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  • Writer's pictureSey Rosen

Converting Analog Photographs to Digital Versions

A DIY approach in the Analog to Digital conversion of photos - penned by street photographer Sey Rosen

Sey Rosen writes about converting Analog photos to Digital

Before I became a student at Art School, I wasn’t really interested in Photography. All that changed in my 2nd year as a Design student. Photography was now an integral part of the Design course and I experienced my first visit into the darkroom. The WOW moment hit me between the eyes. I soon discovered that the process of making an image was a lot simpler than I had believed. Being the visually creative person that I am, the hands-on ability to make and control an image from its concept through to the tangible feeling and seeing of the final print on paper was, to put it mildly, earth-shattering.

My Street Photography was never a thought-out process. It was the simple natural merging of my newfound photography passion with my childhood ‘fascination with the Human Race’. I was now able to visually express my feelings about Life around me.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, the pioneering Street Photography/Photo-Journalism icon and inspiration, made the following comments:

1 – “Photography is nothing—it’s life that interests me.”

2 – “I prowled the streets all day, feeling very strung-up and ready to pounce, determined to ‘trap’ life – to preserve life in the act of living. Above all, I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of one single photograph, of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes.”

3 – “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition in a fraction of a second of the significance of an event, as well as the precise organization of the forms that give that event its proper expression. — The Decisive Moment.”

The above pearls of wisdom have guided me throughout my Photographic Adventure, over +/- 55 years of Street Image Making.

I always keep it simple using a hand-held camera, a single lens, and available light, either natural or artificial. Shooting spontaneously and instinctively. I grab either (usually) my Nikon F100 + Nikkor24-120mm/f4 + a few rolls of film or my Nikon D750 + the 24-120mm lens + an extra battery + spare SD cards and off I go.‘Traveling light with a minimum of equipment frees one up both physically and mentally to allow concentration on the image-making without the distraction of a heavy bag pulling your body out of shape and restricting your movement.

The darkroom starter kit that helps in the Analog to Digital conversion of photos.

image: ILFORD


As a student, I set about trying all the different genres and techniques of image-making. B&W, color negatives, color positive slides, and eventually found myself settling down to B&W film + prints and Kodak Ektachrome color slides. The process for developing color negs/Ektachrome slides is similar to developing B&W but involves more steps and chemical solutions with much stricter, tighter, more disciplined time and temperature control.

This is a quick and easy workflow to develop B&W film (all user instructions and charts are supplied with each chemical):-

 1- transfer the rewound film cassette from the camera to the daylight developing tank (as opposed to dipping tanks for larger sheet film formats which require darkroom lighting conditions) IN TOTAL DARKNESS using a film changing bag or a light-sealed room or closet and close the tank then switch on lights.

2- pour the pre-diluted developer into the closed tank for the recommended time.

3 – pour out the developer and replace it with developer stop-bath.

4 – replace the stop-bath with the fixer.

5 – pour out the fixer, open the tank, and wash the film reels in the tank with softly running tap water at the same temp. that you developed the film.

6 – After rinsing the film with a wetting agent and carefully wiping excess water off, hang the film to dry in a dust-free place.

The actual action from rewinding the film, and loading it into the tank until the washing takes between 15-20 mins. Now you can go out and shoot another film or two while you wait for the negative film strip to dry.

The one-time financial outlay for the equipment is very affordable. The chemicals are diluted with water and are replenishable.

Langford's Basic Photography 9th Edition

Basic Photography, 9th Edition, pub. 2000. An iconic work by Michael Langford, Dean of Photography at the Royal College of Art, London.

To many people who started photography in the 70s & 80s, this was the bible that guided their steps through the intricacies of image composition and acquisition with a camera and its final printing with or without a darkroom lab. The book has amazing longevity.

Bear in mind that B/W film is easier and more tolerant to development temp. & time, which also allows for easier experimentation.

Now that we have our Analog negative film strips, positive color slides or prints and in this modern day and age we need to convert them to Digital files for various reasons – post-processing, archiving, cloud or HDD storage, emailing, posting online, electronic inkjet or dye machine printing, photobook making, etc.

For our purposes here, I’ll describe my personal workflow which I’ve developed over +/- 14-15 years, to get high-quality Street Photography files to enable exhibition and book-grade prints when needed.

Epson printer that helps in the Analog to Digital conversion of photos

Using my Epson V700 flat-bed scanner with Silverfast 9 Ai Studio scanner software, I scan my negatives, slides, or prints to a high resolution of 3200 – 4200 pixels at 360 dpi. The software enables me to process much of the image during the scan, especially cleaning up the inevitable dust and scratches of film and slides. Color correction is also a great advantage. The files are then saved as lossless TIFF files which enable further post-processing in Lightroom if required. Once I am satisfied with the image I save both a TIFF file and a copy in JPEG(lossy format), which becomes the file for posting, printing, and all other purposes, but never for post-processing. Scanning old prints enables the ‘fixing’ of colors, tones, composition, cracks, tears, and other damage that may have threatened the survival (of the image).

In our next article of this series, we’ll talk about Digital Image Post Processing.

Meanwhile, if you have missed out on the previous ones from this series, I am leaving easy links for you to read. Enjoy!

Author – Sey Rosen

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