Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Want to digitise your photographs? Here’s my Scanning Guide

Digitising photographs is becoming more and more popular as people become aware of not only what can be done with a digital image, but also the importance of recording all those memories which could so easily get lost or damaged.

Digital photo frames are great to invest in if you are thinking about digitising some of your photographs. They display beautiful colour images and can be set to display in a certain order or randomly, a different photograph every few minutes! See below a link to reviews of some of the best ones.

Ok, so lets get onto the scanning.

Many people assume you need a really ‘high tech’ scanner in order to digitise photographs, but actually, if you have a colour scanner, then chances are we can get you some really good quality scans. (However, I do recommend for very old, damaged, small or very detailed pictures that you send them to an professional company for scanning and restoration.

Step 1) Make sure you scanner glass is clean. Use a damp lint-free cloth and gently wipe the glass, DO NOT use glass cleaner or any other cleaning product as they can damage the surface and leave permanent marks. Carefully dry the glass with a dry lint-free cloth and blow away any dust.

Step 2) Make sure your photographs are as dust free as possible and have no hairs or other particles across them, I do recommend buying a KenAir Air Duster kit (CFC free) or something similar to blow off dust from your photographs and scanner glass.

Step 3) Place your first photograph face down onto the scanner glass, making sure its within the markers on the edges and as straight as possible, and close the scanner lid carefully.

Step 4) Open the software you should have received when you bought your scanner, and you should find a preview screen and preview button. This tells the scanner to produce a preview of the image on your computer screen. After clicking the preview button you will then be able to drag-draw a box around the image, or the part of the image that you would like to scan.

Step 5) After drawing you scan box, you need to set the resolution. Usually, with most home scanners, the highest resolution would be 600DPI. Set the resolution to its highest setting, 600DPI is fine, and at home you wont need any higher than 1200DPI. You also need to set the colour format, RGB is fine for home scanning and use with digital photo frames, websites and emails, but if you intend to print and/or enlarge the scans then set as CMYK. (If you are scanning as .tiff, the CMYK should be the default colour mode).

Step 6) You now need to choose a destination and format for the scanner to send the image to. I would advise you to make a new folder on your desktop for your scans as sometimes they will be sent to somewhere obscure unless you specify. You can then choose this folder as your destination folder. The format you should ideally be saving the images as is .tiff, but .jpeg is ok too.

Step 7) You can now type in a file name for your scan, each one being different from the last otherwise they will get over-written, and click the ‘Scan’ button. It may take a couple of minutes if you have a large picture and/or have set the resolution to above 600DPI. I always advise to go to your folder and open up the first image to check before continuing with the others.

Congratulations! You should now have a set of scanned images in your folder! My next blogs will talk you though how to resize images, basic retouching, colour balance, how to use the images for emails and digital frames, and good printing techniques.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Digitisation - the first stage in restoration - spans the ages and the continents

'The worlds oldest book has just become one of the newest.' - quote from Eric Pfanner, New York Times - April 2009

Being a history boffin (some would say a geek!), i was delighted to discover the World Digital Library recently. Having worked for the National Army Museum assisting with building their digital library and photographing their collection, the article i read in the New York Times grabbed my attention.

I have explained below for those of you who have not yet heard about it, and i am excited to see how big and successful this project becomes.

An 11th century book called 'The Tale of Genji' sometimes rumored to be the very first true novel, is one of about 1250 uncopyrighted books, maps, artworks and other cultural items that went on display online back in April. The online display is an international project supported by Unesco and the U.S library congress.

It's a project called the 'World Digital Library'. It aims to promote international and intercultural understanding by using digital technologies to get valuable items and resources online.

The library will draw material from around 30 national libraries all over the world, and is part of a growing number of organisations that are aiming to digitally archive cultural material.

Amongst the others is Google, who has embarked on a mission to scan millions of books into digital form (Google books), Google are also supporting the WDL with a huge grant.

The WDL can be searched in many different ways and includes links to the 192 Unesco members already.

For me personally, this is a very good example of excellent use of the new technology that enables us to digitise valuable and cultural material. Whether it's intended use is to preserve, restore, share or educate, this project begins to prove the importance of being able to digitise various collections and make them accessible worldwide. Everyone should have access to this kind of material, it's our history, and our heritage.

It is clear people are becoming aware of the importance of digitising this precious material, and hopefully the growing recognition of the value of restoration will follow, as people become more concerned with protecting and reviving our pasts.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Is digital retouching cheating?

My first experience of photography was at college. I studied 'real' photography, I loaded film, used chemicals and watched my photographs unfold in front of my eyes in the dark room. 

It was that excited nervousness to see if I had taken a good photograph which had me hooked. 

I loved the feeling of relying on my photographic ability and trusting myself. Seeing a good photograph appear was, and still is such an immense feeling. However, if I didn't get a good photograph - which back then when I was learning, was a fairly common occurrence - the amazment I first experienced at being able to scan my photograph and make changes to it digitally was immeasurable. 

I had discovered a whole new side to photography, and have self-taught myself retouching and restoration ever since. 

Some people told me they thought the method of digitally retouching and altering photographs was cheating that first skill and instinct for a good image I had learnt and come to trust, and some still do. I however, believe it is an art form in itself, just as valuable and creative if done sensitively and artistically.

Photographs are invaluable, especially those taken many years ago with film cameras of which there are no digital record. In many ways, film and transparencies are more stable in terms of 'life-span' than the digital copies we produce today, but to be able to digitise, repair and restore them is a priceless and precious technique not to be underestimated for the level of skill and creativity needed to perform.

As the world continues to become engulfed in the digital revolution, it becomes more and more important not to forget and destroy the history, memories and moments captured by film all those years ago. (Film is by no means 'going-away' and is widely used by top photographers all over the world, but the majority of these images will still come into digital format fairly quickly for use in publishing). 

To realise that old, sometimes ancient, images can be restored and preserved, is part of the key to protecting our history, our past and the history of photography. 

So, my answer is no, its not cheating. In my opinion, it can be cheating if done to a level of OTT, but all the time it is in the hands of creative artists, I believe it can only add value and integrity. 

Link below to Tom Hawkins article and brief explanation of how retouching is used -

Also, a fantastic article by Ken Rockwell on 'Film Vs. Digital' -