Tuesday’s Tip – Scanning 35mm Slides

It’s time for Tuesday’s Tip, a blogging prompt suggested by members of Geneabloggers. Last week’s tip was to review the information found on the website scantips.com in order to help you decide on optimal settings for scanning photographs based on your intended use. This week I wanted to build on that information a little and discuss scanning 35mm slides.

I don’t know about your family, but mine went through a phase in the late 1950s and into the 1960s where many of the pictures they took were in the form of color slides rather than prints. When my Mom passed these along to me, some were in little boxes but many were mounted in metal trays. (Apparently, there were at least two types of slide projectors, some that used carousels (rounded trays) and others that used straight trays. My family obviously owned the type that used a straight tray.)

Now even though my flat bed scanner can handle slides, I knew that scanning them was going to be much more of a hassle than scanning photographs, so I first wanted to see what they contained to see if it was going to be worthwhile. The slide projector was long since gone, so the first step was to remove the slides from the trays and then remove the little metal sleeves. In holding the slides up to a bright light to view them, I was able to get an idea of what was on them. As it turns out they contained  photos of my parents’ wedding and other various family events that were worth scanning.

In order to scan the slides, light needs to shine through them much like it does when they are viewed with the projector. I have an Epson Perfection 4490 Photo Scanner. It’s a flat-bed scanner which I purchased several years ago. Like many models of home scanners, it is designed to scan slides as well as printed photographs. However in order to scan slides, you need to remove the white panel on the lid of the scanner and use the appropriate plastic guide to line up the slides. Since I had no idea where my scanner manual was hiding, I brought up the online version to read the instructions. As it turned out, it was pretty easy to remove the panel and position the plastic slide tray.

The next step was to determine the scan settings, most importantly the scanning dpi. Since I wanted to be able to create decent-sized print quality pictures from the scans, I chose 3200 as the scanning dpi. In essence this means I could generate prints of at least 8 by 12 with a print dpi (or ppi) of 300. (Here’s where I would recommend going back to the scantips site for a discussion of dpi and ppi.). Just a warning, scanning at this resolution is agonizingly, mind-numbingly sloooowwww!! However if the slides are good quality and not blurry or otherwise damaged, the resulting scans are amazing. I have been able to open them in photoshop, zoom in to full scale and the detail and clarity is awesome! In the end, all of the time and effort has definitely been worthwhile!


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