I constantly have readers asking me about scanning WWII negatives and slides. Many people unknowingly think that the process is tedious and time consuming. In actuality, the process of scanning and processing a single image only takes a few minutes with some great results. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to scanning a WWII 35mm color slide. In this instance, the 35mm Kodachrome film is housed in a Leica metal mount.
To preface this tutorial, I need to point out that not every scanner will scan negatives or slides. I am currently running an Epson V700 “Perfection”. Many other collectors and dealers use this scanner, and some even use the V750. The V700 will run roughly 500 bucks, and the V750 a hundred or so more. There are a handful of other quality scanners out there, so search around!
Step 1: Find a Slide
This may actually be the hardest part of the process. Find a single image, or group of images, on an online auction or location flea market that you want to scan. This works well with any type/age of slides, but I prefer WWII and Korean War slides. In this case, I found a nice shot of a Marine pilot posing near the beach. Good subject matter, color, and condition.
Step 2: Prepare the Slide
Although most late-war slides tend to be mounted in paper housings, I’m showing the process with a glass and metal mounted slide from 1944. The process works the same with the paper mounts, but tends to lose some quality around the outside borders. In this case, the film is sandwiched between two small pieces of glass and inserted into the metal housing as seen below.
Take care when extracting both sections of the slide housing. Using slight pressure and TLC will ensure the slide goes back together after scanning. If the housing breaks for any reason, plastic 35mm slide mounts can be found on eBay.
Step 3: Scanning
Place the color film on the scanner glass. I don’t worry about mounting the film in the Epson provided slide tray. I don’t usually have a problem with gaussian blur, and I always wipe my glass down with a microfiber cloth to get rid of dust and random particles that tend to float around in the air.
The most important part of the physical scanning process is the adjustment of settings. I tend to scan in TIFF 48-bit color in 4800 or 6400 DPI. I don’t set ICE or dust removal.
Step 4: Post-Scanning
When the scanned image is ready for manipulation it typically needs a little bit of Photoshop cropping and editing to correct the color balance, remove dust and scratches, and reduce blurring. A few minutes fiddling with Photoshop or another editing program should produce a nice digital image ready for posting to your favorite blog. I typically use watermarks to help bring visitors to the website and to stop unscrupulous visitors from stealing images.