17 January 2008

Scanning and restoring old slides

I have a big project I've been working on in dribs and drabs, and that's to scan a whole heap of slides that my grandfather took back in the 1930s and 40s, get rid of scratches and dust specks, and restore them to their intended colors. Most of them were taken on a Kodak Bantam Special on 828 slide film. It's hard to find anyone who will scan that stuff anymore these days, since it is larger than the standard dimensions of 35mm film (28x40mm as opposed to 24x36mm) and doesn't fit slide scanners. I bought the top of the line, a Nikon Super Coolscan 9000, thinking that would allow me to do them at home, but even that doesn't have a large enough opening in its slide holder. So I'll have to try to rig something up with one of its larger transparency holders, or else do them on my Epson 4870 flatbed scanner in transparency mode and manually crop them to the right size and rotate them slightly if I didn't get the orientation lined up just perfectly with no tray to hold them in (and that won't be ideal, because the focal distance of the scanning beam will be slightly off). For now I'm working on the few 33mm slides that are in the collection.

It's a labor of love, I tell you. It takes nearly an hour to do each one if there is a lot of color distortion and hundreds of noticeable specks. Photoshop can do a pretty good job of dust and scratch removal on sky, but on other things it sometimes adds too much blur which I don't like. So I'm going through and doing them all painstakingly with the spot healing brush tool. Even though it is time-consuming, I'm quite pleased with the results. Here are two of the ones I've done so far. One is my grandfather with his uncle and the other is his wife, my grandmother, with her aunt-in-law (the wife of my grandfather's uncle), with my dad as a little boy in the background. I love how vivid the reds still are in the flowers (I really didn't have to restore that at all) against the still somewhat muted rest of the photo of the women. Did their dresses have more blue or green in them? I can't tell. I got the skin and hair and grass colors looking right, and that's about all I can hope for. I have chosen to keep the slide mount backgrounds on, to reveal the origin of these photos.


Anonymous said...

Hello, I just found your blog through a search. I do this for a living. I just wanted to make a suggestion: Try fooling with the saturation and those colors will just pop out. Great job!!


Anonymous said...

Probably too late, but you want to use a medium format scanner for that size slide. You can make a holder out of cardboard to get the size right. Just cut a hole in the cardboard with the same dimensions as the slide. You can find used medium-format scanners fairly easily.


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