Vacation Slideshows in the modern age

"Someone please turn out the lights"

Vacation Slideshows in the modern age

“Dad, don’t you remember? We were there.”

“Just got our Yosemite trip slides back. You’re going to love these! Someone, please turn out the lights.” Anyone who lived in the 50’s 60’s or 70’s groaning? Why are these people smiling? Only another 100 to go folks! Entertainment has always been a way to bring families together. First came the cabinet cards and albums, then postcard collections and in the fifties came television.

Television in the fifties was sporadic. Limited shows, and usually off the air after 10 pm. Remember test patterns? In the early fifties, radio was still a major form of entertainment. Families sitting around on weeknights listening to their favorite shows. However, on weekends something special was needed. In many families, there were amateur photographers willing to share their hobby, for better or worse. The projecting of slides became the new ‘sitting around looking at cabinet cards or stereo viewers’. Kodachrome slide film had been around since the mid-thirties. Kodachrome was an extensive process, requiring specialized equipment. It was originally sold with pre-paid processing until the early fifties.

In the early forties, Kodak introduced Ektachrome, a much simpler developing process. Kodacolor, a negative process rather than Kodachrome and Ektachrome, a slide process, was also available at the same time. Processing times were usually one to two weeks after drop off. No instant gratifications. Slides and transparencies were interchangeable names, however, no self-respecting professional photographer would say he shot slides! He shot transparencies. “Slides” was a term that amateurs use. And amateurs took millions of slides! But unlike photos, it was a major project to view them! Thus the evening gathering of many unsuspecting people, seated in uncomfortable places for the next two hours viewing landscapes, monuments, unknown people, places and things. That was entertainment! And still holds great memories for me.

SLIDE STORAGE BOX- Tan Archival Barrier Board

2-3/8 x 2-1/4 x 11-1/4″. Holds 220 slides. These museum-grade slide storage boxes are acid- and lignin-free with a pH of 8.0-9.0. They are unbuffered and have passed the photo activity test (P.A.T.) as being safe for long-term storage. These boxes are made from strong, 40 point board.

Fast forward to 2018

Many households now have hundreds or more slides in boxes or those old familiar carousels. What to do with them? Gather everyone around on a Saturday night, haul the slides and projector downstairs, assuming you still have one, for a night of nostalgia and memories? At least three things are going to happen. After the third slide, the bulb will burn out. Forget Wal-Mart, Home Depot or camera store (if you could find one). They won’t have a projector bulb. Maybe you are lucky and you have a spare bulb. It has happened. On with the show. Slides 13 through 17 are backward, and many other slides are upside down. Next, some of the kids are getting bored, start messing around, trip on the slide projectors electrical cord spinning the projector around and ending up projecting a slide of a waterfall on Aunt Jane. You’ve lost your audience but you have created a new memory.

Time to digitize!

Epson Flatbed Scanner. Flatbed scanners are useful for scanning prints but will require an adapter for slides and negatives.

A good quality flatbed scanner. The best choice, if used with add-on software. Research carefully. Not all flatbed scanners will digitize negatives and slides. Always scan in color mode. That mode retains more information. Tons of information on scanning on YouTube and Google. Cost range from under $100 (probably won’t scan slides in this price range) to around $1000 for an Epson 850 scanner. I use the Epson which allows me to do different format slides, 127, 120 and 4×5. And it does a great job on negatives. But much of the control is lost with just the Epson scanning software. Third party software makes a big difference.

Slide converter

A good choice. Attaches to your DSLR lens. Needs a way to backlight. I used flash for consistency. Results pretty much depend on the quality of your lens. Price under $70. Limits you to 35mm slides, sort of. I have done 127 slides in this unit. However, most people are just interested in 35mm and this is a good inexpensive choice. Film/slide scanners. I bought one of these types of scanners to test. They work, kind of. Easy to use and fast for strip negatives. Slides use a carrier so three or four slides can be loaded at once. Being enclosed dust builds up inside the unit. Quality of the scan depends on the optics. Hopefully, higher priced units would produce better quality. Scans do get transferred to the cameras memory card so it is convenient to just plug the SD/CF card into the computer and open in a program such as Photoshop Elements. This allows you to make corrections in exposure, color, sharpness, and cropping. Prices range from under $70 to close to $200.


Do I need a lightbox?

A loupe is always a good idea when using a lightbox. It allows you to see the image on the slide without straining your eyes.
A loupe like this one can be purchased for under $10

Now comes the preparations before scanning your slides. A lightbox is a good idea for judging and selecting your slides. Being able to view lots of slides at one time make it easier to decide which you want to digitize and which you just want to keep in your collection. Prices range from under $70 to well over $100.You can also use your iPad as a viewing device. Be it a bit brutal. You are in for a long, time consuming hobby. If you have a slide of your family and a slide of your old home, maybe try and find a slide of family outside your home. One slide instead of three. Landscape slides of vacations? Try and find a few that represent the whole.

Darn these slides are dusty

Whatever scanner method you choose, slides have a tendency to grab all the dust in a room and deposit it on a slide. It’s inevitable your slides will have dust. You can buy an anti-static cloth and anti-static brushes, helpful to some extent. I use a simple soft brush, my wife’s makeup brush. Works fine for me. I do not use any Digital Ice technology when scanning. Would rather correct dust in software. But Digital Ice when used correctly does a very nice job and speeds up the process for a good overall digitized slide.

Now how do I store all my slides now that they’re scanned?

3 Ring Binders with Slide Pages is a great way to store Slides. Click photo for options.

Now that you have your slides digitized and on your computer. What do you do with the originals? Keeping all your slides in carousels and boxes has worked for many years. They are bulky and definitely not archival. Glues used on labels and boxes can give off toxic gasses that can damage your slides.After having gone through and organized my slides I store my important originals in an archival album with archival pages. I use 3.5 gauge, crystal-clear polypropylene pages that have been P.A.T. tested as being safe for long-term safe storage of photos and film. Slides are easily visible. Old slide pages were made with PVC, polyvinyl chloride. Telltale puckering of these pages is a sign of PVC’s. Bad stuff still being sold.

3 Ring Binder. 3″ capacity slant D-ring.

Super 3-Ring Binder – vinyl cover with spine pocket 11-1/2 x 12-1/4 x 4″ (L x W x D) Available in 3 colors: Black , Maroon or Blue These super capacity 3″ slant D-ring binders are made from vinyl-wrapped 100 pt. rigid cardboard.

Your newly digitized slides now need organizing. Lightroom by Adobe is the standard at this point. But other free programs are available. Add Metadata to the files so information such as persons, places, dates and things follow the files so future viewers will never have to ask “Who was that or where was that or when was that”. Always save your files to several different locations. The cloud, external hard drive, DVD’s or USB flash drives.

After Scanning
After Corrections using software

Another option is doing a slideshow. This last Christmas I put together a slideshow featuring photos and slides from as early as the 40’s of families at past Christmases. With a little Christmas carol background music, it brought back many wonderful memories! One final option for your slides and or negatives, you may find you neither have the time nor the inclination for such a hobby. There are many services that will do the work for you. I’ve seen slides digitized for as low as $.25 each to over $2.50 each. Usually on the low end is a lower resolution scan and if a larger company, they bundle up slides and send them to Asia to be done. I would not do this. On the upper level of the scale, those prices would be mostly for odd size format negatives and slides.

Time flies! Even what may seem like recent slides, from the 60’s or 70’s, can be almost 60 years old. And when was the last time they were seen? So get your slides out, start digitizing and keep the old memories alive!

Bob Walden

20 Pocket/ SLIDE PAGES for 3-Ring Binders. Polypropylene 4.0 gauge.

NEW DESIGN 09/2011 Top-loading. Holds twenty 35-mm slides. Page: 9-3/8 x 11-1/2″; Pockets: 2(w) x 2-1/16″. These pages are made from crystal-clear polypropylene that have been P.A.T. tested as being safe for long-term safe storage of photos and film. Suitable for binder storage, but can also be hung in file cabinets with metal hanger bars (sold separately).