Monday, October 15, 2012


Why am I writing this?

Earlier this year I have started to digitize my pictures archive. In other words I started to scan thousands of slides I have taken many years ago. I was not doing it alone; it was a common project with several friends with whom we were constantly sharing ideas, problems and solutions. While searching the net for answers during this work, I have never encountered a site or blog describing similar experience. Don’t get me wrong, all the information is there to find, but not the whole (from slides to organized digital archive) do it yourself process in one place.

I read many blogs, I even comment sometimes, but until now I was never writing one of my own. One day I suddenly felt the need to share with the world and this blog is the result. I will write about the experience we (me and my friends) collected when scanning the slides, about restoring of faded colors or scratched pictures, about hardware and software we used, about how to best organize digital picture's archive and marking the pictures with meta data, about the mistakes we have made and about all the fun we had (and still have) doing it.

If you enjoy reading this blog I am satisfied, if you are also scanning and it helped you with a good hint even better. If you agree or disagree with anything, or if you want to share your own experience, do not hesitate to comment!

Who am I?

My name is MirĨ (pronounce Mearch). I live in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. I am an IT engineer who started working with computers when memory and disk size were still measured in kb and Mb. I wrote my first real program (in FORTRAN on PDP 11-34; it played Gomoku and actually sometimes managed to win a game against other students) as a student at FRI. After finishing the study and several years working as programmer my interests changed and most of my later career I worked as systems engineer, supporting servers running VAX VMS, Novell, Windows and VMware.

I am married, I have a daughter, and 4th member of our family is a Labrador dog. We go skiing in winter, we travel in summer, we have birthdays and parties; and we shoot pictures. As some older readers might remember, in the past cameras were not digital. We had to buy films and each photographer's 1st important choice at those times was: diafilm or negative. I have made my choice after I bought my fist Nikon camera. My reasoning was (and it still is), that the whole point of taking pictures is to later bore other innocent people by showing them. And having all the guests looking at the big projected pictures together (and comment them with a beer in the hand) is much more fun, than each of them browsing the album separately (while all others talk about children or jobs or whatever), so my choice was diafilm.

By the time I have bought my first digital camera, I have taken almost 5000 dia slides and three times that later with digital cameras. I was not alone, I have a friend or two, who have fewer pictures, but most of them have even more. Their families appear on my pictures and my family on theirs. From time to time I want to revive some moment from the past with some great pictures I took. Even with digital pictures, it  is quite some work to find them, but with dia slides, it is almost mission impossible.

There is another problem with dia slides (and negatives). The wonderful colors I remember from the pictures I took 20 or 30 years ago are not so beautiful anymore. Although it seems to depend very much on the quality of the film (some Fujichrome or Kodachrome dia slides are almost perfect even after 15 years, while some of other marks are completely reddish) in this case the Rolling Stones were wrong, Time is on my side NOT  ).

Earlier this year, I decided, that it is high time to stop only thinking about dia slides and to start actually doing something about it.

The goal

Yes, you have guessed correctly, I have decided to have all my dia slides scanned for me at a professional shop. But after checking the prices for service (about 0,30 EUR per slide was the best pro offer available, since I did not want to trust any half legal, doing it at home in the afternoon business for about 0,15 EUR per slide) and doing a quick math, this seemed quite an expensive project.

I started to seriously consider the option to do it myself. Next natural step was to check on the net (I found this site quite informative) what other people have to say about scanning of dia slides. I found 2 important pieces of information I was not aware of before:
  • the time required to scan one dia slide is measured in minutes (not in seconds)
  • some scanners exist, where you can insert a whole slide tray

In other words, I discovered, that the time required scanning 5000 slides means about 300 hours of work, most of this time just waiting to change the slide, but that with a scanner that supports slide trays, I could just replace the tray every several hours and leave it to work.

Did I mention, that all my slides are stored in LKM trays, each holding 80 slides, so the decision seamed easy, right? Well not that easy, because the cost of scanners taking trays is directly comparable to the cost of using professional service.

The consortium

I wrote an email to several friends (I already mentioned them above) basically asking the question:
Are you going to do anything with your dia slides or just leave them to fade away?
Ten out of twelve answered something similar to:
Definitely, I am already thinking about scanning them.
And the remaining two said:
I am already scanning
The emails started to fly around and one evening we have met away from distracting factors (read: wives and children) for a beer and discussion.

Read next post to discover the dia-scan-consortium !

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