You have entered the twilight zone. Reality takes a back seat.
First of all, you need to ‘frame’ your scans. The following data will help establish context for your collection:
Time Stamp on slide Kodak, and at least some other processors would stamp the slide with month and year that the film was processed. Sometimes this was an ink stamp (usual on plastic mounts) or embossed into the cardboard on cardboard mounts.
Ideas for recovering this information: If you use a digital camera for copying, set up 2 stations.
- Station 1 does the actual slide copy, with a macro lens focused on the slide. (BTW: Since slides are usually buckled, you may want to use stacked focusing for this.)
- Station 2 has enough back light to see the image, but is wide enough to see the entire slide. This station has an additional light from the side at a low glancing angle to bring out the date stamp.
- In addition slides have a frame number. This is in the same order as the film roll, but may not be the same as the actual number on the film. This can bite you when the better slides have been remounted in glass slide holders.
- Verify that the cameras for both stations are using the same time to the second. This way, you can sort by time and the station 2 image is adjacent to the station 1 image.
- If you get a good flow going, you can put both cameras on “take a shot every 20 seconds” and phase them 10 seconds apart. This may not be compatible with focus stacking unless you can do a focus stack burst every 20 seconds. Check into software for tethered shooting.
Other information from the mount
Sometimes people have written notes on the slide. Be prepared to photograph both sides. Also: a common trick for people who put together slide shows was to band the slides in order, then run a diagonal line with a felt marker down the block. This enabled quick restoration if a tray was fumbled. You can careful put a tick on the face of the slid corresponding to the middle of the edge mark. Sometimes the felt marker will bleed onto the edge enough to show up without a manual tick.
Frame numbers from negatives
The same trick works with negs: One shot or the frame, one shot backed off a bit to get the neg number. You may be able to do the second operation a strip at a time.
Don’t discard the envelopes
If your collection arrives as a bunch of shoeboxes, examine the containers carefully. They will often have a date processed. This is best done by circling the date with felt marker, and if faint or small, copying it. Use a fine point permanent marker. Now take a picture on your station 2 setup.
Check the envelope for notes. More meta pictures.
Don’t discard the receipts
A receipt will often tell you how many rolls were processed. This can help put the pieces together.
Construct a timeline for each box.
For prints and negs this will usually be a full date. For slides, only a month and year. Note that processing time is just that. Sometimes people would collect 3-4 rolls of film over the space of a year, then process them all at once. Or the last roll of the beach holiday wasn’t used up, and shows up in January with the other Christmas pics.
So this is a tentative timeline. Each box gets a box number. At this point you won’t know what order the boxes are. Each container (slide box, neg bundle, print bundle. gets a Box number and a date order. Where you have duplicate dates, arbitraryily add a 1 letter suffix. If the negs are with the prints, then their number is the same as the prints envelope with -neg as the suffix. this means you can have
- Box 6 1984-Jul-15a
- Box 6 1984-Jul-15a-neg
- Box 6 1984-Aug
- Box 6 1984
- Box 6 Unknown-a
Slides are often separated from their envelopes, so the only info you have is mmm-yy
You need a copy camera set up. Dual lights 45 degrees off axis. Ideal is a vacuum easel, but failing that, a slab of 1/4″ polished plate glass (do NOT use float glass.) 1/4″ thick gives you enough weight to hold the picture flat, and also for any dust specks on the top of the glass to be out of focus.
Prints often have a roll number and a date on the back. This roll number will be the same (usually) as the roll number on the end of the negative. This may give you a date for the negatives.
Whatever info you can get off the prints transfer to the glassine sleaves the negs are in. If the negs are unsleeved, write a note that goes with the negs. When you process that set of negs, the first shot is whatever you have gleaned from the container info.
Each roll becomes an album or folder.
Add the meta data you salvaged from the packaging to the folder notes, and to the meta information for all the pictures in the folder.
If you know dates, use a date based folder name. If a folder seems to be all of an event, add the event string to the folder name. But the original Box #-date info from the timeline is also stored.
You will probably do negs in a separate run This is where the -neg comes in. If you can, process the negs into a positive image, and decide which you want to keep. Could be both. The neg station 2 shots will allow to to put the prints in order.
This is significant info. Several times when reconstructing events from a bundle of pix the order was helped me do so.
Now, extract faces. Initially you won’t have a clue, so every person initially is P:ZZ-NUMBER.
Take your laptop with your pix when you see your parents. Now you can ID people. Once you know that P:ZZ-12243 is Uncle Jim, you can do globally change P:ZZ-12243 as “Jim Swenson — according to Martha Swenson” You will get conflicts. You need to figure your own resolution to this. My take would be to give that individual multiple labels. Eventually you may find that Martha’s facial memory is terrible. (I’m nearly faceblind, I’ve discovered.)
- Make a timeline.
- Extract all container information you can.
- Start with a picture of your timeline.
- Start each roll with the roll’s meta information. You can either photograph the container, or write it on a sheet of paper and photograph that.
- Scan the roll.
- Import the images into your library.
- Cull the blanks.
- Look at what you need to reshoot.
- Merge information into your archive.