"Should I scan the photos, or the negatives?" For those fortunate enough to still have their original negatives, this primary and key decision needs to be addressed. There is no shortage of information on the subject, including in-depth technical analysis on the differences between negative scanning and photo print scanning.
What people need, though, is a simple guide to help them get started looking at their options in a way that will leave them personally satisfied and pleased with the results.
A Fight That Isn't Really A Fight! A lot of articles and forum threads make the subject of print versus negative scanning sound like a winner-take-all death match between two diametrically opposed technologies.
First, let's dispel that idea. Both methods have their clear advantages and clear disadvantages. We will start by putting the flatbed on the shelf, focusing instead on specialized negative and photo print scanning equipment.
Most of the "which is better" assertions still out in forums are founded on the assumption that people are either using flatbed scanners for digitizing both prints and negatives or using a flatbed scanner for the prints and a dedicated film scanner for the negatives. Today, a flatbed scanner is rarely the best choice for digitizing large numbers of either print or negative scans.
Instead of focusing on flatbeds, this discussion is going to consider the use of dedicated film scanners, such as the Epson V850 Pro series, along with the current generation of specialized auto-feed photo print scanners, such as the Kodak Picture Saver Scanning System. This is an important distinction over typical flatbed to film scanner comparisons. Flatbeds take about the same amount of time to scan a photo print as a dedicated film scanner does to scan a negative. Modern auto-feed photo print scanners, however, scan prints 20 to 40 times faster than either a negative scanner or a traditional flatbed scanner. This significant time advantage has to be factored into your decisions when planning a large-scale photo digitization project.
5 Key Factors Helping to Make the Best Selection
Before deciding, do a quick inventory of what you have available to scan and ask yourself some important questions:
Remember: Digitizing your analog photo library is a very important step for you and for future generations. Taking a few moments with the questions above to assess your collection and options is time well spent.
If you are responsible for preserving your family or organization's entire photo collection, you will likely find a place for each of these technologies in your digitization plans. Certain images will be better served by negative scanning, and others will make more sense to scan using the latest in photo print imaging technology.
Now that we have a general idea of the type and condition of our originals along with an idea of what some of our scanner options are, let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of negative and photo print scanning.
Examples of those who might prefer negative scanning
Here's a quick summary guide: When using your digital camera, if you tend to shoot RAW formats instead of the default JPEG formats, you should probably consider at least selective use of negative scanning on key images.
Photo Print Scanning
Examples of those who might prefer photo print scanning
Here's a quick summary guide: If you have used your digital camera in the default JPEG file setting for years and have been happy with the results with only minor adjustments before sharing your photos with others, then photo print scanning will probably be right for you.
Some concluding thoughts... If you organize your photo collection scanning project by photographic quality of the original, the formats available to scan, the relative importance of fine details in shots, and how you want to use the photos once they are scanned, you will likely find a place for both print and negative scanning in your collection.
For select shots, you may find that it is worth the 20 to 40 times longer to scan the negative to get certain details out of the original. If you are a photographer currently shooting film but using a digital workflow, this may be true for all of your shots.
If you have thousands of photos stretching back over several years to digitize, you likely will find yourself quite happy with the results of a modern print scanner for most, if not all, of them.
If you are considering digitizing photo collections with the goal of preservation, the important thing is to get the project started and completed with quality results that you and future generations can enjoy. With the advent of modern auto-feed photo scanners, photo print scanning can be a satisfying tool to achieve your objective, preserving good copies of prints for generations to come.
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