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Railfan Technology > Preserving images for the long term

Date: 01/23/17 15:57
Preserving images for the long term
Author: 4451Puff

        I have several dozen envelopes of photo prints I've taken over the years, the majority of which are about 20-25 years old at this point. Along with most of those envelopes are the negatives which the prints are derived from.
        My question, what is the best way to digitize the images for long term preservation? I've scanned some prints on my Hewlett-Packard computer scanner a few times with O.K. results, the biggest downside is that it's very time consuming, about 2 minutes per scan.
        Is there a scanner which will take the negative into a digital file in a timely manner, with decent results, (to be clear, these are negatives, NOT slides). or, is taking the negatives to the Wal-Mart photolab and have everything put on a CD or USB stick the best option? 

Thanks for any input.

Desmond Praetzel, "4451 Puff"

Date: 01/23/17 22:04
Re: Preserving images for the long term
Author: tinytrains

Archiving digital format is a challenge and a hot topic. Some will argue with whatever is said.

Here is my take. If you are using native formats, be sure and keep JPEG or TIFF copies too. Native formats may becomd unreadable some day as time goes on. Nikon and Canon may be OK, but remember, computer makers don't care if you can open your 20 year old files or not. As for media, CDs and DVDs are already obsolite. Most new computers do not have dirves, and disks can deteriorate. Thumb drives may be ok. but I would use two, each different brands as a back-up. Personally, I use a portable USB hard drive to pack up my computers and pictures. Making sure to upgrade the drives now every few years so they are always compatable.

Thre is no file and forget with digital. Technology moves on the the old gets left behind.


Scott Schifer
Torrance, CA
TinyTrains Website

Date: 01/24/17 04:04
Re: Preserving images for the long term
Author: kgmontreal

You don't say if your negatives are color or black&white.  I have a Kodak publication on achiving film that states that a color negative cannot be counted on to make a proper print after one year.  By contrast, a properly processed b&w negative or color slide can last for decades.

You should keep in negatives and prints in acid-free archival quality storage pages.  Scan individual images from time to time if you wish to post a photo on Trainorders or send one to friends.  The scanned images have no value.  Only the original prints/negatives do.  I am involved with the Canadian Railway Museum which has the most extensive archive of railway materials in Canada.  We will not accept any donations of digital material.


Date: 01/24/17 09:41
Re: Preserving images for the long term
Author: march_hare

I would definiitely scan the color negs as soon as practicable, at least the best ones.  They are far more prone to fading and/or color shift than BW negs, and this shift can be hard  to identify by naked eye because of the orange cast of the negative.

You definitely want to scan the negs rather than the prints.  There is generational loss in the creation of the print, and glare effects are common when scanning prints on flat bed scanners, both from glossy prints and more matte, textured surfaces.  If  you don't have the neg, scan the print obviously.  But the neg is a much better place to start.

A good scan takes some time.  My negative scanner does indeed take a couple minutes per image at its 4000 dpi  maximum resoulution.  And neg scanners don't auto-advance like some slide scanners do.  There may be a service bureau in your area that provides this as a service, but you can expect to pay for it.  Their time costs something, too.

I would strongly disagree that such scanned images have no value.  If you are scanning an item that is likely to fade and maybe become unusable over the next decade or two, the digitized image may be the only thing you have left.  So scan it, find a good way of keeping the files uncorrupted, and make peace with the fact that you'll be backing those images up every 5-10 years as technology advances.  The good news is that gigantic back-up operations like this are not all that time consuming.  You hook up your old hard drive to the computer, plug your new one in to the other side, and tell the machine to copy one to another.  It may take the computer 3-4 hours to complete the task, but you don't need to be there to watch it. 

My biggest problem with neg scans has been with an increase in graininess when scanning BW negatives.  I have not resolved this  yet, but it is clear that my 1970s-era Plus-X negatives look much grainier when scanned and printed electronically than they do if I take them into the darkroom and print them directly.  That's big-time counterintuitive to me (fancy word for WTF??) but there it is.  I have not noticed this in the case of color negs.

Date: 01/28/17 16:18
Re: Preserving images for the long term
Author: davebb71

i have used this type of scanner with pretty good results.  is it 4000 dpi? no. but it takes about 1 second to do the scan.  it's not really a scan, but takes a picture with the light source on one side and the digital sensor on the other side and your negative or slide in the middle.  very very fast and not $2000.


dave, out.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/28/17 16:20 by davebb71.

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