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Is it Better to Digitize Prints or Slides?

Those people fortunate enough to still have both their original photographic prints and slides, many are wondering which is the best type to scan – Digitize Prints or Slides?

Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. This article is concerned with scanning made by a professional digitizing company that uses specialized slide and photo print scanning equipment, not a do it yourself attempt with standard high street equipment.

Scanning slides will almost always produce better digital images than scanning prints and photos. This is because slides are the original version, while prints are second generation copies of the original film, and do not contain as much information or detail as the negatives they were made from.

Factors To consider When Deciding on Scanning Your Slides or Photos

Look at the physical condition of your original prints or slides. The state of the photos or slides will be affected by dust, tears, scratches, water, fading, and sticky damage from photo albums.

The Digitize Media scanning services will not automatically repair any of the imperfections. However, we do offer a post scanning software imperfection improvement service (an extra charge applies). This service will help to reduce obvious marks but will not eradicate all marks completely.

Also, you need to consider how much money you wish to invest on the digitizing of your slides and photos. Digitizing your precious photos and slides is a very important step for you and for future generations.

You may have a large quantity of photos and slides to scan, but the sad fact is that all physical photographic media is subject to degradation over time, and the next time you come to visit the project it is likely that your originals will be in a worse physical condition.

Should I Scan the Negatives or the Photos?

Scanning the negative of a photograph is the best option, but most of us have lost or misplaced our negatives. Even if you do still have the negative, it is quite possible that they are in are not organized or in poor condition. Negatives easily attract dust and scratches.  If this is the case scanning your photo prints will be the better option.

Limits to print scanning – Digitize Prints or Slides

Most colour prints from your regular photo finisher contain around 300 DPI of detail. There are exceptions to this 300 DPI rule. Depending on the quality of the print being scanned and how crisp the image is. Scanning at 600 DPI generally produces better results, as 600 DPI scans produce larger files, but ensure every detail in your print is recorded in digital form. Digitize Media also offers scanning up to 1200dpi for optimum results and ideal for commercial work.

What is DPI and what is a suitable DPI for me?

Photographs can be scanned to 3 different resolution levels – 300, 600 or 1200 dpi. Slides are scanned at 3300dpi (dimension of 33.87 x 22.87 cm/ 4000px x 2664px scans).

DPI depicts the sharpness / quality of your photograph / scan. If you compared 300/600/1200 dpi on your PC screen or as a 6×4 photo, then you will notice very little difference. However, once you start enlarging this image then you notice that the image becomes blurred if the dpi is not high enough.

For most scanning 300 dpi is more than adequate. However, if you plan to enlarge your photos to A4 – A3 in size then use 600 dpi. If you plan to enlarge your posters beyond A3 then use 1200dpi. However, you must remember that your scans can only ever be as good as the original photo. Blurred or faded photographs will produce blurred or faded scanned images.

Look out for further articles on the advantages and disadvantages of slide and photo scanning.

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