Scanning Film - Fighting Against Curled Film

For all of my home scanning needs, I am currently using an Epson V700 flatbed scanner. The great thing about this scanner model is that it can scan any format film that I choose to shoot. The not so great thing about it, is that the factory issued film holders completely suck at holding 35mm negatives flat during the scanning process if the negatives have any edge curl present. The holders aren’t too bad if I use films such Ilford FP4 which always seems to stay nice and flat for me after drying. However, when I shoot film such as Arista Premium 400 which is prone to edge curl, and is as resilient as a cockroach against every attempt I make at flattening the damn things, the stock film holders just don’t cut it.

I tried a few methods to flatten these negatives enough to make them usable in the Epson holder, but never seemed to get them to a point where I knew I’d be getting the best scanning results. So, I resorted to purchasing an anti-newton glass insert from to help ease the pains of trying to get a good scan off of these problematic negatives.

In theory, the weight of the glass insert is all that would be needed to crush the curl on a negative and force it to lay flat for scanning. However, once I received my insert and set it on top of the first of my curled negatives, it became quickly apparent that its mass wasn’t great enough to defeat the intensity of my film’s curl.

Film curl defeating the glass insert

The web site has some tips for what to do in this situation which.3 involves using tape to secure or push the glass insert down. The thought of having to deal with tape residue, or the adjusting of the tape on the glass for every scan, or having hundreds of little pieces of tape all around my desk immediately turned me off to this solution. So, I sat and tried to think up a method that would be quick to use, and have no fuss clean up.

After some thought, I recalled the bag of extra packing peanuts from my most recent supply purchase from Freestyle Photo which was sitting in my closet next to six gallons of fermenting mead. I found that if I take a few of them, and crush them a bit with my fingers, they become the perfect size to fill the gap between the scanner lid and glass insert. At the same time they still apply just enough pressure onto the top of the glass insert to flatten the negatives.

Packing Peanut; before and after flattening

Now I just load the strip of negatives with the glass insert into the scanner and use the peanuts to mask off the frames I want to scan before closing the lid. It is a clean process that can rapidly be removed and set up for each strip of negatives that I want to work with in a given sitting. Perfect!

Example of packing peanut placement

But what about the results while scanning with the insert?

I’ll let you judge for yourself. Below are close-ups of two scans made from the same Arista Premium 400 negative. The left image is from using just the Epson film holder as it came with the scanner. The right image comes from using the stock holder in conjunction with the glass insert and the packing peanuts to press the negative flat. The scan with the glass insert definitely ended up creating a crisper image.

Before and After

Category Gear & Technique