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Scanning photo albums to digital

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  • Scanning photo albums to digital

    My wife's hobby is scrapbooking. Over the years she's assembled nearly 20 phonebook sized albums with carefully curated photos arranged on the fancy paper with borders, annotations, etc.

    Since we move relatively frequently now, these albums all live in my parents' house, but it's a shame to not have access to them. Our kids, for example, really like looking through the albums of mom and dad (us) before kids, them as babies, etc.

    Anyway, I want to digitize the albums, but not use a flatbed scanner. I've got a nice tripod and camera. I could setup a rig over the books and take pictures page by page--maybe on a lazy susan so the camera stays put but the book spins to capture each half of the book?--but I'm lost on how to process the pictures later. I'd need to rotate half the pictures 180deg, crop all the pictures done to page size, and then I'd want some kind of software that could digitally "bind" the pages so I could flip through them like an e-flyer you get in your email.

    Anyone gone through this exercise and can give some suggestions on how to get going?

  • #2
    Originally posted by atgcpaul View Post
    but not use a flatbed scanner.
    What is the concern with using a flatbed scanner? That seems like the best way to do it, it will be challenging to get comparable focus and clarity with a different method.

    Electrical Engineer by day, Woodworker by night


    • atgcpaul
      atgcpaul commented
      Editing a comment
      The album pages are wider than 8 1/2" so they aren't going to fit on my scanner. Our scanner is pretty fast but it's still a pain to setup, scan, save, etc.

    • woodturner
      woodturner commented
      Editing a comment
      Larger scanners like 11" x 17" are available, may be worth considering. You could also scan the first part of the page, move it over, scan the rest of the page, and stitch the results together. Software is available to do that.

      Another open source image processing tool is Gimp, basically open source Photoshop. It's widely used and very capable, but takes some time to learn.

  • #3
    Once you have the pages digitized you are in the realm of picture image processing. A good free package for Windows is XNView MP. You can crop, size, rotate, make slide show, batch process,etc. It probably does much more but that is all I use it for. The web site is: https://www.xnview.com/en/


    • atgcpaul
      atgcpaul commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks for the lead. That'll get me a good start. I'm going to check that out today.

  • #4
    I've recently completed the long exercise of scanning more than 5,000 35mm slides and am now in the process of making title art for them (197 so far).... I took the last couple of months off! I have not yet decided which is the best way to distribute these for display with the relatives. i went into this first as a matter of preservation and with the idea of producing a slide show, as I'm sure some photos would swiftly viewed and other would prompt longer views and discussion, memories, etc. With that in mind, the initial objective was to just provide them on a thumb drive or a DVD-compatible disc that the relatives could just run or review on their widescreen TV. Last year I purchased the Cyberlink Power Director program to edit the mass of home video VHS tapes I have yet to digitize, and I see that has a feature to turn digital images into a DVD show, so now I'm not really sure what is the best media for distribution to the family.

    On top of those 35mm slides that I've done, I still have a few hundred negatives to review and digitize, and about thirty or so VHS tapes, not to mention a couple dozen 7" reels of super-8 home movie film which will require me to either buy a machine of send them out to a service, which is something I am reluctant to do. OH, I can't forget the twenty or so photo albums, which are almost a completely different challenge, as many are now beginning to fade and yellow, and too many are printed on beaded or other 'textured' papers which is picked up by the scanning process. Those album photos are also stuck in waxed pages with mylar-like overlays.

    Overall this has been a massive project, especially considering the amount of re-touching and restoration that is required. For the photo albums, I think I dig out my copy stand and give it a go with the digital camera as you are planning to do. It will be slower than the four-up scanning I can do on my flatbed (Epson V550) scanner. And, photographing will not allow me to color correct and filter scratches during the process and thus will have to be done afterwards.

    So, photographing your images will be a challenge for sure and if you're fussy, it will take some work after you have those images. But that said I think a copy stand would be the way to go, whether you purchase one or make your own, it will facilitate the process.

    For three years, back in the mid-80's, I was doing a lot of free-lance photo presentation work for my area's industries and much of that was in-studio photography of my illustrations and archival photos and documentation provided by the clients. For that I purchased a copy stand which was perfect for the task. Simple setup with the camera mounted on an adjustable height carriage which could move u[ and down column above the copy table. Side lights or flash could be used. At the time, I used a Canon New F1 with a waste-level finder and a 50 mm flat-field macro lens and a shutter release cable. With that setup, I could set the subject on the copy table, look directly into the top prism and snap the picture. I also had a Canon auto-bellows which would enable me to get really 1:1 or greater magnification.

    From a photography only perspective, if can remove the pages so that they will lay flat on the copy table, only minor focus adjustments are required, making the process much quicker. I found using a mirror, placed on the copy table initially will allow you to position to camera perfectly so 'parallax' is eliminated, and if there is any reflection at all, you will need to use something to block any reflections from the camera. For example, some images may not be flat (curved or folded photos, etc.) and in such cases I would use a sheet of glass to hold them down... but on first use I noticed a reflection of the chromed camera-strap rings. So, I cut a hole in the center of page-size black poster stock and used my lens shade to hold it in place. That totally cut any reflection of the camera onto the subject. With that setup, you could position one piece after the other, check the viewfinder and snap the photo. Providing the images are similar in size you can probably work much faster than a flatbed scanner (which on mine takes about four minutes for each image, not including color correction adjustments).

    For editing those images I do today, I use PaintShop Pro X6 Home and Student. The newer version has more 'bells and whistles', but the older version is more intuitive to me, as I have been using PSP since it was "free", back in the late 90's or so. For cropping, resizing, removing defects, making enhancements, and changes it works for me. I will be checking out " XNView MP" though!

    Think it Through Before You Do!


    • #5
      Here's the setup I came up with. My laptop's screen only tilts to a certain extent which worked out well because that's a known I won't have to measure each time. The cardboard fixture has some stops on it that registers the album pages in the same spot each time.

      The pictures came out pretty good. Not scanner quality but good enough for what I'm trying to do. The best part is that I didn't have to shell out any cash for it, the pages don't have to come out of the plastic sleeves because i have the setup just right that I don't get glare, and it took me 30 minutes to archive one album--39 pages/79 photos. There is a little paralax because the angle of the camera isn't perfect, but again, good enough.

      Now I've got to figure out that software so I can crop all these to size (and scan the other 19 albums)
      Last edited by atgcpaul; 02-16-2020, 10:05 PM.


      • cwsmith
        cwsmith commented
        Editing a comment
        Where there is a will, there is a way!

        Paul, glad that works well for you. It is often the most simple of things that work, all it takes is some ingenuity.

        Great job,


    • #6
      Amazing! It took me all of 3 minutes to figure out how to batch crop all the files and save them to a new folder. This software is awesome. Thanks Condoman44 for suggesting it.


      • #7
        Great, happy it worked for you.

        I have been a user of PSP (Paint Shop Pro) from way back when it was free also. I use PSP when I can't use XnView MP, although XnView MP is much better at bulk file renaming & batch processing.

        PSP now a Corel product has lots of features but it is very slow to load & not the KISS of the old days.


        • #8
          The wife has been digitizing family albums back to the 1800s. Thousands of images. We got an Epson Perfection V600 photo scanner ($200) and it automates so much of this. She can put four photos down, scan, and it automatically separates and rotates them. The camera on tripod thing died long ago, once decent scanners became available. She's been using Adobe Lightroom online to clean up whatever isn't auto-cleaned, and then put them into iPhoto to share with everyone.