A Linux-Based Photography Workflow (Part 5: Scanning)

This is part of a series of posts on Linux-based software tools for a photography workflow. Please read that first if you are coming to this series fresh–it will provide the necessary background information to explain the purpose of this series.

In this part I move on to the topic of scanning. If you are a new digital-based photographer you might not have any need for this information, but if you shoot and scan film, or like me, are old enough to have old stocks of slides and negatives from the pre-digital days, you may want to scan these so that you can integrate them into a digital archive or print workflow. I’m on my second film scanner. The model I’m currently using is the Epson Perfection 700, a flatbed scanner that has some inserts for batch scanning a number of slides or negative strips at once. The resolution is high enough on this scanner that it is more than sufficient for the lenses and technique that I used back in the film days. Here is a picture of the scanner all loaded up with a set of 12 slides.

Epson V700 w/Batch Slide Holder

I’m going to cheat a little bit again and point to some older posts that I wrote about my scanning workflow almost exactly two years ago. The posts are still highly relevant, since I haven’t changed my scanning workflow one iota since then and I constantly refer back to those posts as reminders when I fire up my scanning workflow. Without further ado, part 1, part 2 and addendum.

For those who don’t wish to follow up all that information in one go, here is a basic summary:
In my early days of scanning, I quickly settled on a commercial program called VueScan, by Ed Hamrick. He sells a version of the program for Linux, Mac and Windows. It looks and behaves more or less identically across all the platforms. Although the price has gone up a bit since those days, this is still a very good product at a reasonable price. I looked at the open source alternatives such as xsane, etc., but they just didn’t match up with the feature set and workflow potential of vuescan. As you can see from the posts, there are many, many settings–this is not a program for novice users. It has a steep learning curve, but once you have mastered it the reward is an efficient, powerful and flexible scanning workflow that is almost unrivaled by any other scanning program period. The posts above describe a two step workflow that results in the RAW scans being saved, and then subsequently “developed”. The key thing here is that if you perform the first pass correctly you never have to go through the tedious scanning process again–like camera RAW files, you can reprocess the scanner RAWs as many times as you like from the hard drive. My second pass is usually to process the RAWs into TIFFs (again using vuescan), and after that I can edit them using GIMP or Raw Therapee for further processing, or run a batch operation using ImageMagick to sharpen, possibly downsample and convert to JPEG for the web.

VueScan 1

Excellent product, highly recommended. According to his web site, there is now a decent book describing a workflow using vuescan, and I only wish that had been around when I was learning it. As it was I remember scouring quite a few web pages and a suffered a few false starts before I finally figured out the subtleties of the program and how to make the most of it.  Nothing like having to scan the same batch of slides again and again to encourage you to figure out how to avoid those mistakes.

VueScan 2

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