now is the best time to scan old negatives

Now is the best time to scan old negatives

Now Is The Best Time To Scan Old Negatives

Of the three types of old photo media that many of us have stashed away, negatives are the most often overlooked.  Prints and slides can be viewed relatively easily but because negatives are reversals and they’re so small, it can be hard to determine what’s on them. When you start organizing, they may be first to go in the trash. But you could be discarding good memories of you and your family from decades passed.

Prints are made from negatives so if you have a ton of old pictures, you also have, or had, a ton of old negatives. So why keep the intermediary when we have the finished product? Because where the prints fade and can be damaged, torn or lost during handling, negatives are usually kept in better shape because,

  • If they were originally developed correctly, negatives hold their color better, longer.
  • Photofinishers usually returned negatives to us in clear sleeves which, if they’re made of good quality material, are still protecting them today.
  • With no reason to handle them, negatives are commonly tucked a little deeper into our photo stashes, preserving them further.

Now is a good time to consider scanning any type of old photo media, but especially negatives. Why? Because the equipment that professionals use to scan them at high volume is becoming less mainstream, and more expensive to maintain. There are only two manufacturers still tooling out a handful of high-quality, high-volume film scanners and, as you can guess, they’re expensive to buy and operate. On the contrary, business owners are finding this niche falling further out of demand so it’s harder to justify the cost. Even established labs that already own the equipment have to weigh the costs of maintenance, space, and salaries to keep up legacy film services rather than directing those resources toward newer, more profitable services.

It’s not a doomsday scenario by any means. Store owners work hard to keep costs downs and we hope the recent renaissance in film shooters bolsters the market for processing equipment. But even in resurgence, the market is a fraction of its former self. The cost to scan each frame is likely to go in one direction only; up. If your local photo professional offers negative scanning, take them up on it. I guarantee your results will be positive!

Archive the Art Cave

Archive the Art Cave

Save the school year and your sanity!

Wednesday is the day my grade schoolers come home with a week’s worth of completed assignments. I hate Wednesdays. That’s not true; I love to see their work, talk about what they’ve been up to, and get a glimpse inside their school-brains. But after that I’m left with a stack of guilt. I can weed out the spelling tests and math homework but it’s tough deciding which stories and drawings to keep. The more I save, the less confident I am that I’ll ever really look back on all of them. This conundrum occurs weekly. By the end of the year, I have one large drawer-full and at least one unwieldy stack of each child’s projects. We refer to that section of the office as the Art Cave because they rarely see the light of day after entering. I can’t store these forever but I’m not about to throw them out. So how do I archive the art cave?

I don’t put them in scrapbooks if that’s what you’re thinking. I wouldn’t make it past page two. If you’re on that level, my hat’s off to you. I digitize them and, here’s the important part, store them in an organized, backed-up vault. If that sounds daunting, let me put in other words; I take pics of them with my iPhone. Here’s the process:

  1. Download the Google Photos app. You could rely on iCloud, but it’s not as easy to move and organize them afterward. Google Photos offloads pics from your camera roll into your Google account automatically.
  2. Set up a work table near a window, but not so close that you’re in direct light. Start snapping, making sure your lens is perpendicular to the document. Google’s photo scan app also works well for this but requires four extra clicks per piece to auto straighten and optimize. I ain’t got that kind of time.
  3. Once your batch is “scanned,” select them all and add to a new album. You can be finished here and they’ll always be accessible in Google Photos. I take it one step further. I download the album (select all, press Shft + D and they arrive in a .zip) and save it to my local photo archive, which is a Network Attached Storage device that contains a few redundant hard drives. In the past, I’ve uploaded it right back into my google drive, because I wasn’t sure about the future of Google Photos or confident that I’d be able to find the online albums later. Using my local hard drives instead feel less paranoid.
  4. Strut around the house for a few minutes. You’ve just tackled a major project in hopefully less than 15 minutes. The digitized versions are not only manageable but ready to be printed in a series of photobooks that you’ll proudly display on graduation day.

I still save a few of the actual projects, but after digitizing them, most can go away. Yes, in the garbage. I know it’s difficult. But I need that space to store the children who will be home all day long once school’s out.