Field Production Forum
Photo scanner for documentary work
Photo scanner for documentary work
by Matt Tarpley on Dec 14, 2018 at 1:15:56 pm

Hi all, I am working with a very small team on a doc feature. We are about 95% finished with filming and are now we are beginning to collect photos and news articles, etc. From researching scanner types I've gathered that we need a photo bed scanner, but those prices range from $100-over $2K. Can anyone recommend a scanner that is relatively portable and would give us high quality scans that we can use in our film? Thanks in advance for any ideas!

Re: Photo scanner for documentary work
by Steve Kownacki on Dec 17, 2018 at 7:13:34 pm

Can't recommend any models, but what size are most of your originals? Legal-size flatbed are pretty reasonable. With some skill you can scan larger items in sections and stitch in photoshop. You don't need to scan at any crazy-high rez for video, but get large enough files so you can zoom in on them with no degradation. Look at the speed of scan - cheap scanners may take 5 min to scan a 4x6 at hi rez and then do an interpolation for high resolution instead of 1200dpi native for instance. I really liked EpsonScan software (old), but fast, lots of cleanup capability, and complete custom scan modes. No need to scan everything at 8.5x11 letter size for instance. So the price of the scanner vs. your time... a more expensive scanner may be the cheaper alternative when billing by the hour. Keep in mind that if you are scanning, you are not only making them for use in your doc, but also as a new digital archive for your customer or group providing the images. Perhaps additional money can be send your way for the service and potentially capture more than only what you need.

If you have large items (and you are permitted to take them off-site), there are document services that will scan affordably (here's one I use

Hope this gives you something to think about.


Re: Photo scanner for documentary work
by Matt Tarpley on Jan 14, 2019 at 1:41:03 am

Thanks so much Steve for the helpful info. Most of our originals are going to be weathered photos, probably nothing more than 8x10 max. I appreciate the advice!