If I Can’t Scan My Photo Prints in Right, Then Why Do It?

There are good reasons to get a representation of your photographs (recorded images) scanned so that they can be stored in digitized form:

  • If you have your negatives and prints properly stored, then with digitization you have a 3rd form with several options available for storage
  • There are computer tools available that can be used to enhance your photographs (restoration, modification, creation of collages/posters, etc.)
  • There are computer tools available that can be used to share your photographs with others
  • Etc.

There is much discussion and some controversy over how best to scan your recorded images. On a good negative, there is likely much more information available for scanning than you need for simple images. Much depends upon what you will wish to do with the scanned images in the future. If you wish to print large, high resolution images, then you need higher resolution scans. If you plan a one-to-one print, then some say a 300 dpi scan is sufficient. The higher resolution scans use significantly more storage capacity.  What to do?

Yes, your prints/negatives might deteriorate or be lost, damaged, or destroyed. However, unless you take no care of them – which I gather is unfortunately the case for a lot of prints/negatives – then the probability that they will become useless is much higher than that they will be destroyed. As clarification for this statement, a recorded image is in danger of becoming useless in my definition when there is no one who remembers anything interesting about the photo. An image is recorded so that it can evoke something in the mind of the observer. The act of computerizing a recorded image does nothing to address this fundamental issue. The memories that make a recorded image useful are far more fragile than the recorded image.

My answer to “What to do?” is to get a reasonable representation of your photos digitized somewhere, and find a way to use that to get your recorded images documented – the latter being the most important aspect of the exercise. I gave my answer away in a prior post – “Photo Indexing Project” – so feel free to have a look at that post. I’ll be talking more about what I believe is a good solution to the problem in the future. You have time to figure out the RIGHT way to scan your photos – but with every day that passes you are losing opportunities to acquire the stories behind some of them.

We received a Christmas Card for 2010 from a couple Julie and I know from High School. This summer when I was working on our photos, I was in our home town and I nearly called his mother to discuss possibly working with his family to document their photos. I learned in their card that his mother died in October. While I don’t know yet whether she was still capable of helping with the project, it seems to me like this was probably a tragic missed opportunity and it makes me sad that I didn’t help these good friends preserve some of their family memories!


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