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William writes with:
A Pile of Negs to Scan and Retouch!

i have a problem that i believe you expertise could help me solve. 
i have from 10-25 thousand black and white and color negatives 
transparancies that i would like to scan and retouch or edit. 
most of these are from before WW2 shot by my dad 
a pro for the army.
i can not afford to take them to a professional to have them 
edited. anything you can recommend would be most helpful.
i have a pentium 2 system 36bit scanner and a 2mega- pixel  
monitor and graphic card all capable of handling extremely hi-resoulutions.

D'Lynn Waldron Answers:

To answer your questions:

I have recently worked with negs of that era, and my question are yours 35mm, or are they larger?

For larger than 35 mm, you will have to use a flatbed with a transparency top because medium large format film scanners get expensive.

If you are going to use a flatbed with transparency top, you will need one that will do a good-enough job. Many scanners are good for reflective scanning but their transparency scanner tops are horrible. (And this is true with some of the high priced ones.)

If the negs are 35 mm you have many options in very good film scanners for what you pay:

The Olympus is very good for its price of under $400.

The Nikon Coolscans are excellent for under $1600 and under $900.

If you are doing that many negs, you may want to get one of the Coolscans with Digital Ice technology that cleans up dirt and scratches suprisingly well, which can save you at least an hour per image.

Tips for you.

  • First, after you scan the neg, save it as a raw scan on CD (always!).
  • Then go into your image editing program.
  • In Photoshop Invert to get a positive and try just running AutoLevels, which will optimize most of those B&W images, and often the color ones as well.
  • After that you might want to add just a bit more contrast, or perhaps go into Variations and lighten the midtones a bit if the faces look too dark.
  • Adjusting faded and color-shifted color negs is not as easy, but once you get a "formula" you can apply it to all similar images in that film type.

The results can be awesomely good in restoring the original colors -- magic is the only word for it!

Best wishes, Lynn

[Editor's Note: In cases such as this one, it's a pile of work and each neg is going to take at least a few minutes. Using bulk techniques to color correct, or modify (like actions or macros) can help greatly. Yet, to load the machine, capture the image, and save, could take several minutes each. Assuming there are 5,000 negs, that's probably 500 hours of work, 12 40-hour weeks, anyway.
* You may want to consider Leasing the equipment. Check with local lease companies -- it could turn out that a short term lease or 'rental' could cost considerably less than a purchase.
* You may want to contact the local colleges and technical schools for interns. They usually will work for free, and once they get the hang of it they can be pretty good help!
* On the high end, if you've got 10,000 to do, a networked set-up would be great -- with a second machine to run the scanner. You see-saw files back and forth, working on the touch-up while the scanner is scanning the next shot. If leasing, the second machine might not be too much extra. Note, I've done this on the Mac, but would not know how to set it up to work over on the Windows side, but I assume they've got the hardware and software to do the job.
Thank you Lynn for your outstanding help in fielding these questions! ]

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