Archiving Slides

A workflow concept using an Epson flatbed scanner and Silverfast HDR Studio.

It has been a while since I posted my last video here. After my visit to Photokina in September I realized how many photographers see digitalizing their archive of slide film as a big challenge. I do agree that it is a time consuming task, but the reward of having the complete body of work on the hard drive is worth it in my opinion.

In this video I introduce a concept that includes SilverFast HDR studio. The scanning part of the workflow will be detached from the processing part and this will make the whole process absolutely future proof.

With the basic SilverFast software you need to create so called HDR scans. These files are basically linear scans (this means a gamma of 1.0) and are unaltered scans from the film. All the processing steps can be postponed to a later stage without compromising on quality. So you can concentrate on digitalizing your whole archiving before you need to decide how a scanned slide needs to be processed.


When scanning the slides we choose the 64bit HDRi mode. This will produce a full 16bit RGB file including an additional infrared channel. This channel can be used later to reduce dust and scratches. The most important part of the scanning stage is selecting the best resolution for your scanner and coming up with a concept for naming your files. Depending on your archive this is more or less self explanatory. I suggest you use a good folder structure and meaningful names for each batch of slides you are scanning.


Each scanner has an optimum resolution and this normally the optical resolution. For most scanners this value is lower than the resolution advertised by the manufacturer. SilverFast´s resolution slider helps you with this decision. As soon as the slider changes from green to yellow you hit the maxium optical resolution for your scanner. While it is no problem to go beyond this value, you won´t scan more details, but you will increase file size tremendously.

Frame Finding

Mounting the slides is a tedious task, but doing it correctly will save you some time later on. Epson recommends to put the emulsion side up. There is a lively discussion of whether to put the emulsion side towards the scanner or not, but as I never saw any significant difference I only recommend to stay consistent otherwise you need to flip you images later on in post-processing. I also find it easier to put vertically orientated images vertically into the frame. This again will void rotating them later on. After the Pre-Scan and after setting up the first frame, you can start the auto frame find option and SilverFast will automatically detect the frames of your slides. A very helpful and time saving tool. The settings determined in the first frame will be copied to all succeeding frames.

Silverfast HDR Studio

With this software you have almost the same set of tools available as in SilverFast. Once you have scanned your slides you can put them away and safely store them. there is no need to rescan them even if you decide to give the scan a different look or you realized that you have messed up color balancing or contrast adjustments. With Silverfast HDR Studio you access the scanned HDR files and process them with all the required tools. I use mainly iSRD for scratch and dust removal, GANE for some scanner noise reduction and USM for intelligent auto sharpening. You can either process each scan separately or processing a big batch of scans using the job manager. In the video I am only processing one slide for demonstration. In might come up with another video on how to use the Job Manager correctly. This will safe you even more time when processing your scans.

So this is an overview on the complete workflow. I talk about each step in the video. The whole process is of course not simple but I hope I was able to give you at least an idea of what has to be done and how to set up a consistent workflow.