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Digital Conversion

How to Get Traditional Media Into Your Computer

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Digital Conversion

A built-in negative carrier under the lid of a scanner

© Liz Masoner licensed to About.com, Inc.
Whether you currently shoot film or just used to shoot film photography, chances are that you now need to convert some of those images into a digital format. Having images in a digital format has several distinct advantages over traditional storage systems.
  • Email Capability
  • Freedom to Quickly Edit Your Own Images
  • Quick and Cheap Submission Process to Most Buyers
  • Easy Cataloging Options
  • Backup Storage for Negatives
The biggest question is how to get your images into a digital format. Many of us have boxes full of negatives and index prints. The idea of scanning each image one by one can be daunting. However, there are several options for having images digitized.
  • Lab Scanning to CD at Time of Processing
    The simplest and quickest method for digitizing your images is to have your lab create a CD when your negatives are processed. These CDs generally only run $3 to $5 and require no time investment by you.

  • Batch Processing by a Specialty Vendor
    If your images are already processed and you have a large quantity of images to be converted a batch processor may be best for you. These specialty vendors often began as image repair specialists and have branched out into digital conversion as technology grew. Good companies in this field use professional grade scanners and return dust free resolutions of several thousand dpi.

  • Scan Prints Yourself
    If you only have a few images you wish to scan then it is simple to scan them yourself. There are numerous high quality home scanners on the market today that all work in basically the same way.
    • Place an Image in the Scanner
    • Set the Scanning Preferences (dpi, color/b&w/image format/etc)
    • Preview the Image
    • Press the Accept Scan Button
    Images are then saved to your computer hard drive or onto a CD.

  • Scan Negatives Yourself
    Scanning negatives follows the same process as scanning images but requires a negative carrier and backlighting capability. Many scanners come with built-in negative carriers for 35mm film. Adapters are available for other film sizes. The negative is then lit from behind, much like an enlarger in a darkroom, to project the image for the scanner to read.
When scanning images yourself, it is important to remember to keep your scanner dust and streak free. The scanning glass must also be completely dry. Scanning at high resolutions (300 dpi up to several thousand dpi) takes a lot of memory. If you are scanning purely for email or forum usage, 72dpi should be sufficient.

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