks when you've got a few hundred images. VueScan saves directly to file, rather than sending the images back to an interactive program. And it works on Linux, MacOSX, and Windows. Watch for scanner compatibility though... the CanoScan models need drivers not available for Linux, but the Epson, Nikon, and Minoltas work in Linux.
  • epson (Score:3, Informative)

    by khang (115702) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:58PM (#15107719) Homepage Journal
    i'm actually doing this right now

    don't get the document feeders like the others say, they're made for documents, not photos.

    get yourself an epson perfection 3490 or 3590. THe difference betwee the two is about 50 dollars, one has an automatic FILM FEEDER. I didn't think i needed a film feeder so i went with the 3490. Both can take a "Multi Photo / Business Card Feeder" ~$150. But epson doesn't want you to know the 3490 takes the multi photo, just so you can order the more expensive one. But it's in the manual on their support site.

    The automatic photo feeder holds about 25. it does jam once in a while, but usually it's because the photos don't line up correctly. I scan my photos at 300dpi, each takes about 35 secs. The only annoying thing is it comes out reverse, so you might want to sort it backwards.

    all in all it's pretty decent. the only bad thing is the dust problem. For some reason they don't make the higher end scanners with feeders. I think these higher end use some system to detect dust and remove it from the picture. So in the end, I occasionally remove dust from the flat bed and any noticeable ones from the photos.

    HP had a similar solution but it seems to be off the market now and they rather you buy some very expensive solution instead.

    the other thing is, you can also use the flatbed for multiple photos, it autocrops the pictures. throw 3-5 photos on the flatbed and it'll automatically find the pictures. I had some issues with it cropping too much, but it's still quicker than 1 by 1.
  • Photograph them (Score:5, Informative)

    by pubjames (468013) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:05PM (#15107782)
    If you already have a good digital camera and you want to digitize prints, my advice is to photograph them. There are special rigs specifically for photographing documents, but it's actually fairly easy to set up yourself. Get a tripod that allows you to reverse the central stand, i.e. so it points down between the legs. Then place is on a desk, do some tests so that you have it manually focused correctly on the desk. Take photographs of graph paper to make sure everything is level. Also, get some good lights - it's just the bulb that is important - you want ones that are "full spectrum". Diffuse the light through something, or bounce it. If you do some tests you should be able to get it so the photo is very evenly lit.

    The advantage with this setup is that once it is all correctly set up, you can photograph a lot of pictures very quickly. If you have a Mac, you can plug your camera into it and use the Automator to trigger the camera shutter so you don't even have to touch the camera and risk knocking it. You can even get the Automator to automatically crop/thumbnail/whatever the images.
  • by nonetheless (600533) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:09PM (#15107809)
    High resolution scanning of 35mm negatives is reasonably expensive. For reference, Digital Pickle [digitalpickle.com] charges $0.75/picture. If you have time on your hands and money that you can part with for a few months, you mgiht consider getting a very good film scanner, treating it very gently, doing the scanning yourself (or, as others have suggested, paying a very careful teenager), then reselling the scanner.

    The Nikon Coolscan [nikonusa.com] line appears well reviewed. The best of the line, the 9000, runs ~$1700 on eBay, or ~$1900 new. If you don't need to do any medium format film scanning, consider the 5000, which operates faster. Once you've scanned everything you have, resell it on eBay. With luck, the only thing you'll lose is your time.

    I'm planning on doing this in a couple of months.

  • by patrusk (955763) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:09PM (#15107823)
    As a photo lab tech, I occasionally get giant batches of photos or slides to digitze. We have an Epson 4870, which has incredible resolution and Digital ICE built in. Most of the time we just put as many photos as will fit on the scanner and set the selection to scan them all individually at sufficient resolution to get a good 4x6. You typically need a 5mb file to get a 300ppi 4x6, so you'll need to set your resolution to a level that will yield at least that size. Smaller photos will require a higher scanning resolution. Digital ICE will clean up some of the dust and scratches, but not all of them, and can sometimes double your scanning time. Once I feel like I have a good amount of photos to work with in Photoshop, I crop them all, usually manually, and then I create a few actions for color correction, exposure/contrast, dust and scratch cleanup, and sharpening. Usually Auto-Color Correction and Auto Levels will work just fine, but sometimes you need to do some fine tuning. You can either use these actions on each of the photos individually, or you can batch-process all of them at once. While I would love to have an Automatic Document Feeder, I don't think we get enough of that business to justify the expense.
  • Re:Photograph them (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zathrus (232140) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:57PM (#15108266) Homepage
    f you already have a good digital camera and you want to digitize prints, my advice is to photograph them

    I've seen a couple of people say this now, and I have to scratch my head at it.

    Even a basic scanner can do 600 dpi. For a 4x6 picture that's 8,640,000 pixels, or roughly 8.6 MP. You'll have to have a pretty high end camera to exceed that -- and that's discounting the likelihood of photographing something besides just the picture. Also realize that with a scanner you get even higher resolutions with larger pictures. With a digital camera you're stuck at whatever its resolution is, so with larger source pics you end up with worse results, not better ones!

    And if you look at low cost scanners they are generally in the 2400x1200 dpi area, so now you're talking about ~70 MP for a lowly 4x6 now -- probably overkill, but I'd rather have overkill than underkill for a situation like this -- you really don't want to have to do it more than once.
  • by diggum (769740) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:07PM (#15108350) Homepage
    There might be some freeware that does it as well, but Photoshop Elements does a lot of this. You can scan several photos in one pass and it will find, straighten, and save each photo individually. it has the color correction features of photoshop, but quicker for most uses. It has a nice sorting/cataloging setup and lets you group, add keywords, and archive to CD/DVD. (full disclosure: i work at adobe, but have nothing to do with the photoshop stuff.)
  • scan the negatives (Score:2, Informative)

    by coaxial (28297) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @01:50AM (#15111543) Homepage
    I've been considering this for a while now. My recomendation is to scan the negatives. Wet drum scanners are the best, but it may be prohibitively expensive, and possibly overkill. You do have your negatives right? The big problem I ran into looking at film scanners is that the vast majority of the good ones are 35mm only. My parents have a lot of photos in a variety of formats. 110, 117 roll or medium format, along with 35mm. All those need scanned, which means for me I'd have to go with a flatbed, and use a jig/matte for differnent formats. You'll also need a flatbed to scan photos that you don't have the negatives to. Color correct software, especially software that can correct chroma shift in old color prints. You'll need automatic dust removal software as well. Check out photo.net [photo.net]. That site has all sorts of info, but it is heavily tilted towards pros.

    The other thing I've been wanting is photo organization software. You know query for who, where, and when. I guess I'd have to make a custom DB system for that.

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