If like me you have been a working photographer for many years then you are bound to have thousands, maybe tens or even hundreds of thousands of colour transparencies or B&W negatives festering away in a filing cabinet, out in the garage, up in the loft or maybe under the bed.
If you have been a contributing photographer to a photo agency that has now folded and have been inundated with hundreds of sheets of returned trannies and have no idea where to start to make sense of your collection, your work, your pension….then look no further, I may have a solution and with a bit of effort you may even get a fiscal return for your time invested.
The Impact Photos photo library being disbanded January 2019
In the first instance forget scanning all this stuff with a desk top scanner…scanning using technology from two decades back is for the birds. I have an old Nikon 5000 Super Coolscan bit of kit tethered to an ancient Mac ibook as it will only work with an old Mac operating system dating from when Noah was a boy…it worked, it still works but boy, oh boy is it slow…chunter, chunter…about 5 minutes for each frame, after scanning a dozen pictures you start to loose the will to live – I’m keeping it though, just in case !
No, my new all singing and dancing wizz bang super fast way of scanning which uses the latest technology is……
Brian with his ‘wizz bang’ copying set up
…I use my Nikon D810 camera body, an ancient circa 1985 manual focus 55mm Macro lens, a Nikon PK-13 extension ring (27.5mm) and a Nikon ES-1 Slide Copying Adaptor and an old lightbox for the light source seen above.
When I’m organised i can rattle through 50 slides or more in an hour. It helps to keep the picture sets together on the same subject for bulk editing, captioning and keywording later. Depending on how ‘dirty’ your precious images are will determine how much time you spend cleaning at 200% magnification later using Photoshop. I have a policy that if the picture is really beyond the pale then it has to be quite unique for me to invest more than 10 minutes in cleaning it up and anything that can be re shot today using vastly superior optics and sensors and that isn’t up to scratch goes straight into the bin ( trash in the US ).
Girba refugee camp in Sudan 1986-raw scan and file after being cleaned up in Photoshop
I have found that I can make some really quite wonderful files from my B&W negatives using the same set up but with a black card homemade negative holder with the aperture cut 2-3mm over the negative size. This gives you an area of the blank clear film base from which to make your ‘black point’ after inverting the image back to a positive (Cmd-i ) and also allows you to have a fashionable ‘black’ border.
I have to admit that I haven’t mastered copying colour negative material, the orange film base has defeated my photoshop skills but I understand that if you want to shell out the best part of £3.5k on a Nikon D850 then the camera will do the colour negative inversion for you using in camera software…for me, the little work i shot on colour neg stock that has any value will be scanned on my old Nikon scanner.
My method is faster by a million miles, deep colour depth is held and shadows and highlights can be retained. I can now see the end of the tunnel of sheets of trannies and hundreds of yellow Kodachome boxes…one day all my work with be scanned into digital binary … I just hope they will be readable in 50 years time, like some of my early negs and colour transparencies !!!