Scan It Yourself!


In which our hero regales us with the tale of how he decided to purchase a scanner. Or: Are you sure you’re getting every shot off that roll of film you bring to your local lab?

I’d been bringing rolls of film to my local Walgreens for a few months and hadn’t really given it much thought. I got negatives and a disc. The clerk would look at me funny and make sure I didn’t want any prints. I would assure them I only wanted the negatives and the disc. They would protest a bit longer and I would further assure them that I, in fact, knew what I wanted.

With this particular roll, I decided to employ the Get More out of Your Diana Mini! tipster. This was the first time I tried it and as what usually happens on first tries, it didn’t work out exactly as planned. Towards the end of the roll my shots started to overlap, like I was trying to go panoramic. Anticipating some sort of mishap, I informed the girl behind the counter that the camera I was using didn’t take typical shots. This one would have square images and if she could, would she mind making sure that each shot was scanned. I let her know that I understood that if she had to charge me past the initial 24 exposures, it was fine. So, that evening I went and picked up my items and excitedly brought them home to peruse on my computer. The following were the images on my disc. Only one is missing. It is a completely blank frame. The only changes I made were to size them down for ease of view on the internet.

After going through the pictures on the disc a few times, I realized something: some of my shots just weren’t there. In fact, in some of the shots you can see where there is obviously another frame that turned out but just wasn’t scanned. I sat there a while and pondered my actions of the previous day. It wasn’t like this was an old roll of film. I shot it in it’s entirety the day prior. I’d followed all the proper rules of exposure and was certain that I should have more shots. So, I pulled out my negatives and held them up to my LCD monitor. Sure enough, there were a number of images missing on the disc. Though it was a negative, it seemed that these images should have turned out just fine.

At this point, I made the conscious decision to find a scanner so I could do it myself. For a few days I did my research and decided upon the Epson Perfection 4490. It’s not exactly the newest, shiniest model on the market, but it does what I need it to do. Also, it was cheap. Before shipping I paid $120. I know some might argue that that is still a bit of money to shell out all at once. But I did some math and came to this: I was paying $3 per disc when I got my film developed. I’d have to get 40 rolls of film developed in order to cover the cost of the scanner. This, I’m sure I can do. However, my wife is a photographer. She has numerous rolls of film from college that she wants to digitize. So she decided we could go half and half (halvsies) and it would be a fair deal. I agreed, so now I only have to get 20 rolls of film developed to break even on my end. Just 20 rolls? Even 40 seems entirely too easy a task.

But the real deal-breaker comes in doing the task myself. The following images are from the same roll of film, but I controlled exactly how it would be scanned.

I could finish here, but as it happens I was permitted behind the counter at my local Walgreens when a different clerk was working. Awaiting my scanner’s delivery, I had shot another roll of film. I brought it up to be developed and was prepared to get only the negatives. However, the gentleman behind the counter, Jim, informed me that picture discs were only .99 cents this week. I decided I wanted to see them right away as it was my first roll of DIY redscale film. So, again, as I had with the previous clerk, I let Jim know that my camera shot in an odd format, square, and that the shots would be relatively close together. But then, Jim surprised me and replied that if I was just getting negatives it would only take him about 15 minutes to run the roll and I was welcome to come back and go through the images shot by shot with him to get the pictures I wanted scanned.

This was exciting. I’d never gotten to experience this before. I remembered sending film off as a kid and it being this big to-do when my film got in. So I went back beaming like I was on a field trip. Jim showed me the machine that they used for scanning. It was this big ordeal with very specific proprietary software. What Jim informed me of was that they only got the 6 frames on the screen and when he proceeded to the next page (6 frames), he couldn’t go back. So we went through and centered up each shot for that roll as best as could be done with the constraints at hand.

“But, how’s it all different?” a man in the back asked.

With the Epson I’m able to frame each shot as I want to. So, I can frame out exactly what I want in each image. This may sound tedious, but you can frame out each shot and then mass scan them. With the mask provided with the scanner, it’s not unheard of to get a dozen shots scanned at a time. Control is the key here, though. I’m sort of a control freak and I like that I can get each and every shot off of my roll of film. I don’t like having to rely on someone else to do it for me, as sometimes people can let you down.

So, give it a shot. If you’re as interested in analogue photography as I am, the investment in a decent scanner should pay for itself in no time. You’ll get the shots you want and in the long run, end up saving money. Also, if you’ve got a camera that shoots past the sprockets, a personal scanner will allow you to get the most out of the film. I’m eyeing a Sprocket Rocket before the month is out. Happy shooting!

written by rrohe on 2011-07-06 #gear #tutorials #tutorial #scanning #tipster #epson-scanner-35mm-diana-mini-walgreens-diy


  1. disasterarea
    disasterarea ·

    Home scanning is the only way to go!

  2. falsedigital
    falsedigital ·

    I recommend cleaning your scanner and using a blower on your negatives before every scan. You have A LOT of dust on what you scanned.

  3. 2mur
    2mur ·

    I bought a special film scanner, but took it back when I realized that I was having to do way too much Photoshop magic to make the pictures turn out. Seemed like it was defeating the purpose of lo-fi analog photography.

  4. isoterica
    isoterica ·

    I have my eye on an epson v600, but now I'm looking at what you got too.

  5. rrohe
    rrohe ·

    @falsedigital Thank you for the suggestion. I have been neglecting to keep it tidy. Just didn't think it was that obvious.

    @2mur The only thing I use Photoshop for is to crop the image out of the black borders created when I scan wide around the picture. The scanner does a fine job with colors. I also agree that fiddling too much w/ the images digitally defeats the purposes of "lo-fi." That's why I limit my Photochopping to only cropping.

    @isoterica I had been eying the v600, but it was a little out of my range at the time.

  6. rrohe
    rrohe ·

    Also: thanks everyone for your interest. It is much appreciated :)

  7. jarvislomo
    jarvislomo ·

    scanner is the greatest investment for analogue lovers

  8. chucknoz
    chucknoz ·

    The best thing I bought is my Canoscan scanner. I had the same problem, several shots from each film being missed by the casual part time workers in the photo lab due to the constraints of their kit.It is well worth the small investment.

  9. sidsel
    sidsel ·

    Nice article, I guess I should really buy a scanner myself!

  10. easilydistracted
    easilydistracted ·

    I was thinking of getting a scanner but this makes me want to do it even more, I know there are some photos from my diana mini which I haven't seen properly as they were missed and it really upsets me. Thanks for linking to the get more out of your diana mini tip too!

  11. discodrew
    discodrew ·

    I got a 4490 as well. It is old but still scans at a great quality, more than I need really and it scans medium format and panoramas. I highly recommend it. I got mine for £40 from ebay, couldn't believe my luck!!

  12. jennson
    jennson ·

    true! what would i do without my epson v700?!!

  13. lereile
    lereile ·

    canoscan for me too, i am a bit untidy and don't clean it properly, but i love it anyway with the dust and scratches!!

  14. 12_12
    12_12 ·

    I have got an "epson V500 photo" and I'm totally happy with it - it took me quite a while to know how to use properly though, because of the scanner having problems to scan sprockets ... then I read this tipster by pepper-b:… After I read that article it was just a click to get results! There is no need at all of using photoshop, pushing saturation, altering levels from whatever, or anything else, that can be done with the scan software or photoshop... Except of pictures with fiji sensia 100, I sometimes had to put the saturation, using the scanner software, a bit down, because the image started to look a bit different (the color was like on some psychedelic posters) then the preview, after scanning on high dpi. I must say though, that a proper lab sometime does a better job then my scanner does: I compared it once with colour negatives, to see if there is a big difference to my scanning (didin't try it with xpros yet, differences can be huge, from what i heard). They sometimes get a deep black shade in the corners. Mostly it doesn't really matter, but the lab produces the same results, just without the black corners (I don't mean vignetting, it is really extreme). Its a very seldom thing though!! But nevertheless, a scanner is worth every cent, and specially if you want to scan sprockets a must have, otherwise no photo :( I recommend the tipster above for everybody who has problems with their scanning at the beginning - it was a true enlightenment for me :) @rrohe: The tipster could be helpful for you as well, when you're thinking about buying a Sprocket Rocket!

  15. rhemaangel
    rhemaangel ·

    I absolutely LURVE my Epson V500! Someone once asked my if I could justify the cost of the thing. Then I showed them my negative files. Point proved. I ended up getting my own scanner after getting frustrated & downright infuriated with the lab that was scanning my images. They couldn't seem to "get it" that I wanted hi-res scans in png or bmp format with a print size of 8x10 from my images. I would get 72 dpi scans, or I would get my 300 dpi scans, but with a print size being the original negative size (35mm at that!). And sadly, this place was a "professional" lab!

    Needless to say, I saved my shrapnel until I had enough to get my scanner. Haven't looked back since. Now I just get my film "Develop only, Do NOT cut negs". :o)

  16. roam-copenhagen
    roam-copenhagen ·

    Hello everybody
    I am quite new at shooting with film so I still don't know much about the technical aspect of developing film/scanning etc. It costs around 10-12 bucks per roll when I get my film developed (I get both in paper and on disc) so I was considering buying a scanner.. But I'm not sure I understand how it really works - do I still need to take my film to my lab, or could I just take the finished roll of film straight of out my camera without rewinding it and then put it into the scanner? What about light?
    I would appreciate it if you guys could explain it since I really enjoy learning about analogue photography but am still very new at it :)

  17. rrohe
    rrohe ·

    @roam-copenhagen you'd still need to go to the lab. With the scanner, you wouldn't have to get a disc when you get the film developed.

  18. roam-copenhagen
    roam-copenhagen ·

    @rrhoe Okay thanks, so I should ask if they could develop it and give me only the negatives without the paper prints or disc..? I don't need them on paper..

  19. rrohe
    rrohe ·

    @roam-copenhagen Yeah, that's what I do. Just the negatives. And I ask them not to cut the negatives. Usually they put some of the negative sleeves in w/ the negatives.

  20. psitsjess
    psitsjess ·

    Just ordered one! I've been dying to get to use the sprocket panoramas on my Diana! Thanks so much for this review and the photo comparisons.

  21. lisabegusch
    lisabegusch ·

    After you scan you have to invert colors? How do you get bigger image sizes from only scanning 120 mm film negatives? I also don't know quite how it works...

  22. lisabegusch
    lisabegusch ·

    After you scan you have to invert colors? How do you get bigger image sizes from only scanning 120 mm film negatives? I also don't know quite how it works...

  23. ja-en
    ja-en ·

    thank you for sharing great tips everyone...will be out looking for a will definitely help me save my money to buy films! :)

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