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DSLR Film Scans

Ever since the #tbt hashtag came around, Thursdays have been nostalgic for me. I suppose it's no surprise, then, that I dedicate the extremely late Week 5 project to scanning in some old photos! "Scanning", in this sense, means using a DSLR, a macro lens, and a light table to accurately create digital negatives of old 35mm photos. They aren't perfect, and I don't have many shots to speak of (yet), but I learned a lot.

I also learned that, in the year 2000, I was not a very good photographer.

Somewhere, a hipster will find this shot intriguing. 

Maybe I'm being too hard on myself. After all, I took these photos in Canada with an enormously shitty disposable camera, which was probably $5 at the time. Either way, I guess we all need to start somewhere! 

Anyways, onto the process! I dabbled in using my DLSR as a film scanner a few years back, but I wasn't able to get a consistently fluid workflow. Recently, I stumbled across this amazing little video tutorial by Jamie Maldonado and my interest was renewed. In essence, you'll need a light table (like this one), a homemade "frame" (a piece of black card stock with a 35mm-shaped hole in it), and a macro lens. So long as you shoot in RAW format (basically a file made of unformatted image data), you'll be able to have a TON of control over the initial image's color, white balance, contrast, et cetera. See the image of the setup below.

Some guy, in some museum, in some part of Quebec or Montreal. Artillery Park, maybe?

I don't have much experience with film scanners, but from what I've read, this method trumps most of them, save for the ones that cost as much as a Honda Civic. Although it took a good deal of experimentation, I soon found myself in a groove; it's merely about lining up the camera with the film, using manual focus very carefully, taking the shot, and onto the next one. I can imagine doing 3 or 4 rolls of film in under an hour.

Hmm...passable. Not bad, 2000-era Tim.

Look closely, and you'll see the lovely scratch mark courtesy of some CVS photo technician

The first step in post processing? Just invert the colors, turning the negative into a positive. From there, you can spend as little or as much time as you need to remove dust and scratches (whoever handled our film back in the day was an oaf -- these negatives are full of what looks like gouges from whatever processor was used). I noticed that, even with the camera on the warmest white balance setting, a lot of photos came out very blue -- nothing that Lightroom or Photoshop can't fix!

Despite taking up only about 70-80% of the frame, the images will still be good for 4000 pixels wide.

Framing board on the light pad, with an image in-frame. Dumbbell fasteners to help flatten the film/surface. Bubble level on camera to ensure that the film and camera are exactly parallel.

All in all, I really enjoy knowing that I can quickly and successfully digitize stuff like this, even if it was taken during a grey, rainy November week in Quebec. Or Montreal. Somewhere around there.

Finally, because I know you're all wondering -- yes, here's the obligatory #tbt shot of me. Next to a Porsche. Some things never change.