|The Virtual Vintage Image
|Home||Case 3 - Getting Your Photo
Into the Computer
This photo of a farmhouse was taken ca. 1875 in Hankins, NY. While not clear on this image, I know the date because it says so at the bottom of the photo. I'm going to use this photo as an example for getting an image into the computer, as it was a little tougher than some of the others, say the one presented in Case 1.
I'm writing this section in response to several e-mails that I have received, and from watching the issue crop up several times in the rec.photo.digital newsgroup (which can be a valuable resource for those pursuing digital restoration). The last 2 cases have focused on editing a digital image. In this case, I spend more time on how to acquire the image, as there appears to be a general interest in the subject. In Case 4, I give a more detailed look at using the settings for flatbed scanner. On that topic, I do try to pay attention to what areas are of general interest, so if there are topics you would like to see covered, let me know (no promises, though).
The photo above is about 7x9 inches, mounted on an 8x10 sheet of cardboard. The image seen above was scanned on an HP 6200C color flatbed scanner, at a resolution of 300 dpi (most likely no additional detail will be obtained from scanning a print above this resolution, but the higher the resolution, the larger the file size). The scanner is shown below.
While this flatbed scanner has an auto document feeder (the shelf-like part at the top), it has the capability of easily lifting the feeder and placing a photo directly on the glass. The document feeder is for scanning (modern) text, and conveniently is uncomfortable enough that the cat no longer sleeps on the scanner (saving me from scanning a lot of cat fur). Allow me to emphasize here: I do not use the document feeder for any photographs (new or old). The photos go straight onto the glass to avoid bending and scratching. If I tried to insert the photo above into the document feeder, several bad things would happen. First, the mounted photo would damage the feeder. Second, my wife would damage me. Third, her extended family would inflict further damage on any remaining pieces.
I have not had the opportunity to work with glass-plate negatives, although they can be placed straight onto a flatbed scanner for scanning. Some flatbeds come with a transparency holder; it is my understanding that these can improve scans of glass plate negatives. If anyone has experience with this, let me know.
Typically, using the flatbed scanner is my preferred way of getting an image from a print into the computer. There are several reasons for this. Usually, I get better resolution this way compared to using a copy stand. Also, colors tend to come out more accurate. Finally, the process is generally a little easier and quicker to do. If I have a 35mm negative or slide, I will usually scan that instead of the print, but for most of the photos we're discussing in this section, using a 35mm film scanner is not an option.
Flatbeds are not the only type of scanner, but are the easiest to use for this type of work. Feed-through scanners (I still have not figured out their formal name) move the image to be scanned over the sensor, instead of moving the sensor over a still image. This can result in scratches and bends. Hand-held scanners are more portable, and often do not need an external power supply like a flatbed, but are difficult to get a good scan with (IMHO). Flatbeds, while limited in how small they can become by the size of the scanning bed, are getting thinner and lighter, and some people actually haul them off to archives (where permitted) with a portable computer.
The photo above was a little tougher to get a good image of than usual. The color of the above image is a good representation of the actual photo, as is the brightness and contrast generally. However, the scanned photo has a grainy texture to it due to texturing of the surface. By the color and the date of the photo, I am assuming this is an albumen print - I'm not sure if this textured surface is due to the albumen or whether there is a separate overlying laminate (anyone else had experience with albumen prints out there and care to comment?). When scanned on the flatbed, the image gave the speckled appearance seen above. As seen in Case 2, this is not necessarily a fatal flaw, since there are ways to smooth at least some of the noise out of the image using blurring. However, there are other ways of getting an image into the computer we should examine. Next, we'll compare using a digital camera with a copy stand.