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Scanning Old Photos vs. Negatives - Which is Better?

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By Katy Sommerfeld

If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you’re probably well aware that digitizing analog media is the best way to protect your recorded memories from loss, damage, and destruction. This message is what we are passionate about at Legacybox, and it’s why we do the work that we do. We are interested in the preservation of personal history, and without digitization, our photographs, tapes, and films are at risk of being lost, destroyed, or damaged over the years. Digitization prevents those things from happening and allows quick and easy access to the pictures we flipped through at our grandparents’ house or the home movies we watched growing up. Transferring our media from analog to digital gives us the ability to instantly share sweet moments from the past with our loved ones and helps keep us connected to each other in the 21st century. 


If you’ve been considering having your photographs digitized, you may be curious as to which formats digitize better than others. If you have photo negatives at home as well as their print photograph counterparts, which is better to send in for digitization? Which produces a better quality image? In order to answer these questions, we will need to look into these two formats and get a better understanding of how they work. 


Negatives

In the world of photography, a negative is a term used to refer to the original image taken by a film camera. A negative is an image captured by a camera that is produced on a sheet of transparent film. Black and white photo negatives appear darker in the areas of the image where the most light is present, and lighter in the areas where there is the least light. For color negatives, the colors in the image are represented by their respective complementary colors. This phenomenon is due to the very sensitive photochromic chemicals used in camera film. 

Print Photographs

Print photographs are the result of the development and subsequent printing of photo negatives. Print photographs are what we call “positives” - the opposite of photo negatives in color and exposure. After camera film is processed into negatives by chemical bathing in complete darkness, positives are made by exposing the negatives to light on photo-sensitive paper followed by subsequent chemical baths.


So, which is better?

For digitization purposes, the rule of thumb is that the earliest edition of an image, video, or film, will produce the highest quality digital copy. Photo negatives are sharper and more detailed than print photographs, so if you have negatives of the prints that you would like to digitize, we recommend sending in the negatives.


Another thing to consider is that print photographs crop out the left and right sides of the negative image. When you get negatives digitized, the original scope of the image is restored. 


In most cases, choosing to send in negatives for digitization is a better option than sending in print photographs. However, the images produced by negatives will differ in color and sharpness than the images in the print photographs you may be used to viewing. For some, this difference may be unappealing, and they may prefer the way their print photographs look compared to their negatives. However, in most cases, the quality of a digitized negative versus a digitized print is higher.


We hope that this information helps you in choosing whether to send in print photographs, negatives, or both, to Legacybox. Our digitization experts have lots of experience in digitizing many photographic formats, and whichever format you choose to send our way, we will be happy to create the best digital copy for you that we possibly can.

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