Part 2 Some new software and using it all.
Based on comments in the reviews for both scanners, it became clear to me that if I wanted the hardware to be really effective with the film and slides I would need something other than the software that shipped with them. I found a lot of information on two software packages, one of which (Silverfast) actually ships with the Epson 750. Independently, that software costs twice the price of the my Canon scanner and looked to be major overkill. However, the online consensus was clearly that the other one, VueScan, was what I wanted. Nearly as powerful and a lot easier to use, VueScan is the product of a one-man company and sold exclusively as a download online.
Although I liked the Canon software and used it exclusively for a few days, I did download and buy Vuescan Pro ($75). I got it mainly for the things it can do scanning film and slides. I got the Pro version mainly because it includes ‘lifetime’ updates. Although I’ve not started that part of the project I started using Vuescan right away so I’d get comfortable with it. Despite the fact that I’ve used almost exclusively it for photos, I must say it’s worth getting even for that. In lots of little ways, and a few big ones, it improves on the Canon software. Examples include:
- better support for adding metadata to the scans
- more flexible options for naming the scanned image files
- and a few more options for color restoration and adjustment.
On the other hand, if you’re working with relatively good prints (90% of mine so far haven’t been), the Canon software’s automated mode is at least as good as Vuescan, maybe better. For me, the key reason I got VuesSan was its excellence with slides and negatives and its ability to run a calibration to create new color profiles (requires Pro version, more about that in the next post). And the more I’ve used it, the better I like it.
Workflow issues and lessons
Initially I’d expected to spend most of my time waiting for the scanner, now I only wish that were true. Even individually tweaked scans on the old scanner were quick compared to the time it takes me to pull the pictures out of the albums and get them ready to scan. The good news is that the plastic-covered pages didn’t bind to or damage the prints. The bad news is that the plastic page covers and, sometimes, the prints are thoroughly stuck to the glossy cardboard pages–it’s time consuming getting them out without destroying them.
One step than VueScan helps with is getting relevant metadata into the image files. It lets you set a number of EXIF tag values (e.g., date-photo-taken) and a couple of the IPTC tags as well (e.g., caption and copyright notice). The Canon software is weak here and that means adding a step and time using another application to add that information to each scanned image.
My basic workflow has become
- Get the album and pick the pictures to scan
- Extract the picture(s) and make a quick wipe with a lint-free cloth
- Preview scan in batches of 2-5, preferably so each batch has the same ‘photo- taken’ date
- Enter metadata for the image or batch (description, date-taken, etc) and batch name for the scans
- If needed (95% of the time), adjust image (color balance curves, gamma, etc)
- Scan with auto save
At the end of the session, I put the images in my main image catalog and run a backup to two other hard drives on the home network.
The scope of the project is huge but I’m making progress. It’s also proved enjoyable and very interesting going through all these old pictures. Lot’s of little moments of insight for times and places I didn’t experience and little smiles remembering long ago events for those I did.