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Photography Question 
Heidi S. Donaldson

old slides with black spots

I want to print up some of my old slides (30 years old)...not me, but have them made into prints. Is there a way, easy, or a place that cleans up the old slides without costing me a fortune. I am afraid that the film is just getting brittle and starting to peel...if that makes any sense ?

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9/28/2007 7:23:14 AM

doug Nelson   The only way to deal with the spots on the slides is to digitize them with a film scanner and go after each of the spots using Photoshop or maybe Elements software. The slides can be scanned commercially, but it's not cheap. Pick only those you really want. Have the scanning service save them in the TIF format on CD's.

Even more costly is paying someone to clean up the spots using imaging software. Do it yourself. Buy the latest version of Elements and learn to use it with one of several books available. Concentrate on tonal correction, retouching and the final step, sharpening. Use the clean-up features in Elements to clone clean pixels over the spots. Save each finished image on a portable hard drive or on CD.

Get back to us with questions.

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9/28/2007 10:16:07 AM

doug Nelson   Oh, and take the digital images when you have them done to a commercial photo store that will print your pictures from CD.

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9/28/2007 10:18:21 AM

Alan N. Marcus   The black spots are likely mildew i.e. a living creature. Photographic slide images are organic dye suspended in pure gelatin. In the developing process the last processing solution was a soaking in a formaldehyde solution combined with a wetting agent. The formaldehyde solution is called a stabilizer. It performs several function including “pickling” the gelatin. The other function is to form a peptide bond i.e. a net like structure that locks the dye in place. The dye used are oil that otherwise can move with time forming pools and/or commingling with other dye drops.

In other words the formaldehyde (now discontinued) was used a biocide. Sorry to report that the formaldehyde is volatile, meaning it evaporates and over time, thus the biocide protection is lost.

Storage conditions play a major role. High humidity is the enemy as this promotes bio-growth.

Kodak Kodachrome processed about that time also featured a lacquer overcoat. All other slide materials were not so over-coated however all including Kodachrome feature a non-image containing gelatin top coat to protect the dye layers below. You should try to clean one slide using purchased film cleaner on a lint-less rag like a well washed T shirt. It is possible that the mildew has not eaten through the top coat. Not likely any of the materials of that time period have become brittle. Likely that will happen in 10 more years or so.

Alan Marcus (dispenses questionable techno babble not to be beleaved)

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9/28/2007 1:10:17 PM

Heidi S. Donaldson   Alan Marcus, Thanks...Now I have got an answer ( solution ) that I , myself , might just be able to tackle. At least I am not going off and buying something that I probably wouldn't be able to figure out what to do with. Hopefully, you have saved the day...Thanks again, Heidi in TN

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9/28/2007 3:00:53 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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Carlton's Gallery
  Hello Heidi,
I went through 200+ slides for a friend of mine and used his scanner that had a plastic insert for putting in slides (to do several at a time) and scanned them at 800 DPI and saved as .tif (which is pretty big and takes a long time to scan) and we used these for a projection show at a large concert event. After scanning, I went through each image and used the clone tool & healing brush to remove the spots that were on the slides and then used levels, curves, hue/saturation, brightness/contrast & selective colors to bring the images back to life. Some needed a lot of work and others didn't. The original slides were of cave paintings, religeous/sacred places, animals, stained glass, sunsets/landscapes and other interesting subjects. The concert projection show was a great success and we now have high res digital copies of these beautiful slides, (which BTW were also over 30 years old) stored for easier access and use. I cant remember which (brand/model)scanner I used but it was about $200 and worked very well. It did require downloading the scanner software and it takes a bit of getting everything set up (selecting the slide template & quality settings) to get rolling. I have not printed any of these images but have no doubt they will look great if I ever do.

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9/29/2007 11:02:23 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  Has anyone ever tried this film-cleaning solution on spotted slides?
The manufacturer claims it will clean off anything...even fungus.


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9/30/2007 4:34:48 AM

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