A Scanner Darkly: Smudges, Shadows, Dust-spots & Discoloration

Shooting film nowadays necessitates a scanner. Unfortunately for me, a poor college student with 3 film cameras and no cash leftover from buying film, a scanner is not affordable. No, I’m throwing a pity party. Just pointing out the many costs associated with film. Staying exclusively digital would definitely be more practical. That said, I am fortunate enough to live on a college campus with a great photo department and a photojournalism department with scanning equipment. However, that did not dawn on me until recently, and I had been hunting down scanners at the library to digitize my photos. Community scanners, when used for multiple purposes besides scanning photos, get understandably dirty. Fingerprints, dust, old machines, and low resolution scans all plague the film photographer. I ended up having to open a few in Photoshop for color correction and dust removal.


So, with money as an object, what sort of scanning strategies should an ameteur film photographer be employing?

– Don’t scan for an extremely high resolution unless you want to blow up the print to half your wall. Seriously, I’d go with 350 dpi max. The larger the resolution, the longer your photo will take to scan. If you are scanning for a blog or web use, 150 is better. You will still have your negatives to make quality prints for displaying. Also, if you’re on a community scanner and each photo takes a 15 minutes to scan, your fellow students will not be happy with you. Be courteous.

– Save it as a TIFF. Nearly every photo had to be taken into Photoshop for dust elimination and/or color correction. If you’re using your own personal scanner that you know is clean and you are only emailing/posting the photos, save as JPEG. But TIFF does not lose image quality and allows for more flexibility in editing software.

– Scan a horizontal photo horizontally and a vertical one vertically. This sounds self-explanatory, and maybe it is for most people, but the first few times I just told myself I’d rotate the photo in the editing program. While this is possible, rotating a scan sacrifices image quality. Do what you can before you scan to preserve the highest quality scan to work with.



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