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Book Review – Scanning Negatives And Slides: Digitizing Your Photographic Archives by Sascha Steinhoff

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For people who have been taking pictures for more than just the last five to ten years, photography is more than just digital images. It is also all of those slides and negatives that they have collected prior to the onset of the digital age. Even today, there are times when the most die-hard pixel junkie may have the need to shoot film. The question is: how do I get them on to my computer? The answer is Scanning Negatives And Slides: Digitizing Your Photographic Archives.

Sascha Steinhoff found that it can be just as challenging to get a quality scan as it is to get a quality photo. After spending several rainy seasons in Ireland learning what it takes to create a quality scanning workflow, he lays out his methods in his book Scanning Negatives And Slides. The book is divided into 15 chapters and a DVD that contains some scanner software, image editing software as well as sample scans from film as well as flatbed scanners.

He begins with an introduction to scanners, workflow and the alternatives to film scanners. From here he moves on to the performance characteristics of film scanners. He discusses all of the essential parameters for evaluating a film scanner as well as a wish list that he would like to see in future film scanners.

He then proceeds to discuss scanning film. He points out that you cannot have your scanned images turn out better than the original film. You must handle your negatives and slides with care. From there you must choose the right file format to scan into for creating the best quality image. Here he shows how to choose the best format and resolution for your particular purpose. He also discusses the use of RAW format in scanning.

Color management then becomes the topic as it is very important as the image passes through the various devices on its way to the final output. Here he describes the basics of color management and profiling your equipment.

Scanning is done in several steps and in chapter six he explores the steps needed in generating a good scan. This includes the thumbnail, the preview and the scan as well as multi-sampling. From there the author describes scanning correction filters that can be used to smooth film grain, restore faded colors as well as removing scratches and imperfections.

The next four chapters are concerned with scanning software and setting it up. Steinhoff explains that there are a lot of different drivers and settings depending on your equipment and software. Some tasks must be done before scanning and some can be done after. In this book he concentrates on three scanning programs; "Nikon Scan", "VueScan" and "SilverFast". He continues with these packages in the chapter on "Scan Workflows" in which he talks about what needs to be done first and then how to work with the three scanning packages.

The author then switches to editing software. In chapter 13 he covers Nikon Capture editor and chapter 14 he covers Photoshop editing. Overall these are pretty lightweight, but in the scope of this book, I would expect them to be.

He finishes up the book with a chapter on archiving and backing up your data. He explains that just because it is saved does not make it safe. He also gives ideas on image management.

What I like about Scanning Negatives And Slides is that it explains the technology and works in to setting up a quality workflow that is both practicable as well as usable. Overall, he makes it understandable. The author does focus on Nikon's film scanner a lot, but it seems that much of this can be translated to other scanners as well.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.