Photojournalism Column 
Jim Colburn...Don't Ask
"Cheap SOB"
That's Scanning On a Budget..... What else did you think it was?

If you're a professional photographer working in journalism you've probably blown a lot of money on what your spouse (or ex) describes as "toys."

You know you need three camera bodies, seven lenses, a couple of decent on-camera flashes, a small lighting kit for portraits and maybe a medium format set-up for the big-money jobs, but try convincing any normal person that all that spending is an "investment" and you'll get some blank looks if you're lucky and a whack on the back of the head if you're not.

Well folks, dig out the Visa card because if you haven't bought a scanning/transmission outfit yet you'd better get ready to hand over some serious bucks because it's now required. Just like the cameras, the flashes and the film you now need to be able to transmit photographs in order to keep editors happy. That's the bad news. The good news is that it doesn't have to cost $5000 to get started. Here's how.

If you can swing it, do yourself a big favor and get a Mac Powerbook. It's easier, it's faster, and it's more expensive. Not THAT much more though.

Start with the lowest of the Powerbooks. You can pick them up now (233MHz/32Mb RAM/12" screen/Built-in 56K modem) for $1999. It won't impress your friends but it'll do the job. You'll need a good film scanner, not a great one, just a good one. I'd suggest either the Canon 2700F ($695 MSRP) or the Nikon Coolscan III ($995). Each will give you an excellent scan at comparable speeds. They both work at 2700dpi and have a 3.0 density range which used to be (like, last year) considered fantastic. They both come with decent scanning software (although you'll have to download the Canon software from an FTP site in Germany.....) that will allow you to scan and JPEG images from negs or slides. Then you can either email, FTP or directly transmit (your computer to their computer) a photo or four.

That's a total of around $3000. Too much? Then here's the rock-bottom system. Go to Winbook's website ( and order one of their lowest-of-the low-end laptops with a RAM upgrade to 32Mb ($995 for the computer, $150 for the RAM), go to a computer show and find an Adaptec PC Card SCSI adapter (SCSI's built-in to Macs) for $100, get the Canon 2700F scanner with Windows software. That'll set you back less than $2000 and it'll work. It will not be pretty and any you'll be the brunt of much derisive laughter and cries of "Why do you need SO MANY CABLES?" But it'll work.

If you go the cheap route you'd be wise to find someone that knows Windows because it's the ugliest operating system since Fortran. It will get screwed up  and you WILL need someone that can explain that your computer's frozen because you've just deleted a few very important DLL's and HERE'S HOW TO RE-INSTALL WINDOWS 98!

Wait. I hear something. I hear a voice in the distance and it's getting louder. It's saying "What about Photoshop?" Photoshop lists at $695 and even discounted it's in the high four hundreds or low five hundreds. Now you could bootleg a copy of 5.0 from a friend or search for and old copy that someone has sitting around (Photoshop 2.5.1, 3.0 and 4.0 all worked great, BTW) but doing that would be illegal, and since we're talking a copyright issue here photographers have to tread very carefully when it comes to trashing someone ELSE'S copyright. Right?

So what you have to do is use the low-end software that comes with the scanner to acquire and JPEG the picture and then either phone in or email the required caption information. Level with the picture desk about your plight and you'll probably get away with it until you can actually afford Photoshop. Of course, if the pictures suck that'll probably be the excuse they use to deny payment....

I haven't been able to find a program for either Macs or Windows that will let you scan an image and attach an IPTC-compatible caption. If anyone knows of one please tell me. There's CaptionEZ now available for Windows that is supposed to let you attach a caption to an existing JPEG AND it's cheap BUT I haven't been able to get it to work on my cheap little Widows laptop over the past week so I can't really recommend it.

P.S. Bill Gates IS the anti-Christ

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed are barely my own much less my employer's so don't blame Time Magazine, Time Inc. or Time-Warner for anything written here. If you have to blame something try nature. I checked my biorhythm program a few minutes ago and it says that this is NOT a day for intellectual triumphs.


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